Our Family’s Golden Retriever Is More Than Man’s Best Friend

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by Ray Burow |

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This week, pet lovers across the United States celebrated National Dog Day to bring awareness to the thousands of dogs that need rescuing.

My golden retriever is celebrated every day.

A last act of love

Jack isn’t an official service dog, but he is a helper to my family and me. He was a gift from an aging grandmother who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The puppy was the last treasure Mom was able to come up with on her own. She was adamant that her grandchildren needed a dog, specifically a golden retriever.

Jack was the best surprise Granny could have given her five grandchildren, who showered her with hugs and kisses while squealing their thanks. Her face beamed.

columnist pic

Jack, right, soaks in the love of his biggest fans and the author’s children. (Photo by Ray Burow)

A debate ensued that day. “What should we name him?” Everyone got a vote, including Granny. Imagine five children, a grandma with short-term memory loss, and me (the voice of reason), attempting to select the perfect name. The kids chose typical doggie names, but Granny wanted “John.” It didn’t matter to her that her son-in-law and only grandson were named John.

Granny continued to forget that her vote had been vetoed, and around we went. Five children, five choices, and Granny, who continued to lobby for John.

Mom was good-natured and laughed along with the children, though I’m not sure she understood what they thought was so funny. The kids would settle down and Granny would chime in, “Oh, I don’t care. Just name the puppy one-two-three or ABC.” The laughs and squeals would start all over again.

Four-legged caregiver

It was a fun night and a good memory created by a grandmother who loved dogs, and who loved her grandkids even more. I’m not sure who first referred to a dog as man’s best friend, but it’s accurate. In Jack’s case, he is even more. Jack was a four-legged caregiver when we needed him.

Most mornings, Jack knew before I did that Mom was moving about in her room. He would pad down the hall to greet his old friend and keep her company, sleeping at her feet. She would talk to him and pat his head.

He was not just a caregiver to my mother, but also a comfort to our family. Especially to me.

On a day that was particularly challenging, my emotions got the best of me. I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes and quietly crying. No one was at home with Mom and me that day except for Jack and another dog that had joined the ranks. I turned to find both dogs sitting at attention, noses pointed toward me. They sensed my sadness.

“I’m OK, you guys,” I told them. Tails began to wag, and I felt better.

 A caregiver’s best friend

Jack served as a caregiver’s best friend. He is a reminder of Mom’s generosity and kindness, of the person she was before the disease racked her mind and took her from us.

Our once youthful golden is aging rapidly, but he is the same on the inside as he was the day he arrived. He is a gift that keeps on giving.

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but we doubt there will ever be another Jack.


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s Disease.


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