Saturday, July 2, 2011


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I guess you know what this is about by the title of this blog entry.  If you have followed this blog at all you will know the impact Douglas has had on my life since we became partners seven years ago.  Our relationship goes far beyond the average relationships between humans and their dogs.  He was a special friend who became one with my heart. 

When I moved to Tennessee over seven years ago, I was fortunate to gain a position with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.  The position required driving a 18 foot boat on Melton Hill and Ft Loudon Lakes.   It was a lonely job at times and I felt it would be really neat to have a partner;  a dog.  He would have to be able to swim and have a good, even temperament.   I found Douglas in the little town of Greenback.   He was a dog up for adoption.  A lady had him in the rear of a used baby clothes store named The Emperors Nearly New Clothes.   I explained the type dog I was looking for and she brought out a mix Golden Retriever, something else, named Romeo.  He was darling but, he didn't strike the right cords inside me.  Then she said she had one more puppy to show me.  She brought out a Golden Retriever puppy named Douglas.
I knew right away that this puppy was the one for me.  I didn't commit right away but, told the proprietor I would go home and think about it awhile.  I wanted to be certain this was the right little guy for me.
I left and went home.  I lived in a cabin type shack on Smoky Branch Road just South of Vonore which is South of Greenback.  A day later a lady named Betty called me and offered to bring Douglas down to my house.  I agreed to the meeting.  The rest is history.  She left him with me and a relationship to end all relationships was started.
Douglas grew larger and larger and more handsome than any dog I had previously known.  He was easy to train and listened very well.  He loved to ride on the TWRA boat and I took him with me every day. 

I would stop the boat and he would look at me and I'd say "go on boy, go on."  He would jump into the water and swim and swim.  He loved the water more than anything.

I would leave the kitchen door open a crack so he could come and go.  One day I looked out into the kitchen to see not only Douglas but, Douglas and a small kitten.  They were eating out of Douglas's bowl.
I named the kitten Homer.  Douglas and Homer played constantly.  The kitten would mysteriously disappear every evening and reappear next morning as we were loading the truck to head for the lake with the boat.  What great friends they were.  Their antics were endless.
Homer was great company for Douglas so he became part of the family.  They tussled and played endlessly in the evenings.   Homer made Douglas happy and that was good enough for me.
But, most of all, Douglas loved being on the boat.  He would take a position on the very tip of the bow and there was nothing I could do to get him to move back some.  I always worried he would be flipped into the water if I had to stop quickly.  He did get tossed into the lake a few times but, it didn't bother him.
I would beach the boat at break time and allow him to run, swim and play on some island beach for awhile.  He would look forward to these little breaks and could seem to know when they were getting close because I would drive the boat close to the shoreline searching a safe place to rest the bow of the boat for awhile.  He knew he was going to have shore time.
His face was so handsome;  the features angelic. 
There was a little white duck at the Melton Hill Lake boat ramp that constantly taunted Douglas every time our schedule put us at that ramp. 
The little duck would swim out toward the center of the lake each time Douglas would swim after him.
He had no chance of catching that duck but, it was a game to him.  I think he just liked to see the duck paddle away from him.
He was beautiful when swimming.  He is elegant in looks and his style of movement was glorious to watch.  He made my heart leap to watch him move silently across the smooth surface.  His golden hair contrasted against the surface colors.  His beautiful muzzle was held just above the surface.  The shape of his head shouted intelligence.  He was a Golden Retriever and he represented his breed magnificently.
Sometime in late 2005 I experienced a traumatic financial difficulty.  It was related to a family issue back home in Pennsylvania.  The issue required I cash in my savings to alleviate the pressure on the situation.  I wasn't making much working for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) at the time and felt it necessary to secure a higher paying job in order to rebuild my savings.  I was forced to quit the agency.  The story I wrote called "The Last Run" is a story about the last day on the lake for the agency.  It's on this blog somewhere.  A search should find it.
I felt I could return in about three years to the agency and pick up where I left off.  It was then that the economy felt the stress of a downturn and the state put a freeze on hiring.  I ended up losing the opportunity to regain a position with TWRA.  I took a chance that there would be another opportunity of employment if the economy recuperated. 

Six years later, now, that opportunity arrived and I grabbed it with all I had. Douglas would once again grace the bow of a TWRA boat and lift his muzzle into the wind and smell nature as he was intended to.

My interests turned to canoeing and I found I loved it.  Canoe camping was something Douglas and I could enjoy together.  He took to a canoe like he was born on one.  Of course he was raised on the deck of a fast moving TWRA runabout boat. 

He would sit there like a little guy, patient and quiet, until I pulled into shore where he could jump out.

Douglas loved the trips to Slick Rock Creek for camping outings.  He would plunge into the icy cold, fast moving water and swim non stop.  In and out of the water all day.  He adored it.

He absolutely loved to swim in the cold, cold water of Slick Rock Creek.
Slick Rock was his ultimate joy!  He couldn't get enough of it.  He was ecstatic to be there and hated to leave.  Slick Rock Creek is Calderwood Lake's most beautiful painting.  Douglas was in that painting each time we visited.

He never stopped swimming until the sun went down.  My little boy was living a life that few dogs ever had the opportunity to live.  He was free!  No leash was meant to hold him still and compliant.  He was a child of nature and he lived the part.

He loved to ride the Gheenoe.  Like on the state boat;  he would take a position on the bow where he could see everything that went on around him.  I could write and write about my little boy and I have a million pictures of my pride and joy.  They are exhibited on this blog else ware.  The blog was created around him to begin with.  There are movie clips of him and stories to go with them.  To be honest with you;  this blog entry is wrenching my heart out.  I feel that if I write about it I can somehow find finality and closure to the issue.

Two days ago, late evening, I decided to take Shade and Douglas out to the old state park for some exercise.  I had been putting long hours in with TWRA getting the equipment ready for July and had neglected their outings.  I almost didn't take them as I was so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open.  Shade took her place in the back of the truck under the cap and my little boy jumped onto the front seat.  My truck's air conditioner doesn't work so I cranked down the windows for air.  As we drove 95 North out of Greenback I noticed how beautiful the sunset was going to be.  I reached over and rubbed Douglas's shoulders with my right hand.  He always loves that.  It's better than a scratch behind the ear to him.

I only drive 40 miles per hour up that road as it's curvy and rather on the narrow side.
I rounded a gentle right hand curve.  Douglas was sitting in the center of the seat enjoying the neck rub.  In the blink of an eye a car could be seen about to enter onto our road from a narrow, almost hidden dirt and grave road from our right.  It was apparent it would not stop to check for traffic.  The car came out into our lane and I wrenched the steering wheel hard to the left to avoid collision.  When I did that;  Douglas was launched out through the side window.  My heart sickened.  I thought of him even when in peril myself.  When he was thrown out, while in mid air, my truck continued with it's turn which brought the rear of the truck around.  Douglas was still in the air and the outside bed of the truck hit him tossing his body clear across the road and into a ditch.  I screamed NO, NO!!  I jumped out to see him laying in the ditch on his side whimpering loudly and trying to get up, which he couldn't.  His eyes were filled with terror and blood was around his mouth.  I prayed it was from cuts and not internal.  His head was jerking left and right as the muscles in his shoulders tried to propel his legs but, his legs would not move.  I jumped to his side and scooped him up in the cradle of my arms.  I could hear someone yelling "I'm sorry" but paid no attention to the noise from him.  I was sick of hearing the words "I'm sorry" from people who do stupid actions and ruin someones lives and say "I'm sorry," thinking that's going to make a difference.

I layed Douglas on the seat of the truck and sped off up the road.  I pulled the cell phone out and called the emergency number for my veterinarian.    Dr Webb said she would meet me at the vet lab in Friendsville.  I tried to hold Douglas still on the seat.  He kept trying to sit up but could not.  Through my tears I did my best to hold him still and drive.  "Just a little bit further my love;  it won't be long now.  I kept telling him I loved him and would make it right for him somehow.  I told him to just hang on.  Hang on my sweet little boy.  A red light stopped us in Lewisville.  It was flashing.  We stopped and Douglas tried to sit up again.  He rolled off the seat onto the floor.  When I tried to catch him, my foot slipped off the brake pedal and the truck rolled forward into the back of a small car.  The guy in the car slowly got out and I told him to hurry.  "Write my name and number down because I'm leaving now."  I told him he could follow if he liked.  Three more miles and we'd be there. 
We arrived finally at the clinic and Dr Webb, bless her heart, was there waiting.  A gurney was brought out to my truck and we slid Douglas onto it.  He stayed on his stomach, rear feet up beside his neck.  She instantly pricked him on each side of his back bone and his skin moved.  Good I thought!  She then pinched between his toes with forceps with no reaction from Douglas.  I asked questions but the Doctor focused solely on Douglas.  I helped push the gurney inside and Dr Webb told me to stay outside.  She said Douglas would be sedated and there was nothing else I could do.  I leaned down and kissed him on the top of his head and on the side of his mouth and told him I loved him.  I felt helpless. and I was.

It was then I remembered that Shade was in the back of the truck.  I had forgotten about her.  I opened the cap door and the entire area was a shambles and in disarray.  Shade was laying in the right front corner of the truck bed under the cap and would not come when I called.   I crawled inside and petted her and coaxed her to get up, which she did.  I put a leash on her and gently lead her to the tailgate.  "Come on girl;  jump down;  come on now.  Good girl, good girl."
She jumped to the ground and I pushed and prodded her on every bone she had to see if she would whimper, indicating injury.  She was alright and just shook up.  She must have flown against both sides of the cap when I swerved to miss that car.  I should have hit it.  I walked Shade around the parking lot just to be sure she was not injured.  She appeared stunned.  She layed on her stomach on the front seat of the truck and faced the passenger door, her back to me.  She normally sits beside me and leans heavily against my side.  I would watch her closely tonight when we get home.

I could hardly drive home for the tears.  My little boy was very badly hurt and I was helpless to comfort him.  I couldn't be with him.  At least he would sleep tonight.  He would be X rayed in the morning and given other tests.  I didn't sleep a moment that night.  I sat in a chair in the yard and stared at the stars until the sun started to rise.  I was to meet a TWRA friend early to work on the boat.  I could sit here and worry or I could try to be active doing something.  I met him and we drove a hundred miles that morning trying to work out logistical problems in getting the equipment in working order for July.  I should have just stayed home because I was tired and useless.  I could think of nothing but Douglas. 

I don't know why I am going into all this detail here.  I guess I need to run it through my head one more last time, as if writing what happened will add to the finality of it all.  I don't know if it will.  Maybe it will help me by getting it off my chest.

He loved having his hair clipped

Oh, there are so many pictures of my little boy;  so many.  There's no sense in putting them all here.  The blog is full of them.  The movie clips of Douglas living life are also many.  It's too hard for me to search for appropriate photos to incorporate into this little piece.  So hard!  I miss him so much.
This is so hard to write.  The phone rang as Paul and I were driving.  I answered and listened as Dr Webb identified herself.  She let out a hesitant sigh and started to give me a run down of Douglas's condition.  She said that Douglas had a crushed pelvis.  The xrays showed more than eighty bone fragments floating in limbo.  His right rear leg was broken and his left rear had a fracture.  Two ribs were fractured also.  He had no feeling in his front paws which indicated neurological dysfunction.  Douglas had a catheter inserted and he was not making liquid (urine.)  He was sedated at present.  She said she could not do anything at her clinic and recommended, if I chose, to send him to The University of Tennessee Veterinarian Hospital.  The best clinic people in the United States are located there.  Dr Webb further stated they could insert a metal pelvis for Douglas but there were no guarantees as to the success of such an operation.  That operation would not address the issue of his inability to make urine.  The neurological factors were at play here.  I was in tears.  My little golden boy was broken.   I told Dr Webb to give me fifteen minutes and I would get back to her.  I needed to talk to a friend who understands dogs thoroughly.  I called that person and she talked to me in a rational manner;  a manner in which my emotional mind would not allow me to think.  That person was the person who introduced Douglas to me seven years ago.  I trusted her about all things dog. 
I explained the situation to her and she said that it is hard to face reality but I must.  She said I had Douglas for seven years now and I would only have him for another five or six at best.  If I allow the operations to be preformed;  he would more than likely be crippled and have pain.  He would not be able to do what he once did and would not be able to understand why he couldn't.  She said to let him go.  She said to do it for him.  I knew she made sense.  I thanked her and we hung up.

I thought to myself as we drove along.  I could see Douglas swimming in Slick Rock Creek in the icy cold currents and running through the forests and leaping over dead fall trees;  his beautiful body stretched out to clear the logs.  He loved to run full out when the temperatures were chilly early in the morning, his golden body streaking behind the trees as he ran to the tall grass of the green meadows.
I was in awe at that mile eating loping gate he could do that would leave me far behind.  But, he always came back to see where I was.  Douglas could run straight up a mountain side without stopping and sit down and wait for me.  The power in that golden body amazed me.  I loved to run my fingers through his golden hair and rub his shoulders.  I knew they had to be sore or tired after his energetic runs through the forests and long swims in the lake. 
I did my best to protect him but, it wasn't good enough.  Douglas is the reason I started to paddle a canoe and to camp along the lakes and streams.  We could get far away from people and danger.  He could be a dog in the wild.  No leads or leashes for my boy.  He was part of nature..  He revelled in it.  He adored the wild places.  I bought the freighter canoe specifically for Douglas and camping.  He couldn't upset it.  He was secure in it.  But most of all he liked riding on the bow of a boat.  He was raised on the deck of a TWRA boat.  I took him every day with me.  We were inseparable.  He would stand and hold his head high, muzzle into the wind and smell every fragrance that was on the breeze.   His golden hair would flow with the passing wind as the boat bore him along the lakes and rivers of Tennessee.  He made me proud of him.  I loved and love him.
Now he layed with a broken body that couldn't be fixed.  I realized there was no sense in prolonging the decision I knew I would have to make.  Douglas was counting on me to help him.  Douglas was my only reason for happiness in the past seven years and I couldn't let him down.  I had to find the strength to let him go.  Each minute I delayed was another minute of torture for him.

I pushed the buttons on the phone and Dr Webb answered.  With a quivering voice I said "Dr Webb;  I want you to end Douglas's life for him."  She said someone else would have to witness the request and I repeated it to her aid.  Dr Webb came back on and I asked her to be gentle with him before and after.  I told her I wanted his collar and a lock of his hair.  She said she would do that.  I further requested him to be cremated and I wanted his ashes.  It was all arranged.  She said it would be over in about fifteen minutes.

When I got home that night I held Shade tightly and explained to her that her best friend would not be returning to the room.  She could pick up on my grief as she moved away from me and laid down across the room.  I then spoke to Douglas as if he was with me.  I said to him;
"I'm sorry I couldn't protect you my little boy.   I did my best but couldn't see this accident coming.  I wish I could have been with you at the end and for that I will be forever sorry.  You will always be with me in the wilderness places because I will carry your ashes with us when Shade and I go camping.  You will always be with us.  I'll hold you in my hands until we fall asleep.  Oh Douglas;  I am so sorry for all this.  I am sorry you are broken.  I just can't find the words my golden son.  I doubt I'll ever visit the places you and I loved so much with another dog ever again.   Those were our places and you and I invited the others along.  I think it's a good thing I am moving to another area and different lakes where you and I never visited.  It would hurt too much to be in our old wilderness haunts without you.  Douglas;  you have been my sanity ever since I found you.  You kept me warm these past Winters and filled my heart with joy every day.  I've never known beauty until you came into my life.  I always worried about you when you got too far away from me on the trail but, you always came back for a peek to see where I was.   Now, you've left on a long journey alone without me and I know you won't be coming back to check to see where I am.  This is the first time we've been separated from each other.   No;  I can't come along sweet angel. You'll do fine without me on this trip.   Keep your eyes open for your friends from the old days.  They are all there waiting for you.  I am proud of you.  I thank you for making me a better man.  You've made me smile and laugh every day.   I'll never forget you my golden son.  Never!  If there's a way;  I will find you and we will once again be together and roam the forests and the lakes. Douglas.  Keep a look out for me.  I'll be along someday for you.  I love you my dearest golden boy

My Gentle Little Boy

Its embedded in my heart Douglas - Forever
It's not proof read.....can't do it