Jim Harrer


Morgan - A great dog's five rules to live by.


For my friends, family, neighbors and care providers (trainers, vets, groomers, etc..) who came in contact with Morgan, my hope is you'll join me in remembering her for the great dog she was.

She was born on 12/31/2002, though our paths would not cross for another six years (1/3/2009) when I stumbled on her at the Bend, Oregon, Humane Society. I was planning on adopting a 1-year old, chocolate lab/boxer mix that day, but God had a different plan. Morgan laid curled up in the back corner of her kennel, with an expression that screamed, “I don't belong here.” Unlike the other 80+ dogs barking and jumping up on the mesh fence as people walked by, Morgan just glanced up at me and gave me one tail wag. As I read her intake form, I learned she was six years old, had never been socialized around people or animals. No formal training, in fact she didn’t know how to sit on command, or fetch, and trusted no one. The reason she was there was because her previous owner couldn't afford to care for her any longer.

Here is the very first video I captured of Morgan when we brought her home. Mike Kathriner was visiting and nailed the fact Morgan hated cameras and as you'll see in many of the photos, she often looked away.

It was a sad story, she was a mess and deserved a better life – one Debbie and I could try to provide. Though we would only have her the last half of her life, Morgan lived life large, full of personality, attitude and adventure.


Morgan’s Rule #1 – The people you grow old with are more important than the people you grew up with.

Morgan and I did age together, as you'll see through these photos.

We loved to walk and it wasn't uncommon for us to hike 3-4 miles a day in that first year. She had amazing stamina. Here is a picture when we hiked up Smith Rock’s Monkey Face and then down the back side for another 3-miles. When we got home, she bugged me to go on another walk before bed. She lived for the walk, and the road trip...


Debbie and I were conscience of the fact Morgan was already middle aged and our time was limited. We didn't take our time with her for granted. I would work from my home office in 2009 and 2010, so Morgan was with me almost all the time.


Here is one of my favorite photos with Santa at Petco, taken 12/12/2009. It was a good first year.

In 2011, I became CEO of Alchemy Solutions and immediately proclaimed our workplace “dog friendly”. This taught Morgan a new phrase, “You want to go to work?” I never had to set an alarm again, Morgan made sure we went to work on time each morning. It also meant we took breaks often and were never apart. She loved going to work every day and greeting people in and out of my office.



Morgan is the first dog I've owned that actually acknowledged you with her tail.  When she appeared to be sleeping, Debbie would ask her, "Morgan are you awake?". Her eyes would often remained closed, but she would wag her tail.  This video shows how she responded with her tail.


Morgan’s Rule #2 – Ride with the windows down and call shotgun!

I had a truck while we lived in Bend, Oregon, she loved that truck. But she didn't like riding anywhere but the passenger seat. It would take me a couple years to figure out why I couldn't break her of jumping up front, she simply wanted to be next to me and see what I saw, barking only to alert me there was another dog up ahead in the distance.

When we moved to Washington, people asked why I traded in the truck for a Subaru, my answer was always, “The Subaru is Morgan’s, she lets me drive it.”


Morgan’s Rule #3 – Loyalty is a deep, rich experience, tested by time.

She is by far the most loyal dog I have even owned. Some of it was in her DNA (Chinese Shar-Pei was a major marker, after yellow lab), some of it was I simply broke her out of the SPCA. She latched on to me and I her.

I often wondered if I should have named her shadow, because she became my shadow. She would live the rest of her life keeping me in her sight. If I left the house without her, she would sit at the window for hours watching for my return. As I entered the driveway I could see her standing guard waiting for my return, barking with excitement to announce my arrival. I taught her the words, “I'll be back.” To teach her that I was leaving her, but just for a short period and would be back so she wouldn't take it so hard and go nuts when I left her sight – as if I would never return. However, her facial expression when I spoke those words was heart breaking. I can't tell you how many times I changed my mind and just took her with me as a result. Her intense loyalty actually had me reexamine my views on being loyal in return. I picked activities we could do together (walking, running, biking) over swimming as an example. We picked destinations on the basis of being dog friendly, and we often talked our friends into coming to our home for dinner parties because we didn’t want to leave Morgan alone.

When home or traveling, Morgan was always aware where the doors were and insisted on laying down between me and the entry point.


I admit, I didn't understand Morgan’s obsession with loyalty and protection the first 6 months together. I would trip over her constantly and say things like, “Morgan, give me a break”. We did 18 straight weeks of obedience training, followed by 6 weeks of off-leash agility training and as smart as she was in these classes, she would break a stay command in a heart beat if she sensed a threat. I learned to respect that about her and gave up trying to change her.

The training did pay off, here is a lost video I found with Geoff and Eva Cedarholm showing off how well behaved Morgan, Tater and Grits were together during Thanksgiving 2009.


Morgan’s Rule #4 – Trust is earned and was a gift to you when she gave it.

Morgan had trust issues. Part of the reason was because of her intense loyalty and need to be our protector, she viewed everything as a threat. But, that's not the only reason. Morgan did not offer trust, you had to earn it. Even with me, I had to earn her trust in so many ways. She was never socialized around other dogs, so she assumed every dog was a predator – out to hurt her or me. She tried to nip at many of the dogs I introduced her too. It would take 2 years of training before she could go to a off-leash dog park and experience the joys of running through the forest with another pack of dogs.

She was afraid of large bodies of water or streams and would not go in them to get a drink. So you can imagine how much trust we built in order to get her on my paddle board. It also shows just how important it was for her to be by my side.

She had to learn to trust before she could experience the joy of play. Perhaps that is why I love this video of her playing with Tater, in Geoff and Eva’s dog friendly living room.

A couple more thoughts on trust. Morgan trusted kids. She could get annoyed and would go in another room if our Grandkids crowded her too much, but she knew they wouldn't intentionally harm her. The same was true when kids would approach us at Home Depot or PetCo, she gladly allowed them to pet her. Now, if the parents tried before I said, “it's ok” to Morgan, she might go for a nip. This also softened in time.


The final story I'll share with you about trust is about the last 8 months of her life. We moved to a corner home on a dead end street, no traffic, mostly older, retired neighbors who have lived in these homes for 15+ years. As the movers unpacked us, two of our new neighbors came by to meet Morgan, Debbie and I as we stood in the front yard. Gary and Fred, each gave Morgan a pat on the head and asked if they could give her a treat. Morgan instantly accepted Gary and Fred, something we had never witnessed. From our quiet front yard, Morgan could lay on the grass and keep an eye on both of their yards. When either came outside, Morgan would go to them without even a glance back at me. She would hang around Fred and Gary until they walked her back to our home. They would later share with us how Morgan deeply touched their lives and they would come out of their homes hoping she was outside. She was never on a leash or tied up and she only wondered over to Fred and Gary’s when they opened their garage door or saw them. She became the neighborhood dog, perhaps no better testament to the dog she had become.

Morgan's Rule #5 – Live large, walk more and stay in the power of now.

Morgan truly had no sense of time. She didn't care what she did 5 minutes ago and didn't much care what was planned an hour from now. She live for right NOW. When we got back from a walk, most dogs nap. Morgan seldom napped, when we got back to the truck after a 6 mile hike, she would be happy to head right back out.

She loved to walk, and there were no rules about how far or how often. We would often go for 2 mile walks, 3 or 4 times a day, the more walks we would do, the more she would interrupt whatever I'm doing to tell me it's time to get outside. She loved exploring the forest, it's critters and smells, jumping up on downed trees and running free, off leash. I’d probably weigh another 30 pounds without those walks as we logged 650 miles on Nike+ for the hikes I remembered to track during 2009 and 2010 alone.

She loved going to places, but she was a terrible traveler. She would get so excited to be on a road trip, she simply would not settle down. I think it was her obsession with living in the now; she wanted to see everything. She wanted to celebrate each and every moment, the beauty of the road and the fact we were together on this journey – it was her special way to tell us how happy she was and not let these moments slip past us, unnoticed.

On our walks together I would often let my mind drift to recent events or things I needed to do when we got back and Morgan worked hard to bring me back, bring me back to, “right now”, with her.. Look at this lizard, this stream, this smell, this new trail or a squirrel in the distance, she reminded me to pay attention to being conscience in the moment.

One of my fondest memories came after our first year together. It was at our home in Oregon and it had just snowed about 6 inches and Morgan wanted to go outside and play, badly. As soon as I put my ski pants on she went nuts with excitement and could not get outside fast enough. I'm glad I grabbed my camera and captured these photos and video of her and how she loved to run, and runs all out as you’ll see. Enjoy

Final thoughts…

In Morgan's last couple months with us, she would begin to limp after a walk around the block. Debbie had decided to take her in for a full set of X-rays. We learned that Morgan had been hit by a car when she was younger and broke two legs. No wonder these old injuries were acting up. She had also developed Polyarthritis attacking multiple joints. She had troubled getting on her feet and stopped walking. The vet gave her Prednisone which gave us a few more months with her. Here is our last video taken of her.


Morgan developed respiratory problems, the Prednisone no longer helped her joint pain, and Debbie and I realized it was time to let her go. Morgan passed away shortly after 4:30pm on March 27, 2015 in our living room with Debbie and I by her side. The last words she heard were, “You are a great dog, we love you.”

Here is our last photo together, Mike was right, she would never like a camera.

Goodbye Morgan, we had a good run. We miss you very much.

Jim & Debbie

P.S. If you enjoyed this more personal post, please post a comment below and consider sharing it on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Reddit.

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