AKA: The Go 2 Pup
Written in loving memory, by Willie's human, Jim Moore
Willie, my golden retriever, died Sept. 7. Like other dog owners, I talked to him all the time, never truly knowing if he comprehended anything I was saying. Even though he's gone, there are a few more things I want to tell him:
Hey Willie, so what am I supposed to do now? After 13 years of having you by my side, in my Ridgeline, beside our bed, in every family setting I can think of?
I've been a zombie since you died, not knowing what to do with myself. Drove to Cannon Beach to spend my first full day without you. Weird to not have you running around, jumping in the surf, chasing seagulls, wondering when I'd give you a bite of whatever I was eating.
I had to leave the house because everything reminded me of you -- your dog door, your water dish, your three beds, your toys, your leashes that I rarely used until I had to when you went blind. I don't know whether to put those things away or keep them out. For now, we're keeping everything the way it was when you were here.
But even at the beach, I couldn't really get away. There was a dog that dug holes in the sand just like you used to do. Another that was chasing tennis balls. And two more that were fun-loving golden retrievers, one that had to be admonished when he broke free and stuck his nose into another family's picnic lunch. Remind you of anyone?
Doesn't seem possible that 13 years passed just like that, 13 years since we picked you up at Robinswood Park when you were 6 weeks old. You were the runt of Al and Tina Bass' litter. You had no purebred papers, which meant you would never win anything at dog shows, a perfect companion for an award-losing journalist. But you were the best $250 I've ever spent.
Brooke was 12 then, the same age her brothers are now. You were too young to remember, but she was so excited, smiling as she held you close to her face. She was anxious to take you home and teach you some of the stuff she learned in her "Golden Retrievers for Dummies" book. I joked that you would need a "Dummies for Golden Retrievers" book to help you deal with us too.
We named you Willie after Willie Mays, my favorite player as a kid, and Willie Bloomquist, an infielder with the Mariners. We lived in Port Orchard at the time, and that's where Bloomquist grew up. It all seemed to fit just right.
And yes, you were the Go 2 Pup -- a nickname as lame as mine, but I was the Go 2 Guy at the Post-Intelligencer and you followed the Go 2 Dog as the second terrific golden retriever in our home.
I hope you enjoyed all the adventures we took together as much as I did. I loved to watch you swim, and you dog-paddled all over the place, from Lake Tahoe to Lake Louise.
You slept in the back seat, sat in the passenger seat and frequently put your paws on the console and head through the sunroof - I always got a kick out of seeing your jowls flap in the wind.
If the hotels weren't dog friendly, remember how we used to smuggle you in? Running down hallways and up the stairs, trying to avoid housekeepers or anyone else who might blow our cover.
You went to every one of Mikey and Stevie's baseball games, and I know you remember one in particular. The boys were probably 8 at the time, and a kid from another team was heading toward second base. Then for some reason, you ran and tackled the kid and started doing that dog-mounting thing. The kid got hurt from falling, he was crying, his mom rushed onto the field, I said sorry a million times, and I scolded you but laughed all the way home.
Why'd you do that? We got you fixed when you were a puppy! But that's the way you greeted the neighbor kid, Jake, every time you saw him.
And what crossed your mind when you were in the Ridgeline the night of Brooke's 16th birthday party, in the parking lot outside of Buca di Beppo? A guy smashed the passenger window and stole my laptop, but he left you alone. Did you snarl and try to save my laptop? Or did you wonder why the thief left without petting you and giving you a treat? You were a golden retriever, I think I know what happened.
There was a big difference between you and Murphy, the Go 2 Dog. I grew older with him too, but with you, we shared the same aches and pains. We went from running to walking on trails, and lounging more than we did when we were younger.
Boy do I wish you'd caught an airplane, but you never did. You loved chasing and barking at them, and there was one night when you scared me, bolting after a plane that was in its final approach to the Moscow-Pullman Airport and nearly got hit by two cars on Bishop Boulevard.
But then your hearing started to go, and the planes would take off and land without you noticing. Then you lost your eyesight. I knew your eyes were getting cloudy and thought it was cataracts – I'd just take you in, get them removed, and you'd be good to go.
But that wasn't the case. You had a golden retriever disease called Pigmentary Uveitis that turned into glaucoma. I went from hearing you would go blind in three to six months to seeing it happen in two weeks.
I could tell that going blind was hard and confusing for you. We had your eyes removed because we were told it would eliminate the probability of constant headaches from pressure in your sockets.
But as difficult as it was, you were an inspiration to all of us, watching you adapt, going up and down the stairs, learning to get around. I was thrilled the day you figured out how to go from the laundry room to the garage, through your dog door to the yard and back again.
Even after you went blind, I kept taking you with me like always. Things had changed for you, but I didn't want things to change for us. You did great, and your nose worked unbelievably well right 'til the end.
All things considered, I thought you were doing fairly well for a 13-year-old golden retriever. When I took you to Alpine Animal Hospital two weeks ago, I intended to get more pain medication to help you with arthritis in your spine. That's what I thought was causing your increased fatigue.
But I was told by Dr. Allison that it was much more serious than that. Your red-blood cell count was supposed to be 40 or higher, but yours was at 16, and vital organs are adversely impacted at that level.
Your veins were collapsing and your blood wasn't clotting properly. There were issues with your blood flow and white-blood cell count too.
I could have run more tests and put you through a lot of different things, and the cost didn't matter as much as what Dr. Allison was telling me in so many words -- we had reached the time when I was forced to make a quality of life decision for you.
I called Dr. Allison five days after you died, asking him to tell me everything about your condition, wanting him to reaffirm the decision I made. He did, but I still will never know if it was the right one or not. I will always hope that it was.
I saw the signs, Willie, but I probably didn't want to admit it. You grew less interested in your toys. You could take or leave the treats from Mud Bay, treats you used to devour. You weren't smiling and your tail wasn't wagging. The last week, I had to carry you up the stairs. And three days before you died, I wish I hadn't taken you on a family walk. That was the day I knew the end was near – you went maybe 50 yards across the Cedar River bridge and stopped to lay down. It was just too much. Through tears, I carried you back to the truck.
On our last trip to the vet, we wanted you to have a great last meal so we stopped at McDonald's and you polished off those triple cheeseburgers and ice cream cone like a champ.
I wanted to make sure you had one more ice cream cone because you loved them. I took a video of you eating one five years ago, and the thing went viral, Willie - it's nice to know that so many people have gotten to see how cool you were.
I don't know what you were thinking when they wheeled you in, but we were there with you – Kathie, Brooke, Mikey, Stevie and I. After we left, we went to La Fuente, but two jumbo Cadillac Margaritas did nothing to ease the pain.
So here I am, Willie, two weeks later, looking for distractions, trying to keep myself together long enough to get through work every day. Right when I think I'm making progress, I'll suddenly start crying again – it happened again today as I was jogging down a road on Squak Mountain.
I'm trying to remind myself of what Peter King, the SI.com NFL reporter, wrote about his golden retriever when he died:
"It's a pretty good trade, 159 months of companionship, friendship and unconditional love for one or three months when sadness creeps in. The easiest way to not feel this grief is to never have a dog. And what an empty life that would be."
That sums it up perfectly, Willie, and you made it 159 months too, more than most golden retrievers. We got some really good bonus time together.
And guess what, you remember Danny, that lovable goof I work with at the radio station? He's rounding up contributions for a donation that will go to an Alpine Animal Hospital fund for those who need financial help to take care of their pets. I'm also going to spread the word about Pigmentary Uveitis so other golden retriever owners can avoid what we went through.
I'm incredibly sad now as a two-time golden retriever griever, but I'll be OK eventually, or so everyone tells me.
As long as I have the Ridgeline, I will drive around with two of your favorite friends, Butch and Mr. Bill. I chuckled every time I heard Mr. Bill say "Oh no!" when you played with him. I hope they will keep your spirit alive in the back seat.
When we went out of town, I'd tell my friends you were a "trip enhancer." Truth is, Willie, you were much more than that, a life-enhancer every day I was lucky enough to call you my dog.