Aug 032013

Phoenix Dad Post

One of my life long best friends, Kim M, told me a couple of years ago, “Mikey, I love all of your writings. But gawd, please warn me ahead of time before you send one of these stories!’ Warning sent my dear friend.

Oh, I almost forgot. Who I wrote it to and the song. It’s to my Dad and the song is Patty Smyth’s ‘The Warrior’. Gawd, she was soooo sexy back in the day.

I have no pictures of this evening as it would have been rude. I left my camera at home so that I made sure I was in the moment. I was soooo nervous.
Phoenix looked at me the entire drive out there saying to me as we listened to music, “Breathe you idiot….!”  That’s his soft side.

I post this picture each year as it’s my last happy memory I will ever have with my Dad. If I could have had that last“catch” (re: the movie Field of Dreams) I would have moved Heaven and Earth within what my God would have allowed to have that moment with him.

Dad last picture

My dad was horribly afraid of dogs. To this day I never figured it out. He and my mom, Foyann, came up to visit my uncle and, of course, where I go Phoenix goes. We are a package deal for life. Anyhoo, he was sooooo excited to see my Dad and Foyann for the first time. I wanted a dog my entire childhood more than you can possibly fathom hence my love for Phoenix. My dad had always said, “You will never have a dog living under my roof.” End of discussion.

Please let me fast forward and qualify that my Dad was at the middle stage of Parkinson’s to where he was still cognizant when this day happened upon us all.

So, my Dad and Foyann were sitting on my uncle’s couch and I could see the fear in my Dad’s eyes as I brought Phoenix in on leash. I’m very nice and considerate but years of resentment bursted out within me and let him off leash. My Dad KNEW what Phoenix meant to me and that it’s Phoenix #1 and everything else can take their proper place. He leapt onto my parents lap as happy as ever. My Dad was furious and Phoenix licked on his face with so much enthusiasm. I saw the look in his eyes. Foyann was thrilled with delight. She LOVES dogs!!

I’m not trashing on you, Dad. You will forever be the light of my life as a parent. But, here’s what I yearned for my entire childhood. And why I have given Phoenix freely to this precious child for years now. See those smiles, Dad? I know you would be proud of me.



My dad hollered, pushing him off,”No!”
Phoenix hopped over to my mom’s lap and laid his head down on her lap so that she would pet him.
He said to Foyann looking up at her and then at my Dad, “What is his problem?”
Foyann, the Kid Whisperer (4th grade teacher) she will forever be, “You need to move more slowly, Phoenix.”
Phoenix, “Ohhhh….so he doesn’t feel well?”
Foyann, “Yes.”

Phoenix leapt off of the couch and sat at my Dad’s feet.

My Dad scowled at me. I just did the shoulder hunch, don’t know what to tell you pops. Yes, I felt a bit guilty. Then the most bizarre thing happened. Phoenix looked at me and my Dad back and forth 2-3 times.

He whispered quickly to me, “Ooops, you didn’t tell me. Here, I will make this right.”

He stared at my dad. It drove my dad nuts.
Dad glared at me, “Tell him to stop doing that, Mike!” LOL…ya, good luck with that. Phoenix’s tail was wagging.
There was a standoff off for several minutes. No one spoke.
Phoenix at my dad, “I’m your son’s kid and I take care of him. You don’t ever need to be afraid of me.”

Phoenix Dad Post3

My dad made the first move and reached forward and patted Phoenix on the top of the head, “Good dog. Now go.”
Phoenix, “What?! That’s all you got?! Bullshit!”
My kid looked at me, “Sorry for using a bad word.”
I said, “You’re doing fine.”

And the stare off resumed with Phoenix sitting at my dad’s feet his tail calmly wagging, “Until we love on each other I’m not budging. I can hold my pee for 12+ hours. You?”
God bless my uncle and mom for letting this play itself out.

Dad tried making conversation with us but we were all aware of the moment. FINALLY he leaned forward and scratched Phoenix on each side of his neck.
Phoenix said, “Awesome! Baby steps. Oooo….right there….scratch right there.”
My dad said, “Mike, you have a beautiful dog.”
I said, “I know.”
My uncle, knowing of our strained relationship scorned me, ”Mikey, THAT is where you say thank you, Dad.”
I said, “Thank you, Dad.”

We had a bbq that night and Phoenix sat at my DAD’s side. Not begging for food. Just sitting with him. My Dad’s Parkinson’s disease was about to go into it’s advanced stages where he would not remember this moment. Very similar to Alzheimer’s.

None of us knew….except for Phoenix.

Phoenix Dad Post2

A couple of years later in my Dad’s last valiant battle he was rambling about a 1930’s Yankee baseball team. For those of you that have gone through the dementia of a loved one you will appreciate that. It was amazing that my dad always talked to me about his baseball memories. We donated his brain to the Mayo Clinic so they could study it. The results were jaw dropping.

Anyhoo, all of sudden at the end of one of these talks one day. I’ve never told my mom about this as she was out of the room but I wanted something just between him and me. But it will bring her so much joy. THAT is what matters….life is short.

Here’s your Kleenex warning.

My Dad’s my mind was lost out in the ether of life and a disease that had rotted his brain and he said to me, “Mike, I love you. How’s Phoenix doing?”

All my love to you Kim, Duane and the kids….

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Mike Vogler

I have been told (many times) that I really need to write a book about my life. The past 40+ years have been an exciting ride, and these days I find myself with a great many passions. However, I feel that this website is a much more personal way with which to share my musings, stories, commentary, and (of course) my greatest love... my Golden Retriever, Phoenix.

  36 Responses to “My Golden Retriever, Phoenix, Meeting My Dad With Parkinson’s For The First Time”

  1. Such a great memory Mike. Love that you have those. The first and last pics of Phoenix in this story are priceless. You are going to have quite an awesome picture book soon. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Very nice story. A very special memory. Thanks. Pete.

  3. Wow! Beyond heartwarming. Tears to eyes.

  4. Such a wonderful memory. Thank you for sharing. There is nothing like the unconditional love of an animal to show what is important in life. And yes I needed Kleenex!!!

  5. Thank you, Mike and Phoenix.

    I simultaneously want to call both my dad and son right now.

  6. Beautiful story – shows the importance of remembering the good and clear moments.

  7. Dogs seem to sense who needs them. Maybe Phoenix also sensed how important it was for you to have your father understand your cross species relationship.

    • What an incredibly awesome comment, Suzanne! Thank you. That is exactly what I think occurred that day too! 🙂

  8. You’re a wonderful storyteller, Mike. Poignant. Phoenix is definitely a special dog.

    PS: My #FoodieTuesday post is up, if you want to join the link party, Mike.

    • Thank you, Marcia, for both myself and Phoenix! And awesome on your #Foodie Tuesday being up as I’ve been checking your site all day for it! Can’t wait! 🙂

  9. Such a great story, Mike! I love love LOVE golden retrievers. I grew up with a golden retriever and I think that they’re the best dogs/friends ever. I’ve already made it clear to my husband that when we have kids (perhaps before), we’re definitely getting a golden retriever. I’m sorry for your loss.

    • Wow, what a small world it is for us dog lovers sometimes huh, Dana?! I wanted a Golden all of my entire life wow did I hit the lottery with Phoenix. I will be excited to hear of your new puppy when you and your husband choose to get him/her! And yes a wonderful choice for children! He idolizes children. Thank you also for you well wishes 🙂

  10. Nice that you were able to bring two people you love together.

  11. Mike, while I love dogs, your post moves me for a different reason: my mother had Parkinson’s for many years before she crossed over in March 2011. It is so hard to have a parent slowly become paralyzed and lost all their sources of joy, one by one. I feel relieved that her spirit is finally set free.

    My favorite sentence in your post: Until we love on each other I’m not budging.

    • Alison, thank you so much for sharing about your mother. I’m sorry you went through that painful experience. That was beautiful when you said “I feel relieved that her spirit is finally set free.” I need to always remind myself of that 🙂

  12. Yep, that one brought tears to my eyes, Mike! What a fantastically lovely memory to have of your dad. We sadly have two friends who are treading the Parkinson’s path to their respective ends. . .it isn’t easy to watch and I can’t imagine being the child watching it happen.

    • I’m truly sorry to hear of your friends, Jackie. It’s a terrible disease as are so many. It was very emotional to write that post but also cathartic to share with others and of course about Phoenix’s involvement that day 🙂

  13. What a very touching story and tribute – beautifully written and I know how painful it is to watch a loved one – human and canine – slip away.

    • Thank you, Carol I really appreciate that! 🙂 Great comment, both human and canine is absolutely right.

  14. Wonderful memory, and thanks for sharing it with all of us. Really appreciate your openness and honesty too. Amazing how he remembered her even when his disease was so advanced. My grandmother, who was a dog lover, had Alzheimers, but near the end – she always remembered all the dogs’ names.

    • Thank you, Donna! I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother and I know that was so difficult to go through for you. Isn’t amazing how their minds could pop in and out with remembering things sometimes?

  15. That’s a lovely memory. How lovely that Phoenix was so patient.

  16. Hi there! I would love to thank you for passing by my blog, and

    thank you for sharing your story, by your post I can feel how much love you have for your father. I have to admit it made me tear up a bit because I don’t have a good relationship with my father. I find it amazing that you had such a wonderful bond with yours.

    Have a great day,


    • Hi Francesca, I appreciate you stopping by as well! I’m glad you enjoyed the story and I’m sorry to hear of you and your father. Hopefully can mend that fence. Have a great day! 🙂

  17. What a lovely tale – and tale:) – Mike. It’s so true that dogs can reach people when no one else can. And Phoenix does look like a golden-haired angel! I can relate to your dad’s fear of dogs, though. I have had a livelong visceral terror of them which I didn’t understand, since I actually love them. Only recently did I find out from my mother that, when I was much too small to remember, I was attacked by a dog when sitting in a stroller. My terror had its basis in prememory. And alas some dogs have done nothing to help me with my fear, like the very protective giant poodle guardians of a donkey sanctuary I visited while the owners were away. Yes, I admired the poodles for driving visitors away from the defenseless donkeys but I can’t describe the visceral terror I felt at their aggression. Despite that, I did end up rescuing a dear little West Highland terrier from a situation of abuse. Rover proved a devoted companion, fierce in his defense of me despite his small size. Even that little darlin’ had a devil’s tail hidden in his angel’s fur somewhere:)) Happy memories! Thanks for this lovely story, Mike.

    • This was very interesting and I do wonder if that’s what happened to my dad because I was never able to figure it. That’s fascinating on the donkeey protecting poodles! I had never hear of such a thing. I’m so glad you got yourself a little guy and thank you for sharing your story, Lesley! 🙂

  18. What a beautiful story Mike. These are memories that will last a life time. I’m sorry about your father but I’m sure Phoenix will give you some comfort. I love dogs, they are so great.

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