It all began with Greta. My children (especially my daughter Jennifer) had added to their Christmas list to Santa that they wanted a puppy. It wasn't until my daughters Junior year of high school that her wish came true. As I was entering the doorway of a Mobil gas station to grab a quick sandwich for lunch I saw a notice for pure bred Golden Retriever puppies for sale from a couple who lived across the river in Moodus, Connecticut.
The picture was enough to grab all of my attention. They were just the sweetest looking puppies ever! That evening I came home all excited and asked my husband if we could get a puppy, "for the kids". Yeah, right - I was ready and I wanted one in the biggest way. After what surmounted to begging, pleading and then downright pulling a hissy fit, he said, "Do what you want to do because you're going to do it anyway. But don't expect me to have anything to do with a puppy."
The day came to look at the puppies and we had been keeping it a surprise. My husband did not come with me however my sister did. As we approached the pen I turned to my sister and said, "How will I choose? They are all so dang cute." She had not a clue as she also thought they were all really adorable. One stood out however - the runt of the litter. She fought and chewed ears of the other pups to make her way to the forefront. I knew at that moment that she was the one.
Cradled in the arms of my sister we journeyed home with our new puppy. The kids were ecstatic and my husband played hard to get. It didn't take but a few hours and our little "Greta" girl won my husband over - in spades. They took to each other like a duck to water. In fact Greta was far closer to my husband than she was to me.
Before Greta was even two years old and in her second heat like the vet recommended, and being left alone in the yard for about two minutes - wham bam thank you mam, a mix black lab shall we say had his way with her.
On October 21st 1998 Greta gave birth to eleven puppies. Before I could help her, the first one died. During the evening hours and late into the night Greta birthed 10 more puppies. After a while she was just too exhausted to take care of, let alone birth all those puppies. I ended up playing midwife and I have to say that looking back I marvel at what I accomplished and the way in which I helped Greta. That was when Niles was born - he was struggling to be alive. I ripped off the embryonic sac, opened his mouth and took him by the tail and flung him around about three or four times. I gave him CPR on his chest by rubbing it and he lived. For the rest of his life Niles would bear the scar of his birth - a bend in his tail.
I should interject at this point that during the birth we expected to see some golden puppies. There were none. Five sets of "twins" emerged. They were all black for the most part - two were fluffy long haired with spots of white, two were short haired dark brown, two more were longer haired and black and white. The last two were almost twins - one we named Geronimo as he was the first to escape the birthing box and the fact that he had a Mohawk on top of his head. Geronimo was just about all black when he was born but as he got older he had a mix of brown. Niles was ALL black - long curly hair like that of a golden. He was BEAUTIFUL.
We raised all ten puppies during the winter of 1998 and although we probably would not want to do it again, it was perhaps one of the greatest highlights of our lives. As each puppy left we all sobbed and wept. It was heart wrenching to see them go. Niles was the one I chose to keep.
After the birth of the puppies, Greta became as much my dog as my husbands. I truly believe she gained a new found respect for me. Greta became my protector. She stayed with me each and every evening while I watched TV and my husband went to bed. It wasn't until I said, "Come on Grets, time for bed" that she moved from her spot close to me and followed me to the bedroom. Niles at this point would go in and sleep with my husband.
Well as time past and Greta aged we discovered she had multiple health issues that rendered her almost incapable of getting up and walking. We had to put her down. Very distressing for us and Niles just did not understand where his companion went to.
I think that was the turning point in my relationship with Niles - it was a strong connection prior to Greta's passing but became even stronger after she was no longer with us.
Niles became the nightly protector - he was always in the same room as me or not far off. Often, he would groan at me as if to say, "Can we go to bed now?" It wasn't until my heart attack in 2009 and I had spent 13 days in the hospital that the relationship took on another level. During my absence Niles did something he had never ever done - he actually climbed the stairs to the second floor looking for me.
When I came home from the hospital Niles remained distant for a few hours as if he was trying to process his thoughts. After that he never ever left my side. Not three feet away from me at all times. Followed me from room to room, would not venture off to bed until I was ready and slept very near to me. We had a special connection that no one would understand - I swear he could read my mind and I certainly could read his. I knew what he wanted - all he had to do was stare at me and I just knew.
Niles love for me (as was Greta's) was UNCONDITIONAL. No matter whether I was flying off my broomstick handle and crabby or as sweet as pecan pie, he loved me. Every part of me - flaws and all.
Unfortunately, I did not read how sick Niles had become and when we finally took him to the vet it was too late. Niles was in an advanced state of cancer and there was not going to be any miracle for him. Yes, we could have gone into tremendous debt to try and keep him alive - but what he had would only get more painful.
The agonizing decision to put Niles to rest was to this day one of the most painful decisions I have ever made. He passed in June of 2010.
There is not a day that goes by where I don't say good morning to Niles and Greta girl or tell them in the late evening, "okay kids, time for bed."
I miss them so darn much and even now as I write my eyes are flooded with tears. What a blessing they were to me and I am grateful, truly grateful they were a part of my life.