Menu Bar

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Today my dog Luke passed away. He was 11 1/2 years old - the cutest and best Golden Retriever you ever did see. Besides my frogs and a few lizards when I was young, I've never had a pet die. I've never even had a family member or close friend die. Luke was a family member and a friend. My heart hurts. And I have discovered that the way I best deal with things is by writing about them. So here goes.

When I was 10 years old, I decided I wanted a puppy. My parents were reluctant - they wanted to be sure I really wanted one. I did research to find out which breed was the most family friendly and I read Dogs for Dummies from cover to cover. Every day I would go to the classified section of the newspaper and cut out the section advertising Golden Retriever puppies for sale and place it on my daddy's pillow. I did this for what felt like months. We made a jar that was labeled "Puppy Fund" and put it in our kitchen so my older brothers' friends could donate.

One day, two days before my brother Josh's tenth birthday, my dad told us we were going to go get a puppy. We drove out to a nice family's house whose purebred Retrievers had just had a litter. We decided we wanted a boy, so they brought out three adorable Golden puppies. They crawled all over me, Josh, and my parents, but one caught my eye - the blondest of the bunch. I chose him. On the way home Josh and I took turns holding our new puppy. He fell asleep in our arms, and then burrowed his nose up my sleeve. We named him Luke (Josh wanted the name because of Redwall, I wanted it because of Star Wars, and my mom liked it because of the bible). He was the most adorable thing in the world. He slept in his kennel in my room for a week until we had his dog run in our back yard finished (my brother Mike and other relatives were allergic to dogs, so Luke had to live outside).

We took him everywhere with us - my mom even let us bring him to the high school where she worked one summer day. We let him run around the library and the halls of the counseling center. We took him camping and as he grew we took him rollerblading around the neighborhood. He was a strong dog. He would pull my brother Danny on rollerblades up the hill to Rosslyn Heights elementary school. Our family would go on long walks with him, some rollerblading and some biking. My dad would run with him, but Luke wasn't a very good jogger. He would sprint for the first 20 minutes and then want to go home. We would take him to play in the stream at Sugar House park. When he saw other dogs there he would just ignore them. I'm pretty sure he thought he was a human. He only barked when he wanted our attention.

I trained him to sit so well that whenever he wanted anything he would sit and try so hard to behave himself. One time he went camping with us and he followed Josh and I into a cave that he was then too scared to climb out of. I had to carry him up the steep rock. He would sit out by the road leading into our campsite and stand guard, his ears perking up whenever another car passed. He liked to steal things and put them in a pile off our campsite. He stole a few whole carrots, a glove, and almost got away with a pan before we caught him. Luke was one of my best friends growing up. I would go out and sit with him in my dog run when I was sick or when I was sad. I would put my arms around his neck and cry into his wavy golden fur.

When my parents moved out to Saratoga Springs they left him at a kennel/dog hotel, for a week or so until they had everything set up for him. I went with them to pick him up. He looked so happy to see me and ignored my dad - I think he was angry at being left there with those strange people. It helped to have Luke with me at the new house - made it feel more like home. It took some getting used to, but I think Luke really liked the new area. My dad took him on walks down to Utah Lake and let him run free. He got to explore and go where he liked. He acted like a puppy up until the very last.

I wasn't prepared for him dying. I thought he had at least a year left. At least Josh got to see him. Josh got home from his mission and took Luke on one last run before heading back to school. As Josh says, it was a tender mercy. Is it silly to feel so attached to a dog? I'm just glad I've been home to be with him these last few months. It looks like he died in his sleep, which I'm glad for. I hope it was painless.

I miss Luke. I can't help but feel one more element of my childhood slipping away with him. We've had Luke for more than half my life. I adored him. I feel awful that he is gone. He was old. His time had come. But I'm still sad. Heartbroken. And now I think I'll watch All Dogs Go to Heaven, as per my brother Danny's advice.

I love you, you silly old puppy.

1 comment: