We found Handsome, an elderly Golden Retriever, in Manteca, California in December 2013.
He’d been surrendered to a small, rural, high kill shelter in the desert, and they called Golden Rescue to say they had a sweet dog who was going to be put down. He was old, they said, and white-faced. Skinny, sickly, weak, and timid, with no chance of being adopted. And they did not have room.
This is no sales pitch.
I got a call from a woman I knew (barely, to be honest) at rescue. They’d pulled an old golden from the shelter, and a seemingly kind woman had taken him home and brought him back after one day. The woman had left him on her deck while she went to work the next day, she said, and he’d barked all day and “made a mess.” She could not have that. Would I consider meeting him?
We had 2 dogs. We were not looking for a 3rd.
I checked Handsome’s profile online: “I am looking for someone to love me and to build my confidence again,” it read. “I am very loving and gentle. Please come meet me and give me a chance to show you who I am.”
Dear god. My husband took Friday off. We drove to Manteca. The first time I knelt down on the concrete, Handsome sat and handed me his paw. Then he slept in my lap for the 2+ hour drive home.
He really was very sick. That was true. But after a few false starts (and some weeks of diarrhea) we found the right food and an enzyme combination that settled his insides down. He gained almost 30 pounds. And he lived another six years.
When we moved to Kentucky, we drove him (and our other 2 dogs) back-and-forth 5 times. Handsome was never happier than when he was in the car …. or truck, or boat, or golf cart, or tractor scoop. He simply loved to go wherever you were going. This picture was taken our first day in our new Kentucky home, after a 4 day, 35 hour drive.
If you met Handsome, you loved him. Not like. Love. I will always remember our friend, Nancy, sitting in the chair with him every time she came over, and our friend Teresa rolling down the driveway in her golf cart for the sole purpose of taking him for a ride. When I say he was the best dog, this is not hyperbole.
We often hear people say how great it was that we adopted an older dog. Please. We are far from saints. We also have a well-bred Lab who eats poop and never stops jumping on people, and we adopted a hound-mix puppy 2 years ago who’s sweet, but very fearful. What we are is open, and I write this —- on the occasion of Handsome’s death —- to ask you to be open, too. To be open to an elderly rescue dog.
There are so many Handsomes out there. There just are. We once rescued a 12+ year old lab named Annie Belle whose family dropped her at the shelter because their kids were tired of having a dog. As my friend Donna in rescue says, when an older dog is surrendered, they look around quietly like there must be some mistake. “What happened?” they seem to ask. “Why am I here?” These are real stories. And these dogs, these lovely friends, are waiting and waiting and waiting … for you.
Exactly one week before his death, we had a photographer at the house and she unknowingly took this final photo. Our best boy, his face raised to the sun.
This is what Hope looks like.