First I want to tell you how heartsick I am to have put you down. I know that is the final act of love for a responsible pet owner when a beloved animal is suffering and no longer functioning. Nonetheless I ask your forgiveness for this ultimate act that ended our 12-year relationship. Little consolation but just know that I miss you every day.
As I think back on your life with us, there are so many vignettes that come to mind. We selected you from a litter of 11 fuzzy golden puppies because you suddenly stretched your neck and quickly licked the tip of my son’s chin with your tiny tongue. It was the winning gesture.
You started life in our home in the kitchen, where we had a tile floor and a crate for you. In what seemed like record time, you were housebroken and we decided that you were smart. On the advice of a neighboring dog owner, we hired a dog trainer for a short while, and he confirmed our judgment. “This is one of the smartest dogs I have ever trained,” he said to our delight, although it did cross my mind that he was probably telling us what we wanted to hear. As time went by, however, you showed yourself quick at understanding what was expected of you. Or was it you who trained us to do what you needed when you needed it done?
Anyway, we have a lot to thank you for. Thank you for teething on the windowsills, the moldings, the bottoms of the kitchen cabinets and anything else you could fit your little mouth around. Thank you for grabbing the hem of a favorite cashmere sweater in your tiny teeth and giving it a good rip. Thank you for finding a sheepskin glove carelessly left on the chair and digesting the index finger. And throughout that first year and the years thereafter, you always delighted us with your puppy-like curiosity.
You were growing at a prodigious rate, and by the following year, you made clear your preference for the beach. Because you were a retriever, we would throw a tennis ball along the sand and wait expectantly for you to fetch and bring it back. Proving that you were not simply one of the pack but to be appreciated for your individuality, you looked after the ball with a bored expression. “Give me a real challenge,” we read in your eyes. So we picked up a stone about the size of a squash ball and threw it half a block. You were after it like a shot, went directly to it among the thousands of rocks on the beach and carried it back to us. But you didn’t give it up. Instead you preferred to chew it, which eventually ground down your front teeth. That was not so smart, I will concede, but it seemed never to hamper you in any way. You also loved to chew sticks and went clamming for rocks with attached seaweed. These you pulled out and brought to the high-water line then tore off the seaweed.
You had a mind of your own, we realized early on, as you ran into the water and would not come out when we wanted to return home. You would turn to face us, water up to your knees, and dare us to come in after you. That was acceptable in summer, but not so much in the midst of winter. And you certainly had a mischievous streak, being selectively deaf when you disagreed with a command. So much for the trainer.
You were interested in people, even more than you were in other dogs. And you were absolutely democratic, going up to each person in a room or on the road, skipping no one, and greeting him or her. Some were uncertain, since you were rather a large dog. “He just wants to say, ‘Hello!’” I would try to be reassuring, and you would wait patiently until each gave you at least a perfunctory pat. Satisfied, you would move on. You were like the neighborhood mayor.
Our family members, friends and neighbors miss you. At least some of our neighbors do. The rest can probably manage just as well without your tearing across their lawns, looking for a “sweet” spot. Most especially, we miss you in the evenings, when you would wiggle and wag with pleasure at our homecoming. And you would flatten yourself across our knees seeking and giving affection, as we relaxed in the living room after dinner.
Goodbye, my sweet dog. Thank you for filling our home and our lives with your love. The memory will not die.