You’ve heard people talk about “heart dogs”–that one special canine that stands head and paws above the rest. The one that makes a huge place for himself in your heart and leaves an even larger gaping hole when he leaves. Major, my almost 13 year old golden retriever was my heart dog. Two weeks ago I had to let him go.
After losing Mollie, my first golden, I vowed never to get another dog. The pain of losing them was simply too great. I didn’t want that kind of grief. But two weeks after her ashes arrived on my doorstep in California, I stepped off the curb at the dry cleaners near my home in San Diego and broke several bones in my foot. In a plaster cast, and alone all day while my husband was at work, I felt her absence even more acutely. And so began our search for another golden.
We were lucky to find Ramsey Fadiman, a Hollywood screenwriter and breeder of show goldens. He was planning a litter that would be born in September. After an exhaustive background check and a couple of long phone calls, we were accepted, paid our deposit, and began the wait for our golden puppy. On September 8, 2000, we were at our rented beach house on Kiawah Island, SC when Ramsey called. The puppies were here! Ron hung up the phone, started laughing and said, “We’re parents!”
We had told Ramsey we wanted another female, but he told us that he would choose our puppy based on his observations of their personalities, energy levels, and such. The first of October we learned we were getting a male. Ramsey told us that breeders gave each litter a name and because the 2000 Olympics were underway, he chose “chills and thrills” as the name of the litter. The task for us was to choose a name for our puppy that played off of the litter name. We chose Sir Winston Churchthrill as his official registered AKC name, and “Major” as his call name. On Halloween weekend, we drove up to LA from San Diego and brought him home.
He was everything we wanted. Beautiful, loving, smart as a whip. He took to our house immediately, flying off the stairs with such fearlessness I was terrified he’d break a bone. He didn’t like to be left alone. We left him in the laundry room one evening while we went out for a quick dinner and when we got back, discovered he had eaten a basketball-sized hole in the drywall.
He moved with us from California to Austin, to Columbus to San Antonio in the back seat of my Toyota Camry. He never complained about the cramped ride, he was just happy to be with us. He developed a taste for Carl’s Junior hamburgers and loved nothing more than a long hike with us in the California hills. He loved to lie on my feet while I wrote, and to watch TV with us in the evenings. He hovered near the bed when I was sick with a cold and hurried to the door to greet visitors. For almost 13 years he was my constant companion.
On May 10 he refused his breakfast and only licked at my hand when I offered him some crushed ice. He settled on his side at his favorite spot in the living room, where the tile is cool and the view through the shutters is to the birds and squirrels in the back yard. I knew it was the end. I spent a long time lying next to him, stroking him and talking to him about everything we had shared, including the time he swallowed $1.15 in coins and had to have them surgically removed. The times we drove to the dog park in San Diego and stopped for a Carl’s Jr on the way home. I told him I knew he was tired and sick and it was okay to go. The next morning, we took him to the vet and let him go. When I think of him each morning, I think about what I learned from sharing life with him:
Live in the present. Don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow.
Love others unconditionally and see how much of it returns to you.
Explore your surroundings.
Never pass up a chance for a treat.
Sleep now, my sweet boy. My forever friend. My heart dog. I will never forget you.