My passion for dogs and animal rescue can be rooted in the friendship I had with my first dog named Berkeley.
Growing up my neighbors across the street had golden retrievers and I fell in love with them! My folks wouldn’t let me adopt one of my own, and I vowed that when I could I would adopt a golden. Angel was one of the dogs, and she and I became good pals, as they would let me take her for walks.
2005 came, I had my own home, and it was time to bring a furry friend into my life!
Berkeley was a larger boy golden that I adopted from the Tennessee Valley Golden Retreiver Rescue back in 2005. He was known as a “back yard breed” by one of the rescuers for his size which was larger than your typical golden.
Berkeley loved to play ball, go for walks, and sleep on the couch! He was also food aggressive. One morning I caught him in the compost bin outside, and dumbly I tried to get the moldy bread out of his mouth! Dumb move on my part- he quickly went to town on my hand angrily, causing several cuts…. He immediately felt bad for it and put his tail between his legs…. I was the one at fault… they say never take food out of a dogs’ mouth, and I learned my lesson that morning!
Other thing I loved doing with Berkeley was singing! Did you ever see those old White House clips of LBJ getting his dog to sing? Berkeley had an awesome deep voice- all it took to get him going was for me to start howling… and he’d howl right back! It was hilarious and quite fun!
I loved sleeping with him, though he did take up half the bed!
Berkeley got a companion dog in 2006, a beautiful red head golden we named Betty Joe! And then in 2010 we adopted a third blond elderly golden boy named Michael.
We loved going to the beach. Berkeley had become quite loyal to me to the point where I could let his leash down and not have to worry about him running off. I can’t forget one morning walking along the beach with him, over some craggly rocks, and I fell and hurt my rib… he was like Lassie, ready to help me, patiently waiting for me to get up from my fall. How many other dogs would have just taken off running given the opportunity to explore the sea life leash free!
It was a life of bliss with Berkeley until a day in early November 2010 changed everything.
Berkeley was in the prime of his life, still very active and vivacious. One day he just stopped eating.
We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with this boy who never turned away a meal or a “food opportunity.”
Wes took Berkeley to the vet early in the week and I had to drive to Memphis for work. I worked there for a few days and while there something lingered in me that something was really wrong with Berkeley.
I got the call from Wes that they thought it was cancer, and I immediately drove the 6 hours back to Knoxville to see my family.
I remember walking in and seeing Berkeley in the kitchen, looking at me with those big beautiful eyes. I hugged him and let him know I loved him.
We still didn’t know what his medical situation was but was waiting to hear from the vet about his prognosis.
That Thursday I sat in the conference room working at my office and I received the call from the vet.
Berkeley had lymphoma.
I was crushed. The tears welled up in me and I felt my heart collapse.
The next 10 weeks he underwent several different chemo treatments. The vet said that he would have a good quality of life and could live another year. He did gain his weight back through December- boy did that prednisone make him wanna eat! And he I think was pretty happy- except for those days when he had to go get the chemo.
January came and the news wasn’t good. The chemo wasn’t working anymore and it was just a matter of time before he took a turn for the worse. We continued to spoil him with human food and other treats that he loved.
Last week of January stuff started getting really sad. The weather was cold and there was some snow on the ground. He had stopped eating his food and would pickily eat cheese and other items, but on a very limited basis. One morning we went out to use the bathroom, and I gently tossed the ball a few feet from him. He weakly stumbled to the ball one last time and retrieved it for me. The boy still had it in him spirit wise, but the cancer was killing his physical self.
Thursday night we went to sleep with him sleeping at the foot of my bed. Early the next morning I heard him struggling to stand up. His legs literally were slipping under his big frame and he didn’t have the strength to pull himself up. It was the hardest thing to witness seeing my boy struggle this way. The next two days Berkeley laid around the house, not eating. We knew it was a matter of time before he died.
Saturday came and he still was hanging in there but barely. We both hoped he would just gently pass on to the Rainbow bridge. I left the house around 3 pm to go exercise over at UT to just get away from the pain. Not sure why I did, I today feel selfish for this.
I came home and saw Berkeley laying in the floor, a shadow of himself, and knew we had to take him to a vet to have him put to sleep. We called UT vet hospital who fit us in that evening. Shortly after 7 I carried my boy to the VW station wagon and placed him in the back. I wasn’t crying yet as we made the drive to the hospital.
Upon pulling into the parking lot the realization of what was to occur hit me so hard. Tears are filling my eyes now as I write this. I was overcome with grief as I picked up my boy and brought him in the front door. I was wailing loudly in pain, tears streaming everywhere. The staff quickly gave us a room where we waited for the doctor to come in.
Eventually they took us to a chapel like room where we waited with Berkeley. The doctor came in and began the process of putting him to sleep. They use a certain drug to make him unconscious, and then they administered the second drug that stopped his heart. As the needle went in for the heart stopping drug and as the doctor administered it, Berkeley briefly woke and made a very loud gasp as the drug hit and stopped his heart.
Grief stricken I picked him up and laid him in the cart. The doctor then picked up the handle and steered his body away.
The next months were especially tough for me. Losing a loved one everyone takes differently and I took this loss especially hard. But I wouldn’t trade that pain away for anything in the world- because it represents the depth of my relationship with Berkeley.
Betty and Michael passed away in 2015, and their deaths were very hard to deal with. But man, the love these dogs gave me and the overwhelmingly positive impact they made on my life, I would never trade that away.
I hear folks say that have lost a pet that they can never adopt again- and I respect where they are coming from. But I look at all the homeless pets out there and all that potential love and I know that for the remainder of my life I’m going to have furry friends in my home!