Fat Girl Wearing Thin

Life beyond the loss.

   Sep 14

Memory Lane: Lessons from a Golden

This post was originally written on October 4th, 2010 and as you can see from the photo below, Mandy was still pretty spry for an old gal.  However, her health took a quick turn for the worse shortly after this post was written and sadly, she died less than two weeks later.  Even though Mandy is no longer with us, I decided to keep the writing about her in the present tense because really, she’ll always be with us. 

So, for very sentimental reasons, along with a lesson we all can learn from, this is one of my favorite posts.  I hope you enjoy it. 



My husband and I have found the joys of senior dog ownership. When we acquired Mandy she had been at a rescue facility for several months. I don’t think she’d ever been on a leash in her life and she had been so neglected it took months to medically prepare her for adoption. Arthritis, blown-out knees, surgery, mammary tumor, ear infections, hip mobility issues; you name it, she had it. Adopting a senior dog – especially one that was already nine years old – was a gamble for us. We walked into the foster Mom’s home and Mandy trotted right over and plopped down in my husband’s lap, looking up at him with those old-soul eyes and it was all over; she was coming with us.

Two-and-a-half-years have passed since Mandy joined our family. Almost every evening we take our dogs to the local county park for their walk. They have walked these same trails for years and yet every day they cannot wait to get there. If only I could harness that kind of excitement over exercise. They don’t see it as mundane or uninteresting; they see it as an adventure. They simply cannot wait to be outdoors experiencing life.

We used to walk over two miles every evening; now that Mandy is 11 years old, we walk a little over a mile; then she’s has quite enough. I always feel bad for Brulee who is now six but still has enough energy to generate electricity. He looks back at Mandy every once in a while as if to say, ‘Would you please get the lead out??’

We’ve been walking in this same park for nearly 4 years. We take the same trails and know exactly what to expect around every corner. It can get a little numbing at times, but the dogs act as if they are experiencing something mystical. Every evening after dinner, Mandy watches for any sign of familiar movement in one of us. Then she’s off down the stairs barking; barely able to contain herself she scrambles into the car and demands us to by God, roll down the back window already!  Brulee is more laid back about the process simply following Mandy along letting her do all the directing, however he’s just as excited.

Mandy and Brulee at the park.

Our veterinarian told me that for goldens, along with other large breed dogs, the age of seven is considered senior status. Due to inbreeding, other health issues and unfortunately personal experience, many golden owners sadly don’t see their best friends live beyond 9 or 10. But Mandy who is now 11 1/2, refuses to let her aches and pains get the best of her. If she’s having a hard day and cannot get off the floor without a lift, once up, she is ready to go to the park for her walk. When she’s limping a little bit toward the end, she makes it clear that she is going to get the job done anyway; she may sit and rest a few times along the way but she’s determined to cross that finish line. She is a survivor.

I’ve learned a lot from Mandy. Not only about how fulfilling it can be owning a senior dog, but also that instinctively, she instinctively knows that she needs to get up and move her body every day or else the day may come when her body will no longer want or be able to move.  She holds the secret to life, this white-faced dog: enjoy every morsel of food in your bowl, experience every day like it’s your last, and find excitement in the little things.

Unlike Brulee who knows countless tricks including how to whisper, (yes, click-thru – there truly is a video of it) Mandy has only ever ‘learned’ one command: sit.  Yet, she is one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever known.




That was another Memory Lane post, and you know what that means:  time for another giveaway and as always, it’s things that I’ve chosen because I personally use and love them. 

I’ve kept journals for several years. Whether you’re having a difficult time right now or are embarking on an exciting road ahead, journaling your life will be something you’ll never regret. So, how about entering for your chance to win this beautifully illustrated journal, paired together with a box of Tazo Zen tea?


Don’t know what to write about?  Let one of the many uplifting quotes inside be your inspiration.  The one above says, ‘When you were born you cried and the world rejoiced.  Live your life so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.’  How beautiful is that?!

Rules: same as before.  Leave a comment and you’re automatically entered (unless you ask me to exclude you).  You have until 9 PM EST on Thursday night to enter.  My lucky winner, picked from Random.org will be announced during Friday’s post.  US readers only, please.

Have a good Wednesday, everyone. 



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  1. The Fat Mom says:

    Brulee looks so young in the above picture! Mandy sounds like such a joy. It seems that she could teach me quite a few lessons. #1 exercise can be fun. #2 never give up even when you have aches and pains. #3 look at every day as a new adventure. Thanks for this!

    • Ellen says:

      He does look young, doesn’t he? I think that was taken 3 years ago. He’s an old man, now; he’s getting all of that white fur around his face.
      Mandy would be happy to know that she taught you a few lessons, btw! lol

  2. roxie says:

    I was saddened to hear recently that SadieLu has begun a decline in health – she’s part golden and is 12, so it is probably time. Breaks my heart just to think of it.

    I am about ready to run out of my current journal – here’s hoping!

    • Ellen says:

      Oh, I’m sorry to hear about SadieLu, Roxie. I was just thinking about that dog the other day and noticed you hadn’t mentioned her in a while. It’s always hard to see an elderly dog struggling.

  3. Connie G. says:

    Even though you were with her for such a short time, I can tell that Mandy meant a lot to you. The length of time we get to enjoy them doesn’t correspond to how much we love them. I was blessed to have a Brittany for 1 1/2 years that absolutely got the better majority of my heart! I will forever miss him but I also truly love the two Brittanys we have right now as well (they are all so special in their own unique way). I’m always thankful that I was lucky enough to be the one to take care of them and love them. I think they add more to my life than I do to theirs!! It’s so nice to hear stories of other animal lovers. Great post!

    • Ellen says:

      Thank you for that, Connie. There is something about rescues…they’re just so grateful and special in their own way. I’m sorry you lost your dog in less than 2 years. That is such a short time. Some people never get over the heartache and refuse to get another animal, but they always help me heal.

  4. Michele says:

    I have that same Zen tea from Tazo. I know tea is supposed to be warm and comforting, but I have to admit that I really don’t like it that much. I try… really, I do. I have a cupboard full of it at home and a shelf full of it at work. I’m just a coffee person… and I’m no longer ashamed to admit it. I love the warm creaminess of coffee with half and half… no sugar required.

    • Ellen says:

      I’m sorry to hear that you don’t like tea, Michele. My husband is the same way, though. He can drink tea, but he is a coffee person, through and through. I’m pretty lucky in that I love a good cup of tea AND coffee.

  5. Cindy says:

    Hi Ellen:

    Wonderful post. My golden rescue (she’s a red like Mandy) came into my life eight months ago and she has brought so much joy to me this year after several bad ones. I give much credit to her for getting me up and active again and contributing to my weight loss to date.

    All the best to you!
    Cindy in San Antonio

    • Ellen says:

      First off, Cindy, thank you for rescuing a golden. They are great dogs for active people (or those who want to become more active). I’m so glad that she’s brought you so much joy. Thanks for sharing your story, and for reading.

  6. teresa says:

    You and your husband are so kind and generous of spirit. I know you get so much back from your animals….
    You write beautifully about your friends.

  7. debby says:

    Oh you know I love the doggies, and especially the old ones! And the lessons we can learn from them! Dogs never feel sorry for themselves.

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Ellen. I love journaling too!

  8. LauraJayne says:

    I’m a sucker for buying journals, but never actually write in them! I think it’s because I blog, and find handwriting things so laborious! However, I am finding use for my journals as I conduct research for my thesis! It’s great to have something to write in whenever I have a new idea for research!

  9. Jill says:

    Thank you for sharing this! Pets are amazing! My first dog was a golden. Jordan. He was my first child. He had my heart from the first night when I slept on the kitchen floor with him. (he ended up in our bed from then on out):) Jordan died when he was 8 years old. It was one of the most painful times in my life. It took me 5 years until I could get another dog. I am so glad I did. Our little Snowball is such a joy and fits right in with our family. She had my heart from the first night too!

    • Ellen says:

      Thank you for such a sweet story, Jill. For some people it does take a long while before they can open their hearts to another animal. I’m glad that you have Snowball and that she brings you so much joy.

  10. I think it’s so great of you to have adopted Mandy with all of her “senior dog issues”. She sounds like she was a very sweet dog!

    You can exclude me from the giveaway, since I won the last one! 😉

  11. Mary says:

    I have been in love with goldens ever since we rescued two, oh, it’s been years now. But I will never forget their boundless enthusiasm, bottomless love, and loyalty. I still miss them.

  12. Chelsey Sloan says:

    I think everything you need to know about life you can learn throughs dogs. I really think they’re angels in fuzzy form. My little guy, Murphy is really the most amazing soul that has ever touched my life and I thank God every day I have him.

  13. Julie says:

    Our beloved golden lab was our third `daughter’ – she arrived at the time we would have had another baby ( girls were three and six) and was given the name we had picked for another girl (Chloe). We were lucky to have her for about 12 years and is still very much part of our family memories and conversations. We have `dog sat’ another in recent years and I have other thought Lizzie too had a lot to teach about food and exercise. While labs are famous for their appetites she was well-trained and never thought of eating anything unless food was in her bowl. If it wasn’t in there it wasn’t hers. Every moment was a chance for exercise in Lizzy’s mind. As soon as someone headed for the door she would be waiting hopefully – head on one side `are we going out, can we go for a walk?’. She never had to drag herself out the door moaning and complaining like her human companions. Surely lessons for us all!

    • Ellen says:

      What a wonderful story, Julie – thank you so much for that, and for reading. Labs are wonderful dogs. I’ve never owned one, but every one I’ve ever met was an immediate buddy.

  14. This post had me sniffling! You and your husband are such amazing people to take in animals who need your love and attention. Makes me so crazy to see people seeking out purebred puppies when the most amazing and smartest animals I know have been rescues.

    Mandy is a beautiful girl!

  15. Tim says:

    I think this was one of the first posts I read of yours (I was too afraid to comment on peoples blogs when I first joined blogger LOL). Mandy looks so adorable in the pictures. I love the colour of her coat too.

    • Ellen says:

      Ha! I was like that too in the beginning, Tim. I was SO much a lurker. Once I found out how cool it was that I could actually get to know people from all over the world through their blogs (um, like in England for example), it really opened me up to posting comments.

  16. Michele says:

    We, too, have had goldens and loved them both. Currently we have a geriatric “mutt.” I did not know dogs were referred to as geriatrics, but ours was on Tuesday. He is almost 12 and has liver disease now. He is like your Mandy and LOVES to walk no matter how often we go the same path, but can no longer walk so far. Sweet post. Dogs are just great pets. But, so sad as they get old and pass on. Have a great day. Michele

  17. Miss April says:

    Wow, I just looked at your progress photos. That is an amazing transformation, def looking forward to reading more about you and your story!

  18. Munchberry says:

    Oh my gosh Brulee looks so young in those pictures! And I LOVE that video. How in the world did you get him to learn that. Crack me up!

    I noticed this weekend that our dog is getting gray on her face. It sort of made me sad. I yelped out “but she is only five!”

    I like that you caught Mandy midbark. She looks like she was feeling impatient.

    Our first golden was a rescue. Never thought I would get such a good dog again until we got Zoeberty. her nose is like many’s – all the color is gonzo.

    Thank you for sharing your stories about her. Dogs are wonderful and loving companions. I like how goldens faces say “I totally get you” when they look up at you.

  19. deonn says:

    Thanks for re-sharing this post. The video of the “whispering” was super cute. However did you teach him to do that?
    I have such a bond with my dog, Lali, that the thought of not having her is completely unacceptable. She had to stay with my dad for five months when I moved to Sarasota. It was terrible!
    Now we laugh about it, because my dad jokes that it didn’t matter that he had been the one feeding her and taking care of her for over five months. As soon as I was around again she lost interest in him completely.

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