I promised myself long ago that, when Ace’s time came, I wouldn’t make too big a deal of the big dog’s death on these pages.
Unlike many dog websites, this one has always tried to avoid blatantly tugging on heartstrings — and to eschew all those mushy sounding and unnecessary words like “beloved” and “adorable” and “fur baby.”
We’ve always made it a point not to pander to your love for dogs with adjectives — just to cultivate it with truths.
For that reason, and others, we’re not going to be writing about Ace’s death a whole lot more.
Already, there have been more words written about him — between ohmidog! and Travels with Ace — than probably any other dog around. To keep going on and on about him (which in life I always viewed as “sharing”) would become something more like exploiting.
In other words, having made such a big deal out of his life, my plan was to refrain making a big deal out of his death.
But look what you went and did.
You’ve clogged my emailbox, you’ve kept my phone ringing, you’ve commented on my Facebook page and put up your own posts, often with your photos of Ace.
Since Ace’s death, I’ve heard from friends in Baltimore, Philadelphia and North Carolina, friends in — to name a few — Seattle, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, Montana, California, Arizona, New Mexico, New Jersey.
And those were just the ones who actually met him.
Hundreds more, from across the country and even overseas, who came to know Ace through our websites, left comments here and on Facebook — many of which made me cry all over again.
I guess that’s a good thing.
Thank you is what I’m trying to say, in a non-sniffly way, to those who touched Ace and were touched by him.
“Folks who don’t believe that dogs have souls have never met Ace,” a North Carolina friend wrote on her Facebook page. “I saw the effect he had on people everywhere he went. People were very drawn to Ace, it was amazing to watch. He was pure LOVE.”
“Ace was loved by so many all over the country … our hearts break for you,” wrote another, who put Ace and me up for days in Seattle during our year long “Travels with Ace” journey — and helped him overcome some stomach distress. (He arrived there with a bad case of diarrhea, probably the result of too much fast food.)
Ace and Bim at Idle Hour
A Baltimore buddy wrote, “Today is one of those days where something comes across your newsfeed that you dread seeing. Many moons ago Bim and I met a big guy of a dog named Ace at Canton Dog Park. Unlike some other big dogs, where Bim felt intimidated, he and Ace were very content to just “be” together … Ace was one of, if not THE, most amazing, chill, coolest, sweetest dogs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.” This from a woman who Ace once pulled out of her chair and dragged across a few feet of pavement after I asked her to hold Ace’s leash for a minute.
“Ace, there isn’t a human or dog that didn’t love you!” wrote another, posting a photo of Ace at the Idle Hour, his favorite bar.
“You will be so very missed by so many! Thank you for teaching us how to love every minute of life! The original bar dog, park dog. I am so sorry HB (Honeybun) tried to eat you the first time she met you.”
Another friend, who spend some dog park and bar time with Ace here in Winston-Salem, wrote: “Lauren and I first met Ace five and a half years ago on an assignment for the Winston-Salem Journal, and when we arrived at our interview, we saw him, a giant black-and-tan dog, gliding through the trees. We joked that he probably weighed more than 5’2” me. (He did.)
“…I watched Ace break up dog-park scuffles with the kindness and wisdom of a compassionate cop, moving his massive body between the offending parties. I saw him snack on peanut shells at one of my favorite Winston dive bars. Once, Lauren and I shared some beers with him in a booth (still one of my all-time favorite photos). He was the most gentle dog I’ve ever met … I’ll be hugging Stringer extra-tight tonight, and I hope y’all do the same with your pets. Rest easy, Aceface. The world will miss you.”
Ace and Stringer at Recreation Billiards
A former neighbor here in Winston-Salem whose two dachshunds were close friends and dog-walking buddies, sent this email:
“I don’t know what to say. I was thinking of what to say and then of all the things I would not like to hear… I guess I just wanted you to know that while I cannot understand what you are feeling right now … I am constantly thinking of all the many, many great times I had with you and Ace. I don’t think I knew how many until I really thought about it.”
Then she brought up Ace’s most shameful day — when he (always exceedingly gentle with every creature from baby kittens to baby ducks) took off, along with the dachshunds, after a baby bunny in College Village.
“The memory that stands out to me is the one involving the very unfortunate bunny in CV. Watching Ace actually grieve over the fact that he accidentally stepped on one, while the doxies went nuts for blood. I am grateful for having Ace in my life …”
Some of those who got in touch had only known Ace for minutes.
This from a woman we bumped into five and a half years ago at a rest area in Montana, and spent maybe five minutes with:
“John, my heart breaks for you. I remember meeting you and Ace at that rest stop in Montana during your Travels with Ace road trip. He was sweet and gentle and willingly accepted my St. Bernard Charlie’s clumsy attempts for attention. As I lost Charlie just over a year ago, rest assured Charlie is now helping Ace settle in wherever special dogs go after their time with us.”
Dozens more who passed along their condolences were people who never met him at all — knowing him only through the Internet.
“My deepest condolences to John Woestendiek, whose eloquent journey with his beloved Ace has come to an end. Thank you for opening our eyes to BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care, the shelter Ace was adopted from) and for showing us what love looks like,” wrote Baltimore attorney and animal welfare activist Caroline Griffin.
It is greatly comforting to know he lives on.
Sure, I’m still doing all those things that people who have lost dogs do — steering clear of the dog food aisle at the grocery store, getting used to returning to an empty house, marveling at how less often I have to empty the vacuum bag, thinking about the next dog, in a while, and worrying how unfair it might be to put a dog in a position to be his follow-up act.
Like most readers of this website, I can’t imagine a dog-less life.
Like a lot of you, I probably have a more admiring view of dogs than I do of humans.
But your response to Ace’s passing — the eloquent words you shared with me at a time when it’s so hard to come up with the right thing to say — has moved me more than I can describe (without getting sappy).
Let’s just say humans can be pretty decent, too.