An Ode to Dusty Bottoms, and All the Good Dogs of the World

Adventure photographer Andy Cochrane remembers a beloved companion with a touching eulogy sure to strike a cord with all dog lovers

An Ode to Dusty Bottoms, and All the Good Dogs of the World


Andy Cochrane


Andy Cochrane

A good dog isn’t always the best trained or the best behaved. A good dog doesn’t need to be the smartest or most athletic. A good dog doesn’t even need to be good all the time. A good dog is, simply, the one that subtly yet persistently reminds you of the important things in life. One such dog was Dusty Bottoms, a seventy-pound chocolate lab with a large head and deep howl, who was truly one of a kind.

This is an ode to Dusty, but it’s also an ode to all good dogs. It’s something I needed to write for myself, but also something I also wanted to write for anyone who knows the depth of losing a good dog.

Two months before his fifteenth birthday, we tearfully said goodbye to Dusty Bottoms. He lived longer than most dogs, but it still came as a surprise to us. Despite chronic arthritis and less spunk than his youthful years, Dusty still had that mischievous look in his eye, even near the end. Sometimes life comes at you fast.


The following few days were a blur for me, but more so for my partner, Jenny. Dusty was her dog; I came into the picture during his golden years, getting to know Dusty after he retired from sneaking out the backyard to “take himself on walks” to the nearby burrito shop. According to the tag on his collar, Dusty had an owner, but truth be told, he was more accountable to the whims of the moment than anything else.

During our time together, Dusty and I built a special connection, but his bond with Jenny was different. They bridged a foundational life chapter together, moving across the country, building a business, buying a house, and figuring out their lives in tandem. A formative fifteen years in more ways than one.

Dogs are often described as a reflection of their owners; a window into our souls. This is especially true of dogs adopted in early adulthood, because it’s such a malleable time of life–and it certainly was true of Jenny and Dusty. Two gipsy spirits who adventured hard, loved harder, and rarely followed the rules.


In years filled with ups and downs, they leaned on each other during hard times, celebrated the good times, and through human-dog osmosis, developed the same mannerisms, too. They had the same smiles, wrinkles, eye twinkles, and salt and pepper hair, perhaps from getting into too much trouble together. So it wasn’t surprising that losing Dusty made Jenny feel like she had lost a part of herself.

Three months on, we’ve started spreading Dusty’s ashes in his favorite places, where we spent countless hours together. Dusty loved a lot of things, but none more than swimming. He would play fetch for hours, or for any amount of time you were willing to throw the stick. Every dog has their favorite spots, and for Dusty, a purebred lab from a duck hunting lineage, it was the river.

Coincidentally, my first memory of Dusty was on the banks of the Crooked, a river not far from home. We parked at a gravel pullout and as Jenny threw on her waders, I walked down to the river with Dusty, watching his excitement grow. His legs were old and stiff, but he was young at heart. The trail led us to a small oxbow with bubbly lines and clear water, perfect for fishing. But Dusty had other plans.

I found a stick and Dusty, forgetting his rear legs barely worked, jumped in before I threw it. We played until he couldn’t swim anymore, lying down on the bank next to me. For the rest of the afternoon, Jenny fished while Dusty and I napped in the dirt, lulled to sleep by the sounds of the river.


While I dreamed, Dusty dutifully kept one eye open, so he wouldn’t miss an opportunity to swim. When Jenny was ready to move on, she would call Dusty and he would rush to the river and jump in, clearing any fish left in the hole. This was the only command he followed without fail. The rest were hit or miss.

Dusty, like Jenny, was raised free range. That is, he didn’t have much training. Jenny likes to say she “guided” him through life, but that’s only true if you use the word “guided” very loosely. Luckily, he wasn’t the type of dog that needed a ton of training. His soul was gentle and pure; even most anxious dogs would relax when they were around him.

Back on the river banks, when called, Dusty would leap as high as he could and crash into the water, like a teenager learning to cannonball for the first time. He was a strong swimmer, able to navigate rapids and obstacles by himself. After climbing out, he would look at you with a cockeyed smile and curious eyes, as if to ask why you weren’t swimming with him. It was always a good question.

Dusty is gone forever, but I’ll never forget that look. It was a statement, a question, and a request all in one. It was the embodiment of Dusty’s life in the flash of a few seconds. A reminder of the important things. To love people recklessly. To be patient, because good stuff comes when you wait. To never forget the little joys in life. And to never miss an opportunity to swim.

Dusty was one of those dogs that transcends the concept of what a dog can be. The kind of dog that only comes around once a decade. He was a reminder to always be present, which I’ll never forget.

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An Ode to Dusty Bottoms, and All the Good Dogs of the World

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