Circle of Life

A Family Grieves


We got a very sad message at the end of last week from Ken and Mary Ann. Their golden girl Holly had finally lost her battle with lung and splenic cancer and pancreatitis. With a temp of 106 degrees she was unable to come home from her last hospitalization at Animal General. Below are the photos they sent to us of her last week at home with Rosie keeping her good company.

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Regular readers of our website blog will probably remember some of the prior photo submissions by Ken of his Holly and Rosie. Although Holly was a senior golden when our Miss Purple entered her life from our last litter, they bonded tremendously.

From Ken’s emails we learned that Holly brought maturity and leadership to the much younger Rosie, while Rosie made sure that Holly still remembered how to play and make the most of a day.


Nothing tears out the heart of a dog lover as having to put down a lifelong companion that gave you nothing but smiles and good times every day of their lives. Going home to that empty supper bowl in the kitchen and seeing that special blanket and bed in the corner, or the beloved toy that will forever lay where it was last dropped, takes special courage. But that is the price we have to pay for loving creatures that have a shorter lifespan than ours. Hopefully we will all meet again somewhere in the future where friendships can be renewed and memories revisited.

Someone recently gave me an inspirational message written by the very irreverent comedian, George Carlin, on losing his wife and best friend.

He wrote,

“The paradox of our time is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are the days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.

Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember to give a warm hug to the one next to you because that is the only treasure that you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent. Remember to say, “I love you” to your partner, and most of all mean it.

And always remember, Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Living every day in the present with a golden by your side is a simple gift without compare. Barb and I hope that Ken and Mary Ann and their family will find comfort in the warm memories that Holly has left each one of them.

Abby’s Spirit Lives On

I still miss our original breeding golden, Abby, and wanted to do something in a positive way to keep her mischievous and loving spirit alive. The poem I wrote for this website allowed me to get past the grieving process of losing a special companion after those very special years together. See “Abby’s Message“. But it didn’t seem enough of a legacy to reward her for her labors that have blossomed into our growing Farmington Valley Golden family.

For the past three years I have been making wine and learning the secrets behind all the hype. With a cellar full of wine behind me from grapes harvested from all over the world, many of you have been gifted with a few bottles of my latest concoction for one occasion or another. And all our wines are covered with our dog labels to reflect our true passion here. This weekend we will be unveiling our latest golden endeavor. I will be bottling a beer I have been fermenting in a vat in our basement. I became enamored of the taste of the most popular beer in the Domincan Republic during my mission trip last fall. Called “El Presidente” it is a light ale, with a mild taste and low alcohol content. Thanks to the investigative skills of my wine making expert and now good friend, Adrian, he was able to find a beer maker in Colorado who came up with the right combination of malt and hops. It is still amazing to me that with the internet and networking, you can find out the recipe for something from a third world country that is not widely known. We will shortly see how successful we are.

I hope to share this beer with family, friends, and visitors (of age) to our home over this upcoming holiday season. And what better way to honor our Abby than to grace this effort with her never forgotten smile. Celeste, my tireless graphic artist extraordinaire, has come through again and brought my humble ideas to life.

So I give you our label for Abby’s Golden Ale.. (Click on the image to enlarge)

And the neck label we designed for the beer bottles also has special meaning. Although my cousin Ron’s golden, Emma, has joined her mom on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, the photo he took of her as a pup still is one of my favorites. See “Sad News“. So I hope Ron and his Barb and family will be pleased to see her memory live on as well: a golden puppy with friendship and adventure on her mind.

So I am looking forward to sharing with all our golden family and friends, Abby and Emma’s “spirits”. Hopefully we will raise a glass to them around the whelping box come mid December with a new litter of pups to brighter everyone’s holiday mood. I can only hope that my brewing skills live up to the labels!!

Happy News From the West Coast

Our website, and more specifically the poem, “Abby’s Message”, that I wrote after our beloved Abby’s passing, has attracted the attention of folks from all over the country. The universal themes of love and loss that we share with other owners of this wonderful breed, allow us to bond with people over long distances and forge a kinship of empathy with one another.

Two months ago, I received an e-mail from Milly in Los Angeles County, California. She had just lost her 14 year old Golden named Rusty.


She and her husband were devastated, and were unsure if they could withstand another loss of that nature. I said what I could, and just encouraged patience and and the passage of time for their future choices to become clearer.

I was happily surprised to receive a note this week from her, along with pictures of their new golden puppy. Dusty is his name and everyone is doing great.

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So like the night follows dawn, the sun will rise again after the dark runs its course. And new beginnings help chase away the sadness of the endings that we face on a daily basis.

Congratulations, Milly, on your new family member! We wish you all many years of good health and golden adventures.

For Love of Maggie

Last week I wrote about our neighborhood losing “Maggie”. (Neighborhood Tragedy).

Our friend and neighbor Lynda wrote back: “Hi Mike. The words you wrote about Maggie touched our family. They prompted Max to write down his feelings which I would like to share with you. Julia wrote a little something too. Thanks again for all your help and support.”

So here is a tribute to Maggie written by the children who loved her, with some of their favorite photos.


By giving voice to our grief, we somehow move forward, yet can savor those special times that will forever be etched in the glass walls of our memory.

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Max and Ben:

Maggie was the friendliest, kindest and loving dog a family could possibly wish for. I remember the day we brought Maggie home a little over five years ago with her orange collar and her energetic spirit. From that day on Maggie was loved so much and always enjoyed life. She lived every minute up to the moment she died with the same happiness and energy. I will miss every little thing Maggie used to do. I will miss the way she would sit with her back legs spread apart. I will miss the way she would tell us when she wanted to come in and out by knocking on the glass front and back doors. I will miss the way she would play in our outdoor activities, whether it was soccer, basketball, or baseball. She would always get excited to play with us. I will miss the way she would lay with us on the floor and watch a movie on family movie night. I will miss sitting with her in “her” leather chair in the family room. I will miss everything about Maggie, from the way she used to squint at us as we walked up the hill to our house, to the way she used sleep on the bottom of the stairs waiting for us to come down and play with her. I will miss throwing the tennis ball and frisbee to her. But most of all, I will miss the way she loved us, how sweet she was to everyone, and the way she made me happy every day of my life. We may get another dog but it is impossible to take the place of Maggie. Maggie will always be in my heart.


My Dog Maggie. Maggie was my friend who liked playing paw, playing ball, and going for walks around the neighborhood. Me and my dad would take her swimming in the river and she had so much fun! We would throw a stick and she would start to get it but then forget to bring it back to us. This made me and my dad laugh. Maggie wasn’t a great retriever but was the best Golden Retriever. I loved her and I will never forget her. Love Julia.

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I was there at her end, and I walked by her home for five years with my own goldens in tow. She never failed to greet us on our walks up her street. I will always remember her however, as the precocious Miss Orange collar from her litter days. I can still clearly remember that special day when her whole family walked up the street to take her home.


Maggie you gave love, and were well loved in return. You are sorely missed, but you have given your family memories that would make your mother Abby proud. I hope you both are sharing happy moments on the other side of the rainbow bridge.

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.

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