As is apt to happen, life gets in the way and I’ve not been around these forums very much over the last few months. Tonight I come here as I know it’s one of the few places I’ll find a bit of solace. This morning, I said goodbye to my big boy, Radley.
When I bought my house in 2005 I knew I wanted a Golden Retriever and had people actively keeping an eye out for pups. I got a lead on a female and had arranged to purchase her. The night before I was supposed to pick her up, the gentleman I had made the agreement with said he actually sold her to someone else, but he had a six month old male he’d sale for $100. So the next day I loaded up and headed to get him.
Originally he was named Boots because he has white fur on his two front paws, but I quickly changed his name to Radley. The gentleman I got him from said he’d purposely not tried to bond with Radley so he wouldn’t get attached, so you could tell Radley was a bit uncomfortable as he rode in the back seat with me on the way home. As soon as he got out of the car, he ran and got under the deck of my mom’s house and we had to coax him out. That night, he slept under the bed in my room at my mom’s house since we still hadn’t moved into the house yet.
Two days later, he was at the vet’s office after a morning of throwing up and diarrhea and the diagnosis was parvo - the prognosis grim. This was on a Wednesday and my vet did everything he could, but I got a call on Friday night saying he’d had a rough evening and the odds of him surviving the night were slim. Saturday morning I went to check on him and was shocked when I walked back to the kennel he had been in and it was empty. I was told by one of the nurses he was outside which I thought was where the dead dogs were kept, but instead they had some open air kennels and I saw a golden retriever jumping up and down barking like crazy. That’s a hyper dog I thought, but as I got closer I saw the two white paws and realized it was Radley. The hopping was something he kept up for several more years. He came home two days later and never really had any medical issues until the last few weeks.
Radley did okay in obedience school, loved to go for walks, and carried his leash in his mouth while we trotted through the neighborhood. He had a tie out in the backyard that he’d extend as far as it could go and laid as far away as possible while being comfortable. Even after the backyard was fenced in, he still spent a lot of his relaxing times in that exact same spot. He also enjoyed roaming the back acre or so of our property when the fence went up and he’d stay outside for an hour or two at a time.
Radley shared the house with two cats that he loved to chase, but then looked surprised when he caught them. But he really had the run of the house and was just a big, happy dog. He loved to go on rides, hang out in the backyard, and chew on rawhides. The one thing that was kind of weird about Radley was that he never really liked to retrieve. You’d throw something and he’d bring it back, but if you threw it again he’d just look at you like, really, man, I just brought that back to you.
A year later, I brought him Scout, a Golden we adopted from the shelter. There were some growing pains. Scout was half Radley’s size, but she could put him down in a heartbeat. After a few weeks, they became best friends and were inseparable for the next 12 years until Scout passed away two years ago.
Six years ago, my daughter was born and Radley took on a new role: her protector. She spent almost a month in the NICU and when she came home, Radley never left her side. One of the first pictures we have of her at home is home lying next to her while she sleeps in her pack and play. He was pretty much close to or at least had an eye on her most of the time. As she got older, he became a horse, a play area for Barbies, and a pillow. My daughter called him “her puppy brother.” She was obviously upset when I broke the news to her this evening and she said Radley gave the best puppy hugs and that she’d miss him so much. She was also very concerned if I told Radley she would miss him and I assured her I did.
Old age never really hit Radley until the last few months. He began having accidents in the house, his eating habits changed a bit, and he started to get a little more lethargic. The last few days he was extremely shaky when on his feet for a while. This morning, after he struggled to stay upright to use the bathroom, he immediately plopped down and had a look on his face like, I don’t know what’s going on with my body, dad. I took him to the same vet he has always visited, the same one he saved his life when he was six months old, and we discussed quality of life. Radley’s heart sounded good, but his lungs were working hard and he was struggling to get oxygen and his gums were almost grey. With treatment, my vet said Radley’s quality of life may get better, but probably wouldn’t be for long and who knew what the decline would be like. We made the decision to end his suffering while he still had his dignity.
He was a low key dog who was very little trouble and he’ll be missed, but at least he can run with Scout now and maybe finally beat her in a wrestling match. My daughter asked if Radley could still see her and keep an eye on her at night; I choked up a bit when I told her I thought he’d always have an eye on her.