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CEO Column: Requiem for Gus Mayer


Gus Mayer – my faithful companion, my best friend and loyal super beagle – left me for the Rainbow Bridge at 3:30 p.m. April 14. I can talk and write about him some now without crying.

Last November, I received the terrible news that his kidneys were failing and that he had only months, maybe weeks, to live. You may not know that kidney failure is fatal to dogs because there is no kidney dialysis for them. Gus Mayer survived five months, but finally, the poisons healthy kidneys would have filtered overwhelmed him and took him from me.

I have written about Gus Mayer a few times in these articles. In December 2009, I wrote an article on a dog’s carbon footprint based on the book, Time to Eat the Dog? A Guide to Sustainable Living. For a few weeks, Gus Mayer was a pet media star-dog. He received quite a few fan letters, two of which offered marriage proposals. He was impressed that Labrador Retrievers would be interested in him.

A year later, I wrote another article based upon Gus Mayer’s listening abilities. He was the most patient listener and would lie by me for hours listening to whatever I wanted to talk about. However, he was more interested in dinner than he was in climate change. He said he was not unusual, either. Most people (and dogs) are more interested in what they will eat next than in climate change.

I also wrote an article titled, ‘Who Stole Your Truck’ in which I talked about Gus Mayer and my adventures driving my Chevrolet Tahoe. I received an irate letter about that article from a gentleman who was outraged that I would drive a vehicle with such a poor emissions profile. Gus Mayer was mildly amused by the letter but was still always ready to go, especially if we were going through the magic windows at fast food restaurants.

Dogs are man’s best friend. That was more than true of Gus Mayer. He was my friend, but family, too. Kalli, my middle daughter, adopted him while she was in college. He was very sick when she got him from the Humane Society, and one of her roommates said, ‘…that dog will be more expensive than a shopping trip to Gus Mayer’ (an expensive Birmingham women’s store). And he was. After Kalli’s landlord threw him out of their house, he adopted me.

He was always happy to see me. He trained me well. I knew when he wanted to be fed and when he wanted to go out. He loved to drag me around the neighborhood smelling and marking all the shrubs and bushes. He went to the beach with me and took me walking in the sand. He was always there for me to talk to. He never disagreed with my ideas.

He was not perfect, but no dogs are. He was a glutton and was obese – a very chunky beagle. He was selfish. He would eat his food and the cats’ food, as well. They and I had to fend for ourselves over food. He had lung disease brought on by antibiotic treatments for pneumonia when he was a puppy. The treatments for the lung disease probably ruined his kidneys.

Lots of songs and stories are about dogs. John Hiatt sings, ‘I never felt so free, just my dog and me,’ about traveling with his dog. Fred Eaglesmith sings about his dog in his song, A Good Dog. However, he notes, ‘…dog stories never end well,’ and they don’t. Dogs don’t live as long as we do, and we usually have to let our dogs go on before us.

Probably the best dog story is Willie Morris’ short story, My Dog Skip, which was also made into an acclaimed movie starring Kevin Bacon. The plot recounts the adventures of Skip and a teen-aged Willie as they encounter bootleggers, race relations, football heroes and friendships in Yazoo City, Mississippi. When Willie goes to Oxford, England, as a Rhodes Scholar, Skip sleeps in Willie’s room waiting on him to return but passes away while he is abroad. The book concludes with the line, ‘…they said they buried him under the elm tree. That wasn’t totally true. For really, he laid buried…in my heart.’

Like Skip, Gus Mayer is really buried in my heart. I still miss him. I still look for him in all his favorite places. I know he is at the Rainbow Bridge waiting on me. I don’t know if there is a dog Heaven, but I can’t imagine a Heaven without dogs and without Gus Mayer. 

I hope you have a good month.



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