Neighborhood Tragedy

A week ago death visited our quiet neighborhood without warning. It was at the end of a sunny and peaceful summer day. I had just finished cutting the lawn and was inside cleaning up. One of our neighbors came rushing up to the door and said her golden had just stopped breathing. We rushed back to her front yard where her five year old golden, Maggie ( one of our Abby’s pups) had just collapsed. We immediately began CPR. put her in a car, and made a frantic rush to the nearby animal ER in Avon. Unfortunately the kindly vet working there said there was nothing that she could do, and that Maggie had died.

Maggie had been watching a group of neighborhood children play basketball in her front yard, and suddenly fell over. She had been in excellent health until that moment as best as anyone knew. The vet surmised that it most likely was a ruptured aneurysm of the heart or brain. The shock to the family and and children over the loss of their first dog without any warning was terrible to behold. There was no way any words of mine could soften this tragic blow delivered like a lightning strike.

The intrusion of this harsh reality of life has shattered my image of our Mayberry village neighborhood filled with families and golden retrievers. Our beloved Abby had blessed us with twenty seven puppies over three litters. Until last week, there were still eight of them living on our block or neighboring streets (excluding our five, made up of two of Abby’s daughters, and three of her grandchildren). We had lost only one of her offspring so far to kidney disease at age 7, and that was my cousin Ron’s dog Emma (See Sad News) who lived in another town. Another of her offspring is battling lymphoma in another state, but is holding his own as far as my information goes. So we had been blessed with good fortune here until now.

My sisters and I never had dogs growing up, but we certainly had an assortment of injured birds, hamsters, rabbits, and cats. I can remember burying some of them in our backyard, but can no longer recall the tremendous pain any child suffers when they realize for the first time that life is short, unpredictable, and finite, and that their beloved pet is gone forever. I saw that pain clearly etched in the face of the young teenaged neighbor who accompanied his mom and I to the ER that night, his golden companion wrenched from his happy life.

Due to our website, we now receive email letters from all over the country from folks who have lost their golden retreiver to age or illness. Most just want to express their grief, while others feel some bond with what I wrote about Abby and her message on our website. We also have many more folks on our puppy list waiting to replace lost goldens than we have new families wanting to get their first.

I respond to all who write that I believe there is a steep price to be paid for all the years of love and loyalty that we enjoy with these amazing animals. It is not monetary, but it is instead the sadness and loneliness we feel at the end of their lives when we have to say goodbye. Still, having gone through the experience now six times personally, I remain convinced that the adventures we experienced and the new friends we made as a result of our kinship with these goldens have given us a fuller richer life. All those good times weighed against the terrible price that comes due too soon. No one can predict when it will be time to stop grieving and get another golden. But your heart will know if you listen hard to its rhythm.

Barb and I want to personally again offer our condolescences to our fine neighbors and friends, and their three children on their tragic loss. Out of respect to them I will share no photos of their beloved Maggie until they want that to happen or feel ready to share some of their own thoughts on their beloved companion.

I would encourage all reading this to give your animals and family members who are close by, an extra hug tonight. None of us is privy to the fate that tomorrow’s sunrise will bring.