bianca takes her last walk

dogs memories

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us…written in 2007

David L. Passmore (Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Penn State; Academic Visitor, University of Pittsburgh)

Bianca, 1996-2007…

It was a sad day on which I had to take our white greyhound, Bianca, to the vet for her final walk. When she was two years old, we acquired her from a person in the Pittsburgh area who placed retired racing greyhounds into good homes. She lived with us and at least three other of our hounds (two now deceased and one still lounging by the fire at this very moment).

Bianca had a good home here. She was a good dog, too. Never once did she perform an aggressive act. No biting. No growling. No underhanded deeds. No stealing the bologna when no one was looking. Grandchildren slept on her without a wiggle from her in response. You dog owners know how rare this is.

To be sure, Bianca was fearful of things. Thunder. Loud, sudden noises. Shouting people. Just like people are. But, so few moments bring real sadness. Good, crunchy food, topped by a dollop of gooey, soft meat: That’s the way to happiness. Long naps in a cool breeze or beside the hearth, all warm and glowing. A sharp, playful bark. A run and a tussle in the yard. A stitch or two when she ran on something sharp. Just like the rest of us sentient beings.

Sentient beings.

Dogs are, don’t you think, the perfect Zen entities? They place great importance on moment-by-moment awareness and seeing deeply into the nature of things by direct experience. Dogs as Zen masters. Look deeply into those inscrutable eyes. Do you see fear? Is there attention and interest? Is there being and nothingness? Well, maybe nothing so deep. I always felt that dogs had three wires in the brain: sex, food, sleep. All else is just there.

In the end, it was osteosarcoma in her leg that did her in. Metastasized to her lungs. Yesterday or the day before, she probably experienced a pathological leg fracture. She could not walk well at all. She was awake all night, panting and restless. She slept most of today under pain medication.

Now was the time as we had planned with the vet weeks before.

This is the seventh dog I have taken to the vet to be put down. The first time was when I went with my father to have my first dog, Duke, put down. The vet wanted me to leave. My father had the wisdom to tell him I could stay if I wanted. Staying became so important because I was sure, as only a silly 12-year old can be, that the vet was really just faking it. He would take my Heinz 57 Variety dog, which I thought was the most beautiful big brown dog in the world, and give him to someone else. The dog had arrived two years before, and, as an only child, he often was my only companion. The experience of taking a dog on its final walk since has never been easy, but it has been necessary.

As with most of the others (Duke, Cookie, Dolly, Sparky, Sophie, Lewis), it was just me in the room with Bianca and the vet. I held her head in my hands on my lap and reminded her that every dog has its day. And, then, she folded into the cold and damp night to a sleep so quiet that all air and light seemed to freeze around me. The last walk through the door, my companion. Feel free to canter ahead gaily.

To my surprise, tears rolled down the vet’s face. He told me that, just the year before, his wife had died of osteosarcoma. The vet confessed that he wished he could have taken away her pain as he had just done with Bianca.

Here is a picture that my daughter, Ann, took as Bianca slept in the bright sun, in her favorite spot, in the back yard, in the snow:

Bianca loved napping in the snow on a sunny day

Figure 1: Bianca loved napping in the snow on a sunny day

And, here, another photo a few minutes before I took her to the vet:

Curled up like greyhounds do

Figure 2: Curled up like greyhounds do

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Added years After This Original 2007 Posting

So, in honor of my dear little white dog, Bianca, and all of her four-legged friends of men, women, and children, I offer my reading of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem, Dog:

Last updated on

[1] "2022-06-23 16:51:05 EDT"


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Passmore (2007, March 9). NOTES FROM PITTSBURGH: bianca takes her last walk. Retrieved from

BibTeX citation

  author = {Passmore, David L.},
  title = {NOTES FROM PITTSBURGH: bianca takes her last walk},
  url = {},
  year = {2007}