Illustration by Haley Behan

Good Golly I’m Going to Miss Molly

She never asked to become the center of our universe.  She was, after all, just a baby when we met, and we were not sure we really wanted the aggravation of housebreaking a new puppy.  The mistake we made was taking our young grandchildren on a trip to Georgia to scout out a possible puppy.  Never take children on a puppy trip until you are ready to make a selection.  Our granddaughter Shelby, then 8 years old, kept saying, “Bob, it would be a complete waste of time to drive all the way down here and not take a puppy home.”  Shelby picked the most beautiful puppy in the world, but we had no idea the impact this dog would have on our lives.

Norma and I had been empty-nesters for several years. Our children and grandchildren would regularly visit, but thought we needed a puppy to make our lives, and home, more complete.  Molly immediately took over.  She became the official greeter and sergeant-at-arms at our house warmly welcoming our guests and family. She became involved in the lives of each member of our family, developing her own special relationship with them and many of our closest friends.

In case you are unfamiliar with Golden Retrievers, their sole goal in life is to make sure you are happy and feel loved.  Molly was especially gentle, loving, regal, and understanding of our family dynamics.  She always knew who needed her special brand of attention and had an uncanny sense of when someone needed some extra love.  She was from that branch of the Golden family that traces its roots to Australia or England and is known for their beautiful white coats.  Molly’s coat was champagne in color, and though we treated her like royalty, she really never went in for all that champion bloodline stuff.

I don’t remember a strictly “puppy” stage because Molly was always motherly.  Without instruction or training, Molly walked close to our grandson when he first started walking and positioned herself between him and danger.  Molly slept on my feet while I read the morning paper, and spoke to me with her eyes and granted reaction to my questions.  She always paid attention during our long conversations together, and I felt I learned to read her reactions and emotions.  In deference to me, she never passed through a doorway until I first passed and invited her along.  During the day, she followed Norma from room to room and celebrated each new room or activity.  To the end, she slept next to my side of the bed and audibly signaled her location by grunting if I got up in the dark at night.  Did you know dogs can tell time?  Without fail, Molly would come to me every morning between 6:00 and 6:05 a.m. to get our day started.  She was my alarm clock.

When Molly was 7, we decided to find a Golden puppy to complete our family and unleash Molly’s suppressed motherly instincts.  It worked.  For the past seven years of her life, she helped us raise Maggie.  From Maggie’s arrival until Molly’s last day, Molly taught, cajoled, and was constant companion and mother to an impetuous and exuberant Maggie–a dog who, unlike Molly, will be forever puppy.

Molly taught Maggie to climb stairs.  She conceded all the stuffed animals (babies) to her adopted child.  After Maggie came, Molly never had another toy to call her own.  Maggie would have 10 to 15 squeaking babies scattered throughout the house, and Molly would rarely touch one out of respect for Maggie.  In seven years together, these two beautiful souls were inseparable unless Norma and I were on opposite ends of the house, in which case they split up to make sure we each had a companion.  Molly often positioned herself halfway in between us to avoid the appearance of partiality.

You wouldn’t think that dogs would be music lovers, but Molly was a connoisseur of my brand of bass fiddle playing.  Sometimes I like to play my bass fiddle along with Willie Nelson or Flatt and Scruggs, and Molly would perch herself on the rug in front of the fiddle drinking in all of my quality licks.  She would lay in front of my shower door to hear me sing “How Much is That Doggie in the Window.”  She loved to entertain us with her “I feel good” routine where she would rub her face in a blanket or rug and roll onto her back and kick her legs gleefully in the air.

We almost always took the dogs with us when traveling.  Maggie rarely slept, but, like a child, stuck her head through the console gap to see if we were “there yet.”  When she did sleep, Maggie used Molly as a pillow.  Molly never gave protest.  Molly loved to eat and did a little high step tap dance when I was filling her bowl.  I was amazed to learn that a dog can smile, and Molly smiled all the time.

“If there are no dogs in heaven, then when
I die I want to go where they went.”

—Will Rogers

People have so many issues and interests that compete for their attention, and sometimes we have a hard time totally devoting ourselves to others the way we would like.  But a good loving dog like Molly is sharply aware of your every movement, word, and even thought.  When I stood, she stood to make herself available for what would be next in our life together.  Unlike humans, dogs are incapable of appreciating our shortcomings, pointing out our faults, or calculating anything negative into an interpersonal relationship.  Regardless of my mood, short temper, or physical pains, Molly always greeted me with a look of love and disposition to play and share time.

Molly was a good nurse when we were hurt or felt ill.  Though she never had an understanding of the complexities of our lives, she gave extra comfort when circumstances invaded our mood.  She spent her evening meal with Norma because she knew Norma broke our house rule of “no table food.”  It was the only time self-interest crept into her day.  No matter how bad my day might have been, Molly met me every night when I returned from work to give me a big kiss and show me how happy she was that I had returned.

Molly’s full-time job was making our house a happy home even if it interfered with her dog activities.  She never went in the pool although Goldens are known for their swimming skills.  She would chase a ball, but drop it in place because it was such a juvenile and aimless exercise.  Molly was a bit too serious for a dog and a little lazy.  At a time in our life, when our children are leading lives separate from ours, when our grandchildren are off at college or seeking to find a life that belongs to them, Molly’s interests never wavered.  She loved us, and unlike children and grandchildren, she never graduated to another stage in life.  She was constantly and forever dedicated to us and our happiness.

There remains a struggle to express the nature of the love we feel toward our pets.  In Molly, my wife and I found a dedication and commitment from an animal that sought only to love and to be near us.  In our time with them, we all know that the time must come to say goodbye.  The burden of that time weighed heavier as the years passed until, finally, it came over Easter weekend.  What was God thinking when he gave dogs, and cats for that matter, such short lives?  He snatches them away just as we are beginning to really understand each other.  Maybe their purpose is more than to bring joy.  Perhaps they come into our lives to serve and then to teach us to deal with the disappointment of separation.

Only now do I understand that our pets like Molly set a great example for us in our service to each other. I should search for new friends with Molly’s passion and give comfort to my fellowman with a little more of her tenderness. Taking a lead from our pets, some of us should unleash our hearts and share our love more with the world. Just another gift a good pet tries to give.

When I held her head and spoke with her the last time, she had a peaceful expression of satisfaction in her eyes.  Knowing her, I imagine that the sound of my voice and the love it revealed was all she required.

Goodbye ole girl.  Thanks for being my friend.   

1 Comment
  1. Jim McDade says

    Bob & Norma – Wow! ML Shwartzbart posted a link to your story about Molly. Great read. And it’s good to know you two are apparently doing well.
    I’m in Pensacola. Thrice divorced and hanging out with a poet from Wayne, PA. Her second volume will be published later this year.
    Was recently telling my girlfriend about our days as Bob and the Pantomaniacs. Now, THAT was fun!
    Would love to hear from you.

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