Goldie the Dog
Goldie adopted us. In the fall of 1992, Dennis drove to the homestead cabin while I stayed in town to work on a new edition of Facts Plus. He stopped for gas at a highway lodge and a golden retriever welcomed him profusely, jumping all over as goldens are wont to do. Dennis asked about the dog when he went inside to pay and the lodge owners begged him to take the retriever. He was a stray. They already had enough dogs. They had tried to find an owner without luck. The dog pound had been called but no one had yet arrived to incarcerate him.
So, without my knowledge, Dennis invited a homeless year-old pup to the homestead for a week. They bonded. By the time I was introduced to Goldie (Dennis names dogs according to their color), it was too late to object. I insisted he be an outside dog and Dennis agreed, but the first week we had him in town it was 20 below zero. He was promoted to inside dog, his preference by far.
One morning at the Quonset hut, Dennis walked out to put Goldie on his chain. When he finished and looked up, there was a huge bull moose only five yards away, head down, antlers swaying from side to side, obviously upset. He must have been behind a tree when Dennis walked out! The chained dog lunged toward the moose and nipped it. I raced outside just in time to see Dennis throw snowballs at the monstrous animal and shout, "Go away, moose!" Fortunately, the moose went away.
Goldie traveled with us everywhere. He was happy in airplanes and boats, on snowmachines and four-wheelers. He was full of energy and made us a family. The first time we took him to the homestead in summer, he stopped at a stream and barked, begging to be carried across! He refused to get his feet wet. He later learned how fun it can be to get wet and after that we couldn't keep him dry. Once he discovered that fish live in water, he began to pounce on every puddle. When he came with us in the Bayliner up the Inside Passage, he would dive into the water and swim around in circles, seemingly just for the fun of it.
January 5, 1994 was a dark day in Goldie's life. He was shot. It was supposed to be our last day at Dennis' brother's farm outside Minneapolis. Goldie was let out for a morning potty break and the only neighbor in the vicinity shot him. He dragged himself home and we rushed him to a vet. A few hours later we got bad news. The bullet had pulverized the bone of his back leg so close to the hip that it was unlikely the leg could be saved.
You can imagine our grief. The neighbor was unrepentant, insisting Goldie had trespassed. Never mind that his own dog is never chained or confined and wanders across property boundaries all the time. The police came and said the neighbor did nothing illegal. Never mind that there were numerous options for resolving the problem of a trespassing dog short of shooting him. A small-town dogcatcher was just five miles down the road.
Thankfully, during surgery they discovered that enough of the hip joint was left to salvage the leg. After surgery, that leg was a good two inches shorter than the other, but Goldie didn't let it slow him down. When we took him back to the same vet to say thank you some years later, he couldn't tell which hip he'd operated on.
One April 12, as we were on our way back to civilization after ten days at the homestead, we happened upon a large lone wolf. The wolf veered off the trail ahead of us and sat down 50 yards or so away, watching us. We stopped the snowmachines and watched him, transfixed. Goldie rolled in the snow playfully. The long magical moment ended when the wolf stood up. Goldie saw him, stiffened, and gave chase, ignoring Dennis' frantic calls. The wolf loped away, seemingly uninterested. Goldie raced after him. Just before he reached the wolf, however, he doubled back. The wolf sat down again to watch us until we moved on.
The first time we noticed a health problem as Goldie aged was in Prince William Sound. He was stumbling and falling. We raced him to a vet in Anchorage who suspected he might have cancer. "That's funny," I thought. "Neither Dennis nor I has a family history of cancer." Somehow I had forgotten he was an adopted dog, not a natural born child!
In about 2000, he began having seizures. Once on a walk, a loose dog raced up, eager for a fight. Before the other dog got a chance to bite, Goldie collapsed in a seizure and began writhing around on the road. The other dog recoiled and fled!
We lived in a rural area, sort of, and didn't always chain or confine him when we were with him at home. Occasionally he'd wander around a bit and visit the neighbors, but he didn't go far and he always came home. Once when we were out working in the yard a young couple walked down the driveway, carrying him. The woman was weeping. She sobbed that he must have been hit by a car. They found him writhing on the ground next to the road. They gently put him down. He jumped up and started racing around. "Don't worry," Dennis told them. "It happens all the time. He just had a seizure."
Though he traveled with us wherever we went for years, as Goldie aged traveling became difficult. When we went to California for the first time in 2005, we left him with a friend at our house. He hadn't been doing well for awhile, but after every setback he seemed to rally. He'd been our companion for 13 years and was with us for countless adventures from the Alaskan far north to Baja. He loved to travel—by snowmachine, boat, plane—whatever it took to be with us. He walked us twice a day and convinced us we were doing him a favor. He wandered off into the woods one cold February evening in 2005 and never came home.
We miss him a lot....
Go on to read Hiking the Chilkoot Trail
Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony