So we said goodbye to Zoë today. She was almost 13, which is a long life for a golden retriever. We adopted her from the local golden retriever rescue organization. She was spoilt, untrained and hell-bent on destruction. She ate books (capital crime in our house), tormented the cats (who refused to come out of the laundry room for at least a month when she first arrived), ran away at every available opportunity and flat out refused to come when she was called. She was an accomplished and unrepentant counter surfer. We wondered what we had brought upon ourselves.
She eventually eliminated books from her diet and made peace with the cats, to the point where she would tell us it was time to feed them, although this was not out of concern for the cats’ welfare. Cat dinnertime was the high point of her day, since she got to lick the remaining cat food off the spoon. We learned not to leave anything remotely edible on the counters. She learned to walk politely on a leash and responded to every basic voice command EXCEPT “Come”. She tolerated sharing her cushion with the cats.
Water was an irresistible magnet and she seized every opportunity (and every accidentally left-open gate) to go for a swim in the river. If the river was not available, the kiddy wading pool in the backyard would do just fine.
She loved making snow angels.
She was part of the household for a long time. She began to sleep more and more. She grew deaf and became adept at responding to hand signals rather than voice commands. Hardwood floors became impossible to negotiate as her legs and hips became less and less agile. She began losing weight at an alarming rate.
Today was the day and we have said our good-byes to a Pretty Good Dog.
All I remember was this massive, frolicking, care-free, golden retriever. She was all smiles and according to her, I was her new best friend. For about 5 minutes, at any rate; until she saw something shiny that distracted her.
I remember putting cookies in a chew ball for her that she’d worry and play with until the stars aligned and the cookie fell out, rewarding her for her patience.
I remember her walking through the house, head up and prancing along with a look on her face that said that she had a really neat secret. And she wasn’t going to tell you what it was, no matter what you offered (except maybe a cookie).
I remember my parents’ friend and how they loved her, and she loved them back.
13 is a decent age for a Golden Retriever. But it is very true that they can be ,errrr, eccentric, wilful and frankly rather daft. But the main thing is that Zoe had the best possible life for a dog, being with humans who loved and cared and fed her for so much of her life. And she got to make snow angels.
NajaPop called the other day to say that Jack, their 13 year old golden, is going downhill pretty quickly. He had a stroke last year and came back just fine, was looking spunky this summer but recently started losing a lot of condition and acting lethargic, turning down food (for this dog, a greatly alarming symptom) and showing some other ugly symptoms pointing to some major internal malfunction. He took some films and could see a huge mass near his liver. Being an old guy, and having a harder and harder time coming through surgery in his old age, Pop doesn’t want to cut on the poor guy anymore and has decided to ease him through Christmas when the whole family is back in the state to see him one more time, then send him comfortably off into the night when Jack’s ready.
I’ve been crying off and on for about three days. I mean, I knew he was getting there, and we thought he was going after his stroke last year, but he just… looked so damned perky in August, like he was going to live for years.
Tamara, my wonderful, beautiful All-American Mutt turned 14 this summer and her health is failing. At this point my selfish hope is that my parents at home can keep her comfortable for just a few more weeks until I can get home to say goodbye. My parents have been cooking steak or chicken for her to try to get her to eat something every day. The vet OK’d that, because we know that at her age she’s not going to recover.
That dogs can’t live as long as humans is one of the cruelest things in the world.
Thanks, everyone - it’s going to be a while before I stop stepping over the cushion in the kitchen. It was her favourite spot - right in the middle of things and in good position to harvest any fallout from the counter.