Hess: I’ve never had a dog. I would love to have a dog. Right now the most important dog in my life is this dog that has no idea that it’s so important to me. Her name is Luna and she’s this big, white dog, with brown spots and alert ears and she’s blind. She just ambles around my neighborhood and whenever I see her, it gives me a lot of joy. Her owners are a little skeptical of me. Luna’s not mine, but she’s the most important dog to me right now.
Sheila Bridges: On Monday, I put down my Australian shepherd, Wheeler. I’m a little emotional today, but I thought this would be kind of therapeutic.
Maira Kalman: I was terrified of dogs and thought they would rip your head off if you turned your back on them, a legacy from my mother. When [my late husband] Tibor became ill, we somehow decided that it was good for the kids to have a dog. Pete quickly became my constant companion. He never left my side. He made everybody happy, but really made my life much better. Sara, my mother, who was the legacy of being terrified of dogs, ended up loving him and knitting him sweaters, and making him schnitzel and blintzes that we weren’t allowed to touch.
Bridges: One of the hardest decisions you sometimes have to make as a pet owner is whether or not it’s time to let go of the life you share with your beloved pet. I believe that the loss is particularly amplified for those of us who do not have children. My animals — dogs, cats, horses — have always been my family on a spiritual level that I sometimes have difficulty explaining.
Kalman: Pete died in a dog hospital. It was really the end after so many months of trying to keep him alive. Finally, we understood that it was not possible. They were so wonderful. They put us in a room with soft lighting and said, “Take your time.” I was with my son, Alex, and my boyfriend, Rick. When we said goodbye to him, you choose what you want to happen afterward. I said ashes would be great. I think it was New Year’s Day and it was snowing. It was so beautiful. We were talking about James Joyce and “The Dead,” and how it ends with such a beautiful, soft, gentle snow falling on the land. It was a beautiful, big, thick snow. Then we went and we had grilled cheese sandwiches somewhere. [She holds up a pink vintage-looking tin, which holds the ashes of her beloved dog.] This is Pete, the only dog I’ve ever had and probably will ever have, unless I share it with some other family member. He lives on very intensely, so here he is.