Meet Russ T

Eyes of Love By Kathy Blue

The call came four days before Christmas. “We have a young boy who needs a Foster home. His family wants him picked up today.” “Well, I don’t know, I’m not sure I’m ready. It’s only been a month and a half.” The crack in my voice and the hesitation gave me away.
I wasn’t even ready for Christmas let alone caring for an unwanted boy. Sure I had gone through the motions of putting up the tree and unpacking the many boxes of treasured keepsakes from years passed. Entering my home you would think all was well. All the signs of this blessed season were there from the wreath on the front door to the Manger, representing peace, hope and joy. Yet this year there was no joy and little peace in my heart. My heart was broken and my spirit wavering. I had undergone thyroid surgery three weeks ago. My body was mending and I had returned to work. The pathology report confirmed no cancer. I had received the news thankfully but it was not my body that needed to heal as much as my heart.
On November fifteenth I had held my darling Sally in my arms one last time as we gently released her spirit. Twelve years had passed so quickly from the time I had first held her in my arms. A little ball of Golden fluff all ears and paws and eyes.  Those big dark chocolate eyes that mirrored her soul. She was an amazing creature and we had weathered many a storm and shared many joys in those years. I reached for the picture book sitting on the table. My eyes scanned page after page of happier moments in time. Sally’s first Christmas, snuggled in Santa’s arms, wearing her tassel hat, curled up in the quilt by the fire after licking snowballs from her tiny feet. She loved to snowplow and make little puppy angels in the snow. Sally peeking through the garland on the stair railing, a vantage point she often used to reach down from to muss the hair on the head of any unwary visitor sitting on the couch. It was her contented spot when I was busy and there was no lap for her to cuddle in. She could keep tabs on her world from there. She was a mixture of angel and imp and from the very first day I brought her home, she filled my life with joy. She was and still is my Heartgirl.
“All of our Foster homes are full and many people are away for the holidays. You were our last hope. It looks as if he will have to stay in a kennel until we can find his forever home.” The words brought me back to reality and I noticed the pain had returned to my chest. “Oh, no don’t do that. I have five days vacation left. Bring him on over. I didn’t have plans anyway.” A momentary concern crossed my mind but I had committed. Oh well, I’ll make the best of it. No Golden baby should have to spend Christmas in a cage.
An hour later the volunteer pulled up in front of my house. I went out to greet her. The day was as warm and sunny as my soul was dark and cloudy. I live in Phoenix now and there is no snow and ice and cold to deal with, at least on the outside. “Gizmo”, as he was called by his former family, was in the back seat. He was a year and a half old, a beautiful red gold boy about seventy pounds. Curls accented his thick wavy coat. We coaxed him out of the car. He was not coming willingly. It was at that moment that our eyes first met. Eyes can be the window to the soul and this boy’s eyes reflected a broken spirit. They were not dark chocolate brown but rather amber brown and they were avoiding my gaze. No one wants to share misery with a stranger.
As he tentatively entered my home for the first time he carried the burden of all that can go wrong in a Golden’s life. He was abandoned by those he loved. It seems that they were just too busy now. They wanted to put a pool in and there was no room for him any longer. Well at least they called Rescue and didn’t just turn him out into the street or dump him at the pound. His first act of defiance was to “christen” my Christmas tree. “No, no no, outside ah er Gizmo. Well that was a stupid name. We’d have to do something about that.
His second act of defiance was to growl ever so softly when I picked up the woobie I had given him. “No you don’t growl at me. I am Alpha”. His third and last was to let me know on Christmas Eve that he didn’t like his kennel and would be good if I just let him sleep on his bed in my room.
The following week we went to Dr. Ferguson’s office and she gave him shots and evaluated him. Good health and yes he needed THE operation. The week after that we were busy learning to play ball, what was permissible to chew and what was not, that belts were for wearing not hitting, brushes could have a kind touch and baths were fun, halo collars do not come off when they are duct taped and a name befitting a beautiful red-gold boy would be Russell T, or Russ T for short. When it came time to have the stitches removed I was standing in the Veterinary office and the technician replied, “He’s a different boy when he’s with his Mom.”
Somewhere during that busy time of getting to know each other an amazing thing happened. I was in the bedroom and all was very quiet, you know, too quiet in the household of a Golden. I called for him and no answer. I looked and could not see him, very unusual for my now “Velcro” man. A momentary panic, did I leave the front door open? Oh my where is he? This is a small, modest home, not too many places to hide. I quickened my step and rounding the hall corner, I saw the hall bath door slightly ajar. Something told me to peek in and as I slowly opened the door, I saw a sight to behold. There, standing on the top of my vanity was Russ T in a classic pose, chin held high, tail out straight and he was smiling!  He was staring intently at his reflection and apparently, liked what he saw. Then the amazing thing happened. He turned his head and looked into my eyes. He held my gaze and his eyes were no longer dull. They were sparkling. He had opened his window and willingly shared his soul.
By now you have probably guessed that his temporary stay became permanent. Russ T and I are a family. We continue to live in Phoenix and are active with Rescue A Golden of Arizona. He has earned his Canine Good Citizen designation and continues to enjoy his nights by my side, only now, he owns the other pillow.
If you are fortunate enough to have been loved by a Golden then you know three things. First, G-d loans them to us to teach us how to behave. Second, the time we have with them is never enough and third, the heart mends and becomes full when you return love to a Golden.