Monday, July 18, 2022

In Memory of a StarDog

August 27, 2005 – July 12, 2022

I apologize for not posting my next The Shell and the Star episode today, but this week we had a loss of a very special friend who played a pretty big role with my writing. I think it’s important I acknowledge her passing and her contributions to my science fiction romance series.

Katrina was born in August 2005. I wouldn’t know her for four more years or that my special little dachshund companion came with the monster hurricane she was named for. But when I first saw her photo posted by a reputable AKC breeder in Texas, I fell in love. And when I read that she carried the same name as a central character in my series, I knew I had to have her. It took several months before she could come to live us, but that day finally came. She flew in via air cargo (before that practice was abandoned by most breeders).

David picked her up at the airport in the spring of 2009 while I was at work, and when I got home, this adorable little black and tan longhaired dachshund came running to greet me at the door!

Katrina at office door - 2011

She soon settled in with us as our only house dog, and very quickly learned what “Let’s go write!” meant. She’d run to my office door and wait for me to open it so she could curl up under my desk while I worked. Her presence seemed to be a positive influence, because I finished three novels in only a few years with my special little muse curled up at my feet. I went to RWA for the first time that year, only a few months after she arrived. I attended again in 2010. In 2011, I went again to celebrate on Times Square as two of my new novels finaled in the Golden Heart Awards. In 2012, the third novel finaled and I was off to Anaheim, California for another celebration. She was quite the productive little muse!

By 2015, Katrina was 10 years old and beginning to feel her age a bit. She was in her co-pilot seat when I published Farewell Andromeda and Inherit the Stars via my agent in early 2015. A year later, I retired from my day job in February 2016, but in the meantime something unexpected happened.

When Pauline Baird Jones first posted about her idea of doing an anthology of science fiction romance stories that included pets, I immediately loved the idea. But I had no idea what to write about, so I told her to let me think about it. That’s when I remembered that I had plans for the sequel to Inherit the Stars to include some sort of clever little ship’s mascot, and what better way to introduce this idea, as well as the future heroine of the sequel, than in an origin story which came to be included in the popular collection known as Pets in Space!

I soon worked out what that mascot would be, a bio-engineered dog/cat/weasel/mongoose called a StarDog, and fleshed out this companion creature for StarDog, the novella. 

That StarDog borrowed Katrina’s name, as well as her color and many of her traits. As I mentioned before, she carried the name of an important character who is central to my series – Katrina – and in the book, the StarDog was named in honor of this historical figure, which ended up working perfectly as a plot point! When the first Pets in Space released in October 2016, it became a great success, and my little StarDog Katrina had a special namesake. Her story was left open-ended, because she’ll be back in a sequel to Inherit the Stars. I’m sure she’ll be curled up at my feet in spirit when I pen that future book.

Katrina and Luna - 2016

Over the next three years, Katrina got some dachsie friends to keep her company, first Luna, and then Maura. (Both would also have StarDogs named for them in two more Pets in Space stories, Courting Disaster in 2017 and SpyDog in 2019). Katrina loved having companions so much that I felt bad she’d been the only housedog all those years. The three amigas went everywhere together, and had a very special bond. It gave Katrina a new lease on life as she passed the mark of 12 years old – an age that was starting to get “up there” for a dachshund. The beds under my desk multiplied to three as she taught the new arrivals the ropes of being a StarDog muse. :)

Katrina and Maura - 2016

In 2019, Katrina would turn 15 and I feared she didn’t have a lot of time left. Her muzzle was getting grey, her eyes were growing dull, and she couldn’t hear very well. She’d lost most of her teeth during her last dental check, and wasn’t the energetic, bouncy girl she’d been all her life – although she still occasionally had her moments. That’s when we stumbled on someone selling two tiny, black-and-tan miniatures of Katrina at the Fourth of July celebration in our town, and had that “What do you think about getting a pup?” convo. I was hesitant, but I knew Katrina probably wouldn’t be with us much longer—after all she was about 105 years old in doggy years. We brought the pup home hoping she would fill the spot in our hearts that we knew would be vacant when Katrina passed. We didn’t think she had much longer.

Well, that poor puppy was an outcast. The other dogs turned up their noses in disgust and wanted nothing to do with her—except Katrina. Katrina adopted that sad little rejected pup and took her under her wing. Zoey must have thought Katrina was “mom,” because she did look a lot like her real mother. We called Katrina her “Godmother.” They’d hang out together and give each other kisses, and curl up together in Katrina’s bed.
Katrina and Zoey in 2019

When we ended up with Maura’s young daughter, CaSandra, later that year through pure serendipity, she became Zoey’s playmate. (And CaSandra, or Cassie, became yet another StarDog namesake when I wrote my final StarDog story for Pets in Space, Juggernaut.)

Katrina - 2019

Katrina surprised us. She didn’t pass that year. In fact, she was with us for three more birthdays, three more Christmases and three more summers. We threw her a big Sweet Sixteen birthday party in August of 2021.

Then 2022 rolled around. Katrina was now approaching 17 years old, the equivalent of almost 120 human years. She was mostly blind, though she could still see a little, mostly deaf, though she had some hearing, and was on a diet of soft food and some gentle pain meds to help with the discomforts of old age. As the months went by, she gradually lost strength in her back legs and when we took her outside, she mainly turned in circles, walking around and around for hours in her doggy dementia.

We discussed if it was time to put her to rest – and also had that coldly suggested by people who saw nothing but a worthless, old dog – but decided that no, she was far from worthless to us, and as long as she wasn’t in pain or mental distress we would take care of her. She knew she was home, she knew her friends were with her, and she still loved to be picked up and cuddled and petted. We could feel her old body relax and see her eyes close in contentment whenever she was in our arms. But I have to admit, we cried a lot because we knew her time was coming.

Last Monday morning, July 11th, she began to yelp. It was clear she was in distress. We called our vet and upped her pain meds to triple the usual dose. The relief it gave her didn’t last long. By the next morning, we knew it was time—the time we dreaded -- and made that final call to the vet. We let Zoey and the other dogs say goodbye, and Zoey stayed with her a long time, giving her lots of kisses. When the vet came, we were with her every moment, petting and talking to her, telling her what a great dog and writing buddy she’d been—our original StarDog--until her final breath. She went peacefully and quietly, which was what we had always prayed for.

We buried her near our garden, curled up on her little pink “princess” donut bed, with a long goodbye note from each of us in the box with her, and a bouquet of red, white and blue flowers on top of her grave. And now we’re learning to deal with the empty bed, and the quiet nights where she no longer rouses us to take her outside or to untangle her from a piece of furniture where she’s gotten stuck. Zoey still looks for her in her bed, and then raises those big, sad eyes to us, as if to say, “Where did she go?” Sometimes Zoey curls up in Katrina’s bed to sleep, like she once did as a tiny pup. It’s going to take time for her to accept Katrina is gone. As it will for all of us.

A relative commented that “You gave her a great life and now you have great memories.” That’s true, though this soon after her loss those memories can be a blessing and a curse. Ultimately though, they’ll be that part of her that lives on with us. Always.

We love you and miss you so much, little StarDog.


  1. So very sorry for your loss. Beautiful tribute!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind thoughts, Veronica. It's been a rough week, but we all--or all of us who have pets--get here at some point.

  2. Such a hard loss, I know. You can never have them long enough. Heartfelt condolences.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Donna. Yes, looking back, those 13 years seemed to go so fast. So many memories there.

  3. That was a beautiful tribute to your sweet little stardog. It's so hard to say goodbye to our fur babies. My condolences for your loss.

  4. That was a lovely tribute to a special doggie. Love to you all!!

    1. Thank you, Barbara. Your Winnie has always been a StarDog in spirit. :) It's been really hard to say goodbye to this very special pup.

  5. Katrina was definitely a Star Dog. That was such a beautiful tribute to her, of course I'm crying like a baby now. I know how hard it was to say good-bye to her. We felt the same way about Reese and Copper, who also lived to the age of 17. The dachshunds are truly very special furry babies. Thinking of you and David and sending much love.

    1. Thanks so much for your support, Sally. We doxie people "get it." They're very special dogs and each has an individual personality just like people. Of course, that means they are missed so much when it's their time to go. Thanks for commenting. :)


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