Today, I lost my best friend of fourteen years. I remember the day we went to pick Scarlette. A big Dean Koontz fan, he’d convinced me through his books of the loyalty and intelligence of Golden Retrievers and I was determined to get a Golden Retriever puppy for my two-year-old daughter, Caitlin. It is one of my few whims that was a really good decision. When we arrived at the home of the breeder, he took us out back where mom, dad and puppies were. About nine puppies came tumbling out of the garage opening he’d cut out for them. They were jumping and pouncing. How would we ever decide?
Then, my husband noticed that one puppy was shyly hiding in the garage opening, just watching all the others. He pointed at her. “I want that one.” I wasn’t so sure. She was more red than golden. The man handed her to me and she snuggled up under my hair, which was long at the time, and put her nose in the crook of my neck. My heart melted and there was no doubt that this was our new dog.
A huge fan of Gone With the Wind, I named her Scarlette Sadie, but we always just called her Scarlette. The name suited her with her reddish blonde fur, although her temperament was much sweeter than the movie/book character’s. Scarlette was good in so many ways that I could never describe them all in a single blog post. She loved us in that unconditional way that dogs have, but she also never wanted to disappoint us. She barked once as a puppy. I told her no and she never barked again unless it was to warn us of what she felt was danger. I think I heard her bark four times in fourteen years.
When she was a year old, we found out she had heartworm. My husband thought I was giving her the heartworm preventative and he thought I was. No one was giving her the pills. The only way to get rid of heartworm is to poison the dog almost to the point of death with arsenic. She had to go through this three times. I sat up with her all night all three times. She would take a ragged breath and stop breathing for a minute. I’d pet her, talk to her and beg her to stay with us. She’d start breathing again. Somehow she fought her way through and seemed to completely recover.
She tolerantly dealt with the inevitable tugs and pulls from my babies, toddlers and eventually teenagers. As long as they were with her, her family, she didn’t care about anything else. She tolerated my cats and the little dogs in our home that nipped at her heels as she got older. Sometimes she would give a long-suffering sigh when our little miniature dachshund, Gretchen, would snatch some food from her yet again. I always made sure she got another scrap to make up for it.
When the kids were little, they would jump off my parents’ dock into the lake. Scarlette watched them with a parental eye and if she felt they were getting too far from land, she would jump off the dock, grab them by the back of the lifejacket and pull them to shore. They would get so angry at her and would shout, “Stop it, Scarlette!” But she knew without a doubt they were her family and it was her job to protect them.
She loved to get into my tomatoes every year. In fourteen years, I’ve not had a good tomato crop, because she waited for them to just start to get ripe and then ate them off the vine. This last year, I finally gave up and let her eat as many as she wanted, knowing it would be her last year to eat tomatoes.
About seven months ago, Scarlette had a horrible seizure one night and was taking what I know were her last breaths. I was going through a rough patch at the time, dealing with some accusations from someone I had thought was my friend about my character that simply weren’t true and hurt that anyone could take the tiniest thing and twist it to around in the way that this person was doing and think I was malicious and mean. No matter what I said, this person still believed the worst of me. All while I’d done absolutely nothing to her but live my life in an oblivious bubble where I didn’t realize how much she hated me just for being me. I can honestly say I’ve never had such maliciousness turned on me before. Scarlette helped me through. She loved me. She laid her head in my lap and looked up at me with those warm brown eyes and just put the focus on what was right and good about this world.
I was hurt, confused and I knew I couldn’t bear to lose this dog while all this turmoil was going on. So, that night seven months ago, I dropped to my knees and begged God to let her stay with us just a little longer. I told Him I really didn’t feel I could handle her passing right then. He granted my request and she got better just minutes later.
As the months went on, the personal situation we were dealing with grew worse and the person more malicious toward my family. However, Scarlette also slowly grew worse. Her seizures started to grow closer together and the medication the vet gave us wasn’t really helping. I noticed she could no longer play with the kids. She spent most of her afternoons snoozing, as she is in the picture above. She started to snore like an old man. Her appetite decreased. I would sit on the floor and coax her and she would finally eat her food. Piece by piece, we would sit for thirty minutes or more – her eating and me doling out a few bits at at time and coaxing her to finish her meal. She had good days and bad days, but slowly the bad days began to overtake the good days in number. Today was her worst day. She had back to back seizures until she could no longer stand, could not hold her tongue in her mouth and was hurting and miserable. Today, I knew it was time. I couldn’t let such a wonderful companion suffer any longer. I knew she was going to a better place. After all, there are horses in heaven, so I know there must be dogs. (If you believe differently, don’t bother to comment about it. I really don’t want to hear it.)
God knows what my family has been through this year, and He knew the point that we came to accept some hard truths in our personal situation with the so-called friend and move on. He knew when the timing was right and when we could bear her leaving us. He never gives us more than we can handle and even though losing her today was very hard, we are left with so many wonderful memories of the best dog I ever had. These memories are like precious photographs stamped onto my heart. When the world is hard, I will remember this smart and beautiful dog and how much she loved me. Not because of anything I did for her, but just because I was who I was. She just loved me for being and I loved her for being so special and sweet. I know that God has a very special place in heaven for Scarlette. She has a nice big yard, a little creek out back and as many tomatoes as she wants to eat off the vine.