December 4, 2016, was one of the worst days of my life, because Ben and I had to let go of our precious Sonny, so that he could cross the Rainbow Bridge!
Sonny came into our lives in October 2008 as a sweet, adorable, sometimes goofy, adolescent Golden Retriever. I had spotted him, then called “Hyatt”, on GRRAND’s website. GRRAND had estimated that he was about 1 to 1-1/2 years old. We knew almost instantly on meeting him that it was meant for him to join our family. Sonny made some silly innocent mistakes…that I won’t go into… like any youngster! We laugh about them now anyway!! But with patient, positive training and lots of mutual love, he eventually evolved into a mature, absolutely wonderful and constant companion.
One thing we never had to teach Sonny was to be kind and generous! I can’t recall ever hearing him growl! He was lovely with children and people of all ages! He would let other dogs, even those he’d never met before, play with his toys and chew his bones! He’d let his canine family members sneak some of his food without reacting (in the rare case we weren’t supervising)! He shared our attention willingly. Resource guarding just wasn’t an issue with Sonny!
At about 4 YO, Sonny passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen Testing and, not long afterward, passed the evaluation with me to become an Animal Ambassador with WAGS Pet Therapy of Kentucky, Inc. He also passed the WAGS testing to be handled by a trusted family friend with whom he had a very special relationship. Sonny had an exemplary career as a therapy dog for five years. During that time, he visited at the ICU/CCU and the Palliative Care, Oncology, and Physical Rehabilitation Units of a large hospital. He visited at a State mental health in-patient hospital. He participated in a reading program for students at a JCPS middle school. And, he participated in a WAGS program in cooperation with the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, Domestic Violence Unit. In addition to his regularly scheduled visits, Sonny made many other special visits and represented WAGS at special events. All told, Sonny made 126 visits as a WAGS Animal Ambassador therapy dog! His service as a therapy dog even earned him an AKC Therapy Dog Title! Sonny never met a person that he didn’t cheerfully welcome with a Golden smile and happily wagging tail!
Sonny also got to represent GRRAND on TV appearances to promote the GRRAND Affair and as a “donation dog” at the event itself. And, he participated as a GRRAND alumnus at the Golden Retriever Specialty Show, hosted by GRRAND in Ohio a couple of years ago!
Sonny was in the process of having the best life ever! Ben and I hoped that Sonny would be able to carry on to have many more interesting and fulfilling years of life. But, so very sadly, it was not to be. In March 2016, Sonny was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a malignant bone marrow cancer, when pre-surgery testing for a lumpectomy on his left hock surprisingly indicated irregularities in his blood values. This cancer is not curable, but is very treatable. The average survival time for dogs is 22 months. Since Sonny was asymptomatic when he began treatment with oral chemo, we were very optimistic that he would have a good outcome. Initially, Sonny did achieve a partial remission and had stabilized. But, almost within a week of doing so, the cancer essentially fought back with vengeance. Despite trying several other chemo alternatives, Sonny never was able to regain remission. Sonny had handled all of the chemo treatments well and was always his pleasant, sweet, happy self. He never did have any significant gastrointestinal side effects or serious weight loss. He did have some nosebleeds that eventually subsided. In the end, though, the cancer had progressed to a point where treatment was no longer an option.
Every day we shared with Sonny was a blessing! Ben & I both miss the love and companionship that Sonny gave to our family. So do our other dogs — Yogi, Annie & Frankie! I, personally, feel like a huge chunk of my heart, that Sonny once occupied, is now void! I long to snuggle with him, to touch his soft golden coat, and gaze into his tender brown eyes! The sense of loss is still very raw! However, I know that as I work through my grief, the time will eventually come when all of the many happy memories of our time with Sonny will give us joy.
Rest In peace , sweet Sonny Bear! We will all cross the Rainbow Bridge and join you one day in a better place!