Yesterday, my wife Kay and I planted in our front yard a stunningly beautiful fir tree our children and grandchildren had given her a few days earlier as a birthday present.
In planting the evergreen, we also buried the ashes of our two deceased Golden Retrievers — Moggie II and Moggie III.
Moggie II died more than 10 years ago, but we had kept his remains stored away. Moggie III was euthanized about a week ago due to a cancerous tumor that had incapacitated him.
Burying the two in our front yard, where both loved to run and play, seemed to be the right thing to do.
We continue to grieve the loss of Moggie III, as we did for Moggie II, but know we are the ones in charge of our healing and are willing to take the grief and step forward into a new life.
The toughest part of our journey is the painful memories of holding our dog when the euthanasia injection was given.
We both hugged him and whispered to him how much we loved him as he closed his eyes for the final time.
We continue to revisit those painful minutes in a series of flashbacks.
Putting him down was the hardest decision we’ve ever made, but he was suffering.
All three of our “Moggie” retrievers were rescue dogs. We took No. 1 more than 25 years ago after his owner decided he couldn’t be trained for hunting. Our children gave us No. 2 after finding him in a Phoenix-area dog pound.
Following his death, we decided there would be no more retrievers in our lives. The pain of losing them was just too great.
But then Rescue A Golden (RAG) of Arizona called to tell us a home was needed for a retriever found abandoned on Cottonwood streets.
We drove there to see him and immediately fell in love, even though we knew someday we’d be painfully mourning his loss.
Although all three Moggies were wonderful dogs, the third one is particularly memorable because he shared a very painful part of our lives with us.
After I was diagnosed with colon cancer three years ago, we were forced to move to Tempe so I could be treated daily at Mayo Clinic.
Living in a small two-bedroom condo in a two square block complex that had more residents than Pine and and Payson combined, was no treat for myself, Kay or Moggie.
Chemo and radiation treatments are no fun, but we all desperately missed the freedom, solitude and beauty we enjoy living amidst the towering pine trees in Pine Creek Canyon.
Thanks in part to Moggie, we endured those rough times.
Each afternoon I returned to the condo from radiation and chemotherapy treatments, Moggie was waiting, eager to rub his cold nose on me and brighten my spirits.
Almost always, he curled up by my feet as if he was my own personal guardian angel.
When I needed to be outdoors for exercise for my own mental health, he was there with leash in mouth, begging for me to take him for a walk.
Following Moggie’s death, Kay described to me a particularly bad day she was having during the time I was being treated. She said she fell sobbing onto the couch, wondering if we would survive the terrible ordeal of battling cancer. Moggie approached, set his head or her lap, nuzzled up and remained for minutes looking up as if to say, “Everything’s going to be alright.”
We now know, that in our darkest of times, he was there to provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support and unconditional love.
We remember Moggie as a dog who brightened the spirits of all he crossed paths with, including our rambunctious grandchildren who tugged on his tail, pinched his ears and trailed his every move as he chased deer, rabbits and squirrels from our garden.
In burying Moggie’s ashes, Kay and I were reminded of a Lord Byron poem:
“Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity and all the virtues of a man without his vices.” — That was Moggie.
Kay and I would like to thank Dr. Katie Smith and the entire staff at Payson Pet Care for their compassion, understanding, care and expert medical treatment of Moggie. The folks at PPC are truly wonderful.