Summer turned to fall, as it is want to do. Sajo had now fully established herself in our family. She was perplexed the day the big yellow vehicle came and took one of her charges off to school. She waited all day at the end of the driveway that first day for him to return. As I watched from the front step, the greeting between boy and dog was a joy to my heart. Sajo wagged her tail, pulling her aching body up to stand, and greet her boy. Her habit of pressing her head into the chest of her people was well established, but the boy bent to greet her. Like a mother welcoming home her son home from war, Sajo seemed to engulf him with her body. They stood a long time like that, truly having missed one another for those hours.
As the leaves fell and the weather got colder, Sajo’s arthritis became apparent. A little Glucosamine, the occasional bit of pain medication, and she was good to go. Ever eager to play with her boys, Sajo delighted in every moment in their presence. It was hard to imagine how anyone could have let her get so badly hurt and not fixed her. I often wondered about her car accident and the extent of her injuries. When we would sit in the afternoon sun and I would brush the burrs from her soft golden coat, I would take careful measures to check her bent and twisted feet. The boys never cared that she was slow ~ she was the perfect speed for them at that age. The boys never paid attention to her deformities; they merely loved her as she loved them.
Sajo got so she would come back to the house after the oldest went on the bus. She would guard her younger charge during the day. Her internal clock always told her when it was time to go out and greet her buddy at the end of the driveway. Her routine was set around his schedule. She would follow him to make certain he dropped off his book bag, and then they would play. Despite the fact that my youngest son was there when we brought her home; she was more attached to the older one. Having this dog taught him to be patient and kind; the greatest gift she gave was her unconditional love.
Fall drifted into winter; the snow came. Sajo made her daily trek to the bus without a word of complaint. It was during the winter that we shared her story of being there for Brock at the lake with Golden Rescue. We knew they were an organization that found homes for returned, recycled, and reclaimed Goldens. The President of the organization for our area called us and asked my husband and I to come to a meeting and bring Sajo. She was an instant hit. Most of the members were themselves breeders. Non had ever seen a dog so crippled from an accident that had not only survived, but was now thriving. My husband and I agreed to be put on the adoption list for a rescued Golden in future. We loved the breed and we knew in our hearts that Sajo was not going to live forever. Even our vet estimated her age to be nearing 11.
When Spring finally rolled around again, we looked forward to Sajo being able to warm her aching bones in the sun. She was more mobile as the weather warmed, and delighted in having her boys to play with out doors more and more. Ever watchful, she developed a little warning bark when she thought things needed my attention more. She enjoyed just being near the children as they played. Some of the energy must have rubbed off on her. We still walked, but we noticed she was slower, and no longer needed a leash to lead her. She would just plod along behind us. More and more often, she would be further behind and we would wait for her. My son, James would run back to her, and clutch her collar to lead her to catch up.
To see her when we went swimming in the lake you would never think she had any pain. In the water, she could dance, fly, and she was happiest. The boys played in the shallows, and she would get just beyond them and swim. By bed time most nights, she was asleep as soon as the boys were. Many nights I would bring a heating pad and lay it under her bed to warm her aching bones. Many mornings my husband would find me curled up beside her, a blanket tucked in around both of us, our heads sharing a pillow. I knew in my heart she was in pain, and she didn’t want to be alone. I also sensed that her time was coming, and I couldn’t bare the thought of her leaving us without knowing love in those last moments. ~ Marjorie
Next, Part 4: Passing the torch, letting go.