new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold. For those of you who have met me out and
about, you might know that I was often accompanied by someone gold. She was a rescue golden retriever who wasn't
necessarily the healthiest pet, but an animal that loved to be around girls,
camps, and council events.
What I have often learned in life is sometimes others know more about what is
good for me than I do. After living
here two years with no dogs, I contacted Gulf South Golden Retriever Rescue to
see if they had a golden retriever for me.
I had a lengthy discussion with their volunteers (who, by the way, are
wonderful). My criteria was that I
needed a dog I could have around the girls.
Because I travel a lot, my dog would need to be happy in the car. Also, I needed one that I could have in the
woods, when I am there alone and with others -- in other words, a dog that
would not run off. They discussed the
different goldens they had available at the time and decided they had one that
I should look at. So one April Saturday
I drove to New Orleans and met a foster parent, Alicia. This was clearly an interview. The question is whether I could handle the
dog and whether the dog would connect with me.
This is when I met Amber.
Amber was given her name because of her large and beautiful amber eyes. The vet in the animal shelter in Houma gave
her that name. But later decided, after
having her there for a long time, she should be put down. She had heartworms, a raging yeast infection
on her back that smelled, and two types of parasites. The vet declared Amber "unadoptable." Despite this pronouncement, the angels from
Gulf South Golden Retrievers went to the animal shelter to fetch Amber. Alicia took her to her house, where she had
two goldens of her own. She said the
first night Amber would not come inside off the deck. When it started to rain, Alicia went out
with a leash and finally pulled her into the house. Amber was very polite, not getting on the
furniture or doing anything offensive.
With much love and lots of veterinary care, she was nursed back to some
semblance of health. She had one true
love in life, a tennis ball.
decided that Amber and I were compatible, so I put her in the car, and we drove
back to Mobile, stopping once en route.
She was quiet, attentive, but polite, and somewhat distant. I learned quickly that she wasn't all that
healthy. After work everyday I would
take an hour-long walk up Spring Hill, through the Spring Hill College campus,
through the golf course, and then back to my apartment. The second time I did this I thought I was
going to have to leave her and get the car, she could not walk that far. What I learned was she was still sick and
really was never able to walk a lot, unless it was at camp.
time I discovered that Amber was a wonderful companion. She was independent and reserved, but a
wonderful teacher. Because she had this
yeast infection, the hair did not grow on her back, so when a girl would see
her from the front, she looked very pretty.
But once you were close, it was clear she had some imperfections. The girls would ask, and I would always
explain that it is really what is on the inside that counts; sometimes what you
see on the outside can be misleading.
Her teeth were broken, and she never wanted to smile because of those broken
teeth. The vet said she as likely left
out on a chain and probably had chewed the chain to get off and that broke her
teeth. Even though her teeth were
jagged and rough, she never curled her lip at anyone. You could crawl on her, do anything you
would want to her, but she was never aggressive with anyone.
Amber had a special affection for babies.
The first time I met her we went down the street to visit a baby. The baby rolled a tennis ball to her
nose. She nudged the ball back to the
baby, who giggled with delight. How did
she understand that was a baby and needed this more gentle care?
Amber and I traveled thousands of miles in the council car. She loved the car rides. She would get into the back, onto her "throne,"
and fall asleep, getting up to turn or stretch only occasionally. When we arrived, she would check to see
where we were and get out and go about her business, knowing we traveled to
many different locations. As she got
older she would bark and "ask" to go out in the car if she didn't feel like she
was in the car enough on a particular day, especially on the weekends.
loved to go to camp. I would stop, get
out of the car, and she would look around to see what camp we were
visiting. She loved all of them,
although she always had some trepidation around Lost, the very large dog at
Humming Hills; not because she didn't like him, just because he is so large. But days at camp were always welcome days,
she would run, sniff the air, and see what she could find.
sometimes we don't understand who becomes a friend. Her favorite dog was Scout, a pug belonging
to "Woody," our longtime volunteer and sailing camp director. She and Scout would play and frolic
together. I never understood it. Scout
could stand underneath Amber's stomach, he was so short, and she was so
tall. But she was always excited to see
Scout, and he loved to see her.
was good with girls that are afraid of dogs.
They would come near her, often scream, she would never flinch. She would never do anything other than
accept them and their lack of familiarity with a kind and gentle look. She became the ambassador of what a good
companion animal can be.
Amber was my companion for the past seven years, working for GSSA to bring joy
and love to those she was around. Two
weeks ago she passed to walk across the rainbow bridge. Where she will have a mouth filled with
tennis balls and peace. Thanks to all
who loved and cared for her during her years with me.