In 1994 we adopted a 2 year old Golden Retriever named Luke from a local rescue club. He quickly became our best friend and an inseparable part of our family over the next 8 years. Just a few days after he turned 10 years old, we lost him when he was hit by a car in front of our house. December 5, 2002 still reigns as the worst night of my life. I can’t even talk about it because I blame myself for what happened, and will probably never be able to forgive myself. What we didn’t know then, was that it was just the beginning of a series of events that would forever change our lives. We were so devastated by losing Luke that we didn’t want to think about getting another Golden for awhile, but just a few weeks later we heard through a friend that the local Humane Society had a Golden Retriever that she thought we might be interested in.
I couldn’t resist, so I went down there to see the dog, and that’s when Marley came bounding into our lives. She was a very exuberant 1 ½ year old girl who seemed very sweet, and I fell in love immediately. On New Year’s Eve we were about to begin the new year with a new dog! We found out that Marley had belonged to a family who paid her little attention, and this was the fourth time she had been found running loose and was picked up by the Humane Society. This time, when the folks at the Humane Society called her owners, they said “keep her, we don’t want her back”. They have no idea what they gave up.
Marley thrived in our home; she finally was getting all the love and attention that she had been craving for so long. We adored Marley, and she and Dolly became best buddies. We called her “Marleybone”.
Summer came, and somewhere in the middle of July I had taken Marley outside one morning, and when we were heading back into the house she suddenly acted like she was in pain. When she didn’t get better, I took her in to the vet. He gave us some meds for her, which seemed to help at first, but a few days later she was unable to move her hind legs. Our vet referred us to a specialist, and she responded really well to the steroids he gave her. He assured us that all we needed to do was wean her off the steroids over a couple of weeks and she should make a full recovery. Our relief and joy was short-lived though, because within 24 hours she once again was unable to walk without dragging her useless hind legs behind her. We took her back for further testing, and the results were devastating. She had a tumor on her spinal cord, presumable malignant. She was only 2 years old, so it was nearly impossible to wrap my mind around this. The only way to know for sure and to decide what combination of chemo drugs she needed would be to biopsy the tumor, but the only way to do a biopsy was through surgery. He didn’t want to do surgery because the high risk of permanent paralysis outweighed the benefits. IF he could successfully do it, the best we could hope for was to buy her maybe a year of living with the side effects of chemo. No matter what we did, at the end of the day we would still lose this wonderful creature.
Very few things are as heartbreaking as walking out of the vet’s office with an empty collar, but when it was clear that she could no longer live the life of a dog and nothing more medically could be done, the one last kind and loving thing we could do for her was to let her go.
What I learned from that whole experience is that God’s plans don’t always make sense at first. We were so completely devastated to have lost two very beloved dogs in just 8 months. Why us? I later came to realize that what happened with Marley had never been about us. All the grieving we did for what we lost wasn’t about us. This was all part of God’s plan. He created the path to lead us to Marley so she could know the love of a devoted family in the little time that she had left. Luke had lived a full 10 year life, and was probably spared the all kinds of pain and everything else that goes along with being a geriatric dog. It was about Marley needing us. We were God’s servants, and our purpose was to make the rest of Marley’s life as full and happy as it could be. From this I learned to deal with loss and I learned that things happen for a reason, and eventually everything will be okay and life will go on. For all the pain and grief of those last few weeks with Marley, there is not one single minute of the time we had her that I would trade for anything in the world because the joy and unconditional love she gave us will always be with us.
A week after Marley died we saw an ad in the paper and after a quick phone call we hurried off to a farm in western Iowa to bring home our new Golden Retriever puppy. We had decided not to get another dog for awhile, but the very next day we wondered how long we would be able to stand not having a Golden in our lives. We realized that we had done most of our grieving while Marley was still alive, so it made sense that we were ready so soon. “Katie” is 8 years old now, and if we hadn’t lost Luke and then lost Marley, we wouldn’t have this beautiful, loving friend that we have now.

— Kathy from Fremont, NE