Saying goodbye to my dog Phineas, the greatest love of my life

Christa Avampato
8 min readFeb 15, 2024

Friends, I have been away from this blog for over two weeks because of grief.

Phineas crossed over in my arms at 3:30am on Sunday, January 28, 2024. I went to dinner on Saturday the 27th and Phin was sound asleep in his new bed when I left. He had a good day, visited with friends Marita and Anthony, ate well, went outside, and was even walking better than he had been. When I got home, Phinny was collapsed on the floor and unable to stand. I ran him to the ER at 11:30pm. The vet felt he may have had a seizure, that his kidney disease had taken a turn for the worse, or his back legs had completely given out as a side effect to the prednisone he’s been taking for his chronic pancreatitis.

He completely fell asleep in my arms at the ER and never stirred again, not even when we placed the euthanasia catheter. I held him for hours. He was telling me it was time. Once the shot was administered, he took 3 big breaths and then was gone. He was at peace, and the last thing he knew on this plane was my heartbeat and me holding him. The cry I let out was the loudest and most guttural I’ve ever made.

This is the last photo I took of Phin just before I left for dinner on what would be the last night of his life. I have a tremendous amount of guilt that I went out that night. If I’d known what would happen, I never would have gone to dinner. The other two are me holding him in the ER shortly before he crossed over.

Phineas, I love you more than life itself and my heart is shattered missing you. I have no idea how I’ll get through this grief and life without you. You’ll always be the greatest love of my life.

Thank you to everyone who has loved and cared for us through all of our 13 1/2 years together. We’re so grateful.

I am feeling my way through. This grief is the worst I’ve ever felt. I couldn’t sleep for 36 hours. I sobbed so much my eyes were purple and swollen. My friend, Ashley, who loved and adored Phinny came over with bagels, chocolate, a prayer candle, tissues, fruit salad, and her dog, Cricket, who was one of Phinny’s best friends.

The day after Phinny passed, Ashley told me the constellation Canis minor (“the smaller dog”) was rising in the sky with Orion and Canis major. It’s no coincidence that it looks like a celestial Phinny. I’m absolutely getting this tattoo in his honor. Canis minor and Canis major are Orion the Hunter’s dogs. In mythology, the gods placed Canis minor at the banks of the river of the Milky Way so the dog would never be thirsty. Fresh water forever for Phin!

Nursing my broken heart, I left my apartment after two days for the first time since Phinny’s passing. I went to dinner with my friend Vicki. I was dreading returning home and Phin not being there to greet me. This gorgeous vase of flowers was waiting for me from Chewy, the pet supply company. I contacted them to thank them for all of the great service they’ve provided to us and to cancel any autoships and reminders that were set up for Phinny’s account. Sarah, the team member I chatted with, was so lovely, kind, and compassionate. I never expected anything like this. Sarah and Chewy made one of the worst days of my life a little brighter.

Sarah and Chewy exemplify heart-centered leadership, and concern for customers. This is how you run a business. I already loved them. Now I’m a customer and fan for life. Other companies could learn a lot from them.

I went to dinner with my friend Tara at Grey Dog, one of my favorite New York City spots. I went into the restroom and there was this dachshund print by Stephen Huneck. When I looked over at it, I swear to you I heard Phin say, “Hi Mom!”

Tara bought me a set of pens & this lovely notebook with Phineas embossed on it. She got it so I could carry it with me and write down any thought about Phin that pops into my mind.

The little prince is home now. I picked up Phinny’s ashes at Blue Pearl. A triumvirate of strong, compassionate, loving women working at the hospital that night helped me make the impossible choice to release Phineas’s spirit from his riddled physical body and usher him into the next realm. I will never forget their kindness. This was the most humane and loving choice for him, and a pain-filled choice for me.

I made an ofrenda for him in my apartment. He guards the door, as he always did in life, surrounded by a portrait of him painted by Ashley with the prayer candle she brought over the day he passed, his paw prints, tuft of fur, his sweaters, collar, harness, and water bowl that I never washed after he passed, treats and a piece of his kibble, toys he loved, his hair brush with his hair still in it, dried flowers from his Chewy bouquet, and a photo he had taken at his doggie daycare.

Many years from now, when I pass and am completely reunited with Phin, our ashes will be mixed together, and we’ll become a tree. For now, I’ll find him in everything everywhere all at once. His spirit is always next to me. Whenever I want to be close to him, I go to his ofrenda and talk to him. I say good morning and good night to him every day.

Phin has been showing up all over my dreams already! He showed up in a dream of mine less than a week after he passed. He was in the living room, guarding the door, just as he always did in life. He was sitting close to his ofrenda. I think he likes that spot. I said, “Phinny!” and he turned around and looked at me over his shoulder. I was so sad because the dream was so short but my friend Amy explained that short clear dreams are visitations, and that made me feel better.

I had another dream that he sent me two new rescue dachshunds. It was mayhem in my dream with them running all over the place, and it was the happiest I’ve been since his passing.

In that strange state between being asleep and awake, I had a flash of me walking across a pink bridge with a red stripe down the middle that looked like Central Park’s bridges, which we loved going across many times over the years. Snow behind us, spring ahead. I was carrying Phinny and he was asleep the way he was in the ER 2 weeks ago. I got to the other end of the bridge. I gave him a kiss between his sleepy eyes and put him down. He became his young self again and took off running into the green grass. I watched him go and then turned around and walked back over the bridge.

Our friend Cara sent me this lovely postcard and I imagine Phin running free and flying high in a beautiful place like this. She also sent me this valentine because she knew today would be hard for me. Our friend Celia painted this beautiful image for Phin and our friend KaRyn sent us this beautiful card.

Josh donated to NYCACC, Tisa donated to Frosty Faces, and Tunde donated to World Central Kitchen — all in Phinny’s honor. So many of you have sent me messages in so many forms and checked in on me. Please know how grateful I am. You are all helping me tremendously with every single small gesture. Phinny was loved by so many, and having that reminder really helps.

Phin helped me through so much — PTSD, the pandemic, cancer, new jobs, new apartments, breakups, and also celebrated an immeasurable number of joys and dreams with me. The void he’s left in my life seems like it has no end. Rest assured I’m trying to put one foot in front of the other and doing everything possible to find some comfort and peace after this impossible decision. The grief is heavy and will take a long time to process. This is just part of love persevering.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. I love that we have a holiday that celebrates love in all its wondrous forms — for all the people and animals in our lives present and past, our communities, this beautiful planet we share, the work we do, causes and organizations we care about, and ourselves. I hope today and every day you let love fill you up and fuel your journey forward.

This is a photo of me and my forever valentine — my sweetheart of a dog. It’s from 2016 so he’s about 7 here. Love you & miss you, buddy. It was taken by our dear and talented friend Rachael when we lived in D.C.

It’s been just over two weeks since I held my little guy and it’s felt like 2 years. My great hope is that he’s happy, healthy, and running free. I love you, buddy. I hope your day is filled with all the things you love.

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Christa Avampato

Award-winning author & writer—Product Dev — Biomimicry scientist — Podcaster. Runs on curiosity & joy. twitter.com/christanyc / instagram.com/christarosenyc