Thursday, April 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Farewell to an old friend

Sparkle's 14-year-old companion, the golden retriever Timber, has reached the last days of a long and happy life.

Farewell to an old friend

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This is perhaps my favorite picture of Timber, taken during a recent snowy winter. He always rejoiced in winter, rolling in the snow and romping through the drifts. I'll always remember him as the gentle master of his backyard domain.

It's been a quiet, somber week at our house as Timber, our beloved golden retriever, slips away.  His health has been fading for some time, but in the last month, I've been carrying him up and down the stairs every night to his spot in the doorway to Betsy's bedroom, nearest the landing. When Josh was younger, he slept under his crib. He's always been a bit protective of us, even if he is a rather mild-mannered soul. I'd happily keep carrying Timber, who weighs 68 pounds, up and down the stairs if his arthritic legs and hips were his only problem. They aren't.

Last Friday, he suffered a major setback that triggered a fast trip to the vet clinic. The only option is a big operation, and with his respiratory trouble, I doubt he'd survive the anesthesia or recovery. The other week, as I was watching TV, he was having some trouble, came over, sat down in front of me, looked me in the eye and woofed: "Help me!" I sure wish I could.  As of Wednesday night, he was still hanging in, but we're taking it day by day.

Timber's had a wonderful life. We adopted him as an adorable buff-gold pup from the animal shelter in November 1997. Betsy was 3 then. She'll be off to college next fall.

He's acknowledged as the senior dog among the three at our house. Sparkle the Seeing Eye pup has known from the start not to rough-house with him. She usually steers clear of him, but the other day, she snuggled down next to him on the rug. When I knelt to snap a picture, they jumped up so fast I couldn't get the shot. I'm sure they thought I was bringing a treat!   

We've always known this day would come around, but it always seems so fast with dogs. Even the ones who reach a ripe old age get there before you realize it.  Knowing that doesn't make it any easier.

A sympathetic coworker at philly.com found these links to share with you:  

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/montco_memo/Giving-thanks-for-familys-kindness-to-a-dying-dog.html

 http://www.philly.com/philly/living/Book_aims_to_help_kids_cope_with_loss_of_a_pet.html

 http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/pets/Pet-owners-drop-average-500-on-vet-bills-a-year.html

George Carter
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About this blog
George Carter, The Inquirer's weekend national/foreign editor, has always counted dogs among his closest companions. According to family lore, he learned to walk by clinging to the side of a saintly patient mutt named Spanker. In turn, one of his earliest hazy memories is of tossing treats to the family dogs gathered expectantly on the porch of their Maryland farmhouse. It was only natural then, that when George saw a newspaper ad looking for families to raise puppies for the Seeing Eye of Morristown, N.J., he bit at the chance. From the start, it has been a family project, with teenage daughter Betsy as the official puppy-raiser. First there was Porter, a big-hearted yellow Lab born on Memorial Day 2004. A few years later, the Carters raised Velma, a gorgeous Lab/golden cross. Just a couple weeks ago, Velma's 7-week-old daughter Sparkle arrived as the latest family charge. George, Betsy and mom Cathy are thrilled that Sparkle is from Velma's very first litter. You can reach George Carter at 215-854-2411 or by clicking here. Reach George at gcarter@phillynews.com.

George Carter
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