The World's Best Dog: A Tribute to Yeager the Weimaraner, 1995-2011

Yeager the Weimaraner at twelve years old, 2007

The famous Dog-Whisperer Cesar Milan would’ve been appalled by how Yeager the Weimaraner led me down the path we shared, rather than me guiding him. I simply maintained a pledge to respect his wishes, as best as I could determine them, and to also return with equal vigilance and measure, the absolutism of trust and devotion he gave me the first day we met until our last day together, literally.

At about two on November 27, 2001, I drove to the shelter of Friends for Pets, a Weimaraner rescue in the Sun Valley section of Los Angeles. I went to spend a day with one of their dogs available for adoption. A week earlier, FFP had brought several Weims to a meet-and-greet for potential human companions and I hoped to take Baxter, who I had briefly walked and liked.

Yeager caught after retrieving a trashed bottle of Marshmallow Fluff, 2009

FFP’s founder and director Diane Monahan was waiting for me in the main room, standing in front of a desk, Competing for a stranger’s attention, dozens of Weims began a barking frenzy as I approached, making it impossible to hear what she was trying to tell me. Realizing by my application that most of my life as a working writer was solitary, she had a Weim other than Baxter in mind as my potential companion. Within seconds this explanation proved unnecessary.

A rush of air rose at my back and I felt the light touch of two paws on my shoulders.

Yeager with Friends For Pets founder and director Diane Monahan in 2005. go to for more information on the rescue.

I pivoted in time to see a six-and-a-half year old, 90-pound Weim behind me, descending back into a seated position with graceful self-discipline. Diane took the leash from an aide who had brought this dog out, handed it to me and yelled loud enough for me to hear, “This is Yeager!”

With hunting dog scent acuity, Yeager led me directly to my parked car, and then sat firmly beside it, proving his obedience skill. His unblinking eyes searched mine in wonder. I’d never had a dog. I didn’t know how they typically behaved, but this seemed an incredibly thoughtful gesture, without regard to species. Compelled to prove I was capable of returning the respect, I immediately let him in the back, asking if it was too hot. He opened his mouth and panted, then closed his mouth, never breaking eye contact. I took that as a yes, and opened the windows.

As we drove away, I was flattered by his excitement, and concerned about what I detected was his emotional vulnerability. He broke his gaze at me in the rear-view mirror only to stretch his neck to rest on my right shoulder, and press the left side of his face against the right side of mine. It was our first day.

At about seven on June 3, 2011, Yeager whimpered, to call me over. He breathed a quick pattern without gasping. I offered him water. He turned to politely try one sip. His head drooped. He gently raised it, only to stare into me with a startled expression. He’d not eaten regularly in the last week. I knew what this meant but tried to stay grateful that he felt no pain. I positioned his head across my lap.  He scuffled in an effort to rise independently. This signaled his intention to forage “Snackhouse,” the front garden of a nearby home where a neighbor placed bits of bread for him to hunt out. Six months ago, when his back legs greatly weakened, an Eddie’s Wheels cart let him keep his daily “Snackhouse” schedule   Two months ago, front wheels for his weakening front legs only made him more determined to keep marching over there before another dog got to his bread bits.

Yeager in his Eddie’s Wheels cart a month before he died, May 2011.

He would not make it to Snackhouse this day, however. I didn’t want him to die in his cart on the sidewalk. I told him it was alright to leave his life. He stared at me, appalled, and then smacked his head against mine. Among the lessons Yeager taught me: Willfulness may crush rationality.

This time, however, it didn’t. His eyes searched mine for an answer I didn’t have, but I didn’t look away. I put my arm around his back, touching his shoulders with my hands. Yeager raised his neck to extend his head upward. He pressed the left side of his face against the right side of mine. It was our last day.

Please consider a donation to The Yeager Fund at Friends For Pets for the care of unadopted, elderly and disabled dogs. Go to

Our first and our last picture together November 2001 and June 2011.

Our first and our last picture together November 2001 and June 2011.

Categories: Dogs, Old Dogs, Senior Dog Care, Yeager the Weimaraner

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27 replies »

  1. Carl,

    I am so sorry to hear that Yeager has passed on. I remember very well each of my pets (cats) and the day that they passed. My first, Deadalus, died about 15 years ago and I can still remember every detail of that parting. Thinking about it, even now, s till brings the feelings back and I find myself reduced to tears.

    From everything I read about Yeager he was an extraordinary dog. You were both very blessed to have one another. For what it is worth, Yeager loved you from the day you found each other on a level that is not often heard of. He will be missed I know, but you will go on, just as Yeager would want for you to do.

    When the time of morning passes, and only you will know when that is, you will make a wonderful friend to a new dog. He will never be Yeager, but each have their own personalities. You will learn to love the new dog too. For now though, morn for there really is a time for every purpose under heaven.

    Thank you for sharing Yeager with us. My heart is with you.

    Lisa Gordon Boisvert

    • Lisa, I appreciate your willingness to tell me about your own experiences. I can’t help but feel that Yeager was a being who really did fundamentally change me as a being – inside, in ways I can’t find words to accurately express – and I love the world of words and talk and write too much, but somehow find myself oddly mute to express my reactions not just to my loss but when I learn of others who felt the same way about their animal companions. Maybe that’s the way it should be – since they didn’t need the world of words to transmit their own reactions to us. I know I will never have another permanent dog in my life, but I do know I will foster care a different dog each time as a way of having them in my future and helping them socialize. Thank you genuinely for being so open about this sensitive part of life.

  2. What a moving tribute. Someone with such love for a dog (and who names his cars!) has to be a generous and kind person indeed.

    • And what a moving response – thank you Robert. Very peculiarly, an eerie coincidence….the engine of Muriel the Ford Fairlane convertible – which I got a month after Yeager joined me….its engine died a month before he died.

      • A lovely model car that was. My grandfather had a ’66 Ranchero he named Charo, and that started my penchant for naming my automobiles. (My latest is Miss Vivian, the fire-engine-red Eos convertible, named after that cinematic hooker with the heart of gold.)

        Strangely enough, my grandfather bred St. Bernards and Weimaraners when I was young – two sweeter breeds you couldn’t find. You have my condolences.

        • Thanks Robert – Nothing like those old 60s cars, modern enough to always be an experience while driving but without the seemingly unnecessary complexity that shuts down lots of contemporary cars so much more easily. I find I can have a connection with any type of dog, but I think the Weimaraner’s round head, short-hair and large vary-colored eyes makes them spookily human at times. And so incredibly sensitive to perceived slights!

  3. Thank you for sharing, I say, with tears running down my cheeks. Yeager was blessed to have you, as you were blessed to have him in your care.

    • Dear Leslie – Thank you again for everything – your wisdom, your experiences, your advice…and for Eddie’s Wheels. Without the back wheels which Yeager used everyday since about February, and the front wheels which he used as soon as they were on the cart in April, he may have been physically alive but he would have been emotionally and spiritually unengaged. That cart is what let him keep enjoying life with that daily intention of getting to Snackhouse. It carries so much of a larger lesson – about the fact that so many dogs which are rescued physically may only live on to be abandoned emotionally. There is a new book – the title escapes me at the moment – which makes the case that what dogs lack the most yet crave the most is simple human company. Anyway, thank you again.

  4. I can’t say I “like” this post, because it is so heart-wrenching, but it is one of the most beautiful and beautifully written things I’ve read in a long, long time. God bless you both.


  5. Carl,
    I am so very sorry for your loss. Words fail me, but my thoughts are with both you and the spirit of Yaeger.
    In sadness,

  6. Sweet, sweet Yeager…I still live in the illusion that my three poo-pods (two of them Weims) will never pass on. Your video made me boo-hoo…such a kind tribute to your forever friend. Weims are, hands down, the greatest dogs in the whole wide world. Yeager was lucky to have you, and you him. I hope your heart is starting to feel a little peace. Hugs from a fellow Weim parent…

    • Well, there’s something to be said about not getting too pre-occupied about a dog’s demise until you have to – I think that’s sort of one of the great lessons they teach humans – that big lesson of living in the moment and not wasting the real time focused on the past or the future…hard one for humans, but dogs do it by nature. So….most definitely enjoy your three….and thank you for writing.

  7. Oh Carl….so beautifully written. I’m on my set in New Mexico with tears in my eyes. Yeager will be missed and what a lovely pal he was to you. Cherish the memories and the gift.

    • Really kind of you Paddy – I know how busy you are – but I also know how much you genuinely loved Yeager and really understood why I decided to care for him instead of the alternative – and I will really, really always appreciate that. Plus, now – you’ve got a wonderful dog in your life and Ava’s. Be well and hope to see you when the job is done. xoc

  8. Having lost pets myself, it still breaks my heart – loved the video of Yeager. He had a good long life!

    • Thanks very much David. I’m actually going to post two more articles based on material I wrote while observing Yeager in his later years – and how that good long life is one a lot more dogs have a better percentage of a chance of enjoying with their human companions perhaps putting a few things into place ahead of time.

  9. Dear Carl,

    How ironic that I would find you again through this beautiful and touching piece about your loss of Yaeger. I am sorry.

    I am a long-time fan of your writings and met you many years ago in Washngton DC. You graciously took the time to grab coffee with me and sign my copies of your books. You were mighty impressed that I had the First Ladies volumes in hard cover! Since then, I’ve enjoyed all your writings…Helen Taft, Florence Harding and of course all the Kennedy stuff. As a White House-phile myself, your work gave credibility and stature to the study of and scholarly interest in First Families.

    I say this “reunion” is ironic because I too had a Yaeger (named Mike) and he transformed my life and when he finally passed it was a wound that stayed with me for a very long time. To now discover you are also a dog person–and this is evident by the beautifully intimate way you write of your loss– is just one more of the passions that you and I share.

    All the pleasure and knowledge you have shared with me and with so many of your followers over all these years I can now repay in a very small way by offering to you my heartfelt and sincere sympathies.

    Peace friend,

    Nick Valenziano
    Palm Springs, CA

    • Dear Nick – Of course I remember you and how enthusiastic you were about my books and as you probably know a writer can have no greater glow than the one which comes from those who actually do slog through all their words and ideas and come out the other end with ideas and perceptions of their own being changed and enhanced. So thank you again.

  10. Carl, I am so sorry for you but happy that Yeager and you had so many special precious moments together. I have had many wonderful Weims in my life and feel blessed for each and every one. Like you, I had never had a dog before my first Weim, General. There are great dogs in every breed I have learned over the past 31 years of dog ownership. Your next dog will also be very special but different. My life revolves not just around my great grey friends but also one fuzzy little black one that slipped in. Best wishes for you and yours, Chris in VA

    • Thanks Chris – When I walk around, every and any dog I see often will look me in the eye and I stop to say hello – who knows what they understand, but I agree about all dogs being worthy of our respect, as are all people. A lot of this came about from the awareness sparked in me by Yeager. But in a way they’re all cousins – and in another abstract, but fundamental way all animals and humans are connected….(whether or not all humans want to acknowledge that or not….)

  11. Carl,

    I’m so sorry to hear about Yeager. Your pieces about him have given all of us a deep look at the kind of man you are, and it confirms all the best in you. What a lovely gift of a wonderful life you gave to him, although I suspect you see it more in terms of what he gave you.

    You’re in my thoughts,


  12. Very moving – a wonderful tribute.

    My eyes streamed all the way through the movie. Yeager looked so much like my own ‘best dog ever’ – a Weim’ who (when he chose) answered to the name of Arnie.

    He left me on 31st May 2011 and I am devastated.

    Wonderful dogs – they leave such a mark.

    • I almost hesitate to respond just because all of this is very close still for me as well – and Arnie left only 4 days before Yeager, who died on June 3. Many people don’t recognize or they ignore the time that can be necessary for this – and I’ve been told by some people who were deeply attached to their dogs as well, that they have never gotten used to life without their companions, just accustomed to existing without them. And while I find I really am fond and become quickly engaged with all breeds, mixes, ages, sizes of dogs, that weimaraners are really the dogs for me – and those deep, deep, searching eyes do it to me. While I so personally appreciate your words about the tribute I am also sorry to realize the challenge you’re also facing with your loss – still, thank you.

  13. Carl, I am just now reading this. Pretty cool thing how many people your beautiful Yeager is touching…..even now. My Smokey tolerates that harness but I will try the cart again. Donation coming…. My heart is with yours, too….

    • Dear Beth – thank you so, so much. I admit that maybe no one single article continues to mean more to me than that one about the old boy. I also admit that I still miss his company, but the reality of his being gone has meant finding a similar closeness to every single dog I now meet, even if just to say hello and look in their eyes – its almost like all the attention I once gave Yeager is now dispersed to every other dog I encounter. What else can one do, really? And your making the effort to write and also donate to the Yeager Fund only strengthens my belief that none of us with dogs or now without them are ever alone in facing or having faced their loss, because it is a universal experience. Thank you.


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