May 4 1988 —- Aug. 20 1998

Golden Retriever

This is a story about how a Golden Retriever through endless patience on her

part helped me understand the relationship between owner and pet.

In doing so she helped me gain the clearest perspective I’ve ever

attained about the nature of unconditional love.

Honee was born on May 4th 1988 along with 12 brothers and sisters.

We owned both parents both thoroughbred Golden Retrievers.

We had every expectation of selling all the puppies if we could find

suitable owners.

When the Puppies eyes started opening it was quickly apparent we

would have to keep one or more of the puppies. Our Daughters wouldn’t

have it any other way. Honee always entertained my Daughters Renee

and Nicole. Renee would put Honee on the Couch and move back about

three feet. Renee would call Honee and she would jump for all she was worth.

Honee never doubted that Renee would catch her and Renee always did.

My father had always told me that people don’t choose dogs dogs choose

people. That was quickly apparent Honee had chosen us

and that decision was never questioned. The truth is we would have loved

to keep all the puppies but space and money dictated we could

only keep one and Honee was the one.

All puppies are adorable and Honee was no exception.

Cute cuddly constantly carried around by the girls Honee was in

puppy heaven. Yes she did chew through a few extension cords but the

only time her life was ever in danger is when she chewed most of the left

rocker off my wife’s expensive rocking chair.

She was certainly threatened enough but Honee would gracefully accept

her scolding seeming to agree that was certainly a terrible thing to do

and always avoid a spanking through sheer personality.

When Honee was four months old she developed a skin problem.

She lost all the hair off her belly and up to her chest. It turned out that

she was allergic to a skin mite that most dogs have a natural immunity to.

She was constantly itching so the Veterinarian we took Honee to had

to dip Honee repeatedly in a medicine to keep her from scratching herself

to death. Honee outgrew the ailment but the Vets urged us to spay her

at an early age so that problem wouldn’t be past on to future generations.

We had Honee spayed at 6 months of age. Honee seemed to know she

would never be a mother so she just loved us that much more.

Honee had a couple of totally unique habits. Her sleeping place

was the master bathroom. Not just anyplace in the bathroom Honee

had staked out the space just to the left of the commode a space of

maybe 18 inches across and 32 inches deep. As Honee grew it

became more difficult for her to squeeze into such a tight space.

She faced that challenge in typical “Honee” fashion she would head

into the tight space turn her head back under her body and wind up

beside the toilet completely upside down. We probably lost the grand

prize on America’s funniest video by not videotaping her.

That wasn’t the end of Honee’s uniqueness just the first.

Honee always slid down the stairs headfirst. This was probably a

holdover from her skin problem it scratched her belly.

Pretty clever for a dog though isn’t it. Not all her habits made her look

quiet so smart. Everybody has seen dogs cover other dogs scent.

Typically they walk to the spot sniff and move forward and cover the

other dogs scent. Honee never quite got the hang of the mechanics of

that operation. She would find the spot sniff and without moving cover

the spot some three feet to the rear of the scent she was trying to cover.

She was always satisfied with the results but we laughed until we cried

at her antics. Honee was unique in another way too. While most dogs

drink by lapping water out of what ever they are drinking from not Honee.

She would put her whole mouth underwater up to her eyes and drink as

she pulled her head up. It was hilarious; we could never understand

how she kept from drowning

I was a salesman and traveled four days a week. One Friday when I came in

I carelessly put down my traveling bag in a chair. Honee got in the bag and ate

25 Dimetapp. We called the Animal hotline; they told us that was a lethal

dose for a dog of her weight. We gave her peroxide and she cooperated

by throwing up but the vet said she had to be kept calmed down for the next

12 hours. I rubbed her belly for the next twelve hours Honee never moved.

She was so calm I had to check her breathing to make sure she was still alive,

and she recovered with no apparent ill effects. I guess you could say

that was where Honee and I bonded. While Honee always loved everyone

she was my baby from that point on.

Honee and her parents were all house pets along with up to 5 cats.

It is amazing to watch dogs and cats interact in a house. I got my Daughters

a Balinese cat after their first cat died. That cat slept right beside Honee.

They got along great the cat acted like Honee was her mother and

did everything but bark. The height of fun was watching the fake fights

they would get into. Oliver the cat hissing and spitting Honee growling

and barking with an occasional charge by one or the other of the

non-combatants. They called off this mutual aggression when they got

tired or thirsty and would drink out of the same water bowl at

the same time then curl up together for a nap.

My now ex-wife filed for divorce in 1992. The only thing I received from

this marriage of 21 years was Honee and her father Dandy my clothes

and my car. My ex-wife got the house and everything else. I got much

the better of the deal. Dealing with the divorce and other problems put me

in a serious depression. I was suicidal on more than one occasion.

Once my Pastor Doctor Bob Canuette talked and prayed with me

through most of the night.

There is no question Dr. Canuette saved my life that night.

The other occasion was in my Mother’s house; there was no one

there but Honee and me. As my depression got worse Honee got in

my face and started licking and trying as hard as she could to talk to me.

I believe what she was trying to tell me is that not only was she all I had,

I was all she had. In the face of such an outpouring of sheer unconditional

love my pain became lighter. I was loved and Honee was dependent on me.

I couldn’t let her down. Leaving Honee to an uncertain future was

not an acceptable option. Honee saved my life that night loving me

unconditionally and helping me understand that type of love for

the first time in my life.

My Mother had left a small home in Tennessee and I routinely made up

to three trips a week between Chattanooga and Atlanta.

Honee made every one of those trips with me. Honee loved to travel

and next to eating that was her favorite activity. When traveling around

at slow speeds Honee always put her head out the window.

When we hit the Interstate though Honee would turn around two

or three times no small feat for an 80 pound Golden Retriever in the

front seat of a moving car and put her head in my lap.

She stayed that way until the car stopped for any reason.

Honee had over 100,000 automobile miles on her,

and with every mile we grew closer.

Honee did whatever I did. If I went fishing Honee went fishing she was

remarkably still while in a boat but she always looked relieved when we got

back to shore. When I went to play Golf Honee had to ride the cart with me.

Most Golden Retrievers would chase the golf balls around but not Honee.

She was perfectly content to ride in the cart. I don’t want to give you the

wrong impression; she was no help on the course at all.

She always under-clubbed me. She always thought I was more or better

than I actually was. I tried to live up to her impression of me and

became a better person because of the effort.

Honee always thought she could talk she would whine and yelp

and make other sound when anyone would talk to her or entered her home.

No she never got close to anything that sounded like a word but she sure

tried. She would wag her tail harder than any other dog I have ever seen.

A stranger would always feel welcome in Honee’s home.

Honee Dandy and I married a beautiful woman in 1994 Doris Autrey.

Now Doris is the single most tenderhearted woman in the world but as

our wedding date drew nearer she said she wasn’t sure she could

stand having a dog much less two dogs (Dandy and Honee) in her home.

It never got to the point of Doris choosing between the dogs and me though,

Honee turned on the charm and won Doris’ heart. Honee loved Doris

from day one and Doris grew to love her too. It was a case of either

loving Honee or shooting her. Honee was six years old when we got

married long past the time puppies or adult dogs would chew up clothing

but Honee delighted in chewing the toes out of Doris’ work socks.

Doris is a hairdresser and wore white footies. Doris would fuss at Honee to

no end but Honee would just smile. People who say dogs don’t have

a sense of humor are badly misinformed.

We coexisted beautifully until July of 1997. Honee’s front left paw

became extremely swollen overnight. I thought a snake had bitten her

in retrospect it would have been easier if it had.

I took her to the Vet and they tried to draw fluid from the swollen area.

It turned out to be a MAST CELL tumor a deadly form of Cancer that

unfortunately affects dogs. My Veterinarian recommended I take her to

Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine which I did.

After a series of exhaustive test the School determined the only chance

we had to save Honee’s life was the complete amputation of her left front leg.

There were a couple of problems included in that diagnoses the first,

some dog can’t recover their balance and being unable to get around

they have to be put down. The second and more likely problem there

was no guarantees the operation would remove all the cancer it may

have spread. It was going to be an expensive operation but my wife

Doris said,” to do what ever we could to save Honee”.

We authorized the operation.

Honee was operated on a Wednesday; I spent most of the day in prayer.

The Student Veterinarian in charge of Honee’s case called me every day

with a progress report. The good new was she regained her appetite

rather quickly two days post-op she got up. The third day she walked

a few steps it seemed we were over the first hurdle.

The biopsy on her Lymph nodes would not be back for another 10 days.

They called me and told me Honee was ready to come home.

I knew she had had her leg removed but I was not prepared for the way

Honee looked. They had shaved much of her chest and belly the stitching

was extensive. I was heart-broken to see my baby in this condition.

She cried when she saw me she tried to tell me how they had cut her leg off,

and her eyes kept asking me why did you let this happen to me you’re my

daddy you are supposed to protect me. I can not put into words how

much I felt like I had betrayed that sacred trust Honee had in me.

The trip home took about 2 hours; I spent much of it in tears twice

having to pull completely off the road because I couldn’t see.

I carried Honee in the house and spent the rest of the afternoon

just loving her trying to reassure her.

They called a week after Honee got home with the biopsy report it had

spread through her lymph nodes and there was really nothing much

that could be done. The MAST cell Tumor is usually 100 % fatal

Honee was given about 1 year to live.

For Honee life went on she adapted well to just having three legs.

She did everything she had done with four healthy legs.

She was a house pet and had been all her life so she didn’t have to deal

with big temperature variations. I took her for rides every chance I had.

About April 1998 Honee developed tumors where her leg had been removed,

and several others all over her body. The Staff of Veterinarians at the

Smyrna Animal Hospital tried everything. I don’t think they would have

done one thing different if it had been their Pet.

A combination of Prednizone Echinecia (an herbal immune system booster)

and a Grape Seed extract seemed to reduce and control the size or

growth of the tumors for a while.

Honee’s appetite was good and she was still getting around quiet well

but it was obvious my baby was slowly feeling worse.

At this juncture I should point out to everyone that has ever lost a loved

one to cancer or another slow death that as you see them getting worse

you tend not to see their condition deteriorating. You can call it denial

or self-deception but we always tend to put the best interpretation on

what we see. I couldn’t see the suffering Honee was going through,

because I wanted more than anything for her to be as healthy as

she could be. That wasn’t the situation though.

Honee had a fluid filled tumor on her belly and during the morning

of August 20 1998 she scratched it with her rear paw and it ruptured.

The veterinarian told me those tumors itch like crazy and have an

enormous blood supply. When Honee scratched and ruptured the

tumor blood went everywhere. I placed a doubled up towel over

the wound and used another towel as a massive bandage.

The towels quickly bled through I was faced with the realization that

this was the end of my Honee’s life and there was nothing I could do.

Honee made one last ride to the Vet’s office; she made it with her

head in my lap the way we had traveled so many miles.

This was different; this was the last time. I was crying so hard

I could barely drive. Honee just licked my hand.

I was hoping for some miracle that when the Vet saw Honee’s wound,

She would have some way to prolong her life. When the Vet saw the wound,

she said it was time. We had to put her down.

That sounds so harmless. What we are talking about is I have to make

the decision to kill the best friend I’ve ever had. Yes she would slowly

bleed to death or it might have been able to surgically stop the bleeding,

but it was just putting off the inevitable.

If I prolonged her life it would have been for me. She had given me

everything in her body and heart she had loved me unconditionally

and if it would have been within her power she would never have me

go through the pain I was feeling now. I made the only decision I

could make I authorized her death.

The vet was so loving and gentle to Honee we prayed and the

injection was given.

She went quickly and her suffering was finally over.

Most people understand the pain of losing a very close friend those

people would never say “She was just a dog”.

God in his infinite wisdom kept the people who might have said

that out of my way. I was and am still angry that Honee had to suffer,

and die that way.

But Honee’s death and her life have touched many people.

Her life made everyone she met a little brighter.

Some dogs are great hunters or can do fancy tricks. Some are show

quality and others can sniff out drugs or criminals.

Honee’s only talent was love.

She might play a minute but then she would roll on her back and

want her belly rubbed. I understand she did that as much for

me as for her.

Honee taught me about unconditional love.

She loved me no matter how late I fed her or if her water bowl

wasn’t full of fresh water. She loved me whenever I came home whether

I had been gone an hour or a week.

To the best of my knowledge Honee was never intentionally hurt.

The worst sin she ever committed was getting and eating a whole pizza

off an oven door where it was cooling or possibly chewing

the leg off the aforementioned rocking chair.

I feel like the love Honee had for me saved my life at my most

depressed state. The nature of her unconditional love help me

understand how to love and accept unconditional love

from my wife Doris.

I will always miss Honee. I can’t open a door without expecting her

to be there wagging her whole body so happy to see me.

I cry a lot these days but I’m getting to the point where I’m celebrating

Honee’s life and all the joy she brought into my life and everyone else’s

live she touched. While I was inconsolable a friend sent me this reading.

It helped me a lot if you have lost a dear pet I hope it helps you too.

The Rainbow Bridge:

There is a Bridge connecting Heaven and Earth called the Rainbow Bridge

because of its many colors. Just on the other side of the Bridge there is

a land of meadows hills and valleys of lush green grass.

When a beloved pet dies the pet crosses the bridge.

There is always food and water and warm spring weather.

The old and frail animals are young again. Those who were maimed or

crippled are made whole again. They play all day with each other.

There is only one thing missing. They are not with their special person

who loved them on earth. So each day they run and play until the day

comes when one suddenly stops playing and looks up.

The nose twitches! The ears are up! The eyes are staring!

And this pet suddenly runs away from the group!

You have been seen! When you and your special friend meet

you take him or her into your arms and embrace.

Your face is kissed again and again and again as you look into

the eyes of your loving trusting pet.


I am a Christian and now a Baptist Minister but I refuse to debate

those who claim animals are soul-less and therefore can’t be in heaven.

I know that someday I’ll go to be with my Savior JESUS CHRIST.

On my way home though I’ll cross that “Rainbow Bridge”.

I’ll expect to see a healed whole Honee there to greet me.

Her tail wagging so hard it shakes her whole body and those little yelps

of joy at the sight of me just like she always greeted me here on earth.

Together we will enter the Holy City no more tears

no more pain.

That vision sustains me until that day.

Rev. Bill Swann