I should have known better, wouldn’t you think? I was already outnumbered. Why would I willfully and intentionally let my opponents (my wife and two daughters) run up the score when daughter Abbey asked to get a puppy?
Beginning in August 1992, Susan had me outnumbered 1-1. Then Abbey made it 2-1 in February 1997. And Allie trebled the damage in November 1999. (Note: We do have Chief, and he is a male. But he’s a cat, with a mind of his own. He doesn’t count in this equation.) Surely, I knew better than to add one more against me.
That’s it. I would put my foot down: No puppy (or at least can it be a male?)!
A Golden Retriever
So in July 2007 we were driving all over the Greater Kansas City area looking at female Golden Retriever puppies. Abbey had always wanted a dog, so when she turned ten Susan and I gave her a list of tasks and told her if she accomplished them, she could have a dog. Up to that point in her life she had never completed those chores (and I don’t think she has since) but she wanted a dog, so she buckled down and succeeded.
Abbey read all that she could about breeds. She studied how to train them. And she and I together researched area breeders. Abbey set her sights on getting a Golden Retriever, and we found a few places in Missouri and Kansas to visit.
Rosie was born in June 2007. We met her shortly thereafter, on one of our scouting trips. Jennifer, a trainer who was a patient of Susan’s, gave us some great tips in helping select the right puppy from the litter. At the wonderful breeder’s home in Peculiar, MO, the pup with light cream collar passed all the tests. Peaches, on the other hand, did not, and liked to bark. Abbey liked Cream, but she also liked Peaches (because, of course, Peaches barked). For some reason, I won out on this, and Cream was the choice. We had a few more weeks before we could bring her home, but our search was over.
Rosie officially made it 4-1 in our household on August 15, 2007 (the 15th wedding anniversary for Susan and me). And she had me wrapped around her little tail immediately. Theoretically she was Abbey’s dog. Abbey had wanted her. She had done all of her chores for her. She had researched her. She had proven she was responsible enough for a puppy. But I’ll be darned if Rosie wasn’t a little daddy’s girl.
Nonetheless, Abbey continued on with the façade that Rosie was her dog. The two of them spent hours and hours and hours together, learning to sit and high five, to obey commands, to not run off, etc. Uncle Max built some agility course devises, and Rosie weaved through poles, and jumped through hoops, and went up and down the seesaw, and through the tunnel. The goal was to eventually become the Kansas City area agility course champion, and to pass the Canine Good Citizen test. Alas, that portion of the tests that would require Rosie’s full attention to the task at hand would lead her astray, but she and Abbey had a blast working toward the goal.
Life of the Party
Rosie loved family get-togethers. She loved her aunts, and her uncles, and her cousins, and her grandparents. Though usually well mannered, she would kind of stray during such events, especially around the dinner table. She loved to steal food when big dinners were held, though truth-be-told, I don’t think she had to work too hard to “steal” from the grandmas.
Rosie loved the water. Swimming pools were fun, but the lake was the best. She loved to chase Abbey down the Lakewood docks, jumping in after a ball or toy or Abbey or a friend. She’d paddle back to land, climb up the bank, then roll around in the grass and dirt. Then she’d do it all again until she was worn out.
Rosie disliked the heat. In the summer, she’d find shade to protect her big, furry body from the sun. She especially liked the tall grasses and landscaping off the backyard patio. In the winter, when the furnace would cycle on, she’d head for the doggy-door off the kitchen onto the deck. I often reminded our neighbors that the sight of Rosie laying in the snow on our deck was not the sign of cruelty. It was the sign of love, as she had a door she could re-enter at any time. She simply preferred the cold.
Rosie loved our neighborhood walks. And the neighborhood walkers, who she was sure were all walking by to come visit her. We put in an expensive underground fence, put up all the little flags to mark its existence, and went through all the training to teach her the boundaries. The true test came when a neighbor couple walked up the street with their dog. Rosie saw them approach, cycled the training through her mind about how close to get to the barrier … then sprinted to the other side of the street to greet the neighbors. Rosie 1, Fence 0. And that was the end of that expensive investment.
Rosie loved chasing rabbits and squirrels and ducks and geese. Later in life, all of that activity earned her a Canine Cruciate Ligament Surgery on her left knee. The cone of shame … the rehab … the cost … she loved it all so much, she was on her way to needing another one on her right knee. But for the most part, she could still get around well. She still loved to swim. She rode paddleboards this summer with Abbey. She loved to play with her new neighbor dog friend Lance. And she still ran to the door when the bell rang, seeing who the lucky one to pet her was going to be this time.
She Saw a Lot of Changes
As Rosie grew, so did the life experiences of our family. That first ride home to our house came on our 15th wedding anniversary in an SUV that would be mine, then Abbey’s, then Allie’s, and now mine again. I think I reverted to the 270,000-mile hand-me-down in no small part so I could drive Rosie and her fur around without having to worry about messing up a newer car.
Rosie saw Abbey grow from a 10-year-old first-time dog-owner to a teenager with a boyfriend to a car driver to a high school graduate to a college student body president. But the love between dog and girl never wavered. This winter break, they picked right back up where they left off at Thanksgiving. They played in the snow. Rosie sneaked up to Abbey’s room at night, sore knee and all. They visited family and friends and Starbucks drive-thrus. They were a great team as always.
The Daily Routine
Rosie and Susan and I had our routine. When folks asked us about being empty nesters — with Abbey and Allie both off to college, and Chief off in his own cat land – weren’t we having trouble adjusting? And the answer was an emphatic, “No!” We visited the girls in Fort Worth and Columbia often. But most of all, we always add someone at home to talk to, and that was Rosie.
I spend most nights in my home office, where I am now. Rosie would spend time drifting from her bed in here to her bed in the kitchen to the outside deck to the living room with Susan. Sometimes she’d come to my chair for an ear scratch or to let me know it was time to go out, but usually I knew when it was time. For bedtime, I used to close the door to my office so Rosie could sleep in here without waking me up in the night. But during one of my business trips, Rosie convinced Susan that she shouldn’t have to sleep in the office, so that ended that.
I’d get up each morning at 5 am to let Rosie outside. She’d come back quickly for breakfast. At the food container in the laundry room, Rosie would get two kibbles as an appetizer, then I’d place two “Easter eggs” on the floor for her to find later. We’d then run some water over the food, microwave it for 8 seconds, and breakfast was served. I’d head back to bed to watch the news and dose off, then get back up at 6:30 am for work after our morning walk. Sometimes on weekends, Susan would do the 6:30 walk, after which Rosie would run in to greet me in bed, then steal my socks laying by the bed and run off to my faux, “Bring back my socks” exclamation.
On Saturdays, we’d drive the old SUV to the “biscuit banks.” We’d make a deposit or two from our businesses in one bank, then head to our personal bank for a deposit or maybe a little cash. At each stop, we’d also withdraw a biscuit – though, come to think of it, Rosie never, ever made a deposit … only withdrawals. Some of the tellers knew Rosie well, so we’d do an overdraft that day and get a couple biscuits. Rosie wasn’t worried about her credit, though, or her girlish figure, so the overdrafts didn’t bother her.
For years, Susan and my days were divided in increments. If Aunt Kathy or the Grandmas or Abbey or Allie weren’t letting Rosie out at lunch, Susan or I would come home to do so. In the evenings, we were either home with Rosie and/or planning with Abbey and Allie to let her out, or making sure we were home in time to take care of Rose. And when we were home, we were always talking to Rosie like the family member she was … or petting her or scratching her ear or rubbing her belly. Though quiet, her presence filled our home, and nobody was ever alone here.
Rosie came into our lives on her terms. She announced her presence and stole her way into our hearts. She was a great companion for Abbey for over half of Abbey’s life. They were a great team. For Allie, Rosie learned to defer to the cat, Chief. Early on, he let Rosie know who was boss, and Rosie obeyed, and that pleased Allie. Rosie loved Susan, and Susan loved her. Susan couldn’t make a meal without sharing a strawberry or apple or some other healthy item with Rosie. Many hours were spent with Susan preparing food at the counter, and Rosie close by, respectfully offering to clean up any crumbs.
And for me, Rosie was a steady companion, a good listener, a good ‘acceptor’ of ear scratches and belly rubs, a good stealer of socks, my walking partner and my car-riding companion. She was a good girl.
Rosie made sure Abbey had a good winter break at home. She made sure that she and I had fun last Saturday, enjoying the outdoors and talking to the neighbor and playing with her friend Lance. Then she let Grandma and Grandpa and Susan and me visit Allie in Columbia on Sunday, while the Grandma Lea had a good visit and brought a few snacks. And on Monday, she and I and Susan had one more routine day of 5 am wakeup and breakfast, 6:30 am walk, seeing us off to work, greeting me for lunch, and giving me a hearty welcome home. We then had our usual walk around the yard, a run into the house when I said, “Let’s eat,” an impromptu game of “hide the kibbles in the Kong toy,” a visit to the cool deck, and a nap on her bed.
After all of that was done – after everything was just right — Rosie succumbed to the cancers that we didn’t even know she had. On Monday, January 28, 2019, as she was nearing her 12th birthday, Rosie left and our nest became emptier.
We miss her dearly. While she was quiet and gentle, her presence filled our home, and her absence is deafening.
All those years ago, you would have thought that I would have known better, wouldn’t you? But I’m so glad I didn’t. Rest easy, Good Girl.