He was my heart dog, my friend, my inspiration... I miss him everyday.
Today, was as many days before them...I organized the dogs' morning meals and packed two up to make the trip to Saskatoon U of S Vet Clinic for their Hip/Elbow X-rays and Heart Certifications. Water, check. Paper towels, check. Leashes, check. Poop bags, check. Dogs packed, kids seat belted in, Diet Pepsi in the cup holder for the drive. We were set. Had I know then, that our lives would change in an instant this day, I would have chosen to stay in bed. Warm, safe, comfortable and with things as they always had been.
I had a weird feeling that morning, nothing I could put my finger on and say 'ah ha, I must stay home today' but a feeling that I would not be arriving at the Vet Clinic, helping the techs hold my dogs in place for the X-rays. Premonition? A warning? I don't know. Maybe it is merely my way of trying to make sense of what was to come. I phoned Steve twice from the highway to try to tell him that everything was working well, but I couldn't get a hold of him... was this my way of trying to tell myself it was going to work out ok, or try to convince myself of something that I feared may happen would not?
I had always been able to mentally plan out my visit on the way there, to anticipate problems and work out a plan so things went smoothly. All should have been well. The night before, we put new tires on the vehicle, the week before that, a total overhaul. clean up and repair of all that was falling apart or almost worn out. Yes, today SHOULD have gone smoothly. But, it didn't.
On the 2 hour drive there, I had plenty of time to let my mind wander to upcoming events... The National next year, Upcoming planned breedings, wondering who would be at the National, getting re-acquainted with old friends, meeting new ones, time to think about where to meet up with other Golden friends for lunch that day.... and always the highly anticipated bi-yearly trip to Early's & Critters for doggie treats and treasures.
It was a nice warm winter morning, the frost coming out of the ground... sun warming everything. A perfect day for the drive I thought.
We were coming through the valley at Blackstrap... the truck was running well... I was glad all the fixes had worked out, we were right on time, and it seemed like there was no ice on the road so after we stopped for Ethan to go to the bathroom, I put the Expedition on Cruise Control. He asked me if my seatbelt was on, and I fastened it as I drove. As I drove up the hill to the opposite side of the valley, the SUV started to swerve, and then pulled harder to stay at the set speed, we swerved harder and I touched the brake to release the Cruise Control...all too little, all too late. Our vehicle veered violently to one side and then the other, the back pulled us into the ditch...we flipped over, side over side, in a sort of slow motion that gives you a false impression that you can stop or alter the events. Like an action movie, only real. I counted at least 2 rolls, and I would argue...three. The sound of metal crumpling and glass crashing was deafening. Then it was silent. When the vehicle came to a stop on the other side of the divided highway, I was sitting in the middle of the hill, IN the middle of both lanes of oncoming traffic. I knew at that moment that I could not be ok if anything had happened to my boys, and I also knew that I could not look into the back seat and see them dead. I tried to calm myself, so my voice would not sound frantic and I called out to them to ask if they were ok. They answered back that they were ok and I knew, no matter what condition they were in, that they were at least alive and I could turn to look at them. They seemed fine, no blood and nothing broken. A miracle! As quickly as I knew a miracle took place, that feeling was replaced by another feeling, a quick survey of what wreckage and disarray the truck was in let me know, all was not well. I looked into the back of the SUV, and only one of the crates appreared to be still intact. Oh God, my dogs! I looked out my drivers window and immediately saw Cruiser lying in a pool of blood in the passing lane. I knew I had to get to him, and still move the vehicle out of more harms way but as I attempted to drive forward to move it out of the lane, I found that the wheels on the passenger side were both broken off from the impact of the rolls. The truck was going no further. I ran from the vehicle and went to Cruiser. It was then I saw Solitaire, running down the side of the divided highway. She looked beautiful in the sun shine and appeared to be totally unhurt. I knew Cruiser was in bad shape so I opted to try to get Solitaire back in the truck then attend to Cruiser. By now vehicles had stopped and had seen the debris scattered across 4 lanes of traffic, through the ditch and had started to help weed through the impossible task of making sure we were all ok, and that no one else got hurt as a result of this mess. People were stopping traffic, THANKFULLY, and calling for more help... I called to Solitaire, would she come? Would she be too scared to come? Would she be hit by a car trying? No, thank goodnes...Solitaire ran right to me. I co-own Solitaire with Dawn & Darrell Drummond, so I wasn't sure she would even come to me. How do you call someone and tell them that their pet is injured, or dead? I couldn't imagine it. I WOULDN'T imagine it. This part had to turn out ok, it HAD to. I lifted her gently into the back of the vehicle with the boys and told the boys to stay there. I lookded back towards Cruiser, I thought he was dead, he looked limp and lifeless until I got right up to him. He looked up and me and sighed. I picked him up and took him to the side of the road to see if there was anything I could do for him. I felt his heart beat and saw him blink once, I spoke to him in the language we all use with our beloved pets...called him by the 'name only I call him' and told him how sorry I was that he had to go through this. He lifted his head, and wagged his tail. I knew he hear me... I held my broken and bleeding and beloved Cruiser in my arms, my hand on his heart... knowing each beat may be his last... and I whispered to him to take deep breathes and that he should go, so the pain would stop. I told him again that I loved him. He lifted his tail again and wagged it, then he was gone. I covered him with a blanket so the boys would not see him and that he could have the dignity that all of our beloved pets deserve and sobbed through my pain...trying to make sense of the chaos. Someone who stopped had a cell phone and I asked them to phone my number so I could find my phone, which ended up on the highway, many feet from the vehicle. I called the U of S to tell them we would not be there and that we had been in an accident. I then called my friend Fiona to ask he to meet us at the hospital. She tells me now, I just said 'I killed us all' although I know what I meant to say was I almost killed us all, either way, I was barely coherent and she left to meet us at the hospital.
The ambulance people arrived first and the police shortly afterwards. The by-standers held and talked with Solitaire until the RCMP arrived and then she took command of his car. I asked the RCMP officer to please help with Cruiser and get him cremated for me and gave them Steve's number at work to call.
Battered and bruised, scared and scarred I tried to tell the boys that "Cruisie" had gone to heaven and that I had held him so that he could get there faster. They wanted to see him, although that was not possible since they might have injuries that I hadn't seen, they were prevented from leaving the car until the neck collars were in place, then they were loaded into the ambulance with me. I could tell by the look on their faces that they were scared, apparently I was covered in blood, mine and Cruiser's and I looked like something out of a horror movie. I couldn't stop their wave of pain at losing Cruiser, I felt helpless, as I had holding Cruiser, to know that I could not fix it for them or fix it for Cruiser.
By now, my body was starting to show me where I had been injured. I had been hit in the face with one of the portable DVD players as it flew through the air and went out my side window. The roof had collapsed in, and was only a few inches about all of our heads, my knee hurt, and I was limping, the seatbelt had held me tightly and caused some pain where it once sat. I had glass imbedded in my skin on my face, arms and chest. A few lacerations, some abrasions but I didn't think any bones had been broken. Concussion and whiplash would come later, when I was able to focus on what still hurt after the accident.
I felt despair, guilt and relief all at the same time. Despair at my loss, my Cruiser, who was only going to Saskatoon to get his hips X-rayed so he could go train to be a Search and Rescue dog with Plius Daverne, the loss of my friend Cruiser, who I hopped understood that I would have taken it back if I could have, and my over-whelming despair and guilt at being the one he trusted, the one who loaded him in the vehicle to make this fateful drive. Despair about knowing that all would not be ok and that we would live with the scars from this moment the rest of our lives, the loss of our vehicle, our personal items spread on the highway for a good 50-100 feet...I had picked up some and put them in my carry all laundry basket but I knew more were out there that I didn't pick up. Guilt for using Cruise Control and not knowing any better, for not being able to protect my sons and my dogs from the pain that they must feel, physically and emotionally, I could only try to help them see that we were lucky to be alive. Relief, that it wasn't worse... that no one else was injured or that no one else hit us while were were positioned in the middle of the highways, partially obscured out of sight from the hill. Relief and gratitude, that I wasn't picking my sons off the highway, or that I wasn't dead leaving them to be afraid and alone. Had Ethan not reminded me to do up my seat belt, things would have been so different. Gratitude that we would all heal: eventually, and that we got a second chance, when it was so apparent that looking at Cruiser, it could have been any of us, or ALL of us, Gratitude for all the people for all the people who stopped to try to help, the lady who called my cell phone and helped me find it and then hugged me in my blood soaked clothes and told me how sorry she was that I had to say good-bye to my dog... I may never know her name but her face is clear in my mind. The wonderful ambulance men and women who let me cry and let me know that there was no judgement. There were so many wonderful strangers who came to help, so many I will never know their names.
I hope that this will prevent you from having such an incident in your lives, and I struggle to think back into past information and discussions to what I had known about using Cruise Control and vaguely remember hearing that Cruise Control should not be used in the winter. Now it is VERY clear. Added to that, of course is that seat belts are essential. I am not proud to say that before this day I was only a casual seat belt wearer, at best. Now, a serious seat belt advocate and promoter.
There will never be another Cruiser, and I know that. He will be forever in my heart, my thoughts and I think my nightmares as I remember this day. I hope one day I can think of him and smile, he brought me such joy during his life, but for now I can only feel the crushing pain of his leaving.
Each dog we love takes a special piece of your heart, to own forever, for that time they are with you... and when they are gone, although we are reluctant to trust again, we do ( or we should try ), knowing and believing that they really do give MUCH more than they ask from us...and even though it is difficult, we will love again...and each new furry face, pair of bright eyes and wagging tail holds promise of that undying devotion, that bond that ONLY another dog lover can understand.
Please remember to wear your seat belt, take the extra moment to crate your dog, and don't use Cruise Control in the winter. (My hard learned lesson that I hope you learn without having to re-live my nightmare.)
Make sure you tell the people close to you that you love them and do the same for your Golden pal. You can never say it too much.
Gone, but NEVER forgotten... "YBFGoldens Need to Know Basis" - CRUISER - 3/15/2006 - 1/03/2008
Liberty was the daughter of Shelby (Ch. JBG’s Start Me Up) and Hatter (Ch. Goldstreak’s Mad as a Hatter). Liberty was a real character and an experienced lapdog. She was very determined and quick to learn. Liberty enjoyed hanging out with the older dogs but has better manners (counter surfing-wise), than her mom. She was a confirmed “lap dog” and loved to cuddle. She enjoyed a challenge and was always ready to try new things. She enjoyed classes and meeting new people. Unlike most of the others, she was the alarm of the house. If she saw it, she thought she must announce it to everyone. She was a very energetic puppy and was always looking for a way to go on a great adventure or tour of the property. She carried a lot of bone, had an effortless beautiful side movement, and had full dentition. She had a nice top-line and showed well in the ring. Her shoulder layback was very nice which was nicely shown off by her front. Liberty had the gentle golden expression and beautiful dark almond eyes. She loved to run and play but is equally as interested in getting down to work and training for the show ring or mastering her fetch skills. She was a gentle spirited girl who was easy to love and easy to live with. Liberty had her first litter with Am.Can.Ch. Bravo HuntChase Alabama Slammer “Bama” and had 10 beautiful puppies. Her daughter “YBFGoldens Unseasonably Hot” – Aspen is trying her paws at the Show ring. Also look for her brothers in the show ring! She is the mother of 4 litters and was a wonderful mother and role model.
This is a photo of Liberty and Shelby rolling around on the grass together. They were such goofy girls. I miss their antics and fun loving personalities everyday.
She passed away after a short battle with Mammary Cancer.
Shelby was an energetic dog, full of personality and desire to be the top dog. Shelby came to our home as an 8 week old puppy, she was a tiny puppy and we wondered if she would ever grow to be a full sized Golden. We affectionately referred to her as "Timbit" because she wasn't a full sized doughnut then. She did grow, and she grew into a beautiful, gentle, confident girl. She was the "Ruler of the Roost" at our home. She was very athletic, carried an adequate amount of coat, had dark pigmentation, and had effortless movement and a beautiful side gate. She was 22 inches at the withers and weighed 69 lbs. Shelby loved to compete, at almost anything from the Show Ring to playing fetch. She loved a challenge, and would wait patiently for a desired object, often to be seen standing over another dog at our home waiting for them to drop the object they had, and then she would take it and run off with it. She never took an item from them, but once they put it down, she thought it was fair game and she would take it. She loved baths and blow dryers, tennis balls, cats, rawhides, counter surfing and sleeping on the bed. Shelby had no problem going from a couch potato to the center of attention in the Show Ring. She finished her Championship as a Senior Puppy with 2 Group Wins (Best of Winners every time). Her puppies possess her drive, her beauty and grace, and her wonderful expression. They are stunning to watch, easy to train and wonderful to live with. Our little Shel-a-ba-loo was a wonderful girl and all of the dogs we have right now are somehow related to her. What a fabulous legacy she has left us.
Shelby passed away in our home after a six month battle with Mammary Cancer. She was herself right up to the end, playing ball and wanting to go for walks and never looked sick a day in her life. I am very grateful to our vet, JoAnn Liebe who suggested giving her an oral chemo pill, which bought us the last six months of her life. Days that we treasured and remember fondly often.
Shelby was the daughter of Ch. Fargold's Sassprella On Fire (Sassy) owned by Dawn Daley of Johnny Be Good Goldens Retrievers in Argyle, Manitoba; and Ch. Justmoor Thru the Looking Glass (Rayne) owned by Tiffany Waite of St. Anne, Manitoba.
Aspen was born to the "Weather Litter" from Liberty x Bama. She caught my eye right from the start and I grew to love her more and more each day... right up until the end of her life...Sept. 25 2017. She was a firecracker and a soft but stubborn girl who valued a game of ball and a good treat above everything else. She was a beauty to behold. She tried her paw in the show ring and quickly became the talk of the town with her antics in the ring, rolling over and exposing her belly, refusing to go in - even for cheese, planting her feet and looking away... one judge once commented, " She'd rather be anywhere but here" - Yep, that was how she rolled. Refusing to go in with me, making a big scene, but an hour later, happily going in with Austin for Junior Handling... she was such a funny girl. We decided to 'retire' her early from the ring to avoid further embarrassment. She was a quick learner and loved to be with her people, car rides to get the boys, ice cream runs, or just to ride along to get the mail... se loved to go for a ride. Aspen was the mom to 3 beautiful litters... She is the mom to our beauty Journey ( Aspen x Tucson ) and was the matriarch of our home since 2012 when her mom and grandma passed away a few months apart. She took the job of caring for the puppies to a new level and mothered other girls' litters here too, watching over everyone to make sure things were ok. She and Journey alerted me to my cancer, and saved my life. She was always close by after that and would not leave my side. Through many many surgeries over the years (15 that I can count in her lifetime ) she stayed with me and watched over me. During my treatment she alerted me to HER cancer as well. We both took turmeric, changed our diets and had afternoon naps together when we were exhausted from normal activities. She would only take her pill wrapped in a cheese slice, no slice = no pill. She was so comical. She was always ready to join in on a nap! She soon decided that car rides were not as much fun anymore and stayed home resting while I was gone. She loved to play ball and anyone who knew her can attest that she would have tried to trick you into a game of ball at least ONCE while you were here, if not more. She loved her tennis ball. Forever hopeful someone would play with her. She played ball every day of her life, right up until the end, when I would toss it a bit closer and not as many times, even walking back to me, tired and panting - she wanted ONE more throw. She loved fresh beef bones from the butcher that Steve would bring home for the crew and would often try to sneak a bone into bed as well. She loved her little doggie paddling pools and would often lay right down in it to get completely soaked on a hot day. She liked the big pool too, but got to the point where swimming wasn't her thing, but rather floating on the float chair while I held onto it. She would always start the night out ON my bed, until she got too hot and would go sleep on the tile in the bathroom. The last year, she could not jump up on the bed, so we did a half up, with her putting her front paws up and us boosting her butt up for her, I could tell she wasn't thrilled about it but it worked. If you didn't come when she wanted to go up, she sat and barked until someone came to lift her. We got a step for her to use to get off the bed, she wasn't too sure about that for awhile but liked it better than trying to jump off the bed in the dark. Aspen could always hear a cheese wrapper from the other side of the house and immediately would 'appear' to have a cheese slice with you. She was my best friend...my little Assburger or Aspie. She passed away peacefully in our home, sleeping on the tile at the front door where it was nice and cool. There is a hole in my heart that no one can ever fill. She will be so missed. Aspen was cremated and will be placed on the hill with our other cherished pets - to continue her watch over us. Sleep peacefully my good good girl.