A Letter to My Dog, Half Pint

This last year may have been the worst one of my life, but at least I've got the world's two greatest dogs by my side to help me stagger into 2018. Today's post features a letter to Half Pint. Benjamin will be getting a letter later this week--he'd never let me hear the end of it, otherwise.

Also, this posts features a lot of short video clips of Half Pint being silly. Since I apparently can't do anything right these days, they are exclusively shot in vertical mode. Please accept my apologies (and cut me some friggin' slack).

Dear Half Pint,

If there ever was a dog smart enough to read, it's you. That being said, I don’t think you’ll be as enraptured by this blog post as you are by Game of Thrones or commercials for the Jumanji sequel. Still, I hope you can at least see in my heart and actions that I truly mean everything I say here.

This last year has been really tough on both of us. If I could go back in time, I’d warn myself about a lot of things 2017 would dump on our heads. What works as both as blessing and a curse for me, however, is that I have at least some understanding of why things happened. You just have to be affected by it and persevere, all without any idea what caused your world to get turned upside down again.

You’ve always been good at that, though.

I have no idea what your life was like back when your name was Tilly, Morgan, or any of the other names you’ve had over the years. My first memories of you begin around six years ago, when Neighbor Mom brought you home.

I never knew Neighbor Mom very well, but I would often see you outside in the yard playing with her son. It was clear to anyone who saw you two together that he was Your Boy. You loved him and he loved you.

Then one day, Neighbor Mom decided to take Your Boy and leave…and left you behind in the back yard.

She came back occasionally, but not until after being gone for days or even weeks at a time. After putting out a bunch of bowls filled with food and water, Neighbor Mom would turn around and leave you all by yourself again. It wasn’t long before raccoons, squirrels, and possums had eaten all your food. Any water that didn't become too dirty to drink quickly evaporated.

The other neighbors and I did our best to take care of you, although no one was more determined to see to your well being than your boyfriend, Marlin. It’s easy to see why you still love him so much. What woman wouldn’t want a man who digs a hole under his fence to pull her into his backyard so she had access to food and fresh water (or the less-weird human equivalent of that)?

Of course, it certainly helps that the dude is also total stud.


One day when Benjamin and I came to check on you, we were both surprised to find that you were gone. Part of me was sad we wouldn’t get to hang out anymore. I enjoyed our wrestling matches and watching you and Benjamin chase each other. But I also hoped that maybe Neighbor Mom had finally realized it wasn’t right to leave you alone in the backyard (or locked in the garage inside a kennel) for days on end.

Then I found out what actually happened: Neighbor Mom took you to PETCO during an adoption event—the same one where she picked you out—and returned you like a piece of furniture she didn’t have room for in her new home. She even brought Your Boy along, who cried the whole time while having to say goodbye to you.

I asked if I could take you in, at least to foster you until another family could be found. They made me promise that if I did, I would never let Neighbor Mom get near you again.

I agreed.


I blame Kym at Palmetto Paws Animal Rescue for turning you into such a momma’s girl. When I arrived to pick you up to be fostered, she smiled and asked, “Are you coming to take away my dog?”

Kym went on to explain that while the other foster dogs would roam and play all over the floor, you always want to sit next to her on the couch. Maybe that’s why when I brought you to my home that first day, you immediately gravitated not towards me, but your New Mom, who wasn’t all that thrilled about us taking you in.

You certainly didn’t help things a few weeks later on the day we officially adopted you, which you celebrated by demolishing one of New Mom’s favorite/most expensive pair of shoes.

You won her over eventually, though. I won’t deny that it made me jealous sometimes, but it was pretty freaking adorable watching you follow her around everywhere like a little shadow. I think the only person in the world who loved your New Mom more than you was me.

Then a few years later, she left us both.

If it makes you feel better, I wasn’t expecting it, either. You and I—along with Benjamin—were completely blindsided that night. I certainly didn’t think anything was amiss when we all watched a basketball game together the very same afternoon.

Looking back on it, I think she cuddled with you so much on the couch that day because it was her way of saying goodbye.

Later, I saw in the court papers that she'd asked for custody of your brother, but didn’t even mention you. That broke my heart. Don't get me wrong--I was certainly glad I got to keep you. And there was no way in hell I was giving up Benji, especially when that meant you two would have to be separated. Still, I knew how much it would’ve hurt for you to know that the person you loved more than anyone in the world didn’t even want you anymore.

It was a feeling I had recently and painfully become familiar with, too.

That was one of the few times I was glad you couldn’t understand things better. Thankfully, there was still time before you’d started to realize what happened. As far as you knew, New Mom had just gone on a trip for a few days. And besides, who could be sad when my mom (aka Grandma) was in town?!

You’d always liked your Grandma, but you latched onto her this time like neither of us had ever seen—even before it became clear that she would be sticking around for much longer than usual.

It wasn’t long before you decided that Grandma was there for you and not my sorry downtrodden ass. No matter what her and I did to barricade the gate to the front stairway, you’d find a way to break through and charge into guest room to sleep with her at night—even if it meant coercing Benjamin into bulldozing the way clear for you.

I was a little hurt at first, but I understood, especially after it became clear that things weren’t ever going back to how they were. You wanted a mommy—and as someone who knows how awesome of a mom your Grandma is, it’s easy to understand why you bonded so closely with her. And besides, I still had your big brother Benjamin to cuddle with and keep me warm…and beg for literally all the food.

"Look at this way, dad. I could eat your chips, 
or just go eat my own poop in the backyard."


On the day your Grandma left to go back to Georgia, she was devastated about what it might do to you. You may not be smart enough to understand why a person who’d stayed in our house for two months would randomly decide to go, but you damn sure knew what luggage being brought downstairs meant. She still talks about the look of hurt and betrayal you fixed her with when she leaned down to say goodbye to you.

I wasn’t sure you were actually aware of things to the degree Grandma assumed until that first night after she was gone. You crawled into bed next to me, curled up into a ball, and cried…even after you fell asleep. It didn’t matter that Grandma hadn’t actually abandoned you. As far as you were concerned, she was just one more in a line of people who didn’t want to be your mommy.

When my dad/your Grandpa came down a few days later, you were excited to see him, but it wasn't at all the same. You almost never tried to get upstairs to the guest room where he slept. You also moped around the house worse than you did when Marlin left after one of his visits. It took a few days before you eventually went back to being your usual mischievous self. By then, however, it had become abundantly clear you desperately wanted--and missed having--a permanent mommy.


One thing that helped us both through those difficult days was Your Boy and his father moving back into the neighborhood.

At first, though, I wondered if it would be too awkward—or maybe even too painful. Not only had I never really talked to Neighbor Dad, but you didn’t seem at all interested in reuniting or even interacting with Your Boy, at least for the first couple years. New Mom and I would sometimes pass him while we were walking you. He’d wave, say hello, and come over to pet you. You’d let him, but then almost immediately insist we keep going on our way.

I didn’t understand back then how you could be so ambivalent toward someone you’d clearly loved before.

I mean, sure, I’d seen humans do it, but you’re a dog. Undying loyalty is kind of your brand. It wasn’t until I saw how reserved you were the next time Grandma came to visit that I realized what I was seeing. It’s not just the things you do to get in trouble or fool/torment bigger dogs that make you smart—it’s your emotional intelligence, as well. You weren’t going to let someone who’d hurt you do it again. I could probably take a lesson from you on that.

In this case, though, you really were being kind of an asshole. Your Boy had nothing to do with what happened—and he wasn't trying to take you away from your new home. He just really missed you and wanted to see you again.

Thankfully, the complete implosion of my life that occurred after New Mom left came with some silver linings. One of them was that Neighbor Dad was there to offer support and friendship when I needed it most. He also bought a new puppy for him, his wife, and Your Boy.

Although you two initially had a bit of a Pepé Le Pew dynamic going on, he eventually became one of your best friends/sparring partners.

More importantly, you slowly began to realize that Neighbor Dad and Mrs. Neighbor Dad were becoming an important part of my life…which meant it was safe for you to open your heart and become friends with Your Boy again.

I don’t think you realize how much that means to him, by the way. For you, it’s just a really cool bonus. Whenever we go over to Neighbor Dad’s house (which is quite a bit), there’s another person there who always want to play and cuddle with you. For Your Boy, though, it means he gets to move on to a new chapter in his life while still getting to see something he misses most from the last one. You probably haven’t ever noticed this while you’re running around like a tweaking meth addict through Your Boy’s house, but if you go into his room, there’s a framed picture of you prominently displayed on his dresser. He might have a new dog now, but he never stopped loving you, even when it would have been so much easier and less painful to let go.

There may be a lot of people who’ve let you down in life, but Your Boy is most definitely not one of them.


As much pain as there’s been this past year, one of the few good things to come out of it has been watching you become the Alpha Queen of the Hamlin Dog Gang—despite being at least half the size of any of your subjects.

I’ll never forget the day when Max, a 100+ lbs. German Shepard and Afghan War veteran, made the grave mistake of barking at everyone for acting too silly at a neighborhood barbeque in Neighbor Dad's backyard. Sniffing for hair trigger bombs might not have scared him, but you charging and barking right up in his grill certainly did. You actually made the poor guy cower behind his mom.

Just so we’re clear on the social dynamics at play: A dog fives times your size is more terrified of you than he was of the Taliban.

"Come at the queen then you best not miss, son..."

Thankfully, you never let your self-assigned duties as pack leader interfere with your ability to have a good time. While Neighbor Dad and I hung out or he helped me work through the crushing amount of anger/sadness I was experiencing, you and your crew had all types of fun acting like complete idiots.

And of course there was your boyfriend Marlin, who I made sure you got to see as much as possible. Whether it was cuddling together...

...or kicking his ass...

...it was clear that getting to spend so much time with him made you all types of happy.

Watching you and your brother having fun that summer was one of the only things that made me happy back then, too.


A few months ago, your dad made a New Friend. At the time, she seemed all kinds of amazing. So amazing, in fact, that despite how hard the last year had been, your dad got to be happier for a while than he’d been in a very, very long time.

It’s clear now that there was a lot I didn’t know or understand about my New Friend, although I'm not sure it would have changed anything. Hell, I'll cop to still missing her like crazy sometimes even after the things she did.

In my defense, though, you and I were definitely on the same wavelength about her at first. When you two met, she somehow bypassed the probationary standoffish period you normally imposed on people and was immediately claimed as your new best friend.

You know that stupid thing us humans do where we try getting dogs to react/respond to someone on the phone? Well, it actually worked on you when Dad’s New Friend called. Maybe it was you responding to my happy change in demeanor. Or maybe it was way she’d almost sing the word “Hi” in that beautiful voice of hers. But whenever her voice came through over FaceTime or speakerphone, you went on full alert, ears twitching and tail wagging in eager synchronization.

Even her scent drove you nuts. When I would come home from seeing her, you sniffed me like a drug dog going through student lockers during finals week. Just a couple days ago, I randomly found yet another thing she left over here at house. After I put it down and came back, you'd stretched yourself across it like the world's most adorably unintimidating guard dog.

But none of that even compared to the absolute pandemonium that occurred when she came over to the house. You spazzed out worse than your brother, which is really saying something. I won’t tell Marlin, but you got even more excited for Dad’s New Friend than you do for his visits.

(...although to be fair, she never stole your toys).

And then there was the cuddling. I’d always assumed you cuddled with me based on if you felt the need for space or not—something I could definitely understand and respect. With Dad’s New Friend, however, you turned into a furry, beady-eyed parasite that was permanently attached to her hip.

Although it was strange to see you take to someone so quickly, it was also pretty freaking adorable…except when Dad and his New Friend wanted some alone time. And don’t try to pull that “Oh, I’m just an innocent and simple little dog who doesn’t know any better” act. You knew exactly what you were doing.

Still, it was hard to stay mad at you, especially when you would jump on her lap and puff your little chest out at me with a look that all but screamed, “This is MY friend!”

About the only thing cuter was watching you interact with my New Friend’s daughter, C.

Even though you only got to hang out with her a couple times, you were clearly as smitten with C as she was with you. I know neither one of us are a typically big fans of little kids, but I think we can both agree that C had us both wrapped around her finger since that first day together at the dog park.

I’m not sure what did it for you. Maybe it was simply because you could tell she was related to Dad’s New Friend. Or perhaps it was your shared obsession with watching my pet lizards hide from you in their terrariums. I personally think it was at least in part because you both share similar scars on your hearts.

While C’s parents certainly didn’t abandon her, they did have a very contentious and ugly split. This left the poor girl caught between them both—one week at his house, the other with her. C dearly loved both parents, who now completely hated each other. She also still yearned for a united home that was tragically and irreparably broken. That’s more than enough to upset any kid, but it’s especially hard for one as smart, intuitive, and emotionally attuned as her.

She never allowed any of that to that make her jaded, though. I’ll never forget how on the day we met, C begged me to buy a ticket for you to run the lure track at the dog park. The sound of her laughing as you darted around in circles is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard in my life.

Observing you and C interact together is one of the many reasons I will always have a special place in my heart for that little girl. Even when you include the thousands upon thousands of students I’ve taught, she is still by far the greatest kid whose life I’ve gotten to be a part of. Dad’s New Friend might not be around anymore, but C’s impact will never be forgotten.

Because of her, I went from never being all that interested in having children to seriously wanting to start a family of my own some day. Maybe if your dad can actually get his shit together and stop being attracted to walking time bombs, you might get to have another Boy or Girl to call your own.

Speaking of that, I’m really sorry about my New Friend going away all of a sudden. If it makes you feel better, I didn’t see it coming this time, either. That appears to be something of a trend with me. Kind of hard to make fun of your brother for eating his own poop when I’m too stupid to learn from my own mistakes, either.

Here are just a few of the nuggets of turd/wisdom I ingested this time around:

1. Just because a New Friend tells you intensely personal details about her life, has you spend lots of time around her wonderful daughter, and says she “trusts you completely” does not, in fact, mean that she trusts you. At all.

2. When a New Friend says how much better you are than everyone else she’s been with—and that she has a long history of awful relationships—you should never discount the Taylor Swift factor (i.e. it might not all be as one-sided as she makes it sound…and you very well could be next).

3. Never assume that grace works like an equivalent currency. Even if you have to take care of your New Friend when she gets black out drunk (including the night before you have an early morning meeting), be cool when she throws up on you hours after eating (but apparently not digesting) Taco Bell, or let it slide when she tells her best friend incredibly personal information about you (before you even meet her), that is absolutely no guarantee your first mistake—no matter how well intentioned—will be forgiven in kind.

4. Once she is committed to being angry with you, a New Friend may be willing to make up other things you never actually did—some of it so outrageous/untrue that it demonstrates a Trump-like level of disconnect from reality (see: Turd Nugget #2).

5. Don’t let a New Friend break up with you before she actually follows through on her promise to have your car professionally cleaned after she puked all over the inside of it.

I know most of this doesn’t help you specifically, but I’d at least like to directly apologize about that last part. We may have our disagreements sometimes, but you’ve never puked (or pooped or peed) in the passenger seat during one of our many road trips.

What I’m really sorry for, however, is that you'll once again never understand why a person you took to so well doesn’t come around anymore. I know it hurts. It hurt me a lot, too.

But if you really want to feel bad for someone, it should be C. That poor little girl is already in therapy dealing with her parents divorce. Then I got introduced into the picture, bonded with her far more than even I expected, and was suddenly erased from her life without warning or explanation. That’s not the type of thing that happens without leaving some type of emotional scar on a kid.

At least you’re older and tougher…and a dog. Still, that doesn’t discount the pain Dad’s New Friend leaving must have caused you to feel, too.

I’ll never forget the time I explained your history while you pressed up against her and she scratched behind your ears.

Poor little Pint,” my New Friend cooed. “I’ll be your mommy.

At hearing that, you puffed out your chest and made what was quite possibly the loudest yawn of happiness/contentment I’ve ever heard from you.

I know it’s ridiculous to think you understand English...but just in case you do, I hope you also understand that words aren’t things you can always trust.

Sometimes people say important-sounding things just to get other people (and dogs) to like them more. It’s one of the many hurtful and stupid things my species likes to do to each other for some reason.

Looking back on it now, I don’t think Dad’s New Friend meant a lot of the words she said to either one of us.


And now we finally arrive at the main reason for this letter. Not just to tell everyone what an awesome and resilient little friend you are—or to let Dad work through his own personal issues through your pint-sized lens.

It’s to say I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I haven’t been the daddy you deserve the last couple months. I know it takes more than just feeding you, letting you out, and making sure you’re healthy. I also need to pay attention to you, play with you, and talk with you. I need to take you and your brother to the dog park and the beach. I need to take you over to your friends’ houses and set up play dates with your boyfriend.

I need to exercise out in the garage on the elliptical so that you can watch the lizards in their terrariums. I need to start cooking again so that I’ll drop delicious ingredients on the floor for you and your brother to scarf up. I need do more work in the backyard so that you and your brother can come outside with me and search for all the places you haven’t marked yet.

Instead, I’ve made a habit lately of coming home, staring at the ceiling (or crying for a while), and then going to sleep.

Weekends have been even worse. After you and Benjamin manage to get me out of bed to get breakfast, I can barely be bothered to do more than go back and lay down for the rest of the day. You’d figure that paralyzing, existential dread would at least give me a good excuse to catch up on my reading and TV shows, but I often can’t muster the interest to even do that.

Some of my behavior is due to me feeling truly exhausted. This time of year is stressful enough without the added burdens of heartbreak and depression. But after how brutal the rest of 2017 has been, I sometimes get home from work and it feels like I can't even move. Or breathe

Good lord that sounds melodramatic. I wish it weren't true. There are people out there dealing with way worse stuff than I am. And no matter how bad it gets for me, I still have all sorts of human comforts to numb the resulting pain. Reading, Netflix, internet, writing long-winded blogs about my dog, etc.

Not you, though.

While I'm at school, all you have is your brother and an empty house. When I get home, I'm all both of you have in the whole world. And I am failing.

That's a very hard thing to come to terms with, especially when you consider that the only real requirement you have of me is that I be present. Even though I'm not the mommy you've always wanted...or the impossibly handsome labrador who pulled you into his yard to make sure you could survive...you're still all types of happy to see me whenever my mopey ass comes home, even if it's only for a few minutes.

People can say it's because you're "just a dog" or you don't know any better, but those people don't know how smart you are. They also haven't seen how sad you get when bad stuff has happened to you before.

Or they're just assholes.

Whatever the case, you sure as heck haven't given up on me yet. I mean, yeah, I'm the one who feeds you and takes you out, so there's a definite incentive for you to be nice to me. But I also don't think it's an accident you've been extra cuddly lately and even more insistent than usual that I pay attention to you.

You may be one of the most devious and judgmental dogs this side of a cat, but even when I'm routinely at my worst, you're still there for me every single day. Considering that I don't even like myself right now, that means a lot. Honestly, there are times when it feels like you and Benjamin are the only thing keeping me going from one day to the next.

So here's what I'm going to do. For the first time I can remember, I'm going to be one of those annoying people who actually makes a New Year's resolution.

Never mind the fact that I've been operating on a school calendar schedule for literally almost my entire life--and January 1 is really just the halfway point. Never mind my firm/cynical stance that December 31 to January 1 is no different than any other metamorphosis of yesterday into tomorrow. When 2018 begins, I'd bet good money that I'll still feel as depressed and hopeless as I did on the last day of 2017.

But that doesn't mean I have to let it affect you and your brother anymore.

It doesn't matter if I want to retreat inside myself when I come home. My job doesn't end with giving you food, water, medicine, and opportunities to relieve yourselves outside. You also deserve my attention and affection every day.

It doesn't matter if I don't feel like exercising (or understand why you and your brother think hanging out in the garage is the coolest thing ever). It makes you happy and it's good for me, so I'm going to do it. Same with working out in the yard or randomly deciding that we're all going to run in circles around the kitchen counter.

And maybe eating the ingredients I drop on the floor isn't exactly healthy, but I'm going to start cooking again too because we all enjoyed that.

We'll start going on adventures again to the dog park and the beach. Maybe not a lot at first, but as much as I can right now. I'll take you over to Neighbor Dad's house so you can play with your friend and Your Boy and I can be around good people instead of stuck inside my own thoughts. I'll also try to have friends come over again more, especially if they bring their dogs who are three or four times your size. In addition to how much you enjoy the company, I get a kick out of watching you establish your pint-sized dominance over everyone.

I'll talk to you more. I know you can't understand me...or I'm pretty sure you can't, at least...but you always wag your tail like crazy when I tell you how much I love you and what a wonderful dog you are.

But don't think this is all going to be good stuff, though. I will continue to refer to you by the many embarrassing nicknames I and my family/friends have come up with for you, including but not limited to:

- Kim Jung Pint
- Pintatron
- Pintnado
- Pinty McPinterton
- Pinto Bean

I also plan to do things that drive you a little crazy, like dressing you up in silly outfits during the holidays...

Behold, the Pinty Elf

...or making you do that ridiculous growl of yours.

I have no doubt you'll find a way to get back at me, too. As wonderful a dog as you are, you're also a little too smart for your own good sometimes. But that's just one of the many reasons I love you so much. 

We may have our disagreements from time to time...

...but I wouldn't change a thing about you. We've both been let down in some pretty big ways by people we thought loved us, but we haven't ever given up on each other. I know that won't change on my end. I'd bet my life it won't change on yours either.

Back on January 1 of 2017, neither one of us had any idea what was coming. Let's hope that's true for 2018, but from the opposite end of the spectrum. No matter what the next year throws at us, though, I'm all types of lucky to have you and your brother here to go through it with me.


Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am directly, I can also be found on Twitter.

To get updates on when new articles or podcasts are published (and occasional random musings) 'Like' the official RamblingBeachCat.com Facebook page. Every time someone does, Half Pint steals another one of my sandwiches off the dining room table.


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