Red was a beautiful girl, no doubt because of her striking ginger colored hair. She was always a lady who often loved to wander aimlessly for hours just enjoying the sights and sounds of the world around her. She was a very good friend, loyal beyond imagination and her gentleness was such that every member of my family loved her. When she was with me I felt special. She hung on my every word like nobody I had ever known. I was enchanted with her. Heck, even my neighbors got to know her and they too fell for her magnetic personality.
I remember a time when I was quite ill with the flu, dizzy from a high fever that seemed to be burning my very brain. Red sat right next to me all day long, keeping watch as I went in and out of sleep. It was comforting to see her there attempting to conceal her worry with a weak smile. Somehow I felt that her vigilance was more than enough to pull me through. She was like that, ever faithful and devoted.
On another occasion Red lost one of her long time friends. Her grief was so all consuming that she could barely eat. She moped listlessly for weeks and all I could do to comfort her was to hug her and assure her that everything would eventually be okay. It pained me to see her hurting but it also convinced me that she was quite special and that her feelings were incredibly selfless and real.
Red loved my two girls. She was as protective of them as I was but she also loved to frolic with them, disregarding all notions of dignified behavior. She rolled and wrestled with them on the floor causing them to laugh with unabashed glee. She raced them through the yard and played catch anytime that they wished. She was totally at their beck and call and when they had bored of playing with her she would smooth her hair and revert to the magnificently genteel ladylike behavior that so defined her and sit quietly listening to my rambling conversations.
Still there were aspects of Red that seemed almost contradictory to the cultured image that she generally portrayed. She was always up for a swim and she could hunt with the best of them. It seemed to be part of her DNA to be swift of foot and unusually alert to the comings and goings of nature’s creatures.
As Red got older her scarlet colored hair became more and more tinged with white. She moved slowly and the old energy that had always marked her spirit had faded. Arthritis plagued her joints and I suspected that her hearing was going away rather rapidly. It saddened me to see her in such a state but she continued to attempt to be her old self. Most of the time though she was just too weary to run or play with children as she once did and sadly she often drifted off into an old person’s kind of sleep even in the middle of the day.
It was only when my daughter Catherine brought a child named Maggie to visit that Red found some of her old verve. She was captivated by the little one and seemed intent on forcing herself to rollick as she might have done when she was so magnificent. Maggie didn’t realize that Red was struggling to keep up with her. She only felt the gentle love that Red always exuded and she delighted in the attention from her new older friend.
One day I learned that Red had cancer that was incurable. I was devastated and filled with emotions and memories of all of the good times that we had shared. Our whole family was engulfed in sadness as we so helplessly watched her grow weaker and weaker. It embarrassed her to be in such a state. She didn’t want us to see her like that but I was determined to be there for her just as she had always been for me.
I was with her on her final night. I held her has she moaned in pain and her breathing became more and more shallow. Now and again I grew so tired that I momentarily fell asleep. If my arms slipped from embracing her, she would begin to cry and that frightened and plaintive sound awakened me to take proper watch once again. At some point during that long and horrific night I fell into a deep exhausted slumber. When I awoke Red was perfectly still. Her chest no longer rose and fell. The color was gone from her face. She had died.
I sobbed uncontrollably as I realized that I would never again have those wonderful moments of unconditional trust and love that I had shared with Red for so long. As I gave the terrible news to each member of my family they in turn were devastated. It is never easy to lose such a great companion. Our grief would hang over the household for weeks.
At Christmastime that year I threw my emotions into decorating my home and preparing for the annual celebrations but I was still thinking of Red. Catherine was there with Maggie helping me to complete the chore of trimming the tree that had always been such a delight but was difficult that year because of Red’s passing. As we placed one ornament after another on the branches Catherine came across a trinket that she had made as a child. It was created from an old Christmas card and it featured a lovely photograph of Red back in the days when she was still vibrant and beautiful. Catherine burst into tears as she clutched the worn and tattered memento. When she held it up for me to see, I too lost my composure and cried. The two of us released the pain that we had been trying so fruitlessly to conceal while little Maggie looked on in wonder.
Our hearts eventually healed but we never forget how much Red had meant to us. I still gently place the old paper ornament with her picture on my Christmas tree each year and I remember what a great lady she truly was. Red was as fine a pet as any family ever had. She was a sweet golden retriever who was our friend, our protector, our playmate and a member of our family. She was a wonderful dog.