Good-bye, Edmund the Great

Edmund on a hike with our daughter Jana. He loved to hike.
Edmund on a hike with our daughter Jana. He loved to hike.

As many of you know, I like to joke about my dog Edmund. I’ve written here about how in early sobriety I hoped for his early demise because I thought it would be a good excuse to drink.

Of course, I didn’t really want that to happen. And these days I no longer think of drinking as something I wish I could do, thank God.

But still, over the years, I’ve had some fun pretending I don’t adore Edmund. Since most dog owners are so over-the-top devoted, it cracked me up to act the opposite way. In a sick attempt at humor, I’d say things like, “Edmund went missing the other day and I really had my hopes up.”

None of that seems funny anymore.

In recent months, Edmund hasn’t seemed himself. I thought he was getting old (he turned ten this summer), or that he might be upset about the chaos caused by this impending move. Last week, I took him to the vet and he got on pain meds for a possible dental issue or pulled muscle.

Then, over the weekend, he took a sharp turn for the worse. He was totally lethargic, wouldn’t eat even human food, and his spark was entirely gone. I rushed him to the vet yesterday morning for more tests, and within a half hour was shocked to learn he had advanced cancer and internal bleeding.

I called Dave, who rushed to join me at the vet. After talking over his prognosis with the doctor, we realized he was suffering—and we had to let him go.

The staff left us alone to say good-bye. Naturally, my tears turned to sobs. The hardest moment was when Dave gently removed Edmund’s leash. What I did next might seem kind of weird. I got on my knees and held Edmund’s face close and begged his forgiveness. For not always loving him well, for making fun of him, for taking him for granted.

I used to tell Edmund to keep his “garbage mouth” away from me. Now, for the first time in ten years, I let him lick my lips as much as he wanted. And when he began to lick all the tears on my face, it felt like forgiveness. It reminded me of the simple truth that when we make amends to people (or animals), we do it as much for ourselves as for them.

Today, it seems surreal that Edmund is gone. No squeals of delight when I emerged from the bedroom this morning. No little black dog at my heels begging for a walk.

Before Dave left for work, he reminded me of those rare occasions in the past when Edmund was gone for some reason and we marveled at how big the house seemed without him in it. How could such a small dog  take up so much space?

“But what felt like spaciousness then,” Dave said, “feels like emptiness now.”

He was right, of course. And yet, as the day has worn on, I’ve realized how often the opposite is also true. When I choose to feel my emptiness instead of run from it, it becomes something closer to spaciousness. A place where grace and hope can flow.

So this is what I’m trying to do today. Let myself feel the sadness. And be grateful I don’t have to drink my painful feelings away.

I’m also remembering all the lessons I learned from Edmund. About living in the present moment. About being content with small gifts and pleasures. About not holding grudges.

I called him Edmund the Arrogant once, but from now on I’ll think of him as Edmund the Great.

And he was.

P.S. We’re moving to New York on the 15th. I hope to write more about things in Raw soon. Maybe in January. In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas!

P.S.S. Here’s more on Edmund. And here.

Author: Heather Kopp at

Heather Kopp is an author and blogger who writes about the intersection of addiction and faith. Her memoir about her recovery, Sober Mercies, was published by Jericho, a new imprint of HBG (Hachette Book Group) in Spring 2013.

34 thoughts on “Good-bye, Edmund the Great”

  1. i wish i had words. i don’t. i see the dates of the postings so i know i’m a little late to the gate. Bill has been gone for 2 whole years. i miss him so much and wish i could go to get him. i have his license and Harley Davidson name tag on my key ring. we have Dixie now but i still look for Bill i’m sorry there are no words.


  2. Heather, I am so sorry to hear about Edmund! They love us unconditionally! This is not true of friends & family we’ve hurt! I lost my 8 yo pug a few years ago & grieved relentlessly. My therapist said you know Darlene, “all dogs go to heaven”! I hold onto that Heather. I didn’t have to drink over her death, Thank you God! Fondly, Darlene

    Sent from my iPad



  3. It will be a year next month that I said goodbye to my sweet Miss Isabelle. I felt like a murderer coming home from work early only to crate her and take her to the vet for her final call. I don’t think I cried as hard when I lost my parents. The grief is so much different. I miss her every day and still weep for her as I write this. This quote helped me in my pain, so I am passing it along to you.
    “The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared to the pain of never risking love.” ~ Hilary Stanton Zunin


  4. Heather I am so sorry for your loss. I have often thought about what you said (in jest) about times it might be permissible to drink. PS – I am home….:)


  5. So sorry for your loss, Heather! What a sweet, kind boy. I love the way you said goodbye to him. Beautiful. Best of lick with the move. Look forward to hearing more. Have a very Merry Christmas!


  6. Goodbye Edmund. I loved reading about him in your book, of course I loved the whole book. Animals do leave an empty space in home and heart. My old dog will be gone soon and there will be no wine to drown my sorrows in. What’s nicer is that the need to drink isn’t there anymore. Now a big bowl of ice cream won’t take the pain away from a beloved pet’s passing, but it won’t hurt either.


  7. Oh Heather…My heart aches for you! Dogs, and their love, have been such an integral part of both my addiction and my recovery! When I was deep into my addiction, my dogs were my only solace, and now, at nearly 20 years clean, dogs continue to teach me how to love…I believe that the ONLY downside to having a dog in my life is that they have such relatively short lifespans…alas…you letting Edmund kiss your tears away was such a beautiful moment, full of the poignancy of ‘real’ life: agonizing, gut-wrenching pain co-mingled with blissful abandonment…God bless you Heather! Im sorry to hear that you’re moving to NY, my wife and I were hoping to visit you when we come to Co Springs next summer to visit family…I wish you and your family well!
    Drew B


  8. Sorry about that emptiness. I lost my ten year old dog a couple of months the ago. Sudden like this.
    Looking forward to hearing about things when you can. It’s been quite a year hasn’t it?!



  9. You’ve got me crying over here, Heather…
    I’ve always thought Mowgli and Edmund were cut from the same cloth. Little dogs with big personalities.
    We love you guys, and are so sorry you had to lose him. I’m glad you got to have such a great goodbye with him.


  10. Heather and Dave, I am sorry you lost Edmund suddenly.
    it is a mixed blessing, but does not change the emptiness in the home after loosing a member of the family, He knows you loved him secretly, and in the end so openly. what a beautiful post on so many levels, thank you and blessings to you and Dave during your move, and the Christmas celebration coming up! LOVE YOU BOTH, REBECCA.


  11. So sorry, Heather. Dripping tears and prayers for you. Great dogs are hard to come by. So are loving masters. Such a precious blog on Edmund the Great. We haven’t met in person but sending love and a hug anyway.


  12. I am so, so sorry to hear of your loss. It’s so hard to lose a furry member of the family. The love you feel is so simple, strong, and pure…and so is the loss. So even with joking about Edmund the way you have, I know that your heart hurt is simple and deep. Peace and comfort to you, Heather.


  13. I am deeply sorry for your loss of Edmund the Great. My most beloved cat, Baby, died back in 2008 at the grand age of 21–she is still missed. I had her since she was 6 weeks old.


  14. It’s always a very heart-rending moment in our relationships with our pets to make that decision and to be there, in the present, with them. Jessica and I experienced the same thing with our dog a year and a half ago. I was moved by your description, Heather, about forgiveness.


  15. This post was painful to read as my best friend (a14 year old gentle black pit bull) was put to sleep in my arms 2 weeks ago…
    I drink, wine, and I did drink to ease the pain. It didn’t really help, only time will do that, and memories of my gentle giant…


  16. Oh Heather I am so sorry for the loss of your dear Edmund. It is a profound grief and the pain so great. They are our family. Love you my friend…


  17. I’m so sorry to hear about Edmund. I lost a lab in nearly the same scenario. He was loved and he knew it even if you weren’t sloppy about it!


  18. Oh, Heather. It’s so awful to have a sudden decision like that to make. I’m so sorry you’ve had to say goodbye too soon to Edmund. I am glad you are able to feel the loss rather than numb it. You have come a long, long way.

    Tomorrow is the day I will take in my sweet dog to say goodbye. I hate that we have to make these decisions. But what love our dogs shower us with. Even when we’re annoyed with them. Kind of like Jesus. Hugs and a box of tissues for you.


  19. Oh I miss hearing from you Heather!! I had the same disturbing imaginations about what level of grief would allow for me to drink again…the first level was always something happening to one of our beloved animals. This summer, somewhere around 140 days of sobriety two of our three hound dogs nose to the ground ran off in the night. At seven days of their missing and spending every waking minute, putting signs up, calling, calling shelters, combing every inch of road with my eyes, the Lord woke me before the chickens and gently reminded me that not one but two dogs are missing and that is not enough reason to drink again….I needed to be fully present for every minute of this trial. For them, for my grieving family, for me. Real hurt, real living, real emotion. It was one nudge of thousands from a loving Father saying “I am with you in this…all of this every moment”. Sweet God…did not have to do it this way at all but “baby sister” showed up that morning, skinny and worn slap out… took “Blue” four weeks to be found and Praise Be.. those hounds, who I have spent many moments being aggravated over, are sprawled in the sun at this moment!!
    I am sorry to hear of Edmunds passing…I really loved your commentary on his I am sure well loved life!! It is a special kind of grieving when we lose our furry family! Blessing on your move and please don’t be a stranger!! I am 269 days surrendered today and you have been so inspiring to me through this healing time…thank you!!


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