When I was 14, I had a golden retriever named Harold. He had been sick recently and we didn’t know what was wrong. He had cancer and thyroid issues in the past but this particular time we didn’t understand what was ailing him. He wasn’t eating and he wasn’t happy. But he loved to go on walks. So, we walked. As we walked in the grass at the park I heard a voice. “Nice Bitch”. I kept walking. Then, something went flying by my head. It was a bottle. Not a second later, it was a another bottle and it hit Harold.
I didn’t know who was behind me or how many of them there were but the rage that came out of me that day was not only from that moment, but years of dreading the day my dog would no longer have to suffer and the anger inside me because he had to. I dropped the leash and I ran. At them. There were two of them. Familiar faces. Seniors? I was a freshman. Bigger. Much bigger. They were so much bigger. I didn’t care. One of them was going to die before the other could get me off of them. I wanted them to feel every seizure and ache and pain and fear that my poor companion had felt over the years. I wanted to tear inside of his chest and squeeze on his beating heart just long enough for him to see his fate then let him suffer as my dog and I watched and did nothing. I had all of the thoughts of destruction and nothingness in my head. I was a bullet of pain heading for that son of a bitch.
One of them took a few steps back and to the side while the other braced himself. In the last moment he stepped to his left. I predicted correctly and connected with my head directly into his chest. I knocked him out. For a moment and just a brief moment I stopped to consider what had happened, but my hands did not. They were swinging. Hard. I had never been in a fight before. I didn’t know how to punch or swing. He was probably lucky for that.
There was barking. The familiar voice that pulled me out of my fit. It was Harold keeping the other kid at bay. Teeth fully exposed, hair standing on end and ready to attack. As I sat on top of this unconscious bastard I looked and saw an animal completely afraid and prepared at the same moment.
The other kid fled to the car screaming he was calling the cops. Harold grabbed my pant leg and tried to pull me off of the other kid. It was enough. I rolled over on my side completely out of breath and I remember Harold walking over me and to the other boy. He put his head by his nose and nudged him. The boy came to and vomited immediately. Blood was gushing from his mouth and nose. He got up and ran to the sound of his friend screaming his name. I can’t remember the name and I probably couldn’t identify their faces if you showed me their pictures.
I sat up and realized I had been crying and sobbing likely through the entire episode. All things considered, a 5’6″ 100 pound kid shouldn’t have been able to do that to a couple of normal sized teenagers. I was compelled to do it. I don’t know if I can say I wouldn’t do it again. My heart races thinking about it.
As I sat there, I looked at my hands and they were covered in blood. Harold cleaned up the mess to reveal cuts all over my knuckles. I told my folks I had fallen off my bike, but the kid must have had braces or something. Harold quietly put his head on my lap and let me pet him for what felt like hours until I was ready to go home. This dog that seemed to only have days left to live was there to console me. He thought his job was to make me feel special and happy and important all of the time. And on one rare occasion he had to defend me. He never complained and he never stopped loving. If he was capable of taking his own life, I wouldn’t have blamed him for it. The pain must have been insufferable.
This week we lost a human with the heart of a golden retriever. We knew he suffered. He told us. He showed us. He touched everyone that ever saw his work. He had that smile that was always slightly clouded by sadness as if he always knew this is how it would end. If you are asking yourself why this particular celebrity hurts more than the others, just look two feet away at your loyal companion. A pure heart that asks for nothing in return. That’s not human. And it hurts when we watch the innocent suffer.