Dog is My Co-Pilot: Losing Part of Your Heart

I debated on whether writing about the loss of our dog on HeidiTown. However, the more I thought about it the more I realized that our dog deserves a post (or 20, but I decided on one for the sake of my readers). After all, she was with us for nearly 15 years and six months which is a large era in our lives.

Dog is my Co-Pilot Photos 16. HeidiTown (3)

Xena left us on August 24, 2018. This 80 pounds German Shepherd was a bright light in our lives. We got her at 8 weeks old, before the brewery boom, before Michael Jackson died and before the existence of HeidiTown.

Dog is my Co-Pilot Photo 3.
Christmas 2004. Nothing is better than a holiday rawhide.

Her first road trip was the Albuquerque, New Mexico and this is when we learned she was prone to car sickness. We made an unscheduled stop in Castle Rock for towels. I think you get the picture.

Dog is my Co-Pilot Photos 16. HeidiTown (3)
She looks so innocent. Do not be deceived!

Other than car sickness, which she quickly grew out of, Xena was a great traveler and loved to go anywhere with us mostly because it meant she got to be with us.

Xena out the car window HeidiTown

I think this is really why dogs like car rides—while they like to stick their head out the window which apparently gives them an awesome high, being with their family is the best thing ever about car rides. When we leave without them, they can only sit and hope that we’re safe, when they are with us, they know.

Dog is My Co-Pilot Photo 2.
Xena went on a lot of hikes with us. She put a lot of mileage on those paws!
Dog is my Co-Pilot Photo 5.
Hiking part of the Colorado Trail.
Dog is my Co-Pilot Photos 16. HeidiTown (5)
A long, hot hike.

Xena took her job as security guard very seriously. When we went to the family cabin in Park County, which we did a lot during her life, she would patrol every room in the three-story house when we arrived. I assume she was making sure it was all secure. Never a runner, it was at the cabin when I realized that Xena would never leave us voluntarily.

Dog is My Co-Pilot Photo 4.
Wilderness hike. Hiding from the rain.

Still a gangly teenager, Xena spotted a rodent and begin running up the canyon. I freaked out because she was off-leash, a freedom she only got on private property in the mountains. After a brief run, she looked back and saw that I wasn’t running with her at which point she trotted back to me. Her biggest fear was us leaving her and when we packed for trips without her, we tried not to let her know so as not to stress her out. I bet a few of you do this too!

Dog is My Co-Pilot photo 1.

She loved camping and the last trip we took her on was the Dinosaur National Monument. She enjoyed camping but she also loved yurt trips. We took her on two of those. I am pretty sure she wished we lived in a tent.

Dog is My Co-Pilot Photo 9.
Yurt camping!
Dog is my Co-Pilot
Last camping trip to Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument 2016.

As I mentioned above, Xena wasn’t an official working dog, but she was our house security system. I always joked that I was the safest when I was in the shower because she would lay directly outside of the shower stall until she stopped being able to get upstairs without assistance.

Dog is my Co-Pilot Photo 6.
Xena’s first snow. November 2003

She was mostly fearless except for thunder, an unexpected convenience of her going deaf around age 13.

Snow Dog Xena. HeidiTown
I don’t think there was ever a dog who loved the snow as much as this one.

Part of her fearlessness was nature and part was nurture. Ryan took her down playground slides and swimming when she was just a pup. She used to love climbing steep trails with us in Colorado’s back-country and was quite an agile mountain dog.

Dog is My Co-Pilot Photo 14.

Her trip to New Mexico was her only experience outside of Colorado. As a native of Colorado, she was one of nine puppies in a litter from Julesburg. She was the quintessential Colorado dog with a home in the mountains, big cars and lots of hikes.

Dog is My Co-Pilot Photo 8.,
Best buddies. They are both gone now. When our cat passed away, Xena spent a month looking around the house for him.

For years I had a bumper sticker that read “Dog is My Co-Pilot.” A play on the popular “God is My Co-Pilot” bumper sticker. Did you ever realize that dog is god spelled backward?

Dog is my Co-Pilot Photos 16. HeidiTown (2)

Watching Xena grow old was difficult but we don’t regret one day of it. Some days were more difficult than others and we are so thankful that we had amazing vets at Paws & Claws to see us through it. Their staff is also top-notch in my book.

Dog is my Co-Pilot Photo 15.
Xena was good at a lot of things but wearing Santa Claus hats was not one of them.

I also recommend the services of Home to Heaven. Making the final decision was the hardest thing we’ve ever done but I’m so glad we decided to say goodbye at home.

Dog is my Co-Pilot Photos 16. HeidiTown (1)
People used to say I looked like a Mule Deer. Even if I did, that’s just mean!

Lastly, I want to mention our pet sitter Lizz who stuck it out to the end. Without her, we couldn’t have made HeidiTown work the way it does and for that, I am forever grateful to Lizz, Xena’s second mom. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Losing a dog means so much more than simply losing a pet. A big part of my self-identification is “dog owner,” specifically “Xena’s mom.” Who am I without a dog? And losing a dog means facing the fact that part of your life is gone whether they survived six years or 15 years, those years aren’t coming back to any of us, dog or human.

Dog is my Co-Pilot Photo 13.
I was just a youngster too.

Alas, dogs are the best and Xena was the best of them. The hole in our heart will always be there. I am grateful for the wonderful life she lived and the wonderful life we lived with her. I wrote on HeidiTown’s Facebook page that “Dogs are life’s greatest gift and Xena was our most cherished gift since April 2003.”

My heart.
Dog is my Co-Pilot Photo 11.
A very miss-able face.

There will be other dogs and we will love them deeply, but there will only ever be one Xena.

Dog is my co-pilot Photo 7.

You were so loved.


  1. That is an amazing tribute to your wonderful puppy. So touching. Thank you.


  2. A wonderful loving post! Thank you for this warm and heartfelt story. Sure hope another Xena is a part of your family soon.


  3. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing! Hugs to you.


  4. She was so loved. Thanks for sharing her story with us.


  5. This was beautiful. She was obviously so very loved and I’m glad you all had so much time together. xo


  6. This. This touched me so deeply. I feel the same. “Losing a dog means so much more than simply losing a pet. A big part of my self-identification is “dog owner,” specifically “Xena’s mom.” Who am I without a dog? And losing a dog means facing the fact that part of your life is gone whether they survived six years or 15 years, those years aren’t coming back to any of us, dog or human.” When I first read about your loss, my heart broke for you. I sat at my laptop sobbing, out loud and uncontrollably, my own dog Charlie trying to comfort me. I had never met Xena in person but I loved her, I felt like I knew her from your words and wonderful pictures and I’m sitting here crying again, as I’m sure you two do often. I’m so sorry she’s gone and that your hearts are broken but I’m so glad she had such wonderful loving parents, a fantastic home, and a great life. I wish I could hug you right now.


    1. I feel the hug, Mary. Right back at you. And please give Charlie a squeeze from us too. Thank you for stopping by HeidiTown today. It means a lot.


  7. Beautiful tribute for a beautiful fur baby. She was a wonderful dog that had a wonderful life! I related to a lot that you wrote. Fluffy was the dog that marked the end of an era for me. All of my dogs have been special in their own way. You will find that your heart will hold a place for every dog that you bring into your family. Although I have to say there is nothing like that first dog for letting you know that time marches on!


  8. I am so very sorry for your loss, and I know how your heart hurts. We had to put our dear Daisy down two weeks ago after three months of cancer treatment that didn’t heal her. I so miss her faithfulness, furriness, playfulness… walking all those miles together…and road trips…. and … just everything we did together….
    Thanks for posting your story.


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