At first, she denied the dog was hers. But my husband Steve was sure it was her dog because the other Golden Retriever that had been at our house, a young pup, was right there in her yard. She finally admitted that the dog lying in our garage was her dog when Steve told her that the dog had not caused any trouble and we just wanted to help him get home. Showing Steve her arm, which was in a sling, she told him she was not allowed to drive and that her husband wasn’t home. Steve told her that wasn’t a problem, that he’d drive the dog to her house now that he knew whose dog it was.
Earlier that summer morning in 2011, I opened the overhead garage door and found the two Golden Retrievers standing in our driveway. The younger one, who did not even look to be a year old yet, immediately ran off through the wheat and corn fields and into the woods. But the older one looked at me, slowly headed my way, walked right past me and into our garage where he settled himself on our Saint Bernard’s dog bed in the corner. And there he stayed.
I called Steve out to the garage and told him what happened. The dog was wearing a name tag, his name was Duke, that part of the tag was easily read. But the tag was old and the phone number was worn off. Steve made a best guess at the address and took off in his truck to see if he could find to whom the dog belonged.
While he was gone, I sat in the garage with the dog. He was panting so I got him a bowl of water. When he wouldn’t get off of the bed to drink it, I set it on the bed and he drank. I offered him a treat. He took it but then spit it out. I thought maybe he didn’t like the flavor so I offered him a different treat. He did the same thing, he took it and spit it out. It was at that point that I realized his whole face was no longer golden. It wasn’t even gray; it was white. Because he was so friendly, I lifted his lip and saw he had no front teeth, just some molars in the back of his mouth. The dog was old; in fact, I was sure he was very old.
When Steve returned he told me about how he found the owner and how she had denied it was her dog. He asked me to go with him to drive Duke home saying, “She’s weird and I don’t feel comfortable going alone.”
We tried to call Duke off of the bed, but he wouldn’t move. I told Steve that he was old and tired and that Steve would have to pick him up and carry him to the truck, which he did. Steve put him in the backseat of his extended cab pick-up and we drove Duke home. He had traveled about a mile from his house to ours, as the bird flies.
When we arrived, the woman was waiting for us outside, with the younger Golden. Steve lifted Duke out of the truck and put him on the ground. Duke slowly walked away and lay down in the grass in the shade.
The dog owner thanked us for returning her dog and apologized to Steve for denying Duke belonged to her at first.
“I had surgery on my arm yesterday. I am on some pretty strong pain killers and I’m not allowed to drive. I didn’t know what to do, but I figured he’d find his way home,” she said.
I told her how he had found our dog’s bed and once down, refused to move. She said he didn’t move around a lot any more because he was sixteen years old. She said he used to go on runs when he was younger but that he had not done that in at least ten years. The other dog was only nine months old. After a bit more chatter Steve and I went home and didn’t think about Duke too much again after that; the whole event only took up about an hour of our time.
The week before Christmas the doorbell rang. It was Duke’s owner and her husband. She brought me a gift of a live floral arrangement. It was beautiful, full of holly, ivy, greens, pine cones and dried berries. She told me she made it herself with materials from her property. I was shocked.
“Oh that’s so nice of you, but really, you didn’t have to do this,” I said.
“Yes I did. I behaved so badly when you brought Duke home. I’ve felt terrible about it ever since. I didn’t even thank you properly,” she said.
I assured her that I had not even given it a second thought; which I hadn’t. I also told her that I understood how it is to be on strong pain killers; they make you do odd things.
“How is Duke?” I asked.
She told me that Duke died at home in his sleep about a month after he showed up at our house. She said that his run that day was his “last great hurrah”.
She started crying then and I began tearing too up as I told her, “I’m so sorry. I understand how hard it is to lose your dog. We lost our male Saint Bernard last November; I still miss him. But you know what? Sixteen years is a long life for a Golden Retriever. You did a great job in caring for him. If you hadn’t, he wouldn’t have had such a long life. I hope you take some comfort in that. You did a good job.”
As we stood there like two fools crying on the porch, she thanked me for saying that and her husband, who looked very uncomfortable and was probably wishing he had stayed at home, wished me a Merry Christmas and they went on their way.
Sometimes we don’t realize the impact we can have by simply taking an hour of our time and helping someone out. Duke was one of those times; and I’m thankful that Steve and I were fortunate enough to be there to help him get home safely from his “last great hurrah”.
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Daily Prompt: fortune