How do you say goodbye to a friend that inspired glorious changes in your life?

You don’t… you say “So Long…” instead.

I know; (Okay, I don’t really know,) but I want to believe Be right back that we will all be reunited on the other-side someday…. Pets, Family, Lovers, Friends… While I don’t really care if I see my cable TV installer again, or my last corporate boss for that matter,  I do believe that my loveable Lab Mix, Starbuck will be there to greet me when I do finally reach the other side.

Seventeen years we spent together. A GLORIOUS 17 years.

This Blog is dedicated to Starbuck, the dog that quite literally taught me that life was worth living again.                                          

Starbuck the black lab / pitt bull mix, has always been a very happy dogI don’t know what date she was born but I always celebrated Starbuck’s birthday around Valentines day. You see, my mother passed away on February 12th 1996 so Valentines day is very hard for me.. I was very close to my mother… at 31, I wasn’t ready for mom to go, but no longer wanted her to have to suffer so.

Mom’s demise was caused by Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.This was brought on by a medication used to treat a rare form of lung disease where her lungs turned to scar tissue… This wasn’t easy to watch. 

My mother was such a vital and energetic woman. Watching her waste away, well it was killing me,  After her death I spun into a spiral of self loathing, and depression… suicide was never  an option for me. (I couldn’t conceive of doing that to the remaining members of my family,) But after my injury, a half dozen subsequent surgeries (I’m up to 13 and holding now,) and years of severe, intractable, spirit-crushing pain, I was losing it.

I realized my music career was done for good… I couldn’t play music professionally anymore, there’s only so much musical brilliance that can be displayed by a guitarist with a left wrist that has been surgically fused and doesn’t bend.. Without my music, I no longer felt I had a purpose in life. What could I possibly be here for? I hate to admit it but I also had a severe case of the “Why me’s?” Luckily, I also had this little, black Lab to love.

The answer 17 years later is a little more clear to me now… I’m here for the dogs. Specifically, for a little lab mix with an intoxicating and lopsided grin, that we named Starbuck. Now I also know that I’m here for all of the dogs that come through the ranch, not just my three… Oops, two. (That’s going to take some time to get used to.).

Steve & Kerri's Dogs. MaxShadow (left) Hi Octane Java (Top) & Starbuck (Bottom Right) 2006This re-framing of my life did not come easily… As a matter of fact, there was nothing easy about it at all. In the spirit of total disclosure, I am about as stubborn as they come… Luckily, so was Starbuck. She kept at me, grounding me when I got too manic, lifting me up when I was too blue and nudging me when I needed a push in a different direction… 

The fact that Starbuck worked her miracle on Steve first, inspiring him to change careers and go into the Dog Training field, well that was a big transformation for both of us., Without Starbuck, he would likely be breaking his back, still doing laborer work, traffic control and asbestos abatement. There would’ve been no Adventure Dog Ranch and I’d still be on Call 24X7 with a technical job I abhorred.

Starbuck taught us that good dogs provided with good leadership, can get along just fine in groups and that dogs are social animals and deserve to have a safe place to be with their own kind.  She also taught us that a well exercised dog is a happy dog and that aggressive dogs can have their very aggressiveness diminished with proper exercise, leadership and a decent canine role model. Starbuck was that role model for hundreds, if not thousands of dogs.

She taught me that it was worthwhile to take risks and love again,  she taught me that it was okay to try something and fail miserably, that the fun is in the adventure. She also showed me that life is worth living, but only if it’s done without regrets. Starbuck opened my heart in a way I didn’t think was possible.  In fact, if you would’ve told me 20 years ago that I would call myself a “Dog Mama” I would’ve told you, that you were NUTS!

Starbuck in 2000

Saying goodbye to Starbuck is hard, but not as difficult as I anticipated… why?  Because I have faith now. Faith that what we’re doing is right, faith that Starbuck is in a better place and faith that I have the strength and courage that I didn’t have 17 years ago when Starbuck sat down in front of Steve and I, looked us up and down, cocked her head & flashed that lopsided grin and pretty much telepathically said… “Okay, You two will do just fine.”

When she peacefully went into that unknown, misunderstood dimension, she had no fear, she knew that we’d do just fine this time too.

So… So-Long my beloved “Buckstar”… I already miss you… You truly were the queen of the bitches. Tonight I raise my glass to you, knowing that if you’re even half as productive at saving souls in doggy heaven as you were on Earth….. You will continue to work miracles for eternity. 


Kerri –The Alpha Dogs’ Wife

Steve & Kerri Pinkston own and operate Adventure Dog Ranch.  A Free-Range, Boarding, Daycare and Training facility located in Marysville, WA.  For more information about their facility please visit


About adventuredogs

I'm the "Alpha Dog's" wife... Life Partner and Co-owner of Adventure Dog Ranch, The Vacation Destination for Dogs! A place where canines socialize, exercise and have fun. You don't have to feel guilty when you take a vacation, your dog can have his very own vacation with us!
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4 Responses to How do you say goodbye to a friend that inspired glorious changes in your life?

  1. Kerri, you brought tears to my eyes! I love that you walk away from pain and sadness with hope and faith. You have a real lesson here for all of us. And I can relate to the pain of losing a family pet who was a true family member!


    • Dani,
      I truly believe in Angels. They come in all shapes and sizes, mine Angel just happened to be a dog named Starbuck, who inspired me to make a radical difference in my life. It took me a long time to figure it out, still I’m amazed by it, by her unending, unconditional love. She taught me so much and all she asked in return was love, walks, play and a few dog biscuits.

  2. Roz K Walker says:

    What a beautiful post! I lost my best friend (a Lhasa Apso) when he was 17 years too. It was hard for me…my first loss of someone close to me. I feel your emotions, because they are like my own at that time. I’m glad you can focus on the lessons you learned and continue to have faith.

    • Roz,
      Thank you for your kind words… I do believe Starbuck was sent to me, not only to keep me company during a dark time, but to teach me a lot about myself. The fact that she helped us find new careers is really the icing on the cake.

      I hope that you’ve found closure for your loss as well… (I’m still getting there, but I chose to focus on the positive.)

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