In my humble opinion

God is Dog spelled backward

Posted 4/25/23

As I sit at my desk, searching for the words, the ever-present tears begin to well. “There’s nothing to do but rip the Band-Aid off,” my mother would say and she was often correct, …

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In my humble opinion

God is Dog spelled backward


As I sit at my desk, searching for the words, the ever-present tears begin to well. “There’s nothing to do but rip the Band-Aid off,” my mother would say and she was often correct, so here we are.

Dharma the Wonder Dog has left the building. She may not have achieved Elvis status, but she came pretty darn close here in the Upper Delaware River region, and it is with profound sadness that I formally share the news of her passing with you today.

After a brief illness, Dharma succumbed to a serious heart issue on April 17 at 6:30 p.m., leaving me stunned and an entire community in mourning—a true testament to the power of puppy love and the light that a little 12-pound doggy is capable of shining upon us all.

Dharma was many things to many people. As a representative of the River Reporter, she was out and about, making friends and handing out “pawtographs” at hundreds of functions and events over the years. As a service dog, she kept me out of harm’s way every second of every minute of every hour of every day for 13 years, four months and change. Not enough time. There was never going to be enough time.

Dharma also served as a Thursday morning co-hostess on Thunder 102 radio’s popular “Ciliberto and Friends” for her entire life, and as her fame spread far and wide, we became known as “Dharma the Wonder Dog and that guy.” Now I’m just “that guy,” and I’ve no clue what life without her looks like. What I do know is that she touched the lives of every man, woman and child with whom she crossed paths, and if that isn’t the essence of Universal love, I don’t know what is.

She was a terribly clever dog as many of you know, so pretty darn savvy with social media, and as I scroll through more than 1,500 comments on her Facebook and Instagram pages, I’m moved, touched, saddened, joyful and overwhelmed.

There are tens of thousands of photos, of course, but two stand out head-to-tail above the rest, and neither are pictures I took. I have extraordinary photographers Christy Frank and Jerry Cohen to thank for immortalizing her in a way that I never could, and my own social media pages are flooded with images that her fans have captured over the years, for which I’m extremely grateful.

As I peruse your notes of condolence, the same words keep popping up. Community. Companion. Family. Sorrow, heartbreak and unconditional love.

“I want to thank you” J.A. wrote, “for sharing Dharma with us. You were a dynamic duo on the radio, and out and about [for the newspaper]. Keep her memory close to your heart.”

“This is heartbreaking because she was such a special dog,” country singer Jacob Martin wrote when he heard the news. “These beautiful creatures don’t live nearly long enough, especially larger-than-lifers like Dharma.”

Catskill Animal Rescue ( Founding President Joanne Gerow concurred. “What an incredible dog and an incredible life,” she posted on social media. “Both of you were blessed to have each other,” I read through a veil of tears.

“She was a tremendous part of our community,” Denise Frangipane-Pammer wrote in one of the thousands of online comments I’m still reading now, “and will be missed at your side by all.”

“There must be a God and Heaven,” musician David Rosenberg wrote, “because God let you share all those years with Dharma and a Heaven because it’s a happier place now.”

I’m conflicted over subjects like God and heaven, but if such things do exist, I think it must be this: God is Dog spelled backward. In my humble opinion.

Dharma the Wonder Dog, Dharma


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  • sheilamdugan5

    Poor Dharma! I cried, Jon. Keep safe. Love, Sheila Dugan

    Sunday, April 30, 2023 Report this