Dude’s Apple Tree


Good morning to all of you lovely friends.

I was supposed to share a yummy potato salad today.

My heart is not in it, so that will have to wait.

I am so thankful for you every day, but especially today.

Sharing Dude’s story will help me heal.

Redhead Can Decorate "Dude"

In March of 2009 our family began discussing locating a dog to rescue.  My husband searched on the internet for a couple days and came across a labrador retriever and showed me his picture.  I immediately thought he was cute, but to be honest, I didn’t know a lab from a poodle.  Okay, maybe I wasn’t that ignorant on the subject, but I never had a dog before.  I have always been a cat girl.  At the time, our cat, Trixie, was ill. We knew her time was approaching quickly.  I thought getting a dog would be great for our young girls and would be a nice addition to our family.

The morning came for us to go pick up our new dog from the Michigan Animal Rescue League.  On the way I was a little nervous, but I thought how much work can a dog be?  I stay at home, I can handle it.  I remember asking Rick, “Do dogs take naps?”  His response, “Are you kidding me?”  I was clueless.

When we arrived we were told to wait in a small room with four chairs.  They closed the door, and within a few minutes the barking began.  I thought, “That can’t be our dog, no way!”  I looked at the girls who were only 7 and 10 at the time.  Their eyes full of excitement.  The door opened.  He galloped in and seemed like the biggest dog I had ever seen.  I nearly passed out with the rush of fear that came over me.  How the heck will I be able to handle this gigantic dog that sat before us.  I knew I had no choice, but to grin and bear it.  There was no way I could disappoint the girls, or Rick, now.

The lovely folks at MARL explained his history.  He was born on August 6, 2005 which just happens to be our wedding anniversary (1994).  His name was “Gunner” (not for long) and his owner was a truck driver who recently divorced and couldn’t take care of him any longer. They gave us a leash and some food, and sent us on our way after asking me if I was okay.  I was offended when they asked, but apparently it was written all over my face…  “I’M TERRIFIED! HELP ME”

It was raining that day and I remember my hubby carrying him to the car (he weighed 100 lbs-not Rick, the dog silly).  We went to Petco and bought his bed and supplies.  At the time I was still in doggie shock trying to ignore the doggie corn chip smell in the car, and control him in the store.  I kept my mouth shut and continued on like nothing was wrong.  He was extremely rambunctious and very difficult to control.  We later realized that Dude had severe separation anxiety and this caused him to act in this manner.  We also think he may have been abused because of the way he would flinch when we went towards his head.

Time passed and we learned as a family how to take care of Dude.  We learned what he needed and when he needed it.  We came up with a schedule and it really seemed to help him feel more at ease.  He became part of the family.  From his excitement when his “Pop” would come home from work, to his funny noises after he had been given a treat, we fell in love with Dude.  Yes, even cat girl.

Here we are 4 years later.  He was taken so suddenly and unexpectedly it’s impossible to grasp.  I was in the middle of slicing into what would have been his apple.  Before I could finish, he was gone.  I will never slice an apple again, and not think of Dude.  He was swooped into doggie heaven as fast as he slipped into our lives that rainy Saturday.  It was his time with out any warning.

When we buried him in the back yard we gave him the apple I was slicing.  If only I would have sliced it 1 minute earlier he could have had his last apple core.

There’s a plan.  We don’t always know what that plan is, so it hurts when our plan doesn’t go accordingly.  There’s no doubt in my mind that one day there will be a big apple tree where Dude rests.  An apple tree full of strength, sweetness, and beauty.  Just like our Dude.

Dear Dude,

I’m sorry I complained about all of your shedding.  I’m sorry I yelled at you for eating Val’s muffin.  I’m sorry I didn’t take you for a walk this week because it was so hot.  I’m sorry I didn’t give you the apple sooner.  Thank you for protecting the girls and I when Pop was away on business.  Thank you for making us laugh when you would make your funny sounds.  I loved your smile when we would light a fire, or how you would lay in the middle of the floor when we had a party.  I loved how you got excited when I would put my sneakers on, and even your jog that seemed to be a little sideways.  You taught us tons, but most of all you taught me how to love a dog.  You will always be in my heart.  I love you Dude!  ~ Julie

dude cutie

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49 Responses

  1. kristin says:

    Oh Julie I am so sorry, loosing a pet is so hard. They give us so much love and are such a meaningful part of our lives. Having lost Bailey just a few months ago I know how hard it is. Dude and Bailey are running around in doggy heaven looking down on us 🙂

  2. I have a huge lump in my chest and tears in my eyes… our Polly is nearing her end (she’ll be 16 in November), the tribute you wrote for Dude is very touching! Thank-you for sharing, we do truly give them out hearts. :’) Duke had it made in the shade his last few years as did your family.

  3. Lettice Carroll says:

    Dear Julie (love your name, it’s my mom’s and daughter’s name too ;)),

    I am so sorry for your loss. Ironically, I am experiencing the same pain you are. I had a yellow lab that was taken away too suddenly from me just last week. Labs are like that, they worm their way deep into the crevices of your heart and it is so very painful when they are gone. It’s funny that you mentioned the shedding, it is the one thing that I always complained about too. I think it is the only down side to having a lab. My heart goes out to you and your family.

    Hugs and tears,

  4. Wow Julie – what a lovely tribute to your beloved Dude. I’ve had people tell me that dogs are love in fur and, I for one, would have to agree. Dude will always be in your heart.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Tears are rolling down my face as I type this….. run free sweet boy, you had a good family and you were loved. So very sorry for your loss Julie, my condolences to you and your family.

  6. Dad says:

    We will miss Dude, Mom and Dad

  7. So so sorry for you and your family. How shocking that he went so quickly – I can’t even imagine. Glad he’s resting peacefully in your yard.

  8. Pam says:

    Sweet and beautiful tribute to Dude. I don’t know that it’s easier when you know the end is coming. I had to put down my Joey 10 years ago and it was horrible. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I have a 10 year old poodle and a 6 year old rescue mutt, Teddy and Max. They are my family and I dread the day I have to let them go. Hugs and prayers to you and your family.

  9. Sweet Dude, Julie. You know I have a special place in my heart for Labs. I love Dude’s story.

  10. Hi Julie,
    I love this beautiful tribute to Dude and all that he brought to your family. Losing a pet is brutal… losing one in the prime of his life hurts all the more. I have been thinking about you all week pretty red… so glad you posted this today, it was perfect.

    Big Hugs,

  11. Julie says:

    Omg I am crying so hard. The day before Dude passed I watched your “house tour that you filmed and Dude jumped the gate to get his chewy treat, It made me smile. I am so sorry and sad and I didnt have the pleasure to meet the little cutie well big cuttie. My heart goes out to you and your family and I am thinking and praying for you guys everyday for you to get by and think about all the great times and love and trust he had in you guys. Love hugs and smooches. ….Julie

  12. So sorry for your loss, Julie.

  13. I’m so sorry about your Dude. We have a wonderful yellow lab named “Martha Stewart” who has been in our family for nearly 15 years (she turns 15 in 3 weeks) and who is nearing the end of her days. I have never had a dog from “puppy to senior” and she’s been such an amazing addition to our lives that I can’t imagine being without her. You and your family are in my thoughts. Thanks for sharing Dude’s story. Hugs.

  14. Patty Lucas says:

    I am so sorry. We lost two dogs within 6 months and I swore I would never get another one. Nina is napping on the couch with her Pop and Candy is resting on my feet as I type. Someone told me the best way to honor your pet is to rescue another one in their name and love them as much as you did Dude. At the time I thought they were nuts but after getting these two I learned that that is the truth. They are not replaced, they are just loved.

  15. Theresa says:

    I have a 19 yo Maine Coon cat that I know will be gone soon & I have lost many “best friends” in my years. I wish you peace and great memories of your Duke.

  16. Cyndi says:

    Julie, Dude was meant to be with you and your family. Believe me, he loved you guys, as much as you loved him…Dude is watching from above…xoxo

  17. Julie, I know that this must have been both difficult and cathartic to write this post. It’s such a lovely story and thank you for sharing with us. I understand so much how difficult losing a beloved pet, for they are truly member of our family. He will always be in yours hearts. Thinking of you and your family. xoxo

  18. Pat says:

    My heart is already broken after losing Abby, my granddaughter, 4 wks ago today. I just had to stop in and tell you how sorry I am about Dude. He was a gorgeous animal and there’s just no pain like losing a fur baby. My mind is not working very well so will not write a lot. Just know you’re in my heart and prayers.


  19. April says:

    This is a beautiful story and tribute to Dude. I am also crying as I type this. I will never forget when you called me the day you got him and first time I met him. He was a great and loving dog. RIP Dude!

  20. Holly says:

    Oh my sweet red headed sister… my heart breaks for the loss of Dude. I know he was your family and there are no words of comfort. But please know that all of your friends are wishing your family comfort with great memories of Dude. Big hugs, Holly

  21. Wanda says:

    Beautiful tribute to Dude. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  22. Leena says:

    Oh Julie and Family! I am so sorry to hear about Dude! What a horrible shock! He was such a dear guy, so sweet and handsome! I always enjoyed hearing what he was up to and seeing his pictures. I know how much he will be missed. These furry family members really have a way of working themselves into our hearts and bring us so much joy! Just think of all the happiness and love y’all provided him and such a better life he had with your family! I know that made all the difference in the world to this dear boy! Thoughts of peace and healing prayers to you and your family. Hugs, Leena

  23. Oh, girl. Just big tears right now and a heavy heart for you guys but that was an amazing tribute to your puppers. So sorry again, my friend.

  24. labbie1 says:

    As you can tell by my screen name, we love our labs! The greatest dogs ever! A true gift in our lives. This was a beautiful tribute to a handsome lab. So good that he found you for the time that he had to live without abuse and to live with lots of love.

  25. Debbi Saunders says:

    I am so sorry…My heart breaks for you and your family.I know that Dude’s passing will leave a huge void in your lives..

  26. labbie1 says:

    PS–let us know how his apple tree comes along… 😉

  27. Kelly says:

    Awe Jules, beautifully written. There are no words I know how special pets are especially Labs, I have a black Lab Brooke and she is so precious to our family. Dude was a lucky dog. Hugs!

  28. i am sometimes amazed that we (animal owners) allow ourselves to be put through all of this. . .
    the things we do for Love. . .
    RIP, Dude.

  29. Bliss says:

    We actually planted an apple tree for each of my parents after they died. We joked that it took them forever to reproduce – I’m an only child after 10 years of trying, and this is the first year one of the trees flowered, after 10 years. The other tree produces an abundance but took a while too. The two trees make me smile as I think of them, just like apples will when you think of Dude.

  30. Ann says:

    Oh Julie…I can’t see through the tears. Thank you for writing this…although I don’t know how you feel I know my time is coming. We got a little dog 5 years ago and she’s my first pet ever. At the age of 49! She was the answer to empty nest syndrome and is pretty much my third child. My heart breaks for you and your family. You can be sure that Dude had the best years of his life as a member of your family. He’s looking down on all of you with a gigantic tail wag!

  31. Marilyn in Mt. Vernon, VA says:

    I am so very sorry.

  32. Laurie says:

    Aw! I’m so sorry for your loss!

  33. Dido says:

    What a beautiful tribute to a great doggie, planting the apple tree is a perfect way to honor Dude. Not having grown up with dogs, I’m so proud to say our whole family has rescued animals from shelters. I always looked forward to seeing Dude when I came to visit, not having him there will be hard. Love you sister. xoxo

    planting the apple tree.

  34. debbiedoos says:

    Julie you have me in tears. I just am so sorry for Dude’s sudden loss. One night a few months ago, our little pug went what I thought was missing. We had a party doors were open and closed all night long. After everyone left, I could not find her anywhere. I woke up the house, the boys, screamed in terror that Lucy had gotten out and we would never find her {She is not brightest}. The whole time, she was sleeping on Jack’s pillow, snoring away. We do love our pets more than we could ever imagine love for a pet could be. You have some awesome memories for the time he was with you. Hold on to them, they can never be replaced. XO

  35. Andrea Harrison says:

    Thank you for sharing your story…so sorry for the loss of a very special family member.

  36. Genny says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that you lost your dog! We, too, lost our dog of 17 years this May. It truly is like losing a member of your family. I know exactly what you mean by your “last apple” story.

  37. Mary Anne says:

    Julie, I am so sorry for the loss of your lab. I have a 3 year old black lab named Mac and he owns my heart. He is my constant companion, loyal and loving. I know you will miss Dude. I am happy he had your family to rescue him and show him love.

  38. Dawn says:

    Julie, I am truly sorry for your loss. It’s hard to believe that an animal can take such a hugh piece of our hearts with them when they pass.. but he was loved and he knew that! He had a wonderful family, and he was blessed to have had you love him and him love you..

  39. gail says:

    Julie im so sorry for you and your family . Dude sure was a loved. Pet. The apple tree is such a sweet tribute

  40. Leslee in TN says:

    Julie, I just read about Dude, and have tears streaming. I know the pain of a heart for losing a beloved furry friend, so well, both expected and unexpected, and I’m so sorry for you. God love him… He loved you and was grateful when you gave him his special home. So sorry.

  41. Pa says:

    I feel your pain. Our dog Spot left us this past Wednesday. My husband, son and myself have all cried ourselves silly. I never knew how much a dog could be so much a part of your family.

  42. Oh my gosh I am crying this just breaks my heart but I am also laughing at the frito comment. It is obvious that Dude was just as blessed by being a part of your family as you were by him.

  43. Meegan says:

    I love that you planted a tree for Dude! I am so sorry you lost him. He seemed so sweet and such a good family dog. He was blessed to be your dog.

  44. Beth says:

    I just read this and have tears falling for Dude and your family. Thank you for rescuing him from a shelter and giving him the true love and making him a part of your family, as every dog deserves. What a special way to remember him by planting a tree. Our black lab was born in 2005,too, and I am not looking forward to the day to say good bye either with or without warning. I laughed too at the frito smell- I always say Junior has “Frito Toes”. Take care…

  45. kathy says:

    We have 2 rescue dogs. They just love us so much, and we
    just love them so much too. We lost 2 dogs as well. My heart is heavy along with yours. Kathy

  46. mary says:

    Dear Julie, I just read your sweet tribute to your beloved famiy member. Added my tears to all the others. We had Sam from 8 weeks until well into his fourteenth year. We said goodbye to him 10 December’s ago and hello to Libby the same month. We will always miss Sam – and Lib when she goes. Dude got to bless & love you as you loved & blessed him. You were a match made in heaven!

    • Julie Fiato says:

      Hi Mary, thank you so much for your kind words! I am sorry for your loss, and so happy Libby found you! XO

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