I went to the Oregon Humane Society with a specific task — look for the grave of Bobbie The Wonder Dog. It was meant to be a quick in and out — snap a couple of pics, check it off the list of quirky things to do in Portland, and move onto the next. But I ended up spending over an hour there. I blame the dead. And here’s why…

Bobbie was a bit of a folk hero back in the 1920s. His family went on a road trip with him to Indiana, he got spooked (parts of Indiana will do that to you) and ran off; then the poor forlorn family drove on home without the little fella. Six months later, a scrawny mangy Bobbie shows up on their doorstep. All signs pointed to him having hoofed it on his lonesome all the way back to Oregon. The town had a parade, he became a national hero, and they even made a movie.

I figured the story aligned pretty well with this whole Manly Moments quest I’m on — man’s best friend making his way back to his owner against all odds. It had feel-good written all over it.

Turns out it was slightly anticlimactic. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was a bit of a letdown. The real story was in the other residents of the cemetery.

In the hunt for poor Bobbie’s final resting place, I noticed  a sea of other Bobbies out there.

Not that they were all named Bobbie of course (although a few were), but there was headstone after headstone and memorial after memorial marking the burial sites of assorted canine companions. To someone out there — these dogs were their Bobby. (For the record, there were plenty of cat graves too, but the internet doesn’t need another cat story.)

Granted they may not have gone great lengths to make their way home, or pulled orphans from a burning building or anything, but they were household heroes — now gone on to that big old dog house in the sky.

Some were sad.

Some took on a complimentary tone.

Some were poetic.

Some were a mix of all of the above.

And some were just downright funny.

Initially I thought that these pet owners were one kibble short of a bit — I mean, come on, putting your dog in a mausoleum? Some of the memorials even had fresh flowers. FRESH Flowers.

But the more I thought about it, the more that it made sense. Dogs are more than just pets. They are loyal companions. They don’t judge. They don’t embarrass or ignore you. They are that one friendly face at the end of the day. Guaranteed. They just want what we all need at a base level — food, shelter, love — they’re just not nearly as good as hiding it as we are.

Novelist Dean Koontz knocked it out of the dog-park in his book A Big Little Life — about a Golden Retriever that changed his life. He wrote:

“No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement, and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself. I also suspect that we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish – consciously or unconsciously – that we were as innocent as they are, and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness, the betrayals, and the cruelties of this world are unknown.” 

Doesn’t that deserve one final kindness?

No matter what your thoughts on the subject, this one pretty much sums up the feelings of all dog owners who have had to say that final goodbye.