We had family in town from the south and Suzie and I were walking the tall coastal redwoods with them. It must have been 1999. The wife and I had two dogs at that point in our life, a beagle mix named Mickey and a Black Lab/Shepherd named King. Mickey was getting up in years. A man came down the trail with the most beautiful Irish Setter I had ever seen, or at least that’s what I thought it was. Jogging, the man stopped very quickly and asked if any of us minded if he let his dog off the leash to run in the water. There was a river running along the trail, down an embankment, I would say about 30 or 40 yards.
We didn’t mind.
The big pup – I don’t remember his name, Suzie probably would – ran down that embankment and played for a few minutes in the stream. The man stayed up there with us and we chatted briefly, about what I don’t remember. Suddenly, he gave a simple command down the embankment, repeated the beautiful dog’s name, and that pup ran back up without a moment’s hesistation. He got back on the leash without fuss, and off they went again.
I was in love.
I told my wife immediately that the dog we had just seen was the next dog I wanted. Suzie explained to me that it was a Golden Retriever but I didn’t believe her because I’d never seen a Golden Retriever so red.
Almost three years later, a few months after Mickey passed, Suzie said she’d found our next dog. She asked if I remembered that encounter in the woods and I said I vaguely did. She remembered word for word our account and said she had found somebody selling dark Golden Retriever pups. I said there was no way I was spending the kind of money she was talking about on a dog. She said come look.
I fell in love.
The puppy we brought home that day we named Maverick. He became the first of three consecutive Golden Retrievers in our lives. Each one has costed just a bit more than the one before, but I never flinched at the price again. They are the most amazing dogs.
Maverick stayed with us for 11 years, far too short a time in my opinion. He would have been 14 years old today. Moxie, whom we picked up in 2009, adored him. Moxie got to experience both King and Maverick for a couple of years before having nearly two years on his own. Ludo, whom we picked up last summer, is so much like Maverick it scares the hell out of me. Maverick would have adored Ludo.
I hope both of the Goldens we have now last 15 more years, but I know they won’t. You never know how long you’ll have each of these treasures, our fur-babies as some of my friends call them. I only know one thing for sure; my next dog will be a Golden Retriever as well. Maverick set a precedent in my heart that could not be matched.
Rest in peace, sweet boy. It was my honor to have known you.