Love & Loss

Our golden Teddy will live in our hearts forever .

I lost my best buddy yesterday and the sadness in my heart actually hurts.

Our magnificent, handsome, loving and sweet golden retriever Teddy passed after an 18 month battle with bone cancer.
While we knew the end was inevitable—the cancer had returned after surgery, chemo and radiation—I never dreamt it would happen so suddenly.
While Teddy had visibly slowed down, he was still full of life; playing  with other dogs, climbing stairs, taking car rides and eating like a champ right up until the end.
But Monday evening, he got up from his perch in front of the TV made a strange face and walked to the corner where he refused to move.
It was like a switch went off and he went from healthy and happy to sick and very weak.
The next morning he couldn’t stand, refused to eat and it was over. Our beautiful boy was gone…
We were assured by Dr. Jim Grubb that it was time. And I could see in Teddy’s soulful brown eyes that he was ready.  I think that was Teddy’s final gift to us, he let us know.
We love Dr. Grubb and his staff. They love our pets and that love is genuine. We knew it was the right decision.
But that doesn’t mean saying goodbye is easy. It’s not. It’s really hard. I held Teddy’s sweet face for the last time, caressed his ears And looked into his big brown eyes and thanked him for being such a good dog. I said it was OK and that I would see him again. And I believe I will.
Diane, his mom and my wife, petted his hair and comforted him. He was at peace. We were heartbroken.
But I don’t want this to be just about Teddy’s death. I want to celebrate his life.
And I want to encourage you to adopt or rescue a pet because they save us, we don’t save them.
We adopted Teddy from Golden Retrievals, a terrific non-profit in Boca run by Linda Ripps.
Linda has become a great friend. She has a heart as big as a Great Dane and has stayed in our lives since the adoption. We are so thankful for her.
The first time I saw Teddy I fell in love. And I fell hard. I’ve had two other pure bred Golden’s and a golden mix so I was already enamored with the breed’s traits which can be summed up in one word: goodness.
Golden’s are just good through and through.
Teddy was a handsome young boy of 5. He smiled, was a complete gentleman and instantly warmed up to Diane, the kids, our birds (who would land on his head) and our other rescue Randy, a high strung but super cool Chihuahua mix that we adopted 16 years ago at the Delray Affair. Randy is still going strong (sort of) at the ripe old age of 17. He’s blind, hard of hearing but still an alpha.
Our friend Rebecca, who has always helped with our dogs, was touched by Randy and Teddy’s relationship. She saw how Teddy tried to help Randy and thought he was so sweet for doing so. But that was Teddy, gentle, caring, courteous.
Yes, dogs can be courteous.
Teddy loved kids especially the Paterson children next door who showered him with bones and hugs.
He loved car rides and would drape his head across the back seat, close his eyes and enjoy the wind in his hair. I’ve never seen that. It was so endearing and a reminder for us to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures.
We would tool around Delray, cruise Atlantic Avenue, tour A1A and sometimes make a pit stop for a treat or a shopping trip to a pet store.
But he would get very interested when we’d get back home to Delray Lakes. He knew and loved his neighborhood and would stick his big head out the window to watch our neighbors as we drove by.
He watched TV, would react to animals he saw on the screen and seemed to understand English.
He never begged for food, but was happy to sample any handouts.
He had several “looks”—worry, a smile, even a snake eye if he stood by the door and you told him to wait until the next commercial.
He loved going to local parks, enjoyed shredding paper and stuffed animals and was devoted to our kids often stealing looks at their phones and laptops as if to say “what can be more interesting than looking at or petting me?”
Teddy loved to watch Diane exercise “helping” her by getting in the way, politely but doggedly demanding toys and rooting her on by rolling around on his back kicking his big feet in the air.
It was a daily show.
He was adorable. He was so good.
He was more than a dog, he was a beloved member of the family.
He stole my heart. I happily let him have it.
And now that he’s gone, he took a big part of it with him.
It’s a bond that I don’t have the words to explain. I’ve felt it before with Rusty, Snowball, Tina, Casey, Sophie, Sunny, Magnum and Randy. So this feeling and this heartbreak is familiar to me.
In time, the good memories will crowd out the crushing sadness of yesterday. It’s not fun to see your big, perfect, strong and loving friend at the end of his time on this Earth. But I know in time, I will remember all the good and there was so much. All the love and there was so much. All the laughs and all the comfort of having a great dog in your life.
“Pet people” will get that. We are heartbroken today and will be for a while. But in time, because of good boys like Teddy and his wingman Randy, we will dare to love again.
I believe, firmly, that dogs know when they are loved. And if you allow them in your heart, as we do, they will love you unconditionally in a way that will enrich your life immeasurably.
Thank you Teddy. No more cancer. No more pain. But I will tell you my buddy …the love will remain.

The Art Of Racing In The Rain

Our golden Teddy

Editor’s Note: It’s movie week on the blog. Check out our Blinded by the Light post on yourdelrayboca.com

If you love dogs don’t miss the new movie “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”

Bring Kleenex though.

The movie is beautifully shot, features an adorable Golden Retriever named Enzo and has some scenes that will tear at your heart strings. It also features some great music by George Harrison.

The movie is based on the book of the same name by Garth Stein.

I think my friend Jim Nolan gave me that book several years ago. I remember liking it very much.

Jim is a dog lover, like I am. He used to take his dog Goober to the Delray Green Market. The big old Bassett Hound with the soulful expression would auction off kisses for a few bucks. He was quite the guy.

But Goober got old and passed. To me and others the Green Market is not quite the same without old Goober. But that’s what a good dog will do. They work their way into your heart and never quite leave. That’s a good thing.

Dogs are having a moment as they say.

They are everywhere—movies, Subaru ads and all over social media.

One of my favorite Instagram accounts is called UPS Dogs, which features dogs that UPS drivers encounter as they deliver our parcels. Check it out, it’s great.

Anyway, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a two-hour marketing campaign for golden retrievers.

As if they need any help.

Folks, golden retrievers are truly terrific dogs.

I’ve had four—one mix and three purebreds.

All have been exceptional companions—and three were rescues so it is possible to adopt this popular breed if you so desire. I hope you do, because they rescue us too.

They rescue us from our self-indulgence and our anxiety.

The movie notes that dogs never think about the past or the future, they live in the present and that’s a good thing to be reminded of if you’re a person. Fixating on the past can hold us back, worrying about the future can also be harmful but being present in the moment is always a good thing.

The Art of Racing in the Rain really got to me. I felt this movie viscerally. It may be a tad predictable and melodramatic and it’s likely that dogs don’t have quite the inner life that Enzo does in the movie. It’s also unlikely that their inner voice sounds like a grizzled Kevin Costner. But maybe, just maybe, dogs do have this rich inner life.

I have two dogs—a golden named Teddy and a Chihuahua mix named Randy who we adopted 15 years ago at the Delray Affair.

The CRA used to let the Animal Rescue Force set up shop in its parking lot. One of the main volunteers from ARF (a terrific organization) worked in Delray’s Code Enforcement Department at the time. Randy is 16 and a half now, blind and losing his hearing. He’s been a great dog and a loyal friend.

But the sniffles I tried hard to stifle at The Art of Racing in the Rain were mostly because Enzo the star of the film looked exactly like our Teddy.

Teddy—like many goldens—is fighting cancer. This year he has endured surgery, radiation and chemo. The treatment left him with osteoarthritis which seems to flare when the weather gets wet which is often these days. Seeing him limp and struggle tugs at our hearts. Looking into his beautiful eyes and petting his soft hair often brings a lump to my throat. There’s something about this dog that resonates very deep. He touches something in my heart and has from the moment that Linda Ripps from Golden Retrievals in Boca Raton brought him over so that we could adopt him.

I can’t quite place why. I’ve loved all of my dogs similarly and have been grateful for their presence in my life.

Dogs enliven a house, comfort you when you’re down and love you unconditionally and completely. Yes, they are a major responsibility and a heartache waiting to happen but I wouldn’t want to change a thing—unless of course we could find a way to make them live longer and healthier lives.

In the movie, Enzo longs to be a human so he can better communicate with those he loves.

Enzo is frustrated that he can’t visit a loved one in the hospital or race cars which he believes he was born to do.

He finds himself fascinated by human rituals, abilities and beliefs.

I think Teddy may have the same thoughts—still waters run deep.

Randy…let’s just say Randy is pretty wrapped up in being a dog. He thinks he’s bigger than he is, but he seems content to be what he is.

Anyway, The Art of Racing in the Rain is laden with messages, lessons and wisdom.

And if you have a dog like Enzo–as I do— it will make you want to come home and love him or her even more.

That’s always a good option—to love more. That’s what dogs do so well.

 

 

 

 

The Love Of & For A Dog

My perfect line-up, Teddy, Randy and Sunny.

It’s hard to put into words just how much we love our pets.

People who love animals will get this. Frankly, I feel sorry for the rest.

Why?
Because the love of a good dog or cat, horse, bird or whatever you prefer is one of life’s great pleasures.

As for me, I love all animals but especially dogs. Always have, always will.

And while I love all breeds, I’m happiest when a golden retriever is in my life.

We got Teddy four years ago from a wonderful Boca-based non-profit called “Golden Retrievals.”
From day one, Teddy was the perfect gentleman—80 pounds of love covered in bountiful and beautiful golden fur which was soon everywhere. I mean everywhere.

Within moments of entering our lives, Teddy captured our hearts and I soon discovered that he had that knack with everyone who crossed his path.

He’s a heartbreaker—so good, so cute, so handsome, so sweet and so so loving.

I fell for Teddy completely. It’s a connection that I can’t really describe but all I can say is that whenever I look at him I just feel good. He’s a special dog.

So we were absolutely devastated when a few days after Christmas we learned that Teddy had bone cancer.

He had been limping for a few days and we thought/hoped it was old age (he’s 9), a pulled muscle, or maybe a sprain. Teddy’s an active dog and enjoys playing with my son’s golden puppy Riley and my neighbor’s dog Asher. Maybe in all that happy rough housing he strained something.

When we took him to our long time veterinarian, Dr. Jim Grubb knew exactly what it was. He’s seen a lot in his long practice: cancer.

Apparently, Golden’s and other large breeds are prone to bone cancers—the statistics are beyond disturbing. Google them if you must, when I did it made me queasy.

Anyway, on Dr. Grubb’s recommendation, we took Teddy to the Animal Cancer Care Clinic in Deerfield Beach and earlier this week Teddy had surgery to remove his ulna bone. Luckily, it’s a non-weight bearing bone so he will be able to walk. Removing the mass should make him much more comfortable and also prevent the risk of a painful fracture. As for a prognosis, we have to wait and see the results of his pathology before determining what the future holds.

For the past month, there has been a sadness in our home as we grappled with the news and continued to enjoy, love and cuddle with this wonderful dog who has changed our lives in so many ways.

I’ve been blessed with a bunch of truly great dogs—Tina, Rusty, Snowball, Magnum, Casey, Sophie and Teddy’s best friend Randy— a soon to be 16 year-old half blind Chihuahua mix that we adopted from the Animal Rescue Force at the Delray Affair many years ago.

I love them all and they love you back—unconditionally and completely.

As I’ve grown older I have grown even fonder of dogs because of who they are and how they live—in the moment, with appreciation, excited about the little things—a walk, a car ride, a beautiful day, a trip to the park.

Teddy is the epitome of this ethos.

He has the most endearing style.

Morning is his favorite time of the day.

He’s so excited to greet the dawn and he rolls on his back and kicks his feet into the air. When we get read for a walk, he barks when he sees his leash anxious to see who is outside so he may say hello. And when we take him on a car ride he leans his head on the back seat cushion, closes his eyes and enjoys the breeze in his hair. I’ve never seen a dog do that—its bliss defined. He is loving every single moment.

Yes, he’s a special dog.

They all are in their own way.

So when I look in his big, soulful brown eyes I’m reminded of the other great retrievers I have known—my winter lab Sunny, Casey who would go downtown with me and then try to get in every car as we walked the avenue, Rusty who snuck on my mother’s prized couch when she wasn’t looking and Magnum who used to sit outside with me at 1 a.m. for long talks into the night with my good friend Officer Skip Brown. He also ate a couch and a carpet, but those are stories for another day.

I’m hoping for more time with Teddy—quality time because we won’t let him suffer.

I feel we have more roads to explore on our rides and that he’s due more belly rubs and trips to Pet Supermarket where he enjoys looking and sniffing at each row of merchandise.

But if somehow it is not meant to be…I will still be thankful for every day I’ve had with this magnificent dog who overflows with love and has given us so much happiness.

 

 

 

A Golden Anniversary

Golden retrievers gather in Scotland to mark their anniversary.

Last week, news outlets the world over ran a feel good story about a gathering of 361 golden retrievers in Scotland.
The dogs congregated to celebrate the 150th anniversary of their breed. And that is excuse enough for me to write about them.
Golden retrievers have become the third most popular breed in America.
I know why they’re popular. Golden retrievers are— in a word—amazing.

I’ve been blessed to have had four in my life and a now fifth “granddog–Riley.”
My roster of fur greatness:

Rusty, a retriever-shepherd mix who was my boyhood dog. Rusty was in my life from around the age of 9 until I graduated college. It was a long and fun run. He was a rescue from the Kent Animal Shelter on the east end of Long Island.
Magnum, named after the Private investigator played by Tom Selleck in the 80s, was my first puppy. He was an amazing dog, huge, good, smart and loving. He once ate our carpet and a couch, but hey that was a low price to pay for his friendship.

 Casey, came next. She was a rescue who was fostered by an employee of former mayor Leon Weekes. Casey was sweet and loving but taking her downtown was an adventure. She enjoyed Kilwin’s but then spent the rest of the time trying to get into any car on Atlantic Avenue. She was a homebody, I suppose.

Of course, there is my current “soul dog” Teddy, a handsome 90 pounder who is as good as…well he’s as good as gold. Teddy is well known for his Facebook and Instagram appearances–I can’t help it, he’s cute. He’s also full of personality and may be the best behaved dog I’ve ever had and that’s saying a lot because all of my dogs have been outstanding. Teddy is something special. I just don’t have the words to describe what he means to us.

All four of our retrievers were and are outstanding dogs: friendly, smart, well behaved, loving, loyal, funny and easy on the eyes.
We’ve gotten our dogs through two local rescue organizations: Golden Retrievals, a Boca-based non-profit and Everglades Golden Retriever Rescue also a local 501c3 non profit.
Both are terrific organizations and both changed my life by placing a golden retriever in it.
They really do rescue us as much as we rescue them.

To enjoy the love of a good dog is one of life’s true joys.

My latest love affair Teddy is a remarkable dog. He’s incredibly well behaved, I dare say considerate. He just seems to be sensitive to our words and feelings as if he can read our moods and emotions.
He has a wonderful personality and greets every day with a smile. His hobbies include dismantling stuffed animals, walking, car rides, following me everywhere and watching TV.
In short, he’s a hoot. I adore him. So does my wife and everyone who comes in contact with him in our neighborhood and at Lake Ida Park. I should also mention that our next door neighbor Brooke, a spirited and adorable little girl is Teddy’s heartthrob. He looks for her every time we go outside. He’s also close to his brother Randy, a 15 year old chihuahua who we adopted 14 years ago at the Delray Affair from the Animal Rescue Force (ARF). Randy is amazing too. We are very fortunate.

Dogs are having a moment in our culture these days. They are all over TV in shows and Subaru commercials and immensely popular on social media.
Evidence of canine culture is everywhere. Apartment developers are adding dog washing stations, dog parks and dog sitting services to their projects and pet stores are proliferating everywhere despite the challenges of today’s retail environment.
Movies, books, T-shirt’s and posters featuring our furry friends are ubiquitous.
I think it’s wonderful.
Someone even sent me a chain and a charm depicting a golden. I’m not sure who did so, but if you’re reading this: thank you.
So while I have a preference for Golden’s (and chihuahuas) I really love them all. And I highly recommend you open your heart and your home to a dog or a cat—especially rescues.
But only if you can fully commit. They deserve our time and attention as well as our love.
In return, you will be given so much.
In honor of 150 years of Golden Retrievers check out these fine organizations.

www.egrr.org

https://goldenretrievals.org/

Here’s a peek at my guy:

Teddy…an alumni of Golden Retrievals.