Norman was not a typical Golden Retriever. A long time ago, he decided that sitting around with a man in a duck blind just wasn’t for him. It wasn’t the man he minded, or even that loud shotgun; it was the lure of all those other things he could be doing instead. Like chasing butterflies, or sniffing out moles, or leaning his entire body against you so you would know exactly how much he loves you. And then there was that whole thing about swimming. Forget it. Norman saw no reason to leave terra firma and jump into water over his head. One day when he was much younger, he slipped into a pond by accident. I almost had to go in after him. He managed to grab onto land as I was pulling off my first shoe.
In spite of the American Kennel Club guarantee that Norman is a bona fide retriever, we were never able to teach him to fetch. We gave it several earnest tries before giving up. It wasn’t that Norman was lazy. He was willing to run with great enthusiasm toward whatever object we threw. The trouble came once he got there. The aforementioned butterflies tended to be more enticing.
We learned things from Norman, like how to relish moments of pure joy; and to live life with abandon; and that sometimes it is best to follow the lead of the wiser ones in the pack; and to always be nice to cats. Norman’s most important lesson, though, was to be exactly who you are. The right people will love you for it.
We said goodbye to Norman on Sunday. For the past few weeks his body was winding down and he wasn’t eating much. We were forced into weird discussions about when and how. Since Brantley is a vet, we had more options, though none of them came without knotted throats and streams of tears. This weekend Norman’s time came and we helped him go peacefully. Now our hearts are breaking, but one day the joy will return, and we’ll remember his galloping run and his flopping ears, his wild hair and the tail that would wag in his sleep, and the sweet boy we called Little Man.
Godspeed Little Man. We’ll always love you.