The house is quiet now. The sound of her nails clicking on the hardwood floors is just a memory. There is no one to step over on my way in/out of the office. Her beds are empty and her favorite spots by the front door and under the kitchen table are vacant. There is a hole in our hearts and a tear in our eyes now.
We were blessed to have our precious Hannah for 16 years and fondly remember the best of times during those years. She had been sick for a while but never showed it. She walked slower as she got older, but never lost her enthusiasm for a walk down to the mailbox or just to sit in the backyard with us. Her last two weeks with us was more than her little body could handle and now she waits for us at the Rainbow Bridge.
This is not a sad story, but a story of life. Before Hannah left us, she asked me to tell her life story from her point of view.
I had a most interesting start in life. I was found wandering a McDonald’s parking lot when I was just 3 months old. No one knows how I got there or where I had come from. As a result of having to live on my own so early in life, I picked up a few bad habits. But best of all, I ended up in the best home a dog could ask for. Mom and dad put up with my antics for 16 years and I couldn’t have asked for a better permanent home. Sure beats McDonald’s.
When dad offered to find me a home for his coworker that found me, he had no idea that I’d be staying. Well, maybe he did and he just didn’t know it. After all, they already had a golden retriever, Duncan, who was certainly king of the roost. Not only that, but they had just installed new hardwood floors and carpeting, and as you might expect, I wasn’t housebroken. But Duncan did his best to show me the ropes and after a couple of weeks, I was housebroken.
Even though I had figured out where to use the bathroom quickly, I still did my best to destroy the house. I tracked mud from the backyard into the house and on to the new floors. I tore a hole in the screen door on the patio and made my own doggie door. I even learned how to open the French doors so I could go outside whenever I wanted. What a mess I would make by running outside in the rain, getting all muddy and then running back into the house with nothing to slow me down. Mom was not happy with me at all. Duncan would just lay there and roll his eyes at me. Kids.
Then there was the time I chewed up the carpet where it connected to the tile in the bathroom. That left the carpet nails exposed and let’s just say that dad used some words I can’t repeat after he stepped on those nails. Speaking of chewing, my favorite pastime was to steal something and take it into the dining room and chew on it. Shoes, pillows, empty toilet paper rolls, important papers, it didn’t matter. The dining room is for eating, right? Mom called the dining room “The Lair”. I think that was pretty appropriate. If something was missing, the first place they would look was the lair.
If I was in a really feisty mood, I would move around the dining room table avoiding whoever was trying to retrieve the item from me. Most times it took both of them to catch me and get their shoes back. I never really chewed the shoes. I just stole them to get attention. Well, there was the one time I chewed a brand new pair of shoes that mom was packing for a trip the next day. I don’t think she was too happy about that either.
I didn’t limit my thievery to just these objects. No, I stole a raw steak once and also stole a stick of butter. Nothing was out of my reach if it was on the counter. I even learned how to climb up on the back of the couch so I could reach the bar where they would hide things I shouldn’t have. But I outsmarted them on that too. My sense of smell was outstanding and I always knew when something good was on the counter. I eventually became deaf and was losing my eyesight, but I never lost my acute sense of smell.
Another favorite of mine was to swim in my water bowl. Now, this wasn’t a big water bowl, just your standard dog water bowl. I didn’t actually fit in the bowl, but I would put my front paws in the bowl and splash the water all over myself and the floor until it was all gone. Then I would run around the house dripping wet and make sure all the hardwood floors got a good soaking. Boy was that fun! Speaking of water, did I mention how much I liked water? I never missed an opportunity to wade into a sprinkler and get soaked. Even when I was older and had slowed down I loved sprinklers. Here are a couple of videos that dad shot when I was enjoying the sprinkler.
Hannah Enjoys the Sprinkler – click to play.
Hannah and the Sprinkler – click to play.
One of my favorite games to play with dad was tag. We would go outside in the backyard and I would run around in big circles using the whole yard. After a warm up lap I would aim directly for him and dare him to reach out and touch me as I zoomed past him. To make it more challenging, I would speed up just as I got to him and dip my hips so that it was harder to reach me. He tagged me a couple of times, but mostly I was faster than he ever was. [Editor’s note: I think I tagged you more than a couple of times. But you were certainly fast.] I would do the same thing inside if I couldn’t go outside. I’d do a few laps around the dining room table and then head down the hallway to the bedroom and take a 20 foot leap up to the bed. Dad would usually then get my towel and try to smother me, roll me over and flip me on the bed. That was a ton of fun too! Dad always made playtime a lot of fun.
One afternoon dad and I were sitting in the backyard when I smelled something out of place. I wandered over to the fence where there was a big bushy vine growing. I sat down and stared at the vine for a while because something just wasn’t right about it. After a few minutes I stood up and put my front paws on the fence and stuck my head in the vine. Sure enough, there was trouble in there. I pulled out an opossum that was sleeping in the vine and dropped him on the ground. I was ready to do my duty and protect mom and dad from this varmint, but he already looked dead. Dad ushered me in the house and when I was allowed back out again later, the opossum was gone. I guess he was just playing dead. Speaking of varmints, I also thought it was my job to rid the backyard of lizards. I’d stalk those slippery pests and try to stomp on them, but I usually just ended up with a tail. They’re quick!
As I got older, these habits disappeared and the fun times were less frequent. And that was OK because I was suffering from degenerative bone disease (arthritis and hip dysplasia) and I just couldn’t do the things that I used to be able to do. Eventually I couldn’t jump on the bed, and then I couldn’t run, and then walking became difficult. But I still looked forward to my 3 walks a day. Degenerative bone disease is a slow process, so I still enjoyed life if just on a slower pace. As the years continued, mom began calling me the “wonder dog” since I just seemed to keep going and going. 16 years is a long life for a golden retriever. I recovered from some paw surgery a few years ago (where I had to wear this giant cone around my head…how embarrassing) and I recently recovered from a broken toenail that had to be surgically removed. In both cases, you would never have guessed I was a very old dog and I recovered quickly. Dad bought me an orthopedic bed a few years ago and that was real comfortable. I liked it so much that mom bought me a second one, so I had one in the bedroom and one in dad’s office.
Speaking of dad’s office, one of my favorite events in life was when he changed jobs and started working from home. Prior to that he was gone quite often, but when he started working from home, we were together much more often and that made me very happy. Mom said I was his sidekick because I would follow him everywhere. When he was treasurer of the HOA, we used to go to the bank together once or twice a month to make deposits. I really enjoyed those trips because the nice people at the bank would make sure that the deposit receipt was accompanied by a dog biscuit. Good times. I also enjoyed trips to the pet store when dad had to buy more food for me. I just love how they put the best treats on the shelves closest to the floor.
As the years progressed, mom and dad gave up vacations together unless they could take me. They found this great place on Indian Rocks Beach that allowed pets, and the owners, Tom and Jan, were so nice and accommodating. I loved going there and watching the sunset. The property had a big backyard and I would just stretch out in the sun and soak up the cool ocean breezes. As it turned out, my last week on earth happened during a week at the beach. No one knew how sick I was when we left for the beach that Saturday, and I kept my problems to myself as best I could. I didn’t want to ruin their vacation. Mom and dad eventually recognized something was wrong, but I had known for some time that my time was short as I had been sick for months. I so enjoyed our last night together watching the sunset and then watching the sunrise the next morning. That was so special to me. Mom and dad made sure I was home for my final hours.
I know that mom and dad are sad that I’m gone, but I’m free of pain now and I will patiently wait for them at the Rainbow Bridge. Duncan is here with me and we’re having a great time together. I really miss them, but I hope they know how much I appreciate all they did for me for 16 years and the unconditional love they both poured out for me. I couldn’t have asked for more. I also want to thank Dr. Janis Fullenwider and the staff at Tuscawilla Oaks Animal Hospital for all their care over the years. You guys always took great care of me and I really appreciate your love and attention.
Think of me often and know that I am with you always.
Peace and love,
April 1, 2000 – May 28, 2016