A Eulogy to Scout (10/13/2015 – 5/23/2021)
Author of Goodbye, Friend and The Souls of Animals, Gary Kowalski, suggests one might look to words to help heal from the death of a beloved person or pet. A minister, he writes, “I counsel those who are grieving to employ the power of words by writing a eulogy for the one they loved. The term itself means “good words,” for a eulogy attempts to sum up all the good qualities that made another person or pet memorable and worthy of our care, that reflects on traits that made the creature most endearing or stamped with a special personality.” As I often turn to my pen (usually my keyboard) to express my feelings, here goes:
Scout was our beloved five-year old Golden Retriever. There was something special about Scout. It wasn’t just his handsome looks, but his temperament and personality. Scout was gentle, mellow, kind, and goofy. He loved to love, and be loved.
Scout enjoyed curling up next to me on the couch as I read or wrote, and would often lay his head on my computer.
Other times he would sit or lay along the wall of the front porch near the door or under the shade of the Pear tree watching for the school bus or whoever was rounding the bend on the sidewalk across the street.
He also loved lying on the hardwood floor in the kitchen, with back legs flat out or up against the wall.
The staircase landing was a place Scout rested and watched from, too.
From there he could turn to a jump down the stairs and jangle of his collar to follow any or all three boys outside to play. Scout loved going in and out and probably enjoyed being outside most. He’d come in the back deck then soon ask to go out the front, often when he spotted a dog friend able to play on our front lawn.
Other times in the family room he’d jump up in the air with the boys to cheer on the Patriots. In general, Scout was our fourth ‘boy.’ He most certainly was part of the family.
Scout arrived to us by some part fate. On August 28, 2015 we un-expectantly lost our 9 year-old Golden Retriever, Biscuit, to cancer of the blood vessels. He became sick and had to be put down the day before our oldest son, Ryan, was due at college freshman year. It felt so young to lose a dog yet ironically now I would give anything to have had four more years with Scout.
We thought we would wait one year to get another dog but when our youngest son, Andrew, cried himself to sleep each night I googled Golden Retriever breeders north of Boston. Several popped up. I was drawn to Pathfinder Golden Retrievers. Breeder Laura Bellochi’s website noted the business was named for her father, a military veteran. His job in wartime was to jump out of airplanes as a group of men followed. I liked that, a lot, and her dogs were beautiful, so I sent Laura an email. I stated our family grievance, explained why we love dogs, and how we came to choose Golden Retrievers (footnote at end). I also told her I appreciated her father’s service and that I was writing a military story based on my ancestors’ service.
Within days of sending the email, Laura and I spoke. We connected. She happened to be driving back from Pennsylvania where she had taken her female, Story, to be bred to a stud named Detour. Both names spoke to me, in regards to the letter I’d sent her and our family’s situation. She explained Story had a sweet, mellow temperament, had won “Best of Winners” at Westminster Dog Show that February 2015, and after her next litter would become a therapy dog.
In a few days Laura learned Story was pregnant. We visited Story and her pups, when about six weeks old.
Andrew and Scout, week 6
Scout came home to us December 11, less than four months after Biscuit died.
To be honest, it took me awhile to bond with Scout. When he was a puppy, for instance, I recall him pulling at the hem of my jeans until they tore. Wanting Biscuit back I cried. But soon I enjoyed watching Scout’s ‘firsts’ such as the sight of the ocean on a windy, cloudy day. I took him to Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea and the sight of the waves crashing in made Scout freeze. The wind and his fear flapped back his ears. But then, slowly, with my encouragement he inched his way to the shoreline. Scout and I grew to love our walks on the beach together where he was free to run and play with other dogs.
One of Scout’s favorite things was blankets’. Laura sent him home with a green and white one scented with Story and his litter mates. He slept with it and often wanted to take it outside. Knowing it might get lost I would ask for it at the door. “Leave it, Scout.” When he wouldn’t (@90% of the time) I would unclench his teeth and pry open his mouth for him to drop it. He not only loved that blanket (which we still have) but other ones. If any were folded or draped on the couch or a family member had one in their lap, he would sneak over and before we knew it the blanket was being dragged over the family room Berber carpet to his bed or a cozy spot. Scout would then lie down and with ease curl it up and create a perfect pillow to lay his head upon. It was so funny, and quite an art, really!
Blanket pillows created by Scout
Like many retrievers Scout loved picking up and carrying shoes, usually from the front hall to the family room but bedrooms weren’t off limits. More mornings than not I would search for my L.L. Bean ‘Wicked Good’ slippers, walking down stairs with one on, one off, looking sleepily for the missing one before making coffee.
Scout fortunately didn’t chew shoes but the family room was strewn with them and various blankets. We often joked it looked like a yard sale.
Scout loved to sit on the ottoman in the family room where he could watch anything going on there but also in the kitchen.
He also liked to ‘nudge’ us with his nose for attention (especially when we held electronic devises) but he rarely misbehaved, accept when something like this happened while we were away (laugh out loud):
Scout wanted to please, and he did. He didn’t beg for food but rather lay under the kitchen table or stools at our feet during mealtimes. As soon as we stood to clear plates, however, he would pop out, wondering if he might get something. He’d go to his bowl looking longingly at it then dart his eyes back to us. He loved a treat of chicken (his favorite) or steak that had been grilled. Being near the grill with Pete was a special time for the two and I know more often than not Pete sneaked Scout a piece of meat or cheese.
The other frequent past time for Scout and Pete occurred at the nearby trails and fields at Gordon College where we often walked. The two had a game in which Pete would hold up a lacrosse ball that he’d found near the stadium. Scout would freeze in position to run. When Pete’s arm released Scout would chase the ball with all his speed. Upon return, it was difficult for Scout to let go of it.
Near a steep embankment next to the stadium Scout discovered his keen scent. He could find a ball buried down that hill under leaves or snow and was so pleased with himself when he returned with one. In the woods beside the trail winding along the pond Scout loved racing and bounding about like a deer, back and forth, dodging trees, stumps, and other obstacles. We were amazed at his agility. It was beautiful to watch.
Scout enjoyed going on college tours with all three boys. We cherished those times with him.
Campus Tour, Colgate University
At Hamilton College Scout sat on the steps of the library surrounded by two students who petted him. He couldn’t have been any happier except when he gently stole a flip flop off one of the girls feet and they laughed. He wore the biggest grin!
He visited Ryan and Alex at the colleges they attended.
UVM, December 11, 2015 and January 2016
Middlebury College, Fall 2019
Making new friends, and in the spotlight. Middlebury College Golf Course
And Scout was beside Andrew when he learned he was accepted to his first choice college.
December 2020, upon acceptance to Hobart
Scout spent each of his four summers in the Adirondack Mountains on Big Moose Lake where he enjoyed the freedom of an unfenced yard, time with his human brothers, their cousins, and friends relaxing, hiking, swimming, and boating.
He also went to Martha’s Vineyard each summer
and various other places we traveled through the year such as Stowe, Vermont where we moved five weeks after Scout died.
(Stowe, Thanksgiving 2020)
Scout comforted us as a family in times of need. He was by my side as I grieved the passing of my mother and all of us at different times when we needed love. He showed support in so many ways. He loved to snuggle!
When Scout was a puppy Andrew (then age 13) lay on the kitchen floor on his back and urged Scout to sit on him. Scout would smile and Andrew would laugh.
It made us all laugh and Scout knew it. It was silly and special and they did this almost every day, including the day Scout was euthanized. We were outside the front doors of Massachusetts Veterinary Hospital (due to Covid). Scout was almost too weak to hold up his head. IV and dialysis wires had been removed, but not the tight dialysis neck brace. Andrew lay down on the pavement and tried to help Scout onto him. Though Scout was too weak, he knew what Andrew tried to do. It was a deep act of love, and beautiful.
Upon learning of Scout’s sudden death someone who cared deeply for him looked at me in disbelief and with tears in her eyes, shook her head. “Scout was so smart,” she whispered. I believe she was right. Scout was intelligent. We believed he understood English and comprehended most things we talked about. He was respectful and understanding, too, when he interacted with dogs, puppies, or humans. He was a gentleman, so to speak.
I ‘pen’ these words four months after Scout’s passing and I still find it unfathomable he died at age five. Will I ever not? What is most difficult, for us, about Scout’s demise is that it was unnecessary. He was given a Lyme vaccination at the same time he had an active Lyme infection, which caused an overload of Lyme antibodies to attack his kidneys (Lyme Nephritis). In addition, when symptoms first began (two weeks before his death) there was failure to correctly diagnose Lyme which likely would have saved his life. Once a proper diagnoses was made (one week later) Scout was on life support and not even dialysis (a grueling six hour daily procedure) or a plasma exchange could save him.
I wrestle with what I could have done differently, too, or what I missed.
There was much left for Scout to do and enjoy and for us to experience with him. He was our “bridge” to our new home in another state, as we became “empty nesters.” He never saw the house where he would have roamed on the countryside and experienced new things, like the sight and smell of cows, different bird species, and the view of the Worcester Mountain range in four seasons. He would have enjoyed the “Quiet Path” (where dogs and their walkers frequent), hikes, and greeting his brothers when they came home. We were all supposed to get older together.
It is heart breaking to know Scout is not coming back. His sudden passing is another indicator how fragile, uncertain, and sometimes unfair life is. None of us know what lies ahead, so we must enjoy today and the love we receive and give. I find some comfort in knowing Scout enjoyed his life and lived in love. I also find sharing his story with others helps, not only to keep his memory alive but to hear others’ stories. In doing so we have learned of similar situations and devastating losses, both pet and human, or both at the same time. But whatever the stories are (and they are never the same), they connect us and by connecting we support each other.
As my family turns a page to the next story Scout is still by our side. There has not been a day since May 23, 2021 that we have not thought of, talked about, or missed him. Each day I speak to him and ask for signs he is with us. Scout was such a good boy and is missed beyond any words or story can explain.
Four months after Scout’s passing our next “story” is an 8 week old female Golden Retriever born July 29 (same timeframe between bringing Scout home after Biscuit died). She is another “Pathfinder,” whose litter name is “Road Trip.” We have named her Ranger Scout Winch. Named Ranger because of a letter I received from a 91 year old friend who wrote me about Scout being sick. By the time I received it, Scout was gone. It read: “I am praying for Ranger.” The name spoke to me, for it means “Keeper of the countryside, a protector of a body of men,” which seemed to fit perfectly for our new home, the boys, and with Scout.
We brought Ranger home Sunday, September 26 and in the blur of the first week, between the “in and outs” every 20 minutes, night wakings, training accidents, teething, etc., there were periodic tears over Scout’s loss. The two of us asked, that week, “How has this happened? Why isn’t Scout here? Can we handle a puppy? We were just doing this five years ago…” But in two week’s time we have connected with Ranger, just like we did Scout after Biscuit. It doesn’t mean we don’t miss Scout any less or feel the sharp pain of his too early loss but Ranger redirects us.
The fact, too, that we see similarities in her to Scout gives us all comfort. The kind veterinarian who euthanized Scout said, “see you on the other side, Scout…” but perhaps we did not have had to wait that long. Either way, Scout was wonderful, is missed, and with us – always.
Laura Bellochi of Pathfinder Golden Retrievers and I with Scout, Story, and another Pathfinder. 2018
Big Moose Lake sunset, August 2020
Note: In the summer of 1970 at age three I fell in love with two Golden Retrievers (Sandy and Corn) that I spent each day with. For three years I asked my parents for a Golden Retriever puppy, finally writing my father a letter about it. He said my “P.S. Please say yes!” sealed the deal. In late 2015 I wrote a short story about that experience, losing Biscuit, and Scout coming into our lives. Titled Asking for a Puppy, it was published in 2016.
With Ranger, September 26, 2021