A Mended Heart

A Mended Heart

My heart is still fractured from the recent loss of Morgan, my faithful Golden service dog. We had been inseparable the last 13 ½ years. He passed away quietly in his sleep next to me in bed.

My brain is filled with thoughts of Morgan every day and our unimaginably epic life together. Now, I can only tell him he’s the “prettiest boy in the world” in my heart. I can only see his smile in my mind. I can’t run my hands through is curly fur while I say those words. The fact that those days are over brings me immeasurable sorrow.

Right now I feel like Morgan was the greatest of my three dogs. But truthfully, he wasn’t. But this by no means lessens his importance. It’s just that time causes you (me) to forget the details of my first two Golden Angels.

I remember how devastated I was when my first Golden, Nicholas, crossed over. I truly believe that his love and devotion saved my life. He was the one sure thing when my partner got sick and died of AIDS. He was the reason to get up in the morning. He was my crutch. Having him in bed with me and my arm around his shoulder got me through lonely and painful nights. I was lucky (blessed) to have him in my life.

It was a good thing I had Willy, my second Golden, when Nicholas passed. I wouldn’t have made it through the loss of Nicholas without him. Not on top of so many other losses. Not on top of my own declining health.  If I hadn’t of had Willy, I truly would have been alone.

But Willy wasn’t like Nicholas. He never tolerated being on the bed, never mind sleeping in the bed. He was a wanderer. This was a being who had too much love to share with other people to be confined by the fence I put up around the property.

Willy had a girlfriend on the road above my house. Some afternoons my neighbor would telephone me and say, “He’s up here. Come up when you want him.”  Once, security at the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive men’s encampment in the redwoods, where world leaders gather every summer, such as both Bushs, Schultz, Kissenger, and Ford, phoned and asked me if I had a Golden Retriever named Willy. When I said yes, he told me I had better come and get him. He was in their dumpster. I got an armed escort into the main grounds where I found Willy eating their leftovers. The staff stood around laughing.  They told me he could come back anytime he wanted to. AND HE DID!!! Now the caller said, “He’s back.” That was the problem. Everybody loved his visits.

Around this time, AIDS treatment improved. There were prophylactics for some of the opportunistic diseases. There were three HIV drugs to choose from that stopped the virus. The disease became manageable, but not over.

With dying on hold and living a possibility, it was time to reevaluate my life. I know in my mind and heart that the only reason I was able to sell my house in the redwoods and move to Palm Springs was because of Willy’s guidance. Our afternoon talks gave me confidence that we could do it.  If you’ve read A Golden Retriever & His Two Dads, you know that Willy introduced me to James, my life partner.

When Willy died of congestive heart failure at 11, I was distraught. He died too soon. For the first time in twenty-five years the house was empty, dog-less. Grief never really goes away, you just learn how to live with it. I thought I had. I discovered quickly, I hadn’t learned how to cope without a dog. My thoughts were scrambled, my heart was ripped apart. I relived the AIDS epidemic. I relived Nicholas’ death. I couldn’t leave Willy’s gravesite.

It took five months before Morgan jumped into the truck and it seemed like five years. Despite Morgan’s behavior problems my heart healed. I learned to love again. As did Morgan. He changed my life. He was aggressive to other dogs. To keep him safe we took off for our adventures at 5 am. This may seem extreme. But it actually worked well. In Palm Springs, you have to go out before sunrise, anyway. To see the sun rise against the mountains was exquisite. To have the trail all to ourselves was not only a relief, but magical. Morgan became such a ham. He loved posing. He loved the attention. He wore hats and antlers and glasses. We referred to him as “The Talent.” We especially loved when he was finished and just walked off the set. We called these photo ops, “And he’s done!”

Morgan represented our life in Palm Springs. Our travels out of the heat. Summers on Cape Cod. He represents our time sheltering from COVID in the desert. We had the town to ourselves. Wagon-walks along the golf course. Against all odds, he made it across the country with us to our new home in Buzzards Bay. We buried him here in our back yard. We didn’t leave him behind. We worried so much we might have to.

When Morgan died in bed next to me, it took me a couple of days before the tears flowed. I was so exhausted and relieved that we didn’t have to lift him and carry him any longer.  For the last two years of his life he couldn’t walk. I know he felt the same way. Those final days he stared at me with glassy eyes. I knew he was ready. He was tired as well.  But once I rested up a bit and got a full night’s sleep, the realization he was never coming back crept in, and grief hit me.  All the things we would never do again.

I’ve now done this three times and each loss was different. Each Golden brought their uniqueness to the relationship. I’m not the same person I was with Nicholas, or Willy or Morgan.  I think, because of my history, mending my heart takes more time than most people.

Now we have a rescued, 95 pound, giant Golden, named Franklin. He’s big in a lot of ways. Big head. Big personality. And most importantly, a big heart. That’s what has won us over. Morgan’s passing is still recent and raw, but Franklin is helping my heart to mend and to open again.  I leave you with this poem I discovered:

It came to me

   that every time

I lose a dog

they take a piece

Of my heart with them,

And every new dog

who comes into my life

gifts me with a piece

of their heart.

If I live long enough

all the components

of my heart

will be dog, and

I will become

as generous and

                             loving as they are. – Anonymous

32 replies
  1. Tanya Aguirre
    Tanya Aguirre says:

    This touched my heart and soul to the core.Its a beautiful tribute to those you love and still think of.

  2. Kim Jolly
    Kim Jolly says:

    Wonderful story Dan. I miss Angel
    Mollie so much but am lucky (blessed) to have Breezie and Gracie by my side, in the bed, and making every step that I do.
    Love, licks and kisses from Kim, Breezie and Gracie.

  3. Carole Sherr
    Carole Sherr says:

    Dan, you write from your Angel Golden heart which is not complete…Franklin has provided another component which will grow through your years together. Best wishes as you continue to write beautifully on life’s journey with James.

  4. Mandy H
    Mandy H says:

    I’m not crying, you’re crying! I felt every word while reading this post, and it is such a beautiful tribute to the ones that were, that ones that are, and the ones yet to be.

  5. Sarna Goldstein
    Sarna Goldstein says:

    Such a beautiful story..each dog with it’s own love and happiness to give…I always dread the end of their visit on earth but they will remain alive in our hearts through our love and memories…
    I know each one is with us always in our hearts and endless love..❤

  6. Elaine
    Elaine says:

    You hit it on the nail head. I certainly feel your pain. I have been through four Golden each with their own personality and disease. Some died at five. Others at eleven. I’m on number five and six. Number five is almost nine , now diagnosed with a non cancer brain tumor that is inoperable. A therapy dog that every loves and my big lug! I cry thinking of the day he will be gone. Until fhen , he will be spoiled!!!!!!!!

  7. Stephen Perkins
    Stephen Perkins says:

    Dear Dan, once again your words have expanded my consciousness. I am so honored to know the presence of Morgan all but too briefly. -fondly, Steve

  8. Gloria Molleur
    Gloria Molleur says:

    I was happy to read this, didn’t know the whole story of all your Goldens. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story ❤️

  9. Barbara Husbands
    Barbara Husbands says:

    This is so beautiful. I’m in tears but tears of happiness of what all of my Goldens and my Labs have given me. Thank you for putting this so beautifully into words❤️❤️

  10. Mandy Harmon
    Mandy Harmon says:

    I’m not crying, you’re crying! I felt every word that you wrote, Dan. What a beautiful and wonderful tribute to those Goldens who were, who are, and who are yet to be in your life. Be well, friend.

  11. Rick Peard
    Rick Peard says:

    Beautiful story Dan. I remember meeting Nicholas at your house in the redwoods, back around 1987-ish. He was loyal and very protective of you. Thanks for telling your most wonderful backstory of your 3 boys. I send you a big hug.

  12. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    How wonderful and heart touching this blog is. Such truth you have spoken in this blog. The fur babies truly never leave your heart and you do just learn to live with the grief.

  13. Casey Criste
    Casey Criste says:

    Wonderful expression in your words. They really touched my heart. Have fun with Franklin and all the earlier pups will live in him for you. Love to you, James and Franklin.

  14. Jennifer Goodwin
    Jennifer Goodwin says:

    Oh my heavens Dan, you touched my heart!!! That is soo very beautiful, thank you so very much for sharing your story!!!! I never knew Nicholas or Willy or Morgan for that matter, but I felt that I did!! I loved Morgan from afar and it did affect me as well when I read about his passing, of course not as much as you two, but I felt I did love that most gorgeous golden boy!!! Now I have Franklin to read about, I am falling for this little big guy, thank you so much for inviting me on this journey! Sending love and hugs your way, from N.S Canada!! !❤❤❤❤

  15. Paula Lewis
    Paula Lewis says:

    That was such encouraging story I’m the same way when I lose a golden retriever my heart is so broken I live every day to get another golden retriever dog there my life I would never own anything else except a golden retriever good therapy dogs

  16. Jussith Felix Moorman
    Jussith Felix Moorman says:

    This is touching and so spot on about what it’s like having dogs in our lives and then having them die. I knew all three dogs and each one was very special. Each dog was also well-loved, and they knew it. You really went deep into your emotions in this blog and I loved it.

  17. Regina Turner
    Regina Turner says:

    A wonderful story. It is truly amazing all of the things our goldens bring to our lives, but most important, the things they bring to our heart. I feel very blessed to have met Morgan, not in person, but through Facebook. It is so easy to become attached to these babies that we never meet in person. Your words are very touching and go straight to my heart. I am so glad Morgan sent Franklin to you. Thank you for the wonderful life you gave Morgan. Wishing you, James, and Franklin many, many wonderful years and memories together.

  18. June Kaufman
    June Kaufman says:

    Yes, I can relate when I lost my Golden Jesse. If you recall he ran away. I continuously called Animal Friends. After 5 days they had called me. They picked Jesse up & he was totally paralyzed. I went over there & had him put to sleep. I was able to give him one last hug.
    I’m so sorry about handsome Morgan. He certainly had a great personality. He loved you just as much as you him.
    I look forward to the adventures you, James, & Franklin will be taking.

  19. Katherine
    Katherine says:

    I have lost 7 dogs, each so unique but all so loving. My last dog Jake died at 7 yrs old, which ripped my heart in shreds. He was just love. And though it’s been 6 years I cry whenever I think of him. I know your loss well

  20. Betsy
    Betsy says:

    Hi Dan! I love your blogs! It shows that you are doing well, inspite of your loss. I also love your writing style. I am greatful that you and James got Franklin. You just keep on living. For the ou, dogs must be included. Thanks for your blogs. Love them.


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