Here is a picture of Misty Velvet (left) and Golden Nugget (right), my dogs of over a decade that I had since I was 15. Happy birthday to both of you, wherever you are.
Golden Nugget - June 9, 1985 - June 24, 1998
Misty Velvet - June 19, 1985 - August 24, 1996
(I still remember the dates, from memory)
Tonight I take a break from the moving mayhem and light a candle for Nugget and Velvet to remember them. While Nugget died four years ago, and Velvet died nearly six years ago, they meant everything to me, and the hole in my being still gapes wide from the wrenching loss.
I will miss you both, and don't think I'll ever be the same.
My folks bought Nugget and Velvet in June 1985 and we raised them from young puppies, they were both purebred Golden Retrievers from different litters, Nugget from one in Danville and Velvet from Mill Valley. Originally we got them as a husband-and-wife team (you might say they were betrothed to be married) but ruled out breeding after Velvet's first heat, which was more than we could handle. Brad and Tom might remember the young Nugget and Velvet from those days, when they were just puppies loping around trying to dig under the fence or sleep in the window box meant for growing herbs.
At the time I was a disillusioned angry 15-year old pissed off at the world, and these puppies changed me for life. They gave me unconditional love, and I'd never really loved anything in return before, but they filled out my hollow existence in land of high school wreckage and depression. I sometimes wonder where my life would have turned had these dogs not always been there for me, always seeming to understand when I related to them all my troubles.
The economic crash of the late 80's made my parents take off to Chicago, and our house was sold in my senior year in high school. I went off to college in Kansas and my parents took the dogs to Illinois, where they weren't even allowed in the house. For eight years they lived in a laundry room about 8'x16', not allowed to come into the house or be with the people there. My mom put her foot down at the new house in Chicago and said the dogs were no longer allowed in the house. Nugget and Velvet would always go totally apeshit when I would come back to Chicago and visit the dogs, they were so happy to see me.
I pined for years to get my dogs and be with them again, to liberate them from that crappy little laundry room they spent most of their lives in. I graduated college in four years (and I really, really didn't want to have to do that) because the deal was when I graduated and got a decent-paying job, I could have my dogs. Unfortunately I graduated in 1991 right during the throes of the Bush (Bush I) Recession, and there were no jobs to be found, and the economy was a mess. I worked temp jobs, got a permanent job the next year and worked my way up, and tried to save up for a house. I stayed up to the wee hours of the night working on my Novell Certification so I could make enough money to buy a house, so I could have the dogs.
I actually bought a house in 1994, at age 24, just so I could have the dogs. This was in Kansas, so the house was only $70,000, but when you're only making $34k that's still a lot of money. I used to say that because I bought a house for the dogs, they were $35,000 apiece.
I finally got custody of Nugget and Velvet in July of 1995, after eight years of waiting. We had a great time, and they had free run of my house, anywhere they wanted. No more laundry room restrictions, and I would often just crash out on the floor to be with them. I'd wake up dirty and my back would hurt from sleeping on the floor, but man, I wish I had done that more often.
We had a great time... this was back in Lawrence, Kansas where my house was the party place for just about everyone I knew. We learned how to grill and make the Glenfiddich steak here, and would have big get-togethers to watch KU Basketball games, Connections episodes, movies, and whatever else was going on. And my dogs got to meet all kinds of people and get petted by just about everyone.
Velvet died in August of 1996, of cancer that had started in her spleen and spread throughout all her internal organs, which started to shut down. In two days she went from having a stomach-ache to having the vet tell me that I had to authorize the fatal shot of pentathol to end her life. That was the hardest thing I've ever, ever had to do, and I still hate myself for doing it. It was like saying, "Ok, kill my daughter". Velvet's death was one of the major factors in my deciding to leave Kansas and sell the house, and take the hell off, as my life in Kansas was already collapsing in other ways.
I flew out to California with Nugget in October 1996, and he was the only one I had left. Velvet's death really taught me to enjoy the moments I had left with Nugget, and I tried to spend as much time as I could with him and get lots of pictures. I had never thought about the fact that any time you spend with your pet is borrowed time, and that dogs don't live nearly long enough.
While Velvet went quickly, within three days, Nugget was much more slow and painful. He had all kinds of health problems, but the killer was his kidneys going. When I took him to the vet to have the lump under his tail removed, they did the blood tests and found that his kidney levels were abnormal, and that he would need an IV infusion. We spent all night in Palo Alto at the 24-hour pet emergicenter, and that begun the whole $4000 saga of trying to hold on to Nugget and stave off the kidney disease. I won't go into gory detail here, but after a year and a half, it was over. Nugget was in pain, had lost nearly half his weight, and the vet was once again telling me I had to do it. I covered my eyes and signed the death order to give him the pentahol shot, and went into a tailspin of self-hatred and depression that lasted years.
Nugget had health problems, and the vets said he wouldn't live to see five. He had hip dysplasia, a skin problem, later a tumor under his tail, and finally the kidneys just crapped out. But he showed them, he made it to 13, which is about 91 years old in Golden Retreiver terms.
Nugget's death was far more devestating than when Velvet died, since now I truly had no one to come to. I would stay at work late just to put off having to come home, and when I did come home, I didn't want to be sober, or even on this planet. I spent many a night passed out on the floor after IRCing till the wee hours of the night. So much of this crappy house and its mountains of crud and paraphenelia laying around date back to that collapse, and it still pains me to sort through that stuff now since it reminds me of those days. The part that really killed me was when I picked up his cremated remains from the vet, that made it all so final. I have both my dogs' ashes, and when I go, they will be buried with me. I know that sounds kinda morbid, but that's the way I want it, so they will always be near me.
About a year later, I ended up getting into the furry fandom, and that helped quite a bit. It still isn't the same as having my dogs, but it's been good to talk to people and get more socially involved in things that are going on. But it still can be hard for me, even now if I walk through the pet food aisle of the grocery store I end up in tears coming across the things I used to buy for them. Call it the curse of a good memory. People that don't know me don't understand why I get all emotional when I see golden retreivers, but so many of them remind me of Nugget and Velvet.
Someday, I will get a house again (although I've been priced out of San Jose) and I will have another dog, who knows, maybe two. And maybe I will be whole again. But for now all I can do is light a candle and remember Nugget and Velvet and hope that wherever they are, they are doing well and can remember me and all the love we shared. I don't know if there's a dog heaven or an afterlife, or whatever is out there, but I hope that they are in a happier place where they can chase after sticks and get all the chew-bones they want. I tried to give them that, and I hope they still have something like that going on.
For those of you that have actually read this far without getting bored shitless or teary-eyed, I can give one word of advice. I had taken my dogs for granted when they were younger and thought they would always be around, and didn't spend nearly as much time with them as I should have. I was too much the self-absorbed programmer spending all my time trying to write the world's greatest BBS, and in the end, that didn't mean squat. What really meant something was the time I spent with my dogs, and the walks, crash-out sessions or just sitting with them watching TV, that I can never, ever have again with them. What I would give just to spend five more minutes with them once again, and I can't, not for all the money in the world.
Spend time with your pets and the ones you love, for life is fleeting and that time isn't something you can have back if you miss out on it.
Treasure the time you have with those you love, you only get it once.