This past week my mom had to put down her last golden retriever. Her name was Cricket and it was like the end of an era. Mom still has other dogs but she has changed breeds. Maybe the goldens seemed too big for her small house. I don’t know. I’ve never asked her.
The dogs became an integral part of my mom’s life once she divorced my dad when I was a pre-teen. I may have mentioned in the past that I think she married my dad as a way out of her home life where my grandmother was an alcoholic. When my parents split my mom was forced to do things she had not had to do. Like get a job. This is not easy when you have little education and are suddenly a single parent with two children. But she did it. She worked and she attended college. And she also started dating the man next door. He was a widower with three kids. We became this blended family. Taking trips together and the like.
The man next door unfortunately was not exactly a nice guy. This is entirely my opinion but one that my mom actually might agree with in hindsight. He was very, very jealous. I think that he may have been abusing my mom. If not physically (which I am completely unsure of) definitely mentally. He would get so jealous and angry if she saw anyone else, even her girlfriends, that she eventually stopped even trying. He succeeded in isolating her. Like an abuser. I think that maybe because my grandmother was not the nicest when she was drinking that my mom was used to not being treated well. While she was still with this man, she got her first golden retriever. Her name was Alexis and she was a bit crazy. Her goal in life was to put her tongue in your mouth. She helped my friend lose a tooth one day trying to do that.
Alexis made mom really happy. I remember the two of them in the yard of the house I grew up in. Mom was in the hammock petting Alexis. A rare moment since mom hardly ever stopped. Eventually she decided to sell the house and move out to the town she grew up in. The man was still in her life. I felt like he had mellowed with age. He asked her to marry him. She almost did. But didn’t. He came out by her. They would sometimes go to Atlantic City and he would gamble all the money they had away so that he had to leave collateral at the toll booths to get back to NY. Eventually she would find out that he had taken out a credit card in her name and charged it up. The shine was off. She finally had had enough. And then he was gone. I can’t say that I missed him.
Then she had two goldens, Alexis and Summer, whose personality was polar opposite from Alexis. Mom started taking the dogs to shows. Not the kind where they are judged on their looks but the kind where the dogs are doing things. And she really liked it. She tried both at these shows and eventually added Cricket to the family.
These dogs, I think for my mom, were a way for her to do something that was just hers. For the first time, she was in charge, she was calling the shots and it was all her. I think that training her dogs helped her gain confidence. She took them to shows and some of them won ribbons. That was back in the obedience days when Cricket would blow her stays. Now it is a bit like doggie Olympics. Her dogs darting through tunnels and over bridges. She is supposed to direct them and run the course with them. I get the impression that maybe someone along the way during her life told her that she was stupid. And sometimes I think she can’t get that voice out of her head. The one that says that she can’t do things. The one that tells her she can’t fill out a form. Or that she isn’t doing something the right way. I wish she could make that voice go away. I wish that I could get rid of it for her. I know that I can’t but I also know that when she is with her dogs, when she is running around with them, she does not hear that voice. Because she is going for it.
So this is dedicated to Cricket. A good dog. The last of the golden retrievers. The breed that helped my mom’s confidence. That helped shut down that voice. At least sometimes.