Moggie's Last Hike

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Churning out bylines is a tedious task that tests the wherewithal of the best of newspaper reporters.

A few stories, however, are labors of love.

That's what this one is.

It's about "Moggie" an 11-year-old Golden Retriever and my best friend.

My greatest wish would have been for this story to have a happy ending.

It doesn't.

Moggie died early Thanksgiving morning at Veterinarian Medical Center in Phoenix. Not even the best medical efforts of the clinic's skilled doctors, nor those of Dr. Susan Snyder in Payson, could save Moggie's life.

My wife, Kay, and I had been preparing for the day our canine friend would no longer be with us. After all, he was getting along in years, and death is a part of life.

But we weren't prepared for the way Moggie died poisoned by a sick, twisted soul who's identity we might never know.

Only massive amounts of drugs administered by veterinarians allowed Moggie to escape the excruciating seizures and convulsions brought on by the poison. Eventually, he died the dignified and painless death he was owed.

Moggie came into our lives in the summer of 1990 as a gift from our son, Gerry, who had rescued him from the Phoenix Humane Society animal shelter.

Gerry thought that because we were moving from Payson West to the northern outskirts of Pine, our new home would be an ideal place to raise a pup that, he'd learned, had been abused.

While driving the dog from Phoenix to Payson, my son tagged the pet "Ferris" apparently from the then-popular movie, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

But the name wasn't a good fit, so it was quickly changed. Moggie seemed a more proper moniker for a Golden Retriever destined to spend his life in the shadows of the Mogollon Rim.

The dog quickly became a cherished part of our lives and those of our children and grandchildren.

Not a family event went by that Moggie wasn't besieged by admiring children who laughed and giggled as he bounded through the pine-studded forests retrieving his beloved tennis ball.

When not fetching, Moggie delighted children with his playful backyard antics.

There were times the overzealous youngsters inadvertently stepped on his tail or tugged on his collar too enthusiastically, but Moggie never reacted.

It wasn't unusual in our home to hear the door bell ring and find a wide-eyed band of neighboring youngsters standing in the door way asking, "Can Moggie come out and play?"

Teenagers Andrew and Julie Friedman, now high school students in Scottsdale, spent their childhood summers romping through the nearby forests with Moggie leading the way.

If dogs have callings in life, Moggie's was that of a protector and defender of children.

For my wife and myself, Moggie was a beloved constant in our lives. After a tough and trying day's work, we looked forward to spending the evening hours with him at our side. His tail-wagging greetings at the door seemed to say, "Everything's okay now, you're home with me".

And when we went to bed at evening's end, Moggie curled up at bedside as if he were our designated guardian.

Young or old, Moggie brought joy into the lives of all he met.

For all his contributions to family and friends, he asked very little in return. A full dish of food, a couple of thrown tennis balls, and a few gentle strokes of his golden mane was all the sustenance he needed.

Of course, he always relished going along on our long afternoon hikes deep into the confines of beautiful Pine Canyon. There, he ran as free and wild as the wind that billows over the Rim for which he was named.

I loved watching him there. It was as if he was in his element where he was meant to be.

In a few days, Moggie's ashes will be returned to us in an urn. I think I'll take him for one last hike.

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