New Year’s Eve, Goldie, my best girlfriend in the world, died. I’m still broken-hearted. Goldie was a great dog! Smart, funny, loving. For months, I’d been preparing myself for that moment. Her back legs were weak and wobbly. She was nearly deaf and had dementia—yes, dogs get dementia—but in her final hour, she somehow found the will to summon her zest for life.
I PULLED OVER, ROLLED DOWN THE WINDOW AND SAT THERE, LETTING HER TAKE IT IN, ONE LAST TIME. AS I WATCHED HER, I PUT ON THE BRIGHT RED LIPSTICK I’D HURRIEDLY PUT IN MY PURSE.
Fifteen years ago, Goldie showed up at our door in the city. From the moment we saw her, we knew someone was grieving her absence, missing her nurturing nature and engaging personality. A Shepherd-Collie mix, Goldie was a big girl, hardly a lap dog, and yet, that’s where she wanted to be. With no collar and no microchip to guide us, we placed ads and circulated “Found” notices, but when no one responded, she became our Goldie Girl.
After we moved to the ranch, there was always something to be done. James cut down the cedar trees and trimmed the skirts on the oaks. We restored the 100-year-old “Little House,” planted new trees and shrubs and built a stone patio and a winding walk. Through it all, Goldie had to know where every member of her family was, at all times. This photo of her never fails to make me smile. How dare we cut her out of the action! It was taken seconds after she’d slit the new screen around our back porch so she could get a better view as we set the stones, without her.
That last afternoon, Goldie got sick to her stomach, then fell over, stiff, legs outstretched. She may have had a stroke. I’ll never forget the look of terror in her eyes. Not wanting to frighten her even further, I leaned down close to her ear and spoke softly, telling her everything would be okay, but I knew it was time… I helped her stand and got her into my car.
As I drove into town to meet the vet, Goldie struggled in the back of the SUV to get to her feet. Riding down our twisty ranch road was one of her favorite things. She loved looking for elk, Texas Longhorns, black buck antelope, goats, white-tailed deer and the wild turkeys that sometimes strut along the fenceline. As we rounded the bend, the donkeys and the goats she loved to bark at were by the fence. She had to have known her time was near, and yet, while she didn’t have the energy to bark, there she was; summoning the strength to embrace that which she loved. I pulled over, rolled down the window and sat there, letting her take it in, one last time. As I watched her, I put on the bright red lipstick I’d hurriedly put in my purse.
Before the vet administered the final drug, I placed three, bright red kisses across her nose, so God would know how loved and special she was. Even in her final hour, Goldie taught me about spirit, strength and dignity and the meaning of seizing every moment.
And so, in this new year, what if we take a lesson from this great dog? All of us have had our dark moments. We know they’re not easy, but Goldie reminded me that it’s possible to draw strength by focusing on something other than the darkness; something that reminds us of the good things we hold dear. Perhaps it’s thoughts of loved ones, a great day we experienced, or maybe it’s something as simple as asking God for help.