She was my 10.5-year-old furry best girl. She moved a little slower, barked less, listened harder, chased less, and paced more, especially when given a bone that she carried, guarded, hid, found, savored, and so on. She snored intensely, like a drunken crew of grandpas dreaming of fishing trips. Although she played less, she still wagged the feathers of her perfectly fluffy and pristine tail everyday. More than any of that, our glory girl loved effortlessly, without limits.
I’m heartbroken that our beautiful golden retriever, our Italia, recently passed away on January 18, 2017. We believe she suffered a myocardial infarction, a sudden and unexpected heart attack.
That morning, I woke around 2:00 a.m., and shortly after, Harry and I could hear her belabored and heavy breathing. She was right outside the girls’ doors in the hallway, guarding them at one of her favorite bedtime spots.
Italia’s eyes, framed by her long white lashes, were unblinking and dilated, like glassy chocolate brown marbles. Although she kept panting deeply, she was unresponsive. Her mouth was so cold, like she ate a box of her favorite Popsicles. I wish.
She was heaving and immobile, so I called the vet who planned to meet us for an emergency visit in a half hour. By this time, the girls woke and joined us on the floor where we all hugged, snugged, and pet her soft fur that absorbed our four sets of tears.
Our five year old sheltie, Louie, quietly walked away and hid behind the couch. Even though these dogs were the best of friends, he avoided sniffing and pawing at her, like he normally did. I now realize he knew what was happening before we did, and he didn’t have it in him to say goodbye to her.
Although scared, disoriented, and helpless, my kids, husband, and I remained hopeful Italia would recover. None of us knew it would really be the end. Harry lifted her hefty body by scooping her up from her soft, warm belly; her four lifeless legs dangled without fussing over this ride to the vet. With love, Harry carried his girl to our SUV and lay her in the far back. The girls got in the backseat, and we sped off.
We drove for six seconds when I yelled, “Stop the car! I need to be with her.” Of course I needed to lay with her but was so confused that, at first, I took the wrong passenger seat, the one where she usually sat. I ran to the back to join her with the Steelers blanket I brought to pillow under her head. I wrapped my arms around her and caressed her until the end.
For most of the trip, Italia sporadically lived, but I feared she was gone before we got to the doctor at Greener Pastures. I said nothing and hoped my private diagnosis was wrong, yet her last moments ended in my embrace. The vet’s stethoscope and warm, trained hands could only detect the true love within Italia’s stopped heart. The kind doctor consoled us in the rainy parking lot where more tears mingled with the sky drops Italia and I loved running under. With great compassion, the vet left us to say our final goodbyes. I clutched my chest as she wheeled her away from us.
Italia had what seemed to be a pain free exit from this world. Thankfully, we got to hug her before she crossed over to the Rainbow Bridge. I took her and Louie for a wintry walk around our hood the day before. She seemed perfectly fine and gave no signs that this was her last walk. She was indeed a lady who went out with dignity. Still, our human hearts are broken and Louie is so confused.
She was an amazing part of our lives for 10.5 years. She rocked her golden years and had so many good times with the people who loved her and the dogs who admired and played with her, especially her lil’ Louie brother.
We are unsure how to be at home without her. We even miss the tufts of fur and fluff she shed on our pants, floors, carpet, furniture… I cannot sweep up the fur left behind in the vehicle. I suppose, it will just blow away in the wind every time I open the hatch.
Personally, Italia was my shadow and was always right there to accompany me in her many roles: daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, runner, secret-keeper, protectress, and heroine. She was more than my antidepressant, my sunshine, my song, my prayer, my light, my compassion, my heart, my soul, and my strength. Italia was all of this wrapped up in the most glorious feathers of golden retriever-ness. She helped me live harder and happier when she smiled with the whitest of teeth and kissed me with her whiskers and pink chewing gum tongue.
I will see you again, my dear, but until then, I take comfort in the big heavenly hands that pet you, walk you, run you, feed you, and try to play fetch with you (I know you rather catch and keep, but try again to give it back.)
We all love you, Italia, our golden girl. Thank you! I can’t even put into words what you have done for our family for over a decade, but I will continue to keep your furry and mighty memory eternal through the human words I can grace you with. XOXO.