Unconditional Love




Carly with her clipped swimmer’s coat

Drove to the Vet today with Carly, our Golden Retriever, and came home without her. We had adopted Carly from a shelter. She had a good life before arriving at the shelter, except for losing her left eye to cancer at age three. We owned a Golden before, her name was Ginger. She was put to sleep before reaching age twelve; went blind, deaf, and then her organs started shutting down. But then this isn’t about Ginger.

Her owner was an elderly man who walked Carly every morning at the same time. When they passed a neighbor’s house, Carly knew to stop at the gate if the inside front door was open, she’d bark, the lady would come out, and give her a Milk Bone. Suddenly, several days passed and the lady had not seen Carly or her owner, but his  truck was there. She dialed 911. Police came and found the old man lying on the kitchen floor dead. It appeared he had fallen and hit his head on the counter. Carly was lying on him; she’d licked his wound clean.

The neighbor tried to keep Carly, but she had two dogs of her own and Carly was what some folks would refer to as an “Alpha Dog.” Reluctantly, she turned her over to a local “no-kill” shelter, she was eight years old.

We lived on a lake with another dog, a crazy Australian Shepherd named Zeke, who was also from a shelter. We had talked about getting another Golden as they are wonderful, loving, friendly dogs, and they love water — we lived on a small private lake. Nancy was scanning the shelters online one day and there was Carly. That afternoon we drove to shelter, took one look at her, and she looked at us with her one eye — it was love at first sight.

Surprisingly, she did not like the lake, obviously her previous owner had never taken her to a pond or such. The first time I took her in the water with me she was scared, trembling. But the inbred instincts took over and in a matter of minutes she was swimming like an Olympian.

When anyone, especially the grand kids, were in the water, Carly was there keeping her one eye on them. Soon , she could not be kept out of the water, regardless of the time of the year. Being a retriever, she loved it when the kids would throw a ball as far out in the lake as they could. She would run, dive off the dock, and return with the ball. Then the fun would begin, she’d bring it back, but they had to chase her down to get it; that was the fun part for Carly.

In our lake, were large fresh-water mussels (inedible I was told, and I never tried). Soon, one of the grand kids found that if they threw a mussel in the water near shore, Carly would walk around on her hind legs until she felt it, then dive underwater and retrieve it. As this new game progressed, I became amazed at how long she could stay underwater. I timed her once  —  72 seconds, longer than could any of the young grand kids!

Carly aged along with Nancy and I. Finally, like he me, she started to show signs of Arthritis, not the typical hip dysplasia found in many large breeds. This past year it became worse week by week. Our Vet in IL prescribed some shots, but was to no avail. Finally the Vet suggested Tramadol as she expected she was in pain. We’d take Carly and Zeke  with us on the morning walks, but as time went on, Carly’s capable distance grew shorter and shorter.

During the past year she became unable to accommodate stairs without some help with the hind quarters. Then it became difficult for her to walk, and to even stand. For the past few weeks, I would wrap a towel under her hind quarters and help her outside to take care of business.

Finally, Nancy and I decided it was time. We drove to the Vet today, got her into the office with the help of the towel under her bottom. I sat on the floor with her as they gave her a shot to relax her.  As her breathing slowed, she looked up at me with that one eye and laid her head down as though to say ‘Bye Dad.”

Then the fatal injection. Her brain and her heart stopped. I tried, oh how I tried, to fight back the tears, but couldn’t.

Why is it we become so attached to pets? Some would say, “their just animals.” No they are not — their family. Animals are precious, God’s gift to the world. They love you so much. I miss Carly so much, but I know she is better off than she was this morning as I all but carried her 75 pounds out to the car. She will be cremated and on my next trip to that house on the lake she enjoyed so much, I will spread her ashes off the swimming dock.  She was 15 years and 3 months old, she had a good life, and she provided Nancy and I with eight years of unconditional love.

Why is my keyboard so wet?

10 thoughts on “Unconditional Love”

  1. As you had mentioned, Colonel, the animals in our lives are family and when we lose them we do grieve just as if it was a human family member. I know that back in 2013 when Smokie, my Schnauzer, went across the Rainbow Bridge it was a day that tore my hear out as I had her for 12 years and what a friend, family member, and companion she was to me.

  2. I was out yesterday when this came and didn’t get to read it until now. I know the blessing of having such love in my life and still mourn my most beloved of the past years. You have my deepest sympathy Jim and I believe we will see them again because after all, what would heaven be without our loving 4 legged family with us. I live in a small town and it breaks my heart how cold and cruel many here can be. Like you I don’t know what I would do—or maybe I do know and it scares me–if I ever saw someone harming a helpless animal. I’m old enough to remember when it was a common belief that animals and children didn’t really feel pain. Many here must still believe that. Every animal I have ever had has been a stray that I took in. There is no greater love then the love of an animal. They don’t judge or doubt. They are truly pure love on earth. We are the lucky ones to have had them in our lives.

    1. Hazel, you are right on all counts. I know I am supposed to be “not as lean, not as mean, but still a Marine,” but when it comes to animals I have always been “not as mean.” Nancy always tells people that I would wreck our car to stop from running over a squirrel, and while that may not be true literally, it certain is figuratively. Anyone that has never experienced the love of an animal has no idea what they are missing in their life. Thank you Hazel

  3. Semper Fi Marine! Wow, to quote The Grinch (Jim Carrey) “And I’m leaking”……..we had to put down our Reilly three weeks before Christmas, the wife and I are still grieving his loss. It is simply amazing to me that a four-legged creature could leave such a tremendous hole in your life with their passing.

    1. I fully understand Pat. The folks I feel for are those that never experienced that unconditional love. But then, maybe they are of the type that wouldn’t understand it. Until this last move we have always lived rural, and in one case (MT), I mean RURAL, pop 17. And it always amazed me how some people could be so crude, mean-spirited, and unloving to drop off their “pet” in the rural hinterlands and expect it to survive. The poor thing would stay there forever waiting for its owner to come pick it up. Finally one of us would retrieve it and adopt it or turn it over to a shelter. I always wondered what I would do if I ever caught someone doing that. I just don’t know what I’d do!

  4. Dear Jim,

    I am so sorry about your loss of Carly. As dog lovers, we, unfortunately, are well acquainted with the pain of saying goodbye. It’s very tough.

    Just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you. Thanks for sharing your beautiful tribute to Carly.

    Semper Fidelis,

    Rick Lottie

Please leave a comment on this post or on any subject; all are appreciated. Thank you and Semper Fi, Jim