Thursday, July 21, 2011

Remembering Spike

Spike was a handful from the first day he arrived in our home, which was in December 2001. He arrived with a big red bow around his neck...a Christmas present for Matt and Sarah. (more for Sarah) She had been begging for another Golden Retriever since our beloved 15 yr. old Einstein had gone to Dog Heaven. Yes, all dogs DO go to heaven. Buffy was still with us. (she was named after "Buffy" from the popular TV series, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") But since Einstein was gone, Sarah was convinced that Buffy needed a new playmate. And so, like all good parents do...we caved in. And thus, Spike joined our family. (his namesake being another character from the TV series)

It was deep, deep, love at first sight for both Sarah and Spike. We all loved him, but he and Sarah had a special bond. He worshipped the ground she walked on.

Let me see if I can properly describe Spike for you. He was.... B.I.G. Clumsy. Destructive. Mischievous. Funny. Slobbery. (ever see Turner and Hooch? I'm talking drool city here!) Affectionate. Beautiful. Gentle. Sweet. Happy. There was never a more endearing and lovable dog in all the world. He was a gentle giant, who thought he was a chihuahua. Spike was never satisfied to sit and be petted. He had to maul you, jump all over you, climb in your lap, and smother you with wet, slobbery kisses. This was not so bad when he was a puppy, but try it when he weighed 100 pounds! It was a regular practice at our house to have to change clothes after you'd been out with the dogs. There was no way you could go out, even for a few minutes, and return without slobber globs on your entire body. Spike just couldn't help himself!

Because it was mid winter and he was a puppy, Spike needed to sleep where it was not brutally cold.

So, he slept in a playpen for a few short weeks until

...well, you can see how that was working out.

It wasn't long until he joined Buffy outside. Spike grew...and grew...and grew.

Sarah, Spike, and Buffy

Spike With His Teddy Bear

Spike adored Buffy. Buffy tolerated Spike. We often got THE LOOK from Buffy. You know, the one that says, "And why did you do this to me? I was perfectly fine by myself." Spike pestered her to death...but never in a dominant way. She was most certainly "The Boss," but he drove her nuts. Either he wanted to play or he just had to be near her at all times. There was no escape for poor Buffy. :-)

Spike and His Buffy Pillow

Spike was also a chewer, especially of wood. I think he may have been a termite in a previous life. ;-) He chewed the wood deck. He chewed the wood trim around the back window. He chewed sticks, branches, 2x4's, trees, and anything else he could find - wood or not. He destroyed I don't know how many pair of shoes. Toys lasted less than a day. We awoke one winter morning to a yard of fresh fallen snow...oh wait, that wasn't snow. It was the stuffing from two giant, fluffy, chew- proof L.L. Bean dog beds we bought - so Buffy and Spike would have something warm and soft to sleep on. I'm guessing there was no sleeping that night. And for the record, L.L. Bean, your beds are NOT chew-proof. From then on, their beds were Dollar Store rugs or blankets that had to be replaced every month or so. Strangely, we rarely got mad at him. He was just so darn cute and comical, it was hard to ever be angry with him...or at least for very long.

Spike and One of His Many Shoes

Spike and Sarah

There's just nothing like fresh, cool dirt...according to Spike. We had no landscaping in the backyard. No flowers. No special trees. No potted plants. Just dirt beds. Spike was NOT a "pretty yard" kind of dog. One summer day, an unexpected water leak in the backyard proved to be a great source of fun for Spike. He was such a mess, even Buffy ran for cover in the hollow of an old stump!

This was one of his finer moments...

Spike was many things, but coordinated was not one of them. He was the only Golden Retriever I've ever seen who had to be taught to swim. While Buffy was a pool rat, and a very spoiled one (see below), Spike mostly enjoyed sitting on the pool steps and observing all the action from afar. However, anytime Buffy was floating on her raft, he couldn't resist swimming/or actually half sinking all around her, as he tried to join her on the raft. He could never quite get the hang of climbing on...nearly drowning himself, as he swam in circles around Buffy, until one of us rescued him. :-0 However, Buffy had it down to an art. She would even drag the raft to the pool and get on it herself. We spent one summer keeping her slathered (is that a word?) in sunscreen because her coat was shaved too short and she would blister as she floated for hours. In all his clumsy glory, Spike still considered himself quite the stud

...a very cool dog indeed.
loved to play...oh, how he loved to play. Buffy did too, but not 24/7. When she wouldn't cooperate, Spike would pick at her until she either gave in or snapped his head off. She could put him in his place when she wanted to. Funny thing is, he was so massive, he could have torn her to shreds if he wanted to, but he rarely snapped back at her. Such a good-natured and sweet boy he was. One of his favorite things games was to convince Buffy (translate into harrass her until she finally gave in just to get it over with) to play with him, then he would run off with the toy and hide in a corner so she couldn't take it back. Most of the time he would plop his front feet and head up in a chair to keep Buffy away, but he was also fond of squeezing himself behind the gate.

Being outside dogs, Buffy and Spike didn't spend much time in the house. The few times we let them in (usually when Rick wasn't home) *snicker*, Spike would head straight for Sarah's room, grab a stuffed animal off her bed, and come back...always with this monkey. I don't know why it was his favorite, for there were many others to choose from. If I'm not mistaken, Ayla now plays with this same monkey - a precious keepsake from Sarah's and Spike's youth.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Spike. He was one of the most beautiful Golden Retrievers I've ever seen...inside and out.
The inevitable time came when Matt and Sarah grew up, moved away, got married and began lives of their own. Spike and Buffy remained at home with Rick and I, but life just wasn't the same for them without Matt or Sarah around. Nothing ever stays the same. Seasons of life begin to shift. Things change. Everything seemed to happen at once...doesn't it always? Rick and I decided to build a house in the country, the health of both my parents began a downward spiral and Matt and Sarah were no longer at home...not a good combination for two very lovable, playful, active dogs. We did the best we could at juggling all of the changes taking place. I'll try and make the rest of this very long story, short.

Rick and I moved into our new house. We built a large pen for Buffy and Spike, though it was nothing like the fenced acre they had before. We really couldn't let them roam free, as we are close to the woods, we have cattle, and the highway is near...but my heart broke at having to keep them in a pen. You've heard, "when it rains, it pours"? It came a monsoon. My dad passed away (cancer), my mom was ill (cancer), she passed away 17 months after my dad, Buffy had to be put down (cancer), and Sarah was going through her health/infertility struggles.

In the midst of all of this, we were still trying to balance everyday family/life/job/ responsibilities. You can imagine that Spike, being alone now, was feeling somewhat neglected...and rightly so. We simply did not have time or energy to spend with him. He deserved much more than what we had to offer at this time. For a while, we made do, letting him out and giving him extra attention when we could. His needs were always met, but living in a pen with plenty to eat and drink, and having a big cozy doghouse certainly did not = being loved on, as he so deserved. Whenever Matt, Sarah and their families came to visit, Spike was in a state of bliss, for that meant companionship, love, and attention.

Spike Playing in the Pond

Loving on Sarah

As time went by, I began to feel more and more guilty about Spike's situation. And that's when God sent an angel to rescue me from my guilt and Spike from his pen. My good friend, Karla McCool had been a prayer warrior and a great help to me during the illness and loss of my mother. She would come out to the house from time to time just to visit and encourage me when I was down. She began to take an interest in Spike and asked if she could come over and let him out once in a while to play. This arrangement soon turned into, "Charlie and I would like to have Spike if you would be interested in letting us have him. We have other dogs he can play with, he can roam on the farm instead of being penned up and we will love him and take good care of him. Plus, you and Sarah can come over to see him anytime." How could I say no to that? Spike would have a great home, dog friends, and freedom! It hurt to think of letting him go, but I knew it would be the best thing for him. All I had to do was convince Sarah that it was in his best interest to do this. She reluctantly agreed and the day soon came for Spike to move to his new home...only 7 miles away!

I still remember the day Karla and Charlie came to get him. It was a cold, cloudy day filled with mixed emotions as I hugged Spike, helped load him in their truck, and waved goodbye to that ball of energy, love and Gentle Giant.

Spike had a wonderful home. He was happy. He had dog friends. He spent many hours running through the pasture, playing with other dogs, and swimming in ponds. And, Sarah and I went to see him and love on him from time to time. Spike was always very happy to see us. But, he really lit up when Sarah was there. Seems they still had that special bond that no one else shared.

It was evident that he was happy with his new home. He had...and we had the best of both worlds. As hard as it had been, we always knew we had made the right decision. We were so grateful to Karla and Charlie for being Spike's rescue angels!

Last week, Karla called me to say that Sarah and I might want to come see Spike, which we did...several times. Each day knowing it would soon be time to let him go once again. Spike was 11 years old, and apparently cancer had invaded his aging body, and was spreading very quickly. Have I mentioned that I hate cancer?

He was such a sweet dog. And he was fortunate to have been loved by not just one family, but two. I will always feel a twinge of guilt for not being able to give him the attention he deserved after we moved, even though our circumstances were beyond my control. And I will forever be grateful for Karla and Charlie, who took him and loved him and made his last few years happy ones, because that's just the kind of people they are. And even though Spike was no longer our dog, Karla and Charlie made sure we were still involved in his life and in his final days. Saying goodbye is never easy. Spike was lovingly let go for the last time on Thurs, July 21.

He will be greatly missed.


(taken about 5 months ago on one of my visits)
See that big smile on his face? He really was happy...and that makes me happy.