Bear was just that sort of dog; the one Evie would remember until her last day in the independent living home. His ashes soon to be on the mantle, patiently waiting for her to join him… golden retriever style. This last dog her greatest.
I’m sure if my dogs get to the happy hunting fields early, there will be no waiting for me. Hell, they’ll hit paradise full gait, nostrils flayed, wreaking havoc right until I get there. Then, with heavy, guilty faces, they’ll waggle up to greet me, exhausted, soaked and dirty and raise a paw hesitantly to my lap in an offer of forgiveness, as if to say: Sorry boss, you just need to see this place. It’s heaven.
We dog people are all keepers of some breed. The dog that fits us best or that we best fit. Myself, I’m a Brittany man. We seem to share a need to explore and take in all that is wild and fun— hopefully balancing that fun-hoggedness with goodness—while miraculously managing to stay alive. More animal than human. We must be forgiven for the trouble we cause, it is truly how we are built.
Evie’s a golden retriever girl and this dog was simply born for this stage of her life. Above all else, I believe that her love for golden retrievers centers on their loyalty and love. Not that Bear wasn’t wild at heart, he just understood that duty to be there for her, no matter what. For solace at the loss of friends, to crush the loneliness of living alone, to appreciate place and nature together… and there was no better place to be a dog or a human than to the sound of Six Mile Creek in the morning shadow of Emigrant Peak.
But that’s not the point to all this, I guess. I know her decision to sell her home on the river and give up Bear in his final years was certainly a decision she regrets, but she shouldn’t. Having to decide between a stunning second-floor Hillcrest independent living apartment without your dog or a base-floor cave version with your dog is an impossible choice and a decision none of us should ever face. Definitely not a dog person. Cruelty at its purest. These are independent living homes only in that they are designed to have residents finish their lives independently. By that I mean alone, without their furry friends, the ones that always have had time for them.
That decision—to move to Hillcrest and have Bear looked after by a dear friend—was I believe less about giving in or feeling forced to by family, than her simply being built like a retriever. A duty to family and friends first. An acceptance that her time in life had come and that she would willingly, not even at their ask, move so she would not ever be a burden. And to do so without her best friend, was always ok because Bear, before anyone else, would understand her decision. Retrievers always do.
The young will never understand aging, and I don’t pretend to either. I can say though that my fifties have certainly been when I have started to contemplate the finish, not because I am close to done, but because one by one your friends and family start to go. It’s just that time, and each passing soul drains some color and story from your life. And that makes the living harder.
The important thing though, I believe, is to remember to rise up with whatever you’ve got left and keep living. Be that irreverent old lady with with the cute puppy on the second floor—or make a living change, but whatever you do, find happiness with what’s left of your time. Chase life until it is treed. Then, howl in celebration… For a life well lived. And damn sure for the gift of great dogs.
Of course, then if it were me, after that howl, I’d lift a leg and mark the journey, Brittany style. I’ll never be loved like a golden retriever. The truth is some dogs are just better lovers. Bear was just that sort of companion.
May there always be a next Bear to help us all remember to keep living.