Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Call

I’m waiting for the phone to ring. It will be the vet.
He will tell me that he has good news.
I will ask him what it is.
He will say, “That neuromuscular problem with Hannah? I think we can treat it.”
“But,” I will say, “You’ve already euthanized her. On Monday.” I can barely get those words out.
“No problem,” he says. “We have reversed the effects of the injection. She’s back. You can pick her up tomorrow morning. Good as new.”
And that’s where the fantasy fades.
The neuromuscular problem was myaesthemia gravis, two words forever seared onto my soul. The prognosis was grim. 
How do you know when to say, The time has come? Hannah was 12 years old. That seems to be the magic number for Golden Retrievers, the genetic time bomb. I always thought she’d go the way most Goldens go - from cancer. Okay. No more medical talk. I don’t like writing about it or even thinking about it any more than you do reading about it.
I’ve been trying to figure out what hurts the most. Possibly the loss of one of the best friends I ever had. Maybe the sadness at seeing a beautiful creature come to the end of the trail much too soon. Then there’s the sheer habit of having her around, developed over twelve years and thousands of miles of travel, including New England, Florida, Chicago, Colorado. Finding motels that took dogs, and sneaking her into those that didn’t. If we drove, she was a passenger. Even scoring the front seat on several occasions. She would watch the road as carefully as I. And she knew the landmarks in town. Where we turned off I-44 for West Tyson County Park and our hike through the hills. Where we pulled in at Weldon Spring State Park and walked to the river. What part of Forest Park we were headed for, where the cops couldn’t see her off- leash. Where she could expect a treat to come sliding down the chute in the capsule. Answer: Walgreen’s Drive-thru Pharmacy, U. S. Bank, and MacDonald’s. But not White Castle. So I’d order an extra burger for her. No pickles, please.
The loss hurts for so many reasons. But the one that hits closest to home is most beautifully conveyed in a quote that a good friend sent to me after she heard of Hannah’s passing. It’s by John Galsworthy, a British writer best known for “The Forsyte Saga” and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1932. But you knew that. Here’s the quote. 
“Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives...”
I like that. It is true. He understands. “ many years of our own lives...”
We have not only lost a loved one. We have lost part of ourselves.
My beautiful Golden girl is gone. But somewhere, lodged deep inside me, mingled with memories of a youth immersed in fantasy and science-fiction, of knowing the impossible is sometimes possible, I still wait for that phone to ring.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about Hannah passing. I lost a 12-year-old lab 2 years ago. Slowly the good memories will overwrite the sadness. Thanks for sharing.

  2. As I sit here looking at our 11 year old Golden, you have stirred emotions that I had hoped would be stored out of my mind for the next couple of years, at least.

    Sorry, so sorry, for you loss. You can visit our Goldens if it helps.

  3. Gerry,

    Nicely said, and I love the quote. We went through that with our Golden Retriever Buddy right before Christmas last year.
    Better to have loved though...

  4. I like to envision some huge 'afterlife meadow' where my pets run and play and chase butterflies and the sun is warm and you can smell the grass and a stream meanders nearby...

  5. I will always remember how Hannah settled down on my feet the first time I visited you to start your book. She was always welcome to use my feet for her pillow. I'm sorry she's gone all too quickly.

  6. Gerry,

    Beautiful tribute to a dear, dear friend.

    Janet Riehl

  7. I wish I knew Hannah better than I did, but I am honored to have at least patted her on the head a time or two. Thank you for giving a little piece of her to us, as well. Dogs like that have love so big that we can all feel it through your words.

    xo, Julia

  8. Nice tribute, Gerry.
    I'm sorry.

  9. There is nothing like the loss of a good friend.

    It is said:

    Life is measured not by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

    It seems you and Hannah had many of these moments.
    So sorry for your lopss.

  10. Gerry, this is devastating news. The mystery, to me, is why dogs are limited to only 1/7 of the human lifespan. They are so much wiser, more giving, so infinitely valuable to us in their unconditional caring, so utterly forgiving of our shortcomings. It seems a miscalculation in the nature of things. I knew Hannah and admired her immensely. I grieve with you. Jim

  11. I'm so sorry about your Hannah.

  12. Gerry, what a beautiful tribute to your beloved Hannah. We had to say goodbye to our almost-14-year-old Tiger-Girl just 2 months ago. I share your sorrow. She, too, was such a huge part of our lives, especially mine. I wrote about her on my blog on December 13th, if you care to visit.
    I, too, love the Galsworthy quote.

  13. Your tributes, condolences and sharing of stories shows just how much we love dogs. And, as Jim said, that they are wiser, more giving, unconditional. Thanks for writing, each of you.

  14. So sorry to hear about Hannah. There are few things tougher than making a decision that is, in the final analysis, the ultimate act of kindness we bestow upon our beloved furry family members.