Murphy came into our lives when he was 9 years old. We rescued him from GRREAT, a golden retriever rescue organization dedicated to finding forever homes for abandoned, unwanted and neglected goldens. Murphy’s parents (and I use that term loosely) had left him at the doorstep of a local SPCA on Christmas eve. The assumption was that the family was probably getting a new puppy for Christmas. A kind and loving worker immediately called GRREAT – because the chances of a 9 year old dog getting adopted was slim to none – and she could not bear to see this docile dog die in a shelter.
My husband and I are big proponents of rescuing animals, especially those that don’t fit the bill of the most easily adoptable. Since a goldens typical lifespan does not go much beyond 10 – 12 years, the older goldens aren’t most peoples first choice. But, we took one look at Murphy and fell in love.
We adopted The Big Murph – as he became known – while I had the storefront, so from day 1 I brought him to the store with me. For the first 2 days, he stayed with me behind the counter and slept. I think it was his way of dealing with yet another change in his life. But on day 3, he perked up, spent some time investigating the store, and promptly claimed his spot on the stoop at the front door.
He took his job as store mascot very seriously. His favorite time of the day was announcing the arrival of the Fed Ex truck with some joyful barks because he knew Jim had treats in his pocket. One day he actually attempted to climb up onto the truck because he was taking too long! This was especially endearing since Murphy had terrible hip dysplasia that made climbing stairs painful and difficult. He would lay on the stoop and patiently and calmly watch people climb over him to get into the shop. One would think this might have hurt business, but instead he was my best marketing tool to date. People just loved him. They would stop and take his photo, pet his soft fur or just give him a hug. He quickly developed an extensive fan base.
One person that he won over was my mother. This is significant for several reasons. My mom does not like animals and has a phobia of dogs. She will cross the street or walk a mile out of her way to avoid a leashed dog. And a loose dog? Forget about it…there is nothing scarier in her view. Besides the phobia that dogs actually eat humans, my mother also cannot stand how ‘dirty they are’…animal drool, hair and dander are my mothers kryptonite. So when my mother started coming to the store to see The Big Murph, I initially waited for hell to freeze over. Turns out it was just Murphy’s charm that she couldn’t resist.
Murphy was regal, handsome, patient, gentle and full of love. He would politely lick your cheek if you asked for a kiss, hold up his paw if you asked for a shake, give you a high five when you put your palm up, and give a low ‘woof’ if you asked him to speak.
He did have a stubborn streak that my husband and I coined ‘putting on the brakes’. When I had the storefront, I was lucky enough to be able to walk to work and the mile route included a draw bridge. I came to understand – the hard way – that Murphy was not a big fan of walking over the bridge. Up to the bridge and beyond the bridge he was fine. We guess that there was something about the vibration from the cars that he did not like. Typically I could urge him forward once we came to the dreaded bridge and I learned to carry cookies to make the journey easier. But one day, I had forgotten to replenish my supply. That was the day Murphy decided to put on the brakes. He was not budging, no way no how. I had people passing me asking if something was wrong…I even had one lady say ‘what’s he waiting for?’ I was standing there, stranded, until my husband happened to drive by. I never forgot treats again.
We also like to think that Murphy had a sense of humor. On days that we could not walk to work, we would take my pickup truck. It required a ramp to get Murphy into the cab, so I’m sure watching us load up was quite a site. Occasionally, by the time I got back over the drivers side to climb in, Murphy would be sitting behind the wheel, just looking at me. “How about I drive today, mom?”
We only had the privilege of knowing Murphy 1 year and 4 months and it’s been almost 6 years since he left this earth. I am still heart broken. I feel very fortunate that the stars aligned to bring him into our lives and I hope to see him again someday.
P.S. Please visit www.grreat.org for more information about adopting a golden retriever. Sadly, there are so many goldens of all ages that need forever homes. GRREAT = Golden Retriever Rescue Education and Training.