This is the adorable image that fills the screens of two 19-inch flat screen computer monitors that sit on my desk. It is, of course, my permanent screensaver. Taking up 30 inches of space, it is impossible to resist two sets of those big beseeching eyes. It is a photo that I took of an 8-week-old sweet but spunky, mind-of-her-own, haughty, loved by all, beauty of a girl. It is the most appealing Golden Retriever photograph I have ever seen, bar none. And, it will probably always be that way.

I try to remember this image, as well as many others of my little girl, as the fibrosarcoma that took her life was a hideous disease that ate away at her beauty and wellbeing from inside out. More about the progression and treatment of Darcy's cancer can be found at my foundation's Blog. And, very important resources on cancer can be found at a cluster of 14 pages that I've developed that are among the most visited here at the Land of PureGold Foundation.

It was snowing the day Darcy took flight and finally earned her wings, so my recent tribute, Amid the Falling Snow, now seems so apropos. While my grief and endless tears make it is hard to type this tribute for Darcy, I know I need to be thankful for the time I was able to share with a soul so sweet that it shined from the inside out.

I feel Darcy calling out to me in these words to the Enya song, It's In The Rain, playing here.

Darcy was our first GolDaddy's girlden gal, named for my mother Doris, a very special lady loved by all who knew her. I lost my mom as well to cancer in May of 1983.  Much of the time, I called her Darce, drawing it out so that it more closely resembles that of Doris. The name Makena is shared by a beautiful beach in Maui, Hawaii.

An actual cousin to Ollie, Darcy’s mom, Jazz, came from Tricia and Neill Robson’s Friendship Golden Retrievers, which is in West Friendship, Maryland. They too loved Mistfield Goldens, and had two wonderful Goldens from this line. We were so excited to find a litter that came from this line as we were determined to find a treasure just as sweet, smart and noble.

Darcy’s father, though, was not a Mistfield Golden. He was a famous dog from the Pebwin line: Am/Can. Ch Pebwin Excel, Am/Can. CD, OS. These titles tell you that Excel was both smart and handsome. Living to almost the grand age of 14, he was an outstanding sire, being daddy to lots of champions as well. And, Jazz remained a wonderful lovely gal until the age of 13.

Truly a girl to the core, Darcy truly relished in finding any surface which held her reflection. Then, she was able to marvel at how adorable she was. She even took the 2nd prize in Vanderbilt Books' Beautiful Dog Contest with this flower photo. Of course, I haven't revealed the other photos from that day. You see, Darcy was not content at just smelling the flowers . . . she then attempted to pull them out by the roots.

Darcy somewhat eerily took after my mom and myself. Like me, she was independent and feisty as all get out. She needed to evaluate things for herself and decide what merited her attention. While that made for some interesting training situations, I could not help but respect her for that. I'd like to believe, in Allen Schoen's words, that we "ceased to be owner and pet, or human and animal, instead, being respected companions connected by an inimitable bond kindred spirits." 

Allen's special adage about Goldens is a thought that graces all of my correspondence. It is a prejudice about these special souls that he shares with many of us, when he says, "g-d made dogs...and when he perfected them...he created goldens." I added it to the photo below that I took of Darcy.

I truly believe that Darcy was the core spirit of my mom, a woman who never had a bad word for anyone (from childhood drilling that adage into my head about gaining more flies with honey than with vinegar). Darcy had a sweetness about her that is not easily put into words. No one could deny that beautiful face, but, it was her leaning and hugging, as the kids liked to call her body wrapping of paws, that so endeared her to all.

This smiling face of Darcy is one that I took a few years back and it says so much to me. Those long blond eyelashes was just so enticing and her smile so endearing. It is the reason I used this photo for the Sweet Golden Smiles Light up the World Photo Contest. To me, smiling Goldens do cheer the soul, for they seem to live and love life with such fervor.

While it is hard to believe, besides this glowing smile Darcy had a sweet flowery smell to her, particularly that of her head, that defied explanation. It was not from perfume or from bathing. It was an aroma that she just naturally had, filthy or not. It always tickled me how Linda, one of my dog pals, would call others over to smell her head as she just couldn't believe it herself. I will miss that quality more than I want to imagine.

ThiFriendship Darcy Makena AX AXJ CGCs sweet aroma actually began to leave Darcy as the cancer took over much of her face from the inside out. And, while her body still smelled pure and innocent, the smell emanating from her head was dreadful. It spoke volumes, with our Alfie and kitty Cindy disheartened by it as well, their constantly coming over and sniffing that area seemingly in bewilderment.

While my health has put an end to my Agility days, Darcy did so love the sport. You can see a diary of her achievements by clicking here. Darcy was always a natural athlete, leaping over furniture or over steps and porches as she'd fly in the door from running outside. She gained her first AKC Agility title at her second trial. That day, she came away with a first class ribbon and prize, for earning a perfect score of 100 and completing the obstacle course in only 50 seconds (71 seconds was the amount of time allowed). But, it was much tougher at the higher AKC Excellent levels, even though we did manage to get these titles.

Only getting to attend a few local indoor shows a year due to my disability condition, it is amazing what Darcy was able to accomplish in this fun sport. She was far better at it than her bedraggled human, surely earning her nickname of Miss Runamouk" due to often leaving her mom scratching her head back in the dust.

Darcy will be remembered by many Agility folks as she always took one of her cherished teddy bears with her to trials. It would have been hard not to stick out when these bears were three feet long and almost as big as her. Here she is waiting to go onto her run, simply watching other dogs in the ring. Now, is this just too silly or what?

But, she loved her big bears, which we called DarcyBears. They were called Darcybears because Alfie had a tendency of taking every toy available, even taking them right from her mouth. Darcy always allowed it so I decided to teach him that her bears were off limits to him. Calling them Darcy's bears, he quickly learned that they were hers alone.

Darcy carried her bears proudly and was especially thrilled when she could manage to go up and down the stairs with one in tow. (You can click here to see her in action.) It was an amazing feat and I never tired of it. Darcy would seek out multiple bears when she was distressed, such as during thunderstorms, so I know that must have brought her much comfort. I cannot tell you how many bears we went through over the years. You'd think I had kids with the number of toys and bears lying all around the house. Friends would even send bears as holiday gifts, all at least three feet tall as they knew that Darcy liked her bears big.

A tough life indeed

Darcy followed in Ollie’s huge paw-prints, doing Animal-Assisted Therapy with youngsters through my private practice work. She also provided Animal-Assisted Visitations and classroom demonstrations. Honestly, she simply lived to be loved, and would seek affection from all. A Golden Team

Her Golden deeds were noted in the media, as she was  featured in The Sunpapers'  article, "To woman, dogs are worth their weight in gold." She also was televised on WJZ Channel 13 on April 27, 2000 during a demonstration for the Williams Scotsman Corporation in White Marsh, as part of their “Take Your Daughters & Sons to Work Day.” When you watch the clip, you can see that Ron Matz did a beautiful story, easily falling in love with our Golden girl. He was so very touched by the children’s love for her, and the ‘petting power’ that she had. It cheers my soul to see this photo from the broadcast. She looked so very happy cuddled below my chin and against my chest. A true leaner, she always seemed so comforted to be pressed against me in this way. I'd like to believe, from seeing this image, that she was as much in love with me as I was with her.

I often wonder if I deserved such unconditional love and adoration. It was assuredly a gift from G-d, but one that was only on loan to me for a short time. And, despite having to give it up, I am so blessed to have had the experience.

I know that Alfie was Darcy's biggest admirer. The perpetual puppy, even approaching the age of seven, he never tired of rough housing with her and challenging her to play by stuffing toys into her face. A truly goofy boy who still runs around in circles when he is unable to contain his joy, it tickled me how Darcy would become exasperated with his silliness. She always remained boss, though, and loved to tease him and put him in his place. Alfie, of course, loved it and egged her on more.

A diva to the core, and nicknamed Princess Dar, this was truly a girl's girl. She was prissy and dainty and particular. If different delicacies were placed in her bowl, she would eat each separately. And, she always had to have her face wiped after eating. And, to watch her tiptoe through the grass out in back of our house, so as not to step in any poop (her bad mom had not yet gotten up), was just classic. What a wild comparison to my Alfie boy who wears his food, dribbles his water across the floor, and clops through the grass with abandon.

This Queenie, supreme haughty pose of hers was one that Alfie just doesn't have in his vocabulary. And, now it will be so sorely missed. It is just so funny how she would tilt back her head and surveys certain situations. And, clearly, the pose fits the statement below it and that I have at our foundation store.

Darcy always wanted us to do her bidding. There is no question that she was a "Love me! Love me!" girl. She relished being stroked and petted, but her all-time favorite rub was on the underside of her back legs. And, even up to her last day, she was still lifting out that back leg to be rubbed underneath. I've not heard of too many girls doing this, but she always found an easy mark in Daddy Gary doing her bidding in this way. What a riot it was when Darcy would lift out her leg when we'd do demonstrations together for children. You see, when they would begin  petting her, she instinctively went to lift out one leg. Of course, they wouldn't know what to make of it, thinking that Darcy was instead getting ready to pish.

A real tease to the boys, it seemed every breed of male she met fell madly in love with her. Actually Darcy would let them sniff and even poke their noses in those private areas, even lifting out that leg so that they could really get close. Hey, my girl was no dummy, she knew how good it felt lol. But, of course, the minute they tried to really get serious, this gentle sweet thing would nail them with a fierce growl that seemed to come from the bowels of the earth.

Photo by Stuart Haman

I am concerned that Alfie is going to take this loss very hard. Darcy was his playmate and he and she were so playful together. Darcy was so confused when Ollie went to The Bridge, as we took him to the vet one day and then returned home without him. Although my wonderful vet, Dr. Molesworth, was able to come to my home to take Darcy on her next journey, Alfie really didn't show much understanding of what was going on. He really had already taken some leave from Darcy, often sniffing at her and showing puzzlement as if to say, who is this dog? The smell of the cancer tumors in her mouth and pushing out her eye socket was quite noxious, so I know it certainly put off our furkids Alfie and Cindy.

I know that Darcy had a wonderful life. She was very attached to me and was most comforted by being with me in the safety of our home. I tried everything I could to minimize her mishegas (a Yiddish word for craziness) about thunderstorms and fireworks, for example. Those fears developed almost overnight when Ollie died on July 3, 1998, as she was all alone without her trusted protector and partner, and now was so visibly shaken by the noises of firecrackers in the neighborhood on July fourth. Our choice for medical treatments was also affected by this nervousness, as Darcy would shake uncontrollably whenever we needed to enter the Vet's office (no matter what clothing and calming agents I tried, and I have them all). And, if she needed to stay overnight, oh my, it was torture as she had to be literally pulled off of me. Yet, as soon as she was able to return home, where she felt comfortable and safe, she showed no stress whatsoever.

Honestly, I respected Darcy for her take on the environment and her stubbornness at times. To me, there was nothing wrong with her having an opinion about something that differed from mine. It made me think of Darcy more as a person, like myself, rather than a possession. She was really a girlfriend, never a pet. I merely shared time with her in this world as a fellow kindred spirit. And, despite my endless tears right now, I would not have given up those borrowed years for anything. They were a special gift. And, I only hope that I did indeed deserve to share in them.

Photo by Stuart Haman

I was very lucky to have a special dog friend's hubby, Stuart Haman, an award winning photographer, come to take photos of my Darcy. I had set up agility equipment in my back yard and he was taking action photos for me. But, then he decided to take some of me loving on Darcy. These photos were not posed as I really didn't know Stuart was clicking away. The banner that appears on over 1,000 pages at the site shows one of the photos of Darcy and I. What I adore about these photos is the love on Darcy's face. It really does look like she loved her mom and drew comfort from my love of her. Thank you Stuart for helping me to forever visualize this bond in my heart.



During Darcy's final months, I received so many warm expressions of love. I've shared some below as a possible comfort to others experiencing similar sad times.

February 14, 2006 Update
I have always believed myself to be a good writer, even when simply producing psychological evaluations, as fellow professionals would tell me that I had the ability to capture a child's true being. I never was content in writing a standard report for I believed that there was nothing as important as the family unit, and nothing as sacred as the love and concern toward the children within. For that reason, each child became my own when it came time to present my findings. Unfortunately, that level of empathy can be catastrophic in a field such as mine, as one much be able to have some objectivity if only to survive the continuing experience of pain that is witnessed. I never got too adept in that area, and spent far more hours per case, because in my mind, I always thought 'what if that were my child'.

It is that same concern and level of empathy that I experience for the many dogs that I learn about through the pages at my site. And, while it is never easy to write about or share the heartrending tales that have become the trademark of my huge Golden playground in the sky, I feel that it is a necessary responsibility. But, writing about my own furbabies ... well, that I must say, is agonizing. Even now, eight years later, I am unable to keep from tearing up when reading my Ollie's Tribute. But, I knew that it would be expected that I give closure to Darcy's life. Even my hubby, who cannot bear my endless tears or hear about cancer occurring in others' companion animals, asked me whether I would be writing something for Darcy. He saw the meaning that it provided my entire family and friends when I wrote a memorial for my baby brother, who died so very young from metastatic kidney cancer. I cannot deny that it was an unbearable task, but I believe that it is only when we experience such intensity of emotion that we can convey a faithful picture and the real meaning of another's life.

The outpouring of love and concern for myself and my family is beyond what words I could even begin to provide here. Surely, all my tears are simply words my heart is unable to express. But, I have to be honest. My grieving process is not unique. In essence, it is the price we pay when we allow our hearts and souls to be enveloped in such purity of spirit and mind.

I am worried about my goofball for-a-boy Alfie, still a puppy in his almost 7-year-old body. Oh, he's eating fine and he smiles and wags his tail, wanting to play. But, he is so bewildered when needing to go outside alone, not wanting to remain too long as Darcy was his protector, so to speak. And, while Alfie typically never strays far from my side, he has taken to sitting vigil for his darling Darcy down in the room next to the garage. He knows that is where all return home, and wants to be there to greet her when she does finally return. I sob just thinking of this, fearing that his spirit will diminish with each passing day that he fails to see her come through that door.

I wish that I could personally answer each heartfelt letter that has been sent, but the response has been so overwhelming that it is hard enough simply reading each post through my tears. But, I do not believe that I am merely crying for my own loss. Understandably, my email box is often flooded by posts of those suffering through similar health battles, and it is troubling that I often can offer so little. The fact that my Land of PureGold site has indeed provided comfort and valuable information and assistance is balm for my soul, for without that belief, I do not believe my heart could sustain all of the pain.

It is the same for my very deal friend, Suzi Beber, who extends her heart and incredible wealth of knowledge to so many experiencing the unique kind of heartache that a cancer diagnosis brings. The fact that she suffers so from a disorder that quickly took my father's life (actually a few months after my Ollie died), only makes her concern and assistance to others that much more moving. Surely, speaking from the soul, Suzi shared these words about my Darcy:

"A candle burns brightly. The flame dances for a life well lived and loved, and the tendrils of the flames are the memories that are caught on the edge of a tear and carried to a distant place where there is no pain and only joy, for all the moments that took our breath away . . . "

I am also appreciative of the poem that came today from Dr. Mary, an extraordinary worker for Golden Rescue. Mary recently left her medical practice in the Midwest, which involved work with disabled children, to begin a new practice in New Mexico that specializes in holistic health care. I am genuinely honored that she took the time to bestow such a tender testament to my baby girl. In that it could possibly lift the spirit of others, I wanted to share it with all those persons who visit here.

I am so very touched by the thoughtfulness of special friends Marti Brown, Greg Korycki, Faye & Bill Stec, Sheila & Bob Johnson, Teresa Batt, Margot Eisenberg, Dr. Nora Wilcox, Mary Jane Rizzella, Sandie Baker, Cheryl Olvera, and Jacquelina Furfaro Brown—who have all provided individual donations to the Land of PureGold Foundation in loving memory of Darcy.

A huge donation in Darcy's memory was also made by members of a Golden Retriever forum to both the Land of PureGold Foundation and the Golden Retriever Foundation's April Fund (a veterinarian expense fund for rescued Goldens). My heartfelt thanks go to: Terry Batt, Marti Brown, Brian Burke, Betty Burkett, Lily Cavanagh, Alan Conway, Marnie Delano, Margaret Dubitsky, Bruce & Pat Everhart, Kathy Harris, Mary Alice High, Sandy Hill, Lynn Huizinga, Bob & Sheila Johnson, Kim Johnson, Michelle Keating & Harry Oakes, Mitch Kirby, Pat Lawson, John Macco, Linda McDonald, Lee Ann Moore, Wendy Morrell, Suzan Morris, Pat Morrison, Melanie Nelson, Cheryl Olvera, Pam Patton, Margaret Petracca, Mary Jane Rizzella, Carol Rock, Lisa Ruch, Brandi Thornton, Marie Welch, Dr. Nora Wilcox, Wendy Young, and Carolyn Zagami.

I have additionally had wonderful donations made by: Dr. Allen Schoen to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association; by Mary Jane Rizzella & Dr. Nora Wilcox to PetRescue.Com and also the Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund; by Suzi Beber to the Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund; by Dr. Nora Wilcox to the Humane Society of Pensacola; and, by Pat Morrison to PetRescue.Com.

My hubby, Gary, the special guy who introduced me to the wonders of this breed in 1986, has also been incredibly touched by the immense love and concern that we have received. The fact that other companion animals will be helped by these donations is truly comforting. And, the fact that these contributions have further been made in our Darcy girl's memory, makes us feel that much more special.