There are some in this world who still believe that animals have no personality, cannot reason, and do not have definite feelings. I’ve even heard some say that dog are a waste and unnecessary. Obviously, they have never been close to one. Or in some cases, been owned by excess felines. Dogs truly are man’s best friend. They silently put up with your foibles, idiosyncratic behavior, your whims, and your ways. They react to nice attention like a magnifying mirror, returning it three times as powerfully.

14 years, and some months ago, I answered an ad, and ended up surrounded by 6 week old golden puppies. One in particular caught my eye. Actually, he refused to let me go, following me around like he would not let me leave without him. If you haven’t seen a golden retriever that young and small, think of a stupidly huge, floppy ears, (almost larger than his head), a long nose, way too big for his tiny body, even more amazingly large paws, incredibly bright, big eyes, and a body that could still fit on one large hand.

Even then, a belly rub got the most incredible groan of joy, even if it sounded like a squeak.

At seven weeks, he was still petrified of going down the steps leading down to the garden and lawn. Going up was no problem, but down, sheesh, his leg couldn’t quite reach the lower stair unless he fully committed himself. Yet, once he learned that he could, stairs became a joy, both up and down.

At eight weeks, he met his first Lake Michigan wave. He was terrified at first. Until he saw me wading in. He started in, turned around at the sight of a large (5 inch) wave, and finally made it deep enough to swim. After that, he was a Zen dog – one with water.

He loved the car. He’d sit on my arm and look out the driver’s window. At least for the first two months. He then graduated to the passenger side, and finally, he eventually took over the entire back seat. At 95 lbs, he still managed to be graceful, elegant, and warm hearted.

Loyal, noble, and absolutely gorgeous. An auburn, long haired, long eared, creature who craved food more than he craved attention. Obedient, never one to turn down a tennis ball toss or a frisbee, and always willing to put his head on your lap, especially after you had a rough day.

Watching him chase rabbits was almost sidesplitting. As fast as this thin, long legged critter was in straight lines, a sudden change in direction usually meant that this golden pup would tumble rather than make the quick turn. The operative word was goofy.

Snow. Ah the joys of snow. Digging, rolling, romping, playing tag, now that was the dog’s life.

When the rescue dog joined the family, golden puppy, now a sprightly 10 yrs old, was shocked. He actually pouted. Until he learned that playing with pup was almost as much fun as playing with dad.

Last year lumps appeared, his arthritis became obvious, and he was definitely slowing down. Finally, all at once, it came to an end. This lovely, lively, 95 lb dog was just months shy of 15 yrs. And he could not stand up. He cried in pain, he looked at me with this, “Why is this happening to me?” look that tears your heart apart. Got him up, with my holding him and got him out for one last pee, then took him into the vet. Spleen tumors had ruptured. Cancer, internal bleeding, slowly dying in pain. Even if I was that cruel hearted, an operation would not make his legs work, and frankly, surgery for that aged dog might kill him. It would certainly cause unnecessary pain and suffering. When we stayed in the vet’s exam room, he still tried to move, as well as he could, so he could see us and feel our touch.

Being with him when he passed was only right. He deserved nothing less.


  1. OMG, I’m not sure I can see to type, because I’m sitting here bawling my eyes out. I’m so, so sorry about the loss of your wonderful companion, Rob, and to everyone that has experienced the loss of a dear pet. The love they give us is perfect, innocent and enduring. If they could speak our language, I believe that we would be astonished by their intelligence and wisdom.

    My deepest sympathies…

  2. I cried when I read your story. I do take exception with the crack about cats, though. They can be extremely loyal as well. One of the best watch dogs I ever had was a Siamese cat; I had an aunt who was afraid of coming into the house when she saw him because he had caught her “borrowing” things when we weren’t home, and he knew she wasn’t supposed to be there. He was one of the most loyal souls I’ve ever encountered. I’ve had cats all my life, all of them loving and devoted, who follow me around and not just because I feed them. They are loyal. I lost one to cancer two years ago. It broke my heart.

    I’ve also had dogs my entire life. I grew up with 3 poodles, one of which was devoted to me. When we went to buy a dog, in what I now know was a horrible puppy mill, we could only afford one. Mom chose a miniature black male, but the owner had taken a grey female out prior to that, who stole my heart. Mom decided against her, which caused me to break down in tears. Gigi proceded to lick my tears away from my face, which of course made me cry all the more. The lady said that if we didn’t take her, she wouldn’t sell her, she was 3 months old them and older than she sold her puppies. Mom didn’t budge, even though that meant that the dog would simply become breeding stock. I cried all the way home. When it came time to go pick up the little black poodle two weeks later, my sister came out with a surprise: Gigi. The lady had dropped her price drastically, and Mom gave me the dog I loved.

    The third poodle was their puppy from the only litter they ever had. Gigi developed a serious problem after the litter, which precluded other litters. Another might have ruined her health, or worse. She would have died in that wretched place in so many ways. Besides, Mom didn’t really feel right about puppies anyway.

    Gigi was my constant companion throughout my childhood. She had more personality than most people. If you made a face at her, she’d make the same one back. She had her own way of talking and expressing herself, and her facial expressions were a part of that. This dog was smarter than a lot of people, and more kind and loving. I told her everything; she was my closest confidante and best friend. Anyone who thinks dogs don’t have souls have never looked into the eyes of someone like her, or they’d know how stupid they are for believing it. They’re the ones without souls.

    When I went to college, needless to say, I missed her. Every time I came home from college, she was waiting for me in the window. Mom told me that she stayed in the window all day starting first thing, which is something the other poodles didn’t do. Yet she sat there, watching and waiting for me, because somehow this dog knew I was coming home. A soulless creature couldn’t possibly do that. Once would be a coincedence, so would a few times: she did it EVERY SINGLE TIME!

    HOweverm the time came when she reached the age of 15. She’d had arthritis, but cataracts had also left her blind. The other poodles were in the same boat. Watching my beloved friend suffer as she was was breaking my heart: she could barely walk (and it was obvious that it was killing her to do so), she couldn’t see, and her hearing was going. Mom couldn’t make the decision to let her and the others go, so finally, I got her to agree, provided, as she insisted, I not tell her when I did it. So I had to be the one to end the life of my best friend from childhood. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I still cry over that dog (I do over my other pets, too) because she wasn’t just a dog, as some people like to believe, but she was family.

    I was lucky when my son was five to find him a special dog also, a border collie who has been his protector and best friend. For Susie, the world begins and ends with him; although I know she loves me, I am a distant second in comparison. She is 15 now, and has been extremely healthy until recently. She’s now going on a special diet for her kidneys, and has had a problem with her joints, and one vestibular problem which threw off her balance seriously as well. Five years ago she had a couple of ruptured discs which I nursed her through; the vet had wanted to put her to sleep then because he wasn’t sure she could adjust to less activity. It hasn’t been easy, but she has done well, and until recently has still been able to take walks, although the running had to be curtailed. She has still been happy, and a great dog, but I also realize that I may not have her much longer. I’ve been scared more than once, and I dread having to make a decision that will break my heart as well as Jimmy’s.

    Again, I really feel for your loss. Losing a pet is losing a family member. They are more human than most people.

  3. My deepest sympathies for the loss of Oberon. As I sit here reading the posts, I am far from dry-eyed. You speak of the Rainbow Bridge, a wonderful image. In my tradition, once my beloveds cross it, they are in Summerland. I see them romping in beautiful fields filled with long grass and wildflowers. It’s an image that makes me both weepy and joyful for them.

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