The Golden Retriever Club of America National Rescue Committee

Ian's Story

You Cannot Measure Love in Years
by Alison Doyle
(reprinted with permission)

Goldens take your heart, and cherish it... they walk with it, and sleep with it, and they will never let it out of their sight... and when it's their time, they will take a little piece of it with them to remember you by.... And leave a piece for you to remember them by.... Author Unknown

This is a story of thanks, hope, and love, as well as of grief. Thanks to the shelter workers who didn't just euthanize an old dog with no teeth and a very large tumor. Thanks to the rescue volunteers who called and emailed Peppertree Rescue about this very sweet old dog with a very large tumor who howled at the shelter. Ian, named by one of our volunteers, never howled again. Thanks to Sue Rushman who agreed he was worth saving and went and got him from the shelter.

A special thank you to Dr. Joy Lucas at Upstate Veterinary Clinic who saved his life, on September 11, 2001, during three hours of touch-and-go surgery. Also a special thank you to Pam Nelson, Homestead Animal Hospital, who saved his life a second time. I appreciate Pam's wisdom and advice over the years, especially when we made the hard decision not to operate a third time and the harder decision to let Ian go.

Another special thank you to Betsy Sommers and David Sawicki, President and Treasurer of Peppertree Rescue who didn't hesitate to say yes despite the high medical expenses. We are a very small, poor rescue and Ian cost a lot of money. Thanks too, to everyone at Peppertree who listened to me, shared my joy, my anguish and my tears. Especially, Leda Kim who helped me through the rough roller coaster ride of the last month or so.

Thank you to my family and friends who loved him too. Especially, Aimee Miller who always made sure he had a special treat and a special trip outside with her. We'll forgive her for the time she almost lost him! And to my husband, though a self-proclaimed "not-a-dog-person," who always had a kind word and a pat for "Big Red" and for the other dogs too! Thanks to Katie too, for loving him, despite the fact that he didn't play like her little dogs.

Thanks to Margo McHann for including Ian and I in her book - "My Rescued Golden" and to Sam and Paul Stelmaszyk who took these wonderful photos. Thanks to everyone I have forgotten to mention, please forgive me.

A word of thanks, too, to the person who dumped him, couldn't deal with his tumor and/or who didn't care enough to find the dog that had been part of their life for twelve years or so. Despite my years in rescue, I still cannot comprehend how this could have happened not only to a good dog, but, to an old dog. Your trash is my treasure and I really do appreciate the gift you gave me more than I have the words to say.

Most of all, thanks to Ian for loving me. On some level, he's always been my dog despite the fact that he spent twelve years of his life somewhere else. He loves everyone else too. Ian could march in an adoption clinic, still toothless and very old, and people would still want to adopt him. His tail never stopped wagging. About the only time Ian was cranky was with Xena, his bossy little rescue Pug sister, who tried to boss the wrong guy and eat his dinner. She's lucky he's toothless!

Ian came to me as a foster. I had just placed another rescue Golden and there was room in our home and our hearts. I offered to go and evaluate Ian and foster him, if we could save his life. I walked into the veterinary clinic. Ian wagged his tail, rubbed his head on my hip and snuggled. I lost my heart.

Katie, my daughter and I, took him to PetsMart. Katie thought he needed a fashionable collar and leash so he came home in animal print.

It's hard to believe that, in years, he was only with us for a short time. It really does feel like he was with us forever and he will be forever in my heart. Our milestones were small by normal standards, but, still they thrilled us. I'll never forget the first time, after surgery, that Ian could lay on his back and roll. There was a look of utter joy on his face. I also won't forget Katie exclaiming "Ian ran, Ian ran" and "Ian chased the ball." His run was never much more than a fast trot, but, he could move again!

The time we had was happy - we went on lots of long walks, trips to the beach and to the park. Despite his age, he happily played with our little dogs and kept them all behaving! Ian was always by my side and he couldn't walk out a door without turning his head to make sure I was following him. Of course, I always did.

Ian is a poster boy for dog rescue and is symbolic of the best rescue can be. As Jim Willis, author of "Pieces of My Heart" told me "That's what it is all about - not "sense," not "logic," not "economics" - but the precious beings who somebody else threw away and still have the power to change lives." Ian's rescue didn't make a whole lot of sense from a logical or economical point of view. He was old, he was going to have massive vet bills and probably wasn't going to be that easy to place. He sure did change lives though, most of all mine.

This is also a story of love and of hope and of the good that the tireless, unpaid, unsung heroes of dog rescue do, day in and day out, with a never ending stream of dogs that someone has decided they can't keep, don't want, have to get rid of, and typically need to have that happen right now.

It is, too, a story of grief, sadness and letting go. As winter waned and spring began, the tumor grew and grew. As I began to realize that there would be no miracle for us, I watched the geese migrating north as we went on our morning walks and thought that the geese would always be a reminder of the good days we had...

Ian left us on April 16, 2003. He died in my arms while I held him as tight as I could. He wagged his tail until he fell asleep, then gently and peacefully left us. I am terribly sad, and quite lost, without him.

Two days after Ian died, as I walked with the little dogs and a empty space in my heart, a few geese, migrating late in the season in upstate New York, flew overhead. Whether it was a sign, or not, I don't know, but, it gave me a measure of comfort and I'll take that.

Finally though, and most importantly, Ian's story is a story of how you cannot measure love in time. Jim Willis again found just the right words to convey both the time and the love.

I Loved You Best

So this is where we part, My Friend,
and you'll run on, around the bend,
gone from sight, but not from mind,
new pleasures there you'll surely find.

I will go on, I'll find the strength,
life measures quality, not its length.
One long embrace before you leave,
share one last look, before I grieve.

There are others, that much is true,
but they be they, and they aren't you.
And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought,
will remember well all you've taught.

Your place I'll hold, you will be missed,
the fur I stroked, the nose I kissed.
And as you journey to your final rest,
take with you this...I loved you best.

Copyright © 2002 by Jim Willis, Used with Permission