Losing a pet, for us, was the hardest thing we have ever dealt with. Emotionally, the process was exhausting. I learned there is no ‘right way’ to grieve, and that this is a cycle that will surface from time and time again. We miss our boy dearly; Humphrey Bogart, you are one magnificent dog who we miss so much.Read More
A long, long, long time ago, before human children were ever in the picture, Asa and I used to talk about maybe ‘when’ Humphrey or Elsa got 'old’ we would get a puppy to introduce him or her to them, so they could show it the ropes. The truth is though, for so long we never felt as if they were getting old, or that anything in life was ever going to really change. Flash forward a lot of years, to full time jobs, two kids, three cats, and two horses, and it stopped crossing our mind that we ever had thought about another dog.
Humphrey and Elsa have been our best friends for eleven and twelve years. When he (Humphrey) was diagnosed with a large tumor/cancer on Valentine’s Day, our world was shattered. All of a sudden it became a reality that 1. our dogs ARE old 2. they won’t be around forever.
Almost two weeks after his diagnosis, I was introduced to an amazing couple, Julie and Terry, who happen to be serious hobby breeders in Chuckey, Tennessee. Their daughter and I have been ‘Instagram Friends’ for more than five years (if I had to guess), so we have that mutual connection which is pretty cool. I’ve always thought God works in mysterious ways [so many things and pets in our life are proof of that], so when we learned about this couple who had a litter of cream colored Golden Retrievers, it just kept pressing on our heart that this was the time to say ‘yes.’ I did go back and forth several times, wondering if it made sense, but at the end of the day we decided we would more than likely be a two dog family for a very long time, and while we cannot predict Humphrey’s time left on earth, we know it will not be a lot (or nearly enough) longer. We wanted to bring home another family member, have him or her meet Humphrey and learn to love him, and we ultimately decided that this could be a good way to help our kids (and us) cope maybe even a fraction of a bit better…
I spoke with Julie on the phone a couple of nights before making the trip. We spoke almost an hour and got to know one another a little better. She demonstrated a lot of patience and grace as I asked her as silly question as, “Do you know how these puppies travel?” Our Humphrey whimpers and barks anytime he gets into the car and will rarely stop the entire trip, no matter how long—so ideally, I was looking for a dog who exhibited more calm during transport. As we live in Louisville, the ride to their property is 4.5 hours; we made a fun family trip of it and stayed one night in a hotel, where the kids were thrilled to swim in a pool. We knew they had three puppies left from the litter of six we were choosing from: two girls and one boy. My heart pulled for a girl as soon as we knew this was an official go, probably because my childhood dogs were female and Elsa, my 11 year old Golden Girl. Pierson, our son, on the other hand, had it made in his mind that we would get the boy, because Humphrey is a boy. We arrived in Tennessee, and were greeted with friendly barks from the adult Goldens in their nice run-in. The first thing we noticed was how magnificent they ALL were; seriously just utter beauty! Terry and Julie welcomed us into their home and I immediately felt at peace. They gave us coffee and soon brought out the puppies! Have you ever been in the midst of small, fluffy Goldens before?! It brought me back to when I sat on the floor of Elsa’s brothers and sisters (she was 1 of 14!!!) and I thought, “How did I ever choose back then!?” And trust me, I chose SO RIGHT with Elsa because she is the sweetest, quietest, easiest and friendliest girl. Here I was, eleven years later, getting to do it all over again!
Asa was drawn to the male right off the bat. ‘Mr. Brown’ was his collar name, and he was bigger than the girls. Sam, their dad, is very stately and striking!! (These photos below are from Terry, taken of magnificent Sam!)
We held all of them and took turns passing them around, kissing their fluffy heads and watching our children’s reactions. I just couldn’t help but to fall very quickly in love with ‘Miss Red.’ Her eyes reminded me SO much of our Elsa’s, and the way she just flopped in my lap and let me love on her as if she was a little rag doll…my heart was drawn to her immediately. Their mama, Ellie, is what Julie describes as a lamb: completely gentle in spirit and so so calm. We met her and she truly IS all of that. She was so personable and quiet, gentle as she greeted us. We were completely smitten with each of her parents!
Asa kept telling me, “It’s up to you 100%. I really am great with whichever puppy you choose.” We paused for a little while to eat lunch, and to mingle with two of Terry and Julie’s daughters (they are THE sweetest and coolest family, Y’all—truly!!) The kids were starting to get a little impatient and asked, “Mom! Which one do you think we should get?!” Asa and I got the chance to be with the three puppies, all by ourselves, and it was then that I knew. I grabbed Miss Red and put her in my lap, kissed the top of her head and said, “Oh I love you.” I set her down and picked up Mr. Brown, kissing him as well and I paused, “I know I CAN love you,” I told him. Isn’t that crazy how our hearts can make decisions?! There was absolutely nothing WRONG with Mr. Brown OR their sister Miss Maroon, all three puppies were adorable, friendly, and calm as can be. Needless to say…Miss Red it was, and our kids were just so thrilled to be getting their first ever very own PUPPY.
I want to take just a moment to come back to Terry and Julie. This is a couple who has raised eight talented and Christ loving children. The second I was in their presence, I knew that this was a God thing. Calm, gentle, gracious, patient, loving, and trustworthy are just a few characteristics that come to mind when I think about BOTH of them. They have taken time to answer any and all of my questions, were SO patient as we tried to figure out which pup to choose, and they loved on our children/created such a welcoming environment.
Emma is now nine weeks old as I write this. She just played with a puppy pal for almost two hours, and she is now happily snoozing in her crate beside me in our bedroom. The entire drive home, she was silent. She was passed back and forth between our two excited children, and then we even made a pitstop at Petsmart, where she was also quiet as a mouse. She is a girl who loves to snuggle, and when picked up, she nestles deep into the crook of your neck. She willingly will be flopped on her back to have her belly rubbed, and everyone who meets her asks, “Is she always this docile?”
Our dogs did shockingly well with her the second she walked in our door with us, and while they don’t run and romp with her like they would have done in their younger years…they have accepted her. Today Humphrey chewed on a bone and Emma sat beside him, licking the top of his head. I can see it in her face, she looks up to them, and I could never have fathomed THIS sweetness being part of our story. I’ve been told, “You’re crazy, Girl,” on more than one occasion for owning the zoo of pets that I do, however, I know that this time is fleeting. Our Humphrey is twelve, Elsa is eleven. They are at the top of their life expectancies and every single day that I get left with them, I am praising their Creator FOR those moments and memories. Emma will never replace either of them, but I do believe she is now part of their legacy, and that even SHE feels blessed to know and be loved by them.
I have always been partial to Golden Retrievers, blame it on Full House ;) And while I never really imagined that we would own another so soon, I am SO thankful that we do. Emma is smart, loving, and I know she is going to be a wonderful dog. We hope to get her going as a therapy dog, which would be cool because quite a few of Terry and Julie’s dogs from Cold Spring Mountain Retrievers are service dogs in many ways! I want to share a little bit about their Kennel with you, so here ya go:
Our family loved the Lord of the ring series. Two of our favorite characters were Samwise Gamgee and Rosie, his girlfriend, in this series. We did our research and purchased great bloodlines, to start our breeding program in 2013. We decided to name the first two dogs Sam and Rosie. Since then we have added more dogs to our program and most of them live in Guardian homes. We have found great families who have the dogs in their care. This is a wonderful arrangement for the family and the dogs. The family gets a great dog, at no cost, and the dog gets to live in a home with a wonderful family. We simply use the dog for breeding and eventually when retired, the dog stays with the family. Our goal has always been and continues to be to place happy healthy puppies in wonderful homes. Over the years we have placed many puppies in homes and we are thankful to have many referrals. Often our puppies are sold before they are born. Some of our dogs are trained service dogs but most of them are family pets. Our service to families is for the life of their new best friend.
That photo is from Terry, who is a pretty talented photographer, and yep, you better believe that view is just out their back door! Many of their customers make a mini vacation to pick up their puppy, which obviously I HIGHLY recommend! You could hit the Smokies and scenic North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountains! If you are EVER looking for a Golden Retriever puppy, I sincerely want you to first remember Cold Spring Mountain Retrievers. Heck…even if you AREN’T looking for a puppy, because let’s face it, you don’t necessarily have to be searching in order for it to be right.
I remember thinking, “But how will you KNOW when the end of your pets’ life is near?” As I write this with tear filled eyes, the computer screen is blurry and I keep pausing to rest my head in my hands to just sob. From time to time, Humphrey’s head will look up from his own paws to glance at me; but not often. He’s a very sick and very tired boy. And today he was given his life sentence.
Hours ago I sat on the floor at our vet’s clinic, gently petting him as we waited for the doctor to come in. The doctor who has been seeing Humphrey for at least a decade; who I used to work with at different animal clinic long long ago, and who knows me incredibly well as his client. “Okay, Ashley…” he said when he came in. I knew from his tone, and I couldn’t retain my tears. He continued to tell me about the diagnosis: a large mass in his chest, which has put pressure on Humphrey’s heart. He also has fluid in his lungs, and all of this is why he has been coughing for months. Months that I will never get back. I assumed he had acid reflux because it never seemed severe…until last night.
Last night I was sitting at my desk writing when I heard him cough. The cough was different this time though, I looked up and within seconds, Humphrey towered to the floor on his side. He attempted to get up three times and fell over after each one. I screamed for my husband who came flying down the stairs. I tried to explain what happened—it didn’t seem like a seizure, I just wasn’t sure WHAT had occurred. One thing was for certain though, Humphrey immediately transformed into a different dog. His eyes changed, his breathing became labored, and it appeared as if the will was sucked from his spirit. I almost had a panic attack…every ounce of me was shaking and I just kept saying, “I’m not ready. I’m not READY…..!” He calmed down some breathing wise, was able to go outside to potty, and we made it through the night without any other events. At 4:30 in the morning I heard him cough again and I stumbled out of bed. I could tell he was imbalanced and just not well…as much as I tried to sleep, it wasn’t happening and I knew that there was no way I could teach today.
I am glad I took the day off and that I was able to get him in to the doctor. But at the same time, I am so mad at SO many things. I’m mad at myself for getting so angry when he hasn’t been able to hold his poop and has accidents inside. I’m so mad at my negative thoughts that I have truthfully had, my impatience and frustration. Even recently I browsed the internet for Golden Retriever puppies because well, who doesn’t like looking at puppies?! And now I feel TERRIBLE. I had no idea. How could we have, right? But that doesn’t change anything. With my anger filters in sorrow and regret: how many more times could I have walked him around the neighborhood or taken him to the park? How many more photos could I have taken when he was healthy and fit and HAPPY? Sadness and fatigue now haze his beautiful brown eyes and the photos I have taken today remind me how quickly life can change.
Twenty-four hours ago he was playing with a ball and wagging his tail. He was following us up the stairs to the kids bedrooms and family room, he was begging for food and constantly under foot. Now I wonder, how will we go on without him?
I’m not dumb or irrational about my grief…I KNOW that time will heal us and that we will BE okay. I don’t think the world is going to combust or that anything serious will happen when Humphrey passes. But why do we have to experience this NOW? I’m not ready. I want more time.
There’s a good chance that you have had a pet of your own pass as well. Who is EVER ready for death to knock on their door step? So while I don’t know when it will happen, I do know that it will be soon. I don’t know how, but I know it will be tragic. I pray for my kids, that they can witness our strength and dignity through this time and that they will also grieve our Humphrey. I pray that they remember him always, as the Big Brown Wonder who used to knock them down SO often as babies, and who just recently, covered Pierson’s bare tummy and back with hundreds of kisses at bed time. I pray for my husband, OH how I pray for my husband…who picked Humphrey up and brought him home as an 8 week old puppy. Who endured major depression as a young adult, clinging to Humphrey the entire time. And while I pray for these things, I also want to remember, so bear with me as I share some of my favorites:
-The first day that I met Humphrey. It was my first unofficial date with Asa. Humphrey greeted me by knocking me down and slobbering all over me.
-When he lived me for a period of time while Asa and I were dating and later engaged
-When he jumped out of a glass basement window just to be near to Asa
-He ate a 30 pound bag of dog treats while we were out of the house…and then pooped for days
-He ate our Christmas ham while I was nursing Reese and had no idea
-He welcomed a prostitute who broke into our house while I was nursing Pierson (okay this just changed my crying to laughing. Thanks, Hump)
-When he sliced a major artery in his tongue after catching a stick at the park; that wasn’t funny, like at ALL, but the memory of it is just insane and it has made for a good story ;)
-The 5 times he has moved with us into different homes, each one of them he has followed us around in and helped make us feel SAFE
-How he used to break up our fights. He would sit in the middle of us and paw at our legs trying to get us to stop!
-How he constantly whines and barks and whimpers while riding in a car…until today. When he laid down the entire time and never made one peep. My heart shattered and I’ll never forget that.
-His many trips to Michigan, how he loves to sunbathe on the hill in my parents yard, overlooking the field of sheep
-Taking him hiking and walking, watching him fetch sticks in creeks
-How he welcomed our kids when each was born, and how he has loved each of them so very well
There are so many more. You don’t put 11 years of memories [Humphrey was 1 when we met] into a single blog post. You can’t. I don’t know what the next days will look like. I keep going from being fine and talking calmly, to just sobbing hysterically. Never have I felt so emotionally unstable, so heartbroken, or so shattered. If you know Humphrey, I’m so glad that you do. For so many of you, he has greeted you with sloppy kisses and begged for food off your plate. Thank you for loving him.
I love you, Humphrey Bogart Glass. When it’s your time, may you greet Jesus with a ball in your mouth, leaping and bounding through His pearly gates. Please greet me when it’s my time down the road, okay? I too, may be a little older and a whole lot more grey, but you’ll remember me right? Bring me your ball and you can introduce me to our Creator. While you are still here, I promise to do nothing but love you, hold you, pray over you, and give you whatever you want. Be strong always, dear boy, here or there.