June 10th, 2005

New Look

Happy Birthday, Nugget

On today's date, twenty years ago, Nugget was whelped from his mother, Noel, in Danville, CA.

He came out of the womb a little crooked, and had a leather band around his rear legs to keep them straight when we
went to see him while looking for puppies in late July 1985. He wasn't moving as fast as the other pups in the pack, but he was the cutest one there, and my brother and I fell in love with him. Against mom's objections ("the runt of the litter", she said) we took him home, soon to meet up with our other new dog, Velvet, who was arriving a few hours later.

Our family had set them up as husband and wife, and we eagerly awaited when they would meet up and be the best of friends.

At first they fought constantly, and we were at a loss for what to do. ("They're fighting, see, they've gotta be married!"). After initially separating them, they eventually got along with each other famously, and made one of the best husband-and-wife teams since Bonnie and Clyde.

Nugget and Velvet in their later years, photo from Lawrence, KS in 1996

It turns out Nugget had hip dysplasia, and the vets said he wouldn't live to be five, but he made it to twice that. I remember the vet telling that to us when I was 16, and I spent the night with him in the doghouse as if it was his last night on earth. He had plenty of health problems in his life, but he was a fighter, and every time the vet said that he wasn't going to make it, he somehow would make it through. He was my Comeback Kid. He made it to 13 years old, ancient for a Golden Retriever.

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Dogs, alas, don't live long enough. Even the oldest dogs rarely make it to twenty, a third to a quarter of human's life. Maybe it's true that they are reincarnated, and as their previous owners we get a fleeting glimpse into how they're doing now, but only on their birthdays. If it's true, and if I got to see a small glimpse, I hope you and Velvet are happy, wherever you've landed. I hope that I did a good job and your owners are too, in a world where so many pets are unwanted and thrown away. I know that while both of you are gone and I hold your ashes, your love will never die.

If only Golden Retrievers lived to be twenty, this would be his twentieth birthday, so Happy Birthday, Nugget, wherever you are. As long as I live, even if I get another dog or two someday, I will never forget you and Velvet, and your ashes will be buried with me. You were my everything.
  • Current Music
    "Dust" by Steve Winwood, from Arc of a Diver