A Stubborn Old Golden

Yesterday was a sad day for the Skipper family—Chelsea, our 12-year-old Golden Retriever, finally had to be put down.

She wasn't the first gundog that we had to lay to rest, and unfortunately she won't be the last. But she was something special. From the start, she seemed like she was meant to be with my family—as we came to find out, she'd even coincidentally been born on my mom's birthday, Oct. 17.

Chelsea was a bit different for a golden, to be sure—she had a mean streak that made it impossible for another dog to be in the field while she was hunting. Every now and then a new hunting buddy would scoff and bring their gundog along anyway. That would always be a one-time occurrence. No matter where you were, it was Chelsea's field and they were her birds.

She had that fire from day one—no more than 20 minutes after my dad brought her through the door as a pup, she climbed up on the couch, sat down and bared her puppy teeth at our 6-year-old black lab when it tried to come over and give her a sniff. She was all of 10 weeks old at the time.

No, she wasn't quite as obedient as the other Golden Retrievers that my family owned over the years. She'd occasionally disobey orders, had a habit of trying to steal table food when you weren't looking (I once caught her swiping an entire footlong sub) and sometimes refused to come when called, especially as she got older. And there was that time she tried to retrieve a groundhog. But that all became part of her greater personality, and we loved her for it.

She'd been sick awhile, but things finally came to a head last week and a trip to the vet was in order. The prognosis provided was, well, awful. She had cancer throughout her body. Her liver had nearly completely failed. And the vet wasn't even sure that her kidneys could still be called kidneys. He declared that she should have been dead for a week or two, at the least. Yet there that stubborn old golden sat, weakly wagging her tail while resting on his exam table. One last defiance, this time of nature itself. I happened to be visiting home just a few days before her real troubles had started, and my brother is firmly convinced that all she'd been waiting on was for me to be around.

My family has always firmly believed that pets shouldn't be made to suffer for our own comfort, so my dad waited with Chelsea while the vet did what had to be done. Yes, we lost a great dog yesterday, but she gave us 12 fantastic years and countless memories.

Catch you later, Chels. Be it birds or sandwiches that you're chasing in the next life; I hope they're plentiful.

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