In late 2002 we had decided the time was right to finally bring a dog into our home, and decided upon a Golden Retriever. When we went to the breeder we picked Mattie up and she snuggled her face right into the crook of my neck and I was smitten. We left that day thinking that we had picked out the most perfect puppy, but it would soon be clear that she picked us. When we returned to the breeder to bring her home the breeder informed us that Mattie's true personality had come out - it seems that our loving, cuddly puppy had developed an independent streak. On New Year's Eve we brought home our fluffy golden retriever puppy, Mattie. She was a joy from the minute we had her, however after a few too many sleepless nights and accidents in the house, we knew something was not right. After a few months of veterinary visits, and two vets, we knew the reason for Mattie's incontinence. She was born with juvenile renal disease - commonly known as kidney disease. While the news was devastating, we decided from that point on it was our responsibility and honor to give Mattie the best life possible. The average life span for a dog born with kidney disease is 2-5 years so these were going to be the best 2-5 years of Mattie's life. Gone were the rules about not getting on the couch or sleeping in our bed - she ruled the house and knew it!
The week before Valentine's Day 2006, Mattie started to refuse take her medication. We always promised her that when she didn't want to take it anymore, we were not going to make her. The truth was that this medication would never cure her of her kidney disease - when she decided that she was done taking it that would be our sign that we had to start saying goodbye. It was around this time that she also refused her special dietary food and treats, so we gave her whatever she would eat. She no longer ran to greet us at the door when we came home, and our regular walks were now just time to sit outside. On Monday, February 13, 2006 Mattie stopped eating and began dry heaving. The night of February 14, 2006, my husband and I sat with Mattie on the living room floor (she no longer had the energy to jump on the couch) and had to face the discussion we had been putting off for so long. We knew that the time had come to make the difficult decision to let Mattie be free of her pain. There was, of course, a part of us that wanted to believe that she would get better, but deep down we knew that she would not. The vet always told us that when it was time, we would know, and Mattie was clearly telling us it was time. We spent the morning of February 17th outside. Mattie seemed to ask us to just sit and enjoy the breeze one last time. At this point she was too weak to walk and just laid next to us. It was during this time that Mattie gave us the most amazing gift. She somehow found the strength to come up to both of us individually and lean on us, saying goodbye and letting us know that it was okay to let go. A part of her knew how hard we were struggling and she found the strength in her own way to say thank you for everything, I love you and now it's time to let me go. And we did.
We truly believe that Mattie knew she was sick as a puppy and knew that we would take care of her no matter what, and that is why she chose us the day we thought we were picking her out. It is profound how much Mattie has touched not only our lives, but also the lives of everyone she knew. Mattie's life was short, but meaningful. She was sick from the day she was born, but lived life to the fullest. She found such joy in tearing apart a stick or a toy. She swam or dove into a snow pile every chance she got, as if she knew she might not get the same opportunity again. Those of you who love a dog know that they are a very important part of your life, and if you let them, they will teach you life lessons and help you to realize what is really important. Enjoying a sunny day, watching the birds fly and giving unconditional love to those around you - simple lessons but true. We still love Mattie with all of our hearts, and will honor her memory every chance we get. It is a very special animal that can touch so many people's hearts, and Mattie is one of those animals. We were so lucky to have had her in our lives for three years, and want to keep her memory alive for years to come.