Rocket Scientist

As I turned the corner at the rescue into the front parking lot, I came upon an elderly man looking a bit lost. It was well before adoption hours. He looked frail and sad. I asked if I could help. He said he had just let his dog go. It turns out that he had lost her a week earlier; he had just returned from picking up her ashes.

She was 11-year-old Emily, a beautiful Golden Retriever. He had her from a pup. He noticed that she was not wanting to get up one morning; she turned down her favorite treat. He rushed her to the local vet; they told him to rush her to the specialist. The specialist said that Emily might be taken immediately to U.C. Davis in hopes of finding a canine heart surgeon there, but that the operation would be hard on a senior girl—and the odds not good. Her heart was enlarged; she was bleeding internally; fluid was pooling around her heart as quickly as they could drain it. It was a painful but clear decision – perhaps influenced by the man’s own battle. With cancer. A fight he believed he was losing. They let Emily go peacefully. Her ashes were in a beautiful, inscribed wooden box in his truck. Her paw print immortalized with it.

He wasn’t looking to adopt. He thought his own time on this earth was short. He was just in pain and wanting some Golden love. Someone sent him to a shelter, but he found that overwhelming and heartbreaking. A friend told him about Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue & Sanctuary.

“I’m here as a total stranger, just hoping to be able to pet a few dogs and share a moment with them,” he said.

We don’t typically allow the public to interact with the dogs unless they have gone through our foster or adoption vetting process. But everyone understood his need; we have all been there. You feel them, still, in your heart but the absence of their physical presence is difficult to bear.

We allowed him to sit and love on some sweet Goldens – no one too rambunctious. One beautiful girl sensed his need and buried her head in his lap; that was enough to send the tears gushing. He shared photos and stories and asked about the dogs: how they come to be with us, how we find them homes, how anyone could ever give up their beloved companion.

I gave him a tour and told him our story – about our founders, their inspiration, their vision, and how it had come to life through the dedication of hundreds of volunteers. As we walked, I shared the stories of the dogs we passed; we watched the youngsters in training class; we greeted the seniors at the fence.

He told me about a dream he had. His legs were strong and whole again. She was by his side. They walked familiar trails. Coming to a gate that looked like Heaven, they asked for entry. He was told he could pass through, but not Emily. They turned away and walked on, realizing they were in the wrong place. They came to another gate. This time they were both welcomed. Inside were trees, rivers, fields, and blue sky. They knew where they were…together…at last. And then he woke up and saw his frail, ravaged body – and his heart sank.

Maybe Emily went ahead because she knew it would be too hard for him to leave her behind.

He cried. We hugged. He said he would like to help. He made an incredibly generous donation in Emily’s memory which is reflected on our virtual Giving Tree.

As he was departing, he asked me if I had ever met a rocket scientist. I thought it was a setup. But he said, “Well, now you have.” He had helped to design the heat shield for the space shuttle. When Congress failed to fund the development of an emergency vehicle to return our astronauts from a planned space station, he was part of a group that went to Russia to negotiate the use of their Soyuz vehicle in exchange for shared ownership of what became the International Space Station. I looked him up. It’s true.

Bonds created through the love of dogs. You never know who you will meet. Maybe even a rocket scientist with a broken, golden heart.

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I am a nascent gardener, rescuer, and photographer, chronicling the journey of the dogs at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary near Sacramento, CA - and the Memorial Garden we have devoted to them.

20 thoughts on “Rocket Scientist”

    1. Thank you, Cindy…apologies for the tears but meeting this sweet man brought Christmas home to me this year. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  1. What a wonderful story for any season, but especially for this one when there is more darkness than daylight, and we wait for the light to return. Thank you.

  2. What a beautiful, and interesting, story. Many thanks for sharing. 🙂

    On Mon, Dec 23, 2019 at 12:57 AM Gardens For Goldens wrote:

    > Ogee posted: ” As I turned the corner at the rescue into the front parking > lot, I came upon an elderly man looking a bit lost. It was well before > adoption hours. He looked frail and sad. I asked if I could help. He said > he had just let his dog go. It turns out that ” >

  3. Another Tears of joy story. Thank you for sharing. A perfect example of God’s work here on earth with his angels at HB…🙏💛🐾

  4. The tears are still flowing. What a beautiful story heartbreaking as it is. Our dogs can bring us together with such amazing people.

  5. OMG, this is an amazing story. Our hearts break for this gentleman. Anyone who has loved, lost, (repeat, repeat) any dog and especially a Golden knows his pain. We hope he returns to just see the beautiful canine souls at HBGRR. Merry Christmas to all at HBGRR…our favorite rescue group. You are always in our hearts. Love, Poe and family.

  6. What others said: A beautifully sad but lovely story! (I’m not crying, you’re crying!!) (sniff, sniff) ❤

  7. I knew I left this to read on Christmas Eve for a reason. You’re the only blogger I know and love who can make me cry almost every time I read a post. I’m pretty sure that is because you reach our heart and soul with your words. Not many people have that gift. Merry Christmas.

  8. Absolutely beautiful! Such a wonderful reminder to slow down and be present for each other. Thank you for being there for him that day and telling his story so heartfully.

  9. Thank you for such an eloquent and beautiful story — just perfect for this special time of year. How lucky for you both that your paths crossed that day. Happy Holidays to you and yours, and thanks for your hard work on this blog and with HB.

  10. That poor man! I’m sure glad you found each other! He needed a hug. I’m still reeling from our sudden loss of Radar and I’m perfectly healthy, so I can only begin to imagine how lost he must feel after the loss of his precious Emily.

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