Sunday Morning Coffee — August 7, 2022 — The Short Goodbye

How can a loss hurt so much?

I was never a pet guy. I documented as much in this space many times. Save for Sammy, my parakeet, when I was ten years old in ‘62. His cage was next to our in-wall air conditioning unit in our den. My mom was always hot. Yada, yada. One morning we found Sammy frozen to death. Literally. Fortunately, the National Audubon Society didn’t convene a grand jury or Mom, despite not looking good in orange, would have done time.

Dogs never figured into my younger life. In that same Long Island home, we lived next door to a family who bred Doberman Pinschers. The fact that it was illegal to breed and sell residentially, nor my father’s complaint to the town hall, didn’t deter them. They sounded vicious. Not only the family, but the dogs too. If we were playing ball in our yard and the ball went over the restraining fence, it was time to get on our bicycle and ride to Marcal’s Five & Dime to buy a new Spalding. I never got over the fear of Thane’s and Bally’s bark and teeth.

My kids claim for years they asked for a dog, but I ignored them. I have no recollection of that, but I won’t swear it wasn’t the case. Probably so. I was mentally damaged by the Dobermans.

Nor did working at greyhound race tracks for 25 years soothe the phobia. I was a front office marketing and management type. The paddock and kennels might as well have been in El Salvador. I wasn’t going there.

So, in 2009 I finally relented to Andi’s non-stop nagging to add a dog to our empty Birmingham, Alabama, home. Sons Jason and Scott were a couple thousand miles away living in LA and not coming back. I never figured Andi would follow through. She never does when I ask her to go to Walgreens and pick up some shaving cream, razor blades or Extra chewing gum, spearmint please, so why should she now?

On February 5 she phoned me at the office and said, “I found him!” You found who? “I found our dog.” What about the shaving cream, razor blades and gum?

Ibis at GBHS in 2009 on Gotcha Day.

The next day, a Friday, I begrudgingly went with her to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) adoption shelter to see who she found. It was a two and a half month old, 15 pound, chow-retriever mix with the kennel name Yogi. A bit dopey looking with a large head, big feet and a spotted tongue. They brought him out of the kennel area and put the three of us in something called an ‘adoption room.’ I was petrified. I hugged my back to the wall, digging my fingernails in, scared to go near him. Once again all I saw were Doberman Thane’s and Bally’s teeth.

An adoption counselor came back in and asked, “Are you ready.” I said I can’t do this. Andi pleaded with me. Yogi was about to exceed his days on the adoption floor. Andi said when they first saw each other their eyes bonded. She never said that about her and me. I told her I just couldn’t do it.

I’m not sure if we spoke on the way home, probably not. It didn’t help matters much when I told her I needed to stop at Walgreens to pick up shaving cream, razor blades and a pack of Extra.

I felt like a heel all weekend. Even more than I normally do. On Sunday night, at a chilly dinner, I said, “Let’s go back tomorrow and get Yogi if he’s still there.” I told her I would give it a try, but I had to name the dog. Yogi wasn’t going to stick. Andi relented but only if she had final naming rights.

Even though he was named after the Miami mascot, this Alabama pup was a Crimson Tide fan from the start.

My first choice was “Go Away.” It was promptly vetoed. My second choice was “Asshole,” but she told me we already had one in the house; there wasn’t room for a second. Finally “Ibis” became the choice, named after the mascot at the University of Miami, my alma mater.

Monday, February 9, 2009, became Ibis’ official “Gotcha Day.” We were counseled on how to care for a puppy. I feigned interest. We had no idea of Ibis’ short life before us or the surrender specifics, but clearly car rides weren’t a big part of it. He threw up on the way home. I was delighted.

Things between Ibis and me were not good. I didn’t want him, and he knew it. January days in Fargo were more tropical than our relationship. Unbeknownst, Andi signed Ibis and me up for ‘Puppy 101,’ a six week program for pups and first time dog owners at a local training center. Things didn’t improve much until week three when I went to class loaded with a pocket full of Charlee Bear treats. That turned the tide.

For the next 13 years, we were inseparable. An “improbable love story” my friend Greg Farley called it. Too many great things to detail with your coffee this morning, but Ibis became an all-star really quickly. He was magnificent looking, a chow with a lion’s mane complete with the black speckled tongue. He was anti-social which made me really proud. However, now I needed to be social. He was such a conversation piece when we were out walking together, which was every day when I wasn’t in an airport, that people stopped to ask questions about him. I passed Socialization 101.

We walked the same Birmingham route nightly for nine years, probably 300 times a year or over 2700 times. Never on a leash. The daily lottery would be on whose lawn would he poop: the emergency room doc; the Israeli’s; the Berman’s or Ms. Jill’s? He didn’t like little kids and was indifferent to just about every adult who approached him. He never took a shine to Jason or Scott. Every morning Andi drove Ibis to a local park where she met the late Doug Richey and his standard poodle, Fairchild. The dogs became fast friends and then others joined the fun. The 7-8 am gathering in Overton Park became the dog owners’ place to be. Today, in a tribute to Ibis and Fairchild, a dozen dogs run free each morning while the adults talk SEC football.

(Clockwise from left): The 2017 Do Dah Day King of Birmingham does a TV interview while his personal chariot awaits. Mom and Dad are so proud!

The highest honor that can be bestowed on an Alabama dog is being named king of the annual Do Dah Day Parade, a huge fundraiser for local shelters. In 2017 Ibis was sponsored by the GBHS to be king. Their funding and voter influence made him an easy winner in the competition. No recount was necessary. No election deniers. It was a landslide. He looked regal in his crown and robe. His stately, lion-like posture made him glorious as the king. Ibis being Ibis, had no interest in riding in the lead float. Instead, he found comfort from all the eyeballs on the parade route by snuggling up in his dad’s convertible, fittingly the one with the vanity license plate IBIS 56.

He loved chasing squirrels. When they went up into a tree, he sat and barked until they came down. They never did. He had TPLO surgeries for torn ligaments in each leg from running after them. Before the injuries he caught two squirrels. Afterwards, they were too quick. He wasn’t fast enough anymore to catch them, but he never stopped trying to scare them.

A bad left paw had Ibis call to the ‘pen for the first ball toss. He insisted on coming out to the mound to make sure his reliever did it correctly.

Just like a Washington Nationals outfielder, Ibis had no interest in running after balls. He had a limited bag of tricks including high-fives and ‘pick-a-hand’ when dad hid a treat in one hand, and he had to find it with a paw tap to the correct hand. (Confession- there were actually treats in both hands.). Ibis’ encore was ‘Who let the dogs out?’ I would ask it; he would bark the answer. It always killed. He was chosen to represent all the baseball loving canines on ‘Bark in the Park’ night when he was asked to throw out the first ball before a Birmingham Barons AA baseball game. He was having some left paw tendonitis, so he gave me the honor instead. That’s the kind of dog he was.

Ibis let Deuce know who’s the king of the castle. From then on the boys got along like brothers.

When Andi, without mentioning anything to me while I was away playing my fantasy baseball, brought home a three-month old similar chow-retriever mix in January 2017, Ibis showed general indifference toward the soon-to-be-named Deuce. His new little step-brother clamored for the king’s attention which he soon earned, but not until Ibis delineated his territory for the nightly after dinner bone.

When we left Alabama for Las Vegas in 2018 Ibis, though he was named after The U, proudly witnessed six national football titles for his native Crimson Tide. No dog has ever seen more. Moving to his new home in the Nevada desert meant chasing rabbits instead of squirrels. They were as plentiful as cactus, but Ibis found out rabbits were even faster than the squirrels he could no longer catch with two surgically repaired legs.

In early May of this year, at the doggie age of thirteen and a half, he slowed. New dog aging math by the American Kennel Club equates that to the mid to late 80’s in human years. Truth is at thirteen-plus he not only reached his bark-mitzvah age but probably lived five or six years longer than the life expectancy of bigger dogs. He would have been 14 on October 15. Three months ago he began to show signs of confusion and disorientation. He lost weight, down from 95 pounds to 78 even though his eating was still good. His frame, solid for all his life, became boney. He was very clingy, especially to Andi’s side. He became even more stubborn and obstinate than the typical chow personality. His hearing was failing. We thought it was the onset of doggie dementia. Every night for the past couple of years before I got into bed I would lie on the floor with Ibis, he’d nuzzle his head into my chest, and we’d talk about the day and what was happening the next. Lately, I sensed these conversations were getting more special by the night. I have a feeling so did he.

A week ago Friday morning Ibis, Deuce and I went on our neighborhood walk, a daily ritual. Up the block to a community park. Ibis fell, all fours to the ground, three times. He had done that a couple of times over the past few months but this time it was very pronounced. Ironically, the night before he channeled his inner Franco Harris and rumbled up the middle for about thirty yards on the fairway of the golf course behind our house without missing a step. That Friday morning, when we came home after his falls, I went to the gym. Before I got there Andi called and said every time Ibis got up, he fell back down. The visual I had reminded me of our son Scott’s amateur boxing career. We were at the vet’s an hour later.

Dr. Emily Redding told us it wasn’t doggie dementia after all, but Ibis showed all the signs of brain lesions and probably had a stroke earlier that day. He couldn’t walk. We either had to pick him up or guide him outside to do his business. He couldn’t get his balance because of vertigo. We made it through the night; Andi slept by his side. On Saturday, July 30, things only got worse. Looking like an adult stroke victim, his head was cocked all the way to the left and his tongue hanging out. It was beyond devastating.

Andi and I went to synagogue that morning. Nothing in the rule book prevents praying for an animal, especially the G.O.A.T.

We came back home and found Ibis outside. Somehow he stumbled to one of his favorite lounging places on the side of the house. He tried to get up and greet us but he couldn’t. We called Dr. Redding. It was noon. She said to bring him when we were ready. We sat on the living room floor comforting him. Three hours later it was time. Ibis wasn’t Ibis anymore and deserved better. It was the only thing to do for such a magnificent companion. It was a short goodbye for 13 wonderful years together. Two nights earlier he was outside running; now we took him on his last car ride. We bawled into the night.

Every Sunday morning, Ibis and Deuce would ride with me to the nearby Red Rock Canyon, and we would hike one of the trails. Maybe a mile up and back. We did this regularly over the last three years. Every now and again Deuce, eight years Ibis’ junior, had to stop and rest. Never Ibis. He was way too proud. So last Sunday, with Ibis having left us the afternoon before, Deuce and I went up to the canyon. We walked maybe a couple hundred feet and Deuce kept looking back at our car. He finally stopped, turned around and sat down. He was waiting for Ibis and wouldn’t continue. He led me back to the parking lot. I lost it.

A relaxing day fit for a king in the Red Rock Canyon.

Ibis made me a better person. Period. He taught me unrequited love. He taught me patience. He made me social because he wasn’t. He was waiting by the door when I got home from my cinco de bypass in 2017 and jumped into bed with me. He knew something was wrong and never left my side. He was gentle but didn’t want anyone to know it. Because of him I became a GBHS board member and fund raiser. I loved the cause. When I had a lousy day at the office, coming home to him made everything better. As Mike Hallman, a longtime friend and my successful successor at Medjet said, “I have never seen a dog change a person as much as Ibis did you.”

Everyone who met Ibis remembered him. He truly was a legend. Nobody forgot him nor his unique name. One day I might stop thinking about him every waking moment and resume my life, just not yet. It’s still too raw. He is in a much better place, but selfishly I’m not. I know it’s only been a week, but the house feels so empty, and Andi and Deuce and I miss him so much.

I know Ibis will be waiting for us on the Rainbow Bridge. By then I fully expect him to have made peace with all the rabbits and squirrels he used to chase and be holding court like a king is supposed to do.

There’ll never be another.











  • Terri says:

    Oh G-d Roy, what a gut punch. Typing through my tears. The best of tributes straight from the heart. He sure lived life to the fullest with such great parents as you & Andi and stepbrother, Deuce.

    Wish I’d met him, sure hope he is able to meet up with my Max. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my Max, sorry to say it’s not always easier just less sad.

    May his memory be a blessing,

    PS. I said Kaddish for Max so going to Temple seems right to me.

  • Ken Rich says:

    I feel your pain. We have enjoyed the wonderful love and companionship of five dogs. Four died of natural causes, we put one down at 15 years with a brain tumor. Each proved to be special. Take care.

  • Howard Riech says:

    Only a pet owner could understand the love between man and his dog

  • Brian Messing says:

    On vacation in Paris and brought tears to my eyes
    RIP Ibis

  • Carla says:


  • Ron says:

    You nailed it Roy! Had the same experience July 6th 2012 when Millie & I had to put Mandy down for same reasons after 13 yrs.

  • Fran Fishman says:

    Very touching Roy and I can relate having lost our Madison this past year! Your words were both touching and humorous as always.
    Maybe you should go to Marcal for a candy to ease the pain!
    I’m glad I didn’t live near those Dobermans. Ooh! Just had a lot of stray cats which instilled my fear of cats! Never got a cat though.
    Hang in there..!

  • Sharyn Gaston says:

    Reading your story made me cry. It takes me back to allowing my last dog to die with dignity and the excruciating pain my husband and I suffered while holding her to the end. Her last memory of the good life. I think I cry for animals more than humans. Can this be wrong? So very, very sorry for yours and Andi’s loss and separation from a wonderful chapter in life. Grateful for Andi who never relented. She knew the outcome…. This story needs a book. A memory for you, Andi and the GBHS who continues to change lives of people and their furries they have yet to meet. Be well…Sharyn

  • Laurie Parr says:

    What a tribute to your beautiful boy! You made us feel like we knew him even if we had never met him. Our hearts ache for your loss as we understand that feeling. It is devastating and hollow. Ibis was blessed to be your child as much as you were blessed to be his parent. Sending all of our love and comfort to you and Andi as navigate this sadness and loss.

  • Lisa Boardman says:

    A beautiful tribute to a magnificent King. May he rest well ❤️

  • Herb Greenberg says:

    Wonderful tribute, Roy.

  • Nick Paciello says:

    My sincere condolences, Roy. As a huge dog lover with 4 dogs, I’ve been where you are many times. Still worth it.

  • Eric Eshleman says:

    A true loss to the family. Pets are the best. We’d be lost without our Arnie and Winnie. Kelli said we already had an Asshole in our home too…..

    Best to you and Andi! Bham misses you!

  • Nancy Wortley says:

    I am so very sorry for the loss of your fur buddy Ibis. I know there is nothing harder than watching them suffer. But somehow you have to find the courage to do what is right even though it will break your heart. You have written such a great tribute to him. It really touched my heart. Thinking of you and Andi.

  • Kim Hutching says:

    I will always remember King Ibis. Sending lots of love to all three of you.

  • This was the hardest thing to read. I stopped a couple of times and just cry a bit. But I had to keep going because I know how much he meant to you and to all of us at GBHS. What a great dog he was. He was amazing. And Deuce is going to miss him so much. We love y’all. And thank you for giving Ibis such a great life.

  • david moses says:

    Roy, this is a great tribute to Ibis! Ibis knew you were a kind, gentle and caring man under the surface. What I didn’t know was the movie Sandlot was a story about your childhood. Now that I think about it, you do kind of look like the lead in the movie. Love to all…

  • Herb Shainker says:

    Roy, at a time like this, you could use a little levity with one of my favorite stories… told by you!!!. Has it been over a year??? You snuck up on Deuce, who
    you admitted was always a “bit skittish.” He took a chunk out of your eye and your still suffering the effects to this today. You lost some vision but never your
    sense of humor. After the incident, you told me Deuce felt so bad, he didn’t stop kissing and licking your face and snuggling up to you, at every chance he
    got. Your reaction……..”I’m thinking of having Andi bite me!!” Priceless!!!!!.

  • Tom Teates says:

    Roy and Andi; so very sorry for your loss. Animals give us all something very, very special and losing one is hard to take. It is like losing your best friend.

  • Carole Bernardi says:

    Oh, Roy . . . at 5AM, I reached over to my night stand to grab my phone. You’ve created an anticipation (for me) every Sunday Morning that overrides almost any morning ritual. I’ve had probably 8 dogs in my 72 years. The first pup I brought home was from the neighborhood shelter and my mother had a fit! In many ways, we love our pets more than we love people (I could get in trouble for that statement but what the hell). They love us unconditionally. They don’t judge us, or our relationships, our decisions. Their love feels pure. There aren’t any failed expectations or guilt trips to side step around. Our pets love us without expecting anything in return; unconditionally. IBIS was blessed to take his life journey with you and Andi. You gave him a life beyond compare. You crowned him a King. Your column made me laugh, made me cry and most of all made me proud to be a pet parent.

  • Treasa says:

    Beautifully written. May Ibis’ memory be for a blessing, and hopefully he’s hanging out with Max and Chuey.

    I lasted 9 days after Chuey passed and then came home with two dogs to take up the space of one. Dogs change us.

  • Dave Shapiro says:

    I know the feeling Roy. Mine was a golden retriever named Jake. He was a week shy of his 14th birthday. That was 20 years ago and I can still mist up talking and thinking about him

  • Roy Abrams says:

    I never had any pet. This is part of the reason. It’s like losing a child. I weep along with you and Andi.

    Get another dog. Name him Herbie. Put him on a leash.

  • Betty Anne Cooper says:

    Roy and Andi,
    My heart goes out to you. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.

  • Donna Hightower says:

    I knew Ibis would be the story this Sunday and what a story and what a dog. I pretty much knew the story but still shed some tears for you and Andi as I read it. To have been loved by a great dog is as phenomenal as the love of a great spouse. Y’all’s story with Ibis and Deuce is almost a carbon copy of our story with our Rotties. The only difference is that Tim was a big dog lover. The story of you and Deuce was like Tim and Taz. Our brilliant and beloved Shade’ had the almost identical last days as Ibis. So, when I say we feel your pain, we really do. I know how much you love Andi but Ibis still managed to soften you even more. Almost 14 great years and memories! I hate to sound all “gushy” but that boy will be waiting for you❤️

  • Andi Berger says:

    We are so fortunate to have such wonderful, kind and loving friends and family. Thank you all so much for the outpouring of love, understanding and support. It truly makes a difference.

  • Will Cornell says:

    Beautiful tribute. I’ll always remember being greeted by Ibis first thing in the morning when I stayed over in October. Can we hear more about Scott’s boxing career?

  • Lori Rubin says:

    Your beautiful words are heart wrenching. Ibis sounds amazing. So glad you were able to experience the love of a dog. There’s nothing quite like it. They just become so humanlike, it’s easy to forget they’re not people. Sorry for your loss. You guys are awesome doggie 🐶 parents! Miss seeing you! 🐾🦴🐾🦴🐾🦴🐾

  • Perry Padrta says:

    Been There!

  • Larry & Martha Nickles says:

    Roy & Andi- So, so sorry to read the news about Ibis. They become part of our families and like all family members we morn when they leave us to go home. I’m sure Ibis has proudly introduced himself to our three dogs on Rainbow Bridge and a great relationship has developed. Winston sends the two of you and Deuce his best!

  • ralph says:

    so well written and so touching…great tribute to the King

  • Mitch Shenker says:

    Sorry Roy, I know how hard it can be…

  • Lew Matusow says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Roy and Andi. What a great tribute to a true companion.

  • Jodi Berkowitz says:

    Oh Roy and Andi, my heart hurts and my makeup needs reapplication. What beautiful words and such a blessing you had him for so long. I know Ibis will find our Winston, be friends and wait for us all.

  • Amy says:

    My friend , so sorry for your loss. This brought tears to my eyes. My deepest sympathies. May he now Rest In Peace. Prayers and hope to see you soon at the gym.

  • Tony Berenotto says:

    Thanks for sharing Roy. That was beautiful and a wonderful tribute. I am so sorry for the loss of Ibis. You, Andi and Deuce provided an awesome life for him and he returned that love tenfold or more. Just think about how many lives have been positively affected by you and Ibis! Your work GBHS was outstanding. And all because of him. I enjoyed meeting Ibis even if he was indifferent. lol. He will be missed.

  • Kim Peele says:

    Beautifully told! Condolences to you, Andi and Deuce. RIP sweet Ibis.

Leave a Reply