Maggie, Our Loving Mini-Goldendoodle

Many months ago I began writing blog posts about the dogs we have loved. We both grew up owning dogs so our love of these precious animals began long before we knew each other.

Nine years ago after my wife suffered the terrible loss of her younger brother whom she loved dearly, this little one came to bring healing. On the way home from Indiana where she joined us, she crawled up behind my wife’s shoulders and went to sleep.

We realized Maggie was very intelligent as you can see by the “why aren’t you feeding or petting me?” look, and that she would be in charge.

We learned from our very first puppy it wasn’t a good idea to let Maggie sleep with us even if she whined. Right.

We used a small cage to train Maggie so she had her own little bedroom. Bedtime wasn’t a problem, but every morning she woke about forty-thirty or five o’clock and started whining. We kept her in a separate bedroom so I went in, laid on the floor next to her and put my fingers through the grate. She always went back to sleep.

Maggie loves to play and our house often looks like we have a toddler. Which really is true. She has a lot of toys but has a few favorites that she plays with most of the time. Just like a child.

Maggie is all grown up. She goes everywhere with us and loves to travel. We have to spell words like go, ride, her, and take. Problem is, she knows how to spell. She caught on pretty quickly.

Any actions out of the ordinary and she starts following us around the house. Her ears are up, she watches carefully and waits for key words like leash.

We had a speed boat for a few years and Maggie loved it. We bought her a life vest she wore proudly. She sat on my wife’s lap and kept her nose high in the air for all the luscious smells at the lake.

Maggie wants to go for a ride anytime, anywhere, no matter how short or long. I put her in our pickup just to move it from the driveway to the grass. She was as happy as could be just to go that far.

Maggie keeps a very close eye on the neighborhood. She has a huge voice for such a little dog at just twenty-seven pounds. She’s learning, at long last, she’s not supposed to bark at everyone. She sasses instead. It’s like a talking growl. In spite of her growl, everyone is a friend she expects to pet her.

Two years ago, my wife was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. She went through six months of chemo-therapy and three months of radiation. Maggie stayed very close to her, and still does. If I say, “Where’s Mama?” she immediately goes to find her.

We celebrated Maggie’s ninth birthday last April. Last night my wife asked me if I thought Maggie is starting to slow down. Sometimes she tries to jump on the bed and doesn’t quite make it. She still loves to chase a frisbee in the back yard so I don’t really think she’s slowing down. Maybe just a little.

Every night, my wife and I pray together before we go to sleep. And every night I say, “Maggie, let’s pray with Mama.” Maggie might be sound asleep on the couch but when I say it’s time to pray she comes running. She lays down between us with her head down. We didn’t teach her to do it, she just does. When we’re finished praying she goes to the end of the bed to sleep. She’s pretty special.

Of all the dogs who have loved our family, Maggie stands out. She is probably the most needy, but also the most loving furry companion we have ever had. She came just when we needed her and has been loving us ever since.

I told my wife that when it’s time to hold this one in our arms as tears stream down our cheeks, it’s going to be our last time to say goodbye to one of these precious gifts. Maggie loves so much, demands a lot, but has nothing on her mind other than wanting to be close to us. I can’t imagine that ever being repeated and it will be just too hard to let her go.

Cody the Wonder Dog Goes to Houghton Lake

In over forty-five years, we have owned several wonderful golden retrievers. I don’t know how a golden could be anything but wonderful. Copper was our first.

Lady, the princess, was our second golden. We raised her from a pup, she helped us raise our triplet sons, had a litter of twelve puppies, and left us all too soon.

Cody was a wonder dog. He was already a year old when he joined our family. We purchased him from a couple who raised retrievers and he was the last of their most recent litter. He was terribly shy and wasn’t sure he wanted to go with us.

When we arrived at home, I let him in the house and he immediately ran into the living room and went behind the big console TV in the corner. All we could see was his head and his big eyes watching our every move. Our daughter came down the stairs, saw him and said, “Is that real?!”

I was the pastor of a small church at the time and we were preparing to build a new facility. Since we sold our old building, my office was in our kitchen. I had a very thick file on a shelf with all of the contracts, invoices, and everything else. We blocked Cody in the kitchen overnight and when I opened the door in the morning, the floor was covered with small shreds of paper. Cody mangled my construction file. I laughed and kept the secret between me and Cody.

Cody was absolutely wonderful. He wanted only to be a companion. He was gentle, quiet, big, squishy, lovable and kind. Everyone was a friend.

I think Cody might have had weak eyes because he was afraid of anything new, like a paper plate lying on the floor. He backed away from it like it was threat.

Cody loved riding in the car and he loved going on vacation. One of our favorite places to spend a week was Houghton Lake, Michigan. The resort we returned to every year was a perfect match of relaxation, swimming, fishing, and boating. There were six small cabins. In the years we vacationed there, we used all but two of them.

There was an old wooden dock with enough rowboats for each of the guests to use. Cody loved swimming, but he especially loved chasing the ducks that were always nearby. He chased them and the ducks let him get just close enough so he didn’t lose interest. They flew back behind Cody and he turned around and started the chase all over again. He played with the ducks until he was too tired.

Cody loved riding in the boat. He didn’t hesitate to jump in and the sound of the motor didn’t bother him at all. He was the perfect fishing dog. Each year we rented a pontoon boat for a day so the whole family could be out on the water together. Cody loved it.

Cody loved our little Shih Tzu, Heidi. The two dogs were pals for life. Heidi was tiny compared to Cody and he was very careful with her.

Cody was showing his age with white hair around his eyes and face. We began to see indications of something that wasn’t quite right. Cody was slowing down and we saw him stumble a few times. As the days passed, Cody’s condition grew worse. The doctor diagnosed him with diabetes and he did our best to treat him.

Cody started having severe seizures and we knew we were nearing the end of this gentle wonder-dog’s life.

I held Cody in my arms and tears streamed down our cheeks as he slipped away from us. Always gentle, always kind, loving until his last breath.

Cody is forever a part of our family. We still laugh about him, and we have an hour-long home movie called, “Cody Goes to Houghton Lake.”

Our love of golden retrievers has carried over to our kids. This is Lucy, our granddog. She’s a big, strong, lovable, happy retriever with a huge voice. Now she has a two-year-old girl and a six-month-old boy to help raise. She’s doing a good job.

Whenever I see Lucy, I think of Cody the wonder dog.

Discover Prompt Day 11: Bite, Bites, Bitten, Biter

I was only bitten seriously by a dog one time. Obviously, the dog wasn’t anything like these two. The only biting they do is on chew toys or each other. No, this dog had a look in his eyes I should have avoided.

I won’t say what kind of dog it was, it really doesn’t matter. Every dog has the ability to bite, some have not been trained well enough to resist the urge. I was at the home of some friends who had two dogs. One was very friendly, the other not so much. I was there all afternoon watching football. I was sitting on the couch, the dog was laying at my feet. Everything was good.

My two hosts left the room and the dog immediately rose and stood right in front of me. I shouldn’t have looked into his eyes. When I did, in a flash all I saw was teeth. I jumped back. Luckily, he didn’t get the end of my nose or lips. I’m sure they would have been torn off. I had holes in the bridge of my nose and my chin. No stitches were needed but I was shaken. Lesson learned.

The ones that hurt the most are puppy bites. The young pups have razor teeth and they can do some real damage. Especially when the owner, like me, teases them with their toys and they sound so cute and tough when they’re learning to growl.

“Who? Me? I never bit anyone! I just lick. I love you!”

Another kind of bite requires great patience many people do not have. One of life’s greatest joys is sitting in a boat on a calm lake, a fishing pole in your hand, a bobber floating on the water, waiting in the silence for a fish to bite. Any fish. Anything with scales, fins, a tail, and a mouth. Oh, and gills. Any time now. Please, something give me just a little bite. Wait. Patience. Quietness. Forget it. They’re not biting.

People can be bitten by lots of things. Some of them don’t hurt at all, but they can be expensive.

Many people are bitten by wanderlust and travel the world over, or the state over, to find that perfect spot that makes them feel what they’re hoping to feel, even though they might not know what they want to feel. Not knowing what you’re looking for is the worst kind of wandering.

Everyone is bitten by the boredom bug at some time or other. Everything gets old and familiar, but old doesn’t have to mean worn out or ready to be discarded. Old can mean experienced, proven, knowledgeable, and wise. Boredom is a choice. Some of the worst decisions made are a result of choosing to be bored.

Without the ability to bite, tasting and enjoying is difficult. Especially when it comes to cinnamon rolls. The best cinnamon rolls are a perfect balance of yeast dough, cinnamon, sugar, butter, maybe some walnut pieces, and best of all, powdered sugar icing.

One of the worst corporate decisions McDonald’s ever made was getting rid of the original delicious, mouth-watering, calorie-exploding, impossible to resist, amazing real cinnamon rolls and replacing them with those little hard cinnamon bites. Dumb mistake. The old cinnamon rolls were the best anywhere! I always ordered EXTRA ICING! Now you’re talking heaven. I actually ordered a cinnamon roll with extra icing and a small fry. I carefully opened the box and the beautiful roll was swimming in icing! I dipped my hot fries in the icing, then ate the cinnamon roll, being careful to savor every single bite. I scraped the box to make sure I enjoyed every last molecule of icing. Those were the good old days!

I was bitten by the love of trains many years ago and have never recovered. Not that I would want to. Watching a train roll by satisfies a little of wanderlust. It’s fun to imagine destinations, even though the train my only go to the next industry location. It’s still fun.

Here’s to being bitten. Not by things that cause physical pain, but by things that inspire living.

Dogs Who Love Us

Our lives would not be the same without the many dogs who shared our home.  Each in his or her own special way brought happiness, love, laughter, and heartache.

Lady was a beautiful golden retriever who claimed us as her own when she was just a pup, a few weeks old.  (I realize the photo is terrible, but it’s actually Lady.)

Lady was a real princess, and all puppy.  She was the perfect addition to our family and she showered us with love and play.  Lady was happy to ride a rubber raft in the waves when we were able to spend time at the beach.  We still have furniture with Lady marks on it.  It’s not damage, it’s memories.

Lady was with us for a temporary move to Tennessee.  She liked riding on the back seat window ledge behind our daughter and three boys.  By this time, she was a full-grown playmate and loved romping with the kids.

After a year in Murfreesboro, we prepared to move back to Michigan.  We were down to one car, an Olds Cutlass that had seen much better days.  The fan only had one speed that was equal to a breath of air.  I found a small oscillating fan and attached it to hang in front of the vent.  I thought it was a perfect solution.  When we loaded the car for the long trip, the kids were in the back seat, and I tried to put Lady in the front.  She took one look at my motorized contraption and flew over the back seat onto bare legs.  We started the trip with screams and scratches.

We settled into a rented two-story house, Lady had her own little house in the back yard.  There were two old ladies living next to us who took a strange interest in Lady.  We started receiving anonymous letters in the mail condemning us for having our dog hooked to a leash in the back yard.

After returning from a trip out of state, during which we had friends feeding and taking care of Lady, we arrived home to discover our dog looking at us through the fence of the old ladies’ yard.  I was furious!  I couldn’t lift her over the fence, so I went to their front door and demanded they return our dog.  I should have called the police!

On a cold snowy winter morning, Lady gave birth to a litter of puppies. They were a mixed breed, half of the pups were black, the others looked like purebred retrievers. For the first several weeks, Mary snuggled each of the puppies every day. One of the males was taken by family friends who named him Charlie.  Charlie was a great dog with all the character and appearance of a beautiful golden.  For many years, even though we might not see our friends for quite a while, when we visited, Charlie came bounding through the house to climb on our laps as if we were his long-lost parents.  Our friends said he didn’t act like that with anyone else.

The next year, our hearts were torn apart when Lady began having seizures.  We called the veterinarian who said she would probably not recover.  As cold tears rained down from the sky, our Lady was put to rest. We placed her in a grave as we all cried.  One of our little boys asked if we could sing his favorite song, “Arise, Shine for Thy Light Has Come.”  We held hands and sang as the rain continued to fall.