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Rest in peace, Tyler

For those who have been following our search:

Yesterday, two volunteers hiked around the mountain preserve again, and they found Tyler.

Sometime in the past couple of days, for a reason I will never know, Tyler walked around to the other side of the mountain, near a service road that leads up to a water tower on the Cave Creek side. Just off the right side of the road, he crawled under a tree, he laid down, and he died.

The two volunteers, Jennifer and John from Mayday Pit Bull Rescue (the foster organization we’d worked with to find him a new home), and myself went to him. They wrapped him in a blanket, put him on a makeshift stretcher, and carried him down from the mountain. We brought him to the emergency animal clinic in west Phoenix; they work with a cremation service there. Tyler’s ashes will be returned to us in a couple of weeks.


When we took him in, he was injured, malnourished, and terrified of every sudden movement, noise, and person. We did everything in our power to give him the best nine months he could possibly have had. To prepare him to be proud and confident on his own. To enable him to be as happy as he deserved to be. To assure him he would never be hurt, abused, or neglected again. To give him the chance to live a long, happy life.

When Tyler came to us, I saw myself in him. He never had the great start to life he should have had, and despite that, he found a way out, and found a way into a situation where he could learn to be happy. Where he could grow. His story echoed my own. Every single day I knew him, I felt proud of him.

We were all so confident that Rachel, his would-be new owner, was the right person for him. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Less than nine hours after leaving him in her care, she did the exact thing we explicitly told her not to do, the one thing that most blatantly defies common sense: she let him off of his leash. In less than nine hours, she took away everything we did, everything we hoped for, and every chance Tyler would ever have at living the life he deserved.

Tyler was depending on Rachel. We were depending on her. She failed at her commitment to love and support this wonderful, sweet, and loyal dog so miserably and so quickly that it has absolutely stunned each and every one of the amazing people that have volunteered their time and energy to bring Tyler home safely. Even worse, Rachel opted out of continuing to aid in the search, citing her outrageously absurd belief that Tyler would simply go back to doing what nature designed him to do best: be one with the Earth through his nomadic and migratory instincts.

People who never met Tyler, my wife, nor myself came to the area night after night, morning after morning. They hiked through the preserve. They walked neighborhoods. They posted flyers. They talked to everyone they came across. Every last one of them did so much more than Rachel could be bothered to do. Every one of them cared so much more than she ever could.

I wish more than words can say that last Saturday had never happened — that we had decided to keep Tyler ourselves and not brought him to his new owner’s apartment and said goodbye. I wish we had been able to see her naivete and arrogance before it was too late. I wish so many things were just slightly different than they were.

I will never forgive Rachel for her foolish and fatal decision. Tyler will never have the chance.

But far beyond this, the focus of our anger must be on whomever was responsible for Tyler before he ended up in our alley nine months ago. This person’s abuse and neglect and ambivalence were the reason Tyler was afraid of human beings. The reason he was malnourished. The reason he was injured.

Simply and directly: Tyler should never have needed saving.

To those who sent your support and well-wishing and condolences over the past week since Tyler’s disappearance, thank you. I have been overwhelmed by the support of the Twitter and Facebook communities, and I will never forget all that you have done to help us stay motivated and hopeful and positive. I wish so desperately that I could report a very different outcome today. Alas, Tyler’s story has become a tragedy that defines a moment in my life I will never forget.

I don’t yet know how we’ll honor Tyler’s life, but I do know this: he will be honored.

Rest in peace, Tyler. We love you. We miss you.

Help save other dogs in Tyler’s honor (use the “click here” link). Every dollar helps. Thank you.

Posted on Sunday, July 12th, 2009 at 1:07 pm.
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21 Responses to “Rest in peace, Tyler”

  1. Adam Helweh Says:

    Robert, I have been following your updates on Facebook and Twitter regarding Tyler. I am very, very sorry to hear about what happened. It amazes me how irresponsible, inhumane, and cruel people can be to animals and how this often reflects on how they also treat human beings.

    You did a great thing dedicating your time and energy to providing Tyler some peace over the last 9 months. Thank you for sharing this experience with us. It is something that we should all take note of and yes… Tyler should not have needed saving.

  2. Ryan Brunsvold Says:


    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    My wife and I foster/rehabilitate abused cats and I wish that your experience with Tyler were a rare one. You (and we) unfortunately know all too well that many people who adopt animals think that domestic pets are 100% self-sufficient, free-thinking animals and as such, require no supervision or care. That attitude still amazes and appalls me on every level.

    Thankfully, there are people like you in the world who can see the best in neglected animals and continue to try and nurture them. You honestly did give Tyler the best year of his life, and you should always be proud of that.

  3. Stefan Sorin Nicolin Says:

    Hi Robert,

    I followed the tragedy on Twitter and I am very sorry to read of your loss. My condolences. You seem to have your heart in the right place. Let go of your anger against those who carry the guilt for Tyler’s death. It doesen’t change his fate any more. Some people aren’t worth to be dealt with – silence can be a terrible punishment.

  4. Lynne Says:

    Zooey & I send our condolences, Robert. You guys really did everything you could.

  5. Colleen Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss cousin. My heart aches for you and for Tyler.

  6. Amber Says:

    Oh Robert, I’m so sorry. My heart absolutely aches. Know that you did all you could, and Tyler was lucky to have had you in his too-short life.

  7. roxstyle Says:

    I am sorry for your loss. Your caring for Tyler was so evident in short bursts of affection on twitter.
    It is difficult to understand someone wanting to adopt an animal having such blatant lack of understanding of them.
    You might also due a service to future adoptees, by reporting her negligence to all local animal welfare groups, and shelters, so that she does not get the opportunity to do this again.

  8. stef Says:

    please don’t stop caring… it’s all we can do… that’s the way i look at it – love da pups!!!

  9. [Charlene] Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this end to Tyler’s story. As a lifelong pet owner and companion animal lover, it breaks my heart. I hope Tyler’s story inspires others to open their hearts and homes to shelter and stray animals, and to be responsible pet owners. I’m going to snuggle with my kitty tonight in Tyler’s memory.

  10. Jeff Moriarty Says:

    Heartbreaking. I am so sorry for your loss, and so sorry for Tyler, but so happy he found you along the way to be a bright spot in his life. My wife and I have four dogs at the moment, all rescues and strays. Several have come to us damaged by life and ignorant people, but we treasure them for who and what they are. The love they’ve returned to us far outweighs anything we’ve given them.

    Please… keep on giving. There are so many other Tylers out there who need help and love, and protection from people like Rachel. You do a good thing here. Many of us know and appreciate that, as I am sure Tyler did.

  11. Michael Kozakewich Says:

    I know how it is to go looking everywhere, only to find your dog dead.

  12. Vicki Says:

    Robert: I am so sad to hear of Tyler’s very sad and untimely passing. Your unending compassion for animals extends itself to people as well. Continue to walk the walk and talk the talk of compassion unending. Without your brand of compassion for others, both animal and human, there would be no HOPE. Thanks to people like you and others who see hope for the world in these sweet animals, this world is a more decent and peaceful place. I found joy in watching the videos of Tyler, and know that we all are richer for having had even the vicarious experience of knowing what he meant to you. Namaste, Tyler, and to you Robert, for giving of yourself so freely.

  13. Brian Dunn Says:

    Hey, Robert.

    I’m sorry things turned out the way they did for Tyler. What a heart-breaking story.

    I speak for all who care about the plight of animals when I say thank you for the time and energy you put into helping this sweet dog. The inexcusable and inhumane actions of that woman in no way negate all the good works you and everyone else performed on Tyler’s behalf. No act of compassion can ever be rendered inconsequential.

    You’re a generous soul, Robert. We need more like you.

  14. Mo Gosh Says:

    The bitterness and anger you express toward a woman who is, after all, a human being struggling along her own path, is a disappointment to me. It’s disturbing to see you publicly name her, blame her, and shame her. I dunno, man. I thought you were a different person. I bought your book – I actually convinced my employer we needed it – but to tell you the truth I don’t think I can turn to it for advice anymore.

    Hope you grow, and find peace.

  15. Robert Says:

    @ Mo Gosh -

    I’m sorry you feel that way, but I stand by my statement.

    With all due respect, it’s hypocritical to defend this woman’s struggle while simultaneously dismissing mine, as you’re now committing the very same act you’re condemning. That aside, my unwillingness to forgive the foolish and fatal decision that led to Tyler’s death is in no way related to my abilities as a web professional. I don’t owe you an apology because you bought my book.

  16. Dax Says:

    Mo Gosh is a plant. I wouldn’t be surprised if he knows the woman. It makes absolutely no sense to equate your criticism of someone’s bad behavior with the value of your book. Smells like a red herring to me. My money is on Mo Gosh being a slippery impostor.

  17. Brandon Franklin Says:

    I agree with Dax’s assessment. My first thought was “Oh, it’s Rachel or a friend of hers using a false name.” The random and unrelated stab at you professionally is a dead giveaway.

  18. Cliff Tyllick Says:

    Yes, Robert, she is but a human being struggling on her own path. And my hope is that her path leads her to a place where she can understand that the responsibility of a pet’s owner is much like the responsibility of a toddler’s parent. They depend on us not only to provide food and shelter, but also to watch out for the dangers they never realize are there. And that means keeping them on leash until we have trained them to behave properly off leash and have thoroughly tested that training in controlled circumstances. Even past that point, it means keeping them on leash much of the time.

    When she reaches that place, perhaps she will understand the depth of her failure in her responsibility to Tyler.

    Robert, in time I hope you are able to let go of your anger simply because it does you no good to hold on to it.

  19. Cliff Tyllick Says:

    Oh — and as for anyone who stops going to your books for advice on Web design, their action is its own punishment.

  20. Robert Says:

    Thanks very much for the support, Cliff. You’re exactly right — owning a dog means providing for and keeping it safe for life. And for what it’s worth, I plan to use my anger for positive action. There’s nothing I can do about Rachel that karma won’t do on its own, but there’s plenty I can do to help other dogs.

  21. Don Ulrich Says:

    This broke my heart. Rachel is the one that needs the leash more, Most humans do. This is a tragic loss. I have found 5 homes for wayward dogs and cats each time you let one adopt you say a little prayer that they may be as compassionate as you are. Rachel is a simple self serving self validating
    person. I hope she grows up. Myself and my families prayers are with you. Peace friend.

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