I’ve sat here for the past few minutes trying to figure out how to start this. If I’m being honest, I’ve been trying to figure out how to start this since September. Writing is fun for me (I even do it for work!), it’s therapeutic for me, and sometimes, like now, it’s hard. I’ve filled you in on a number of things that have changed for me this year but have not had the ability to write about the void in my life since September 12. Perhaps it’s because even though I’ve faced it every day, I don’t really want to see it written out. But I feel I have to, I owe it to him.
The “him” is Spenser, my dear sweet golden retriever brother who went to the Rainbow Bridge on September 12, three days shy of his 10th birthday. Despite being diagnosed with cancer in early 2016, Spenser had been thriving– going through radiation and chemo like a champ. With the move back up here, I was super excited to be able to spend more time with Spenser, but sadly our reunion was cut short. On the night of September 11, he didn’t seem quite himself and that continued into the next morning when we were able to take him to the vet. It was determined that he had new tumors that were not present at his last scan and one had burst. There was nothing that my parents could do. The only thing that made it easier to say goodbye was knowing that Spenser was not in pain for a long time at all. But in some ways that made it hard too- since just a day earlier he was frolicking and playing like usual.
Spenser came to us from Harborview Golden Retrievers in Erie PA after my parents wanted to grow our golden retriever family. Spenser and his brother Bailey came to Harrisburg to live–Bailey with my brother’s family and Spenser with us. Having recently graduated college and starting a new job, I was living at my parents home when Spenser came to join our family and we quickly bonded. In many ways, Spenser prepared me to be Tucker’s mommy. I went out in the middle of the night when Spenser was potty training, went to obedience classes, etc. In return for sleepless nights, Spenser enjoyed eating my black flats and the pockets of my fleece jackets. A little over a year after my parents got Spenser, I decided to move to DC. For the rest of his life, every time I came home, Spenser slept with me. He was loyal to me to a fault but also loyal to his Emily and his mom and dad. He loved hard and played hard. He would give the best hugs- seriously. Every time I came home, he would sit and I would lean into him and he’d put his head on my shoulder as we hugged. He was my best boy.
He welcomed my pup Tucker with open paws, and when his beloved Emily passed away, he opened his heart to his adopted brother Oliver. He was a character. My mom couldn’t remove the bowls from the food stations without covering them with something because Spenser would stick his head into them to get extra kibble (something Emily was horrified by). This also extended to jumping up and sticking his head into the sink. He loved walks, but was a talkative sort- barking his opinion on people and other dogs. He chewed on his leash. When his sister Emily wanted an extra treat on their walks, she knew that if she nudged Spenser a bit, he’d start being playful and naughty and then she’d sit like a princess to get an extra treat.
His loss left a hole in my heart, but I truly believe there are signs that he is still with us. Things like the ice cube machine randomly spitting out an ice cube at my parents house (he loved ice cubes). Or a few days after Spenser passed, Tucker was at his Gran’s house digging under Spenser’s food station. I kept telling him there was no kibble under the mat as I had cleaned it out…but when I picked up the food station, there it was, a piece of kibble. And if we want to talk college football, Spenser’s given name was Harborview Raise the Song Spenser, named in honor of my parents love of Penn State. And look what Penn State has done this season.
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Spenser. I could tell you a hundred stories on here but instead I’ll just share a few photos. And in a reminder of the circle of life, I have a new puppy brother from Harborview. Born just a few days after we lost our Spenser, the new puppy has genes that go back to him. I’m a little wiser this time around though- I’m not going to leave this one with any access to my fleece jackets or black flats.
Before I share a bunch of photos, I just want to share one special photo. This one hurts to look at, but to me it shows the loyalty and love that dogs have for one another. This was the Monday morning that Spenser passed away. Oliver and Tucker, two usually very active playful dogs surrounded him with love as we told Spenser over and over again how much we loved him. Spenser is at the top of this photo, Oliver is in the middle leaning on Spenser, and Tucker is at the bottom:
And Spenser, if you are reading, you are and will always be my boy.