Editor’s note: I wrote a shorter summary about this and posted it on Facebook last month. This story is a prelude to something special Phoenix and I will be sharing with you in the post following. Breathe, no he and I did not get another puppy.
My first memory of a dog in my life was when I was 4 or 5 years old. I recall a Dachshund and a German Shepherd that were around for only a very brief time and it would be 17 years later before another dog came into my life.
This is by no means a message speaking ill will of those that put obstacles in my way. But, it is to share of my vision quest that I began to doubt after 28 years.
My dad and mom got a divorce and he and I went from living in this very nice home to a tiny little duplex. I was obviously lost, confused and I continually craved, desired and pleaded for a dog. That request was always met with a resounding “no” from my Dad.
It was on a summer vacation to Minnesota two years later when I was 10 years old that the writing became set on the proverbial wall for me. It was in Fergus Falls that I found myself gathering with a group of kids for a game of baseball at this gorgeous park. The outfield fence backed up to a lake and it was so picture perfect.
One of the neighborhood kids that had showed up to play had this dog with him!! He was beautiful!! The dog did tricks and would catch a baseball in his mouth. He followed the kid everywhere he went on the field. All of the kids went crazy with excitement to have the dog playing ball with us. I finally walked up to the kid and the dog fawned all over me (like he did every other kid). I asked him, “what kind of dog is that?”
He said, “He’s a Golden Retriever.”
There ya have it.
A couple of years later at 12 years old I was starting my new paper route. It required me getting up at 5 a.m. six mornings a week and it was often dark except for the extra daylight in summer. This was now the perfect opportunity to get a dog. I approached my dad with all of the right reasons and especially for the protection. But, this time I specifically said, “Dad, can I please get a Golden Retriever dog?” And the same answer.
It was in amongst this time that I had full panel allergy test done on me. You know, where you get the minefield of pinpricks on your bare back and they test for every possible allergic reaction. It was discovered during this test that I had an allergy to pet dander and hair. Ironically, it came to light that I was highly allergic to cats but it also included dogs. And I still am to this day. I didn’t even think twice about continuing to want a dog.
When Dad got divorced a second time we found ourselves in a duplex again. I made another request for a dog and of course the same answer. It would be after I moved out on my own two years later that my aunt and uncle mentioned that they always believed my Dad had a fear of dogs. I was never able to get a straight answer from him.
At approximately 22 years old I had become engaged to a wonderful girl who had two boys. She had a Bassett Hound and we wound up getting a Lhasa Apso for her then another one for me a year later. I wanted a Golden Retriever as it was once again the perfect situation. But, she felt it would be better with smaller dogs with the very little boys who were just approaching 2 and 3 years old.
After she and I broke up about 5 years later I took both of the Lhasa’s with me as the Bassett Hound had passed away. I had to put both of them to sleep in their most eldest years and it was horrible. And the second dog, Brutus, was my best little buddy it absolutely slayed me. But, a Lhasa Apso is no Golden Retriever for what I desired in my heart all of my life. No offense, Brutus!
A couple of weeks after I lost Brutus my friend, Karen, mentioned that another friend, Michon, would be having a litter of Golden Retriever puppies. Karen said, “You always said you wanted one your entire life, Mike.” I was not in the mood for another dog at that moment. I did not want to experience the horrific feeling of pet loss I had just gone through two weeks prior. Ever.
It was a few days later Michon approached me at work and said, “I heard might be interested in getting one of my Golden Retriever puppies.” I told her how I felt but said I would think about it. It was on my days off that I consulted with one of best life long girlfriends, Kim. I was looking for a sign. Something. Anything. She said to go rent Homeward Bound. I had heard of the movie but I did not want to watch a dog movie. She insisted. So, I rented it and watched it…
The following Monday at work I told Michon I would really like to get one of her puppies. Darn friends!
I went high and to the right buying everything for my pending new arrival. I even arranged for a week and a half off for pupternity leave. The first thing I did was buy two books, Puppies for Dummies and Golden Retrievers for Dummies. I bought toys, a super nice crate with the nice bed, I researched for the best puppy food, bought a gazillion toys and puppy-proofed the house (ya, right).
My close friend, Mike, who with his wife has only owned Golden Retrievers all of his life, told me the new puppy would need only five things: discipline, love, water, food and a bag of tennis balls. He sternly warned me that the dog’s “light bulb” would not turn on until about the time it was 6 years old. Mike is a very wise man, indeed.
When we were alone Michon said, “Mike, as you know, since my dog is the Daddy I get first pick of the litter. I’m giving that pick to you.”
Tears were streaming down my face and I mumbled, “Thank you so much.” Wow, first pick, no pressure there. I knew all along I wanted a boy dog so that part was done.
The arrival of the new pups was getting closer and closer. And I was experiencing more nervousness and apprehension by the day. I had a list of over 100 dog names written down. How’s that for O.C.D.? Yep, I was in serious need of medication and/or a good rest at the funny farm.
Michon and I were chatting again and she said, “When did Brutus die?”
I said, “It was the last of March, first of April, somewhere in there.” I had been in a total fog for a week afterwards.
She said totally unassuming, “How ironic, this litter was conceived just a few days after that.”
It was that night at home that it hit me as I thought to myself, “What is that name of the bird that rose up out of the ashes?! Oh ya, The Phoenix!!”
I threw out my list of dog names as it was no longer needed.
After around the second week since the pups had been born Michon and I met over at Valerie’s house. She is the owner of the momma dog, Sierra. Michon’s dog, Sampson, is the daddy. My heart was pounding as the door opened for the first time and Sierra came to inspect who the new face (me) was. It was the first Golden Retriever I had been around in many, many years. I just beamed inside with anticipation and excitement.
Valerie took me over to the play pen area and there they all were. Ummm, looking not that cute. I thought to myself that Golden Retriever puppies are supposed to be adorably cute??! Both of the girls looked at me and noticed my “disappointed” look. Valerie said, smiling, “Give it a couple of weeks and you’ll see.”
Six expecting puppy owners were waiting on me but I was still so frickin’ nervous to commit. We were over at Valerie’s on several occasions. I wouldn’t pick one. Each time Michon and I left, she would say, “Everyone is waiting on you. You need to pick one.”
Me doubtfully, “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. Sorry.”
Michon, very assertively, “Oh bullshit. You just need to pick one, Mike.”
I remember one day Michon gave me permission to pet and talk to her police dog, Maverick, at the vehicle. It would be a few months later that Phoenix would get to play with Maverick. He was so gentle with Phoenix who was a horrifically obnoxious puppy.
Me to Maverick, stroking his head and neck, “I don’t know what to do, Mav.”
Maverick, “Are you on drugs? You look like you’re on drugs. And you look combative! Mom, let me out!!”
Michon, “Maverick stop it!!!”
Mav to me snickering, ”Just punkin’ ya kid. Pick one.”
Finally one day…
I had, had my eye on this particular one. He would raise heck with his brothers and sisters then go bolting off to the corner of the pen. He always looked at me. Odd. Also he would sneer at me and I would stick my tongue out at him.
Finally Michon said, “My GAWD, pick one now Mike!!”
That same one was over in the corner again staring at me sticking his tongue out BACK at me saying, “Pick one of them dum dum.”
I picked him up and he whimpered to high heaven, “Not ME you idiot!!! One of THEM!!”
He peed ALL over my clothes…
Michon and Valerie burst out laughing, and Michon said verbatim, “He just picked YOU!!!”
I looked into his eyes and said, “Just you and me kiddo.”
Phoenix glaring at me, “Fine. And btw….you look like Alfred E Newman with glasses. Now put me down.”
We “hated” each other from the get go and my life changed forever.
Thank you to my God I prayed to every night since I was a young boy for the most profound, loving soul mate I’ve ever had in my life. I know, be careful what you wish for because it just might come true.
This was the magical moment right here (notice how protectively I’m holding him)…
Did you ever get to have your dream dog? I would love to hear about it!