General - His Face Scorched in My Heart
Fall 1993 - October 27,1998 9:45 PST
I never got around to training him.
I just made him part of my life
Where I went he went
Where I slept he slept
The rest just happened
He was a big part of my life
I was a big part of his.
That is how a great dog is made.
............................Play the Phil Collins Music
Every War Horse should have a Great General. Majo, my Andalusian Stallion, had the very best! Majo's General was my Golden Canine friend born from Mary Lou. Mary Lou arrived in early Fall, with a big Samoyed smile and an appearance leading one to suspect she may have enjoyed a few potato chips while lying on the sofa watching afternoon soaps. She was, one might say, a tad chunky! Mary Lou was not our first rescue dog. But she was the first
Samoyed to come to us from Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue. Within a few weeks, Mary Lou would reveal there was more to her appearance than one too many Idaho Spuds. It seems the rescue package included six little Mary Lous! Oh my! We were up to 16 dogs! But they were White and Wonderful pups. They started out looking like mom, but by Thanksgiving, it was clear Mary Lou had flirted with something Golden.
I cannot remember when, but at some point in life, our dog count exceeded those that fit in one bedroom. To accommodate them, Pam and I chose to have separate rooms. My room was a custom-built bunkhouse adjacent to the horses. This is where Mary Lou's brood box would go. The bunkhouse was designed to handle dirt one drags in after caring for horses. It was perfect for Mary Lou and her pups Nakita, Top Gun, Beeper, Corky, Wild Woman (W.W.), and The General. The pups were all healthy, vigorous players. General and Wild Woman seemed to have the edge on stamina with regard to play time. When they were very young, I would carry all the pups to the house in a basket. I could always see Pam's heart smiling.
But, with the new pups we now had quite a few dogs. I insisted that I at least look for homes for some of these puppies. Surely homes deserving of such special puppies could be found! Two homes were located and eventually Beeper and Nakita would be heading out. On the day Beeper was scheduled to leave, I gave him his second shot of vaccine and delivered him to his new home. He seemed to accept his new home. I left Beeper, allowing him to be occupied with his newfound friends.
That evening we got a call. Beeper was not walking right. He was stumbling and did not seem healthy. Later we would determine the cause of this malady to be an allergic reaction to the shots. At least three of these wonderful pups would have violent reactions to the vaccinations. Top Gun would suffer total paralysis and loss of life. Beeper and Corky would be unable to walk for months. Eventually they would recover but would never have normal motion. Only the General, Wild Woman, and Nakita would escape any apparent reaction. Beepers new owners wanted a healthy dog for their kids. They wanted a male dog. Beeper would get a reprieve and end up coming home. I offered My Little General to take Beepers place. The next day I took General to his new home. He played there as he always did with full vigor. Playing was serious business with General. It deserved his full attention. I went to leave because my little puppy looked comfortable and occupied. He was ten weeks old. But, when I went to go, he stopped. Unlike Beeper, General came to leave with me. My leaving was the one thing that disturbed his concentration on play. Then my stupidity came through, I insisted, this is a caring home you will be happy here. My General knew his home was not here with these people. I left with a heavy heart thinking it would work out.
Later, Nakita would be the other dog to leave. Beeper and Corky regained some mobility. As W.W. matured, she seemed to loose enthusiasm for play. My new Spanish Stallion Majo was keeping me busy. I would put aside thoughts of my little pup wanting to return to the only home he knew. He was my special one. Sure I knew I made a terrible mistake. My General even had a new name. He was called Cody. I was later to learn his new owners thought Cody was a coward. That hurt. I knew my General had a big heart and tons of courage. I never understood how he could be seen as a coward.
A year passed. Unbelievable, Nakita was returned to us because she did not look sufficiently Samoyed. Apparently, I had not found such good homes after all. Then, I was given a reprieve, Cody's folks came by and said they were moving. They could not keep Cody at their new home. Cody would have to go to the pound unless I wanted him. This is when I learned they regarded him a coward. I was flabbergasted! The General was coming back home.
General leaped out the truck and came running. Poor fellow had never given up on me. He had no malice, just joy to be where he always belonged. He was back to a place his heart never left. I vowed we would never separate again. All the other dogs respected him. He was at the top of the heap now and that is the way it was. I thanked Cody's owners for not taking him to the pound. They knew General was my special puppy. He was all grown up now and home. That was the last he was called Cody.
General was not familiar with horses. He did not know Majo but it did not take much to teach him to stay close when running on the trail with him, General was no coward. He was not afraid of Majo. He lead the way on Majo's adventures. My General was brave, enthusiastic and by far the most devoted companion I have ever known. Most special of all were the times we would take a parcel of dogs to the Beach for a jaunt. Of six or seven dogs, it was the General that chose to follow when Majo and I headed out along the shore. He stuck like glue for miles and miles. There was no loosing him or distracting him. He had his single-minded mission. He was here to play with Majo and he was going to do it right. The other dogs stayed with Pam while General, Majo and I were splashing in the Pacific or racing down the beach.
On the way home General would rest his wet head on my lap and sleep until we reached KFC or the chosen eatery for the day. It was the ending of another perfect day.
After watching the movie, "AirBud" I concluded General was very much a Golden Retriever in personality. With his white Samoyed undercoat, he appeared to have freckles. He was one handsome dude as Pam would say. She even taught him to sit up front and be her chauvinist little boy.
We had two good years after the General came back home. I was lucky to have two such years. General was no coward. He was never afraid of a big stallion. He was not afraid of other dogs on the beach. He perceived he had a mission and tackled it with a vengeance. The General and I shared wonderful times. His eyes always were filled with the joy and happiness of life. He chose his destiny to be the best friend I will ever know. He was there to serve. The picture of health. General was the healthiest of his litter and full of vitality. He was fun loving and relished playing games with Majo. He was the very definition of loyal and gave me more than I could ever return. When I thought we were just beginning and General was about to turn four years old, he developed Lymphoma. He had never been sick and now I was told he was terminally ill.
In his last year, the General never flinched on his mission. He continued his single-minded devotion. I tried to leave him inside during
the rain while I did winter chores. Pam could only stand so much of his
crying while he stood at the glass door. She would let him out so he could help feed the horses. Although his glands were bigger than golf balls, he still sought to do his job. There were days where he felt spry and ready to try a little ride with Majo around the ranch. He would learn shortcuts and cutoffs so he could last longer. Talk about character, right to the day he climbed on my lap and said goodbye, he did his best to serve. He was always smarter
than I was but he was forgiving of my stupidity. He would have never found me a new home.
Pam had a photo of General that showed him with his leg shaven. This picture was taken just after the biopsy to confirm the diagnosis of Lymphoma. But, I said, I have great healthy pictures of him. General was a vigorous dog, that is how I want to remember him. But guess what... That precious picture of General is now in a copper frame in my bedroom. I treasure that photo more than any other. It reminds me of his courage. My General was a true warrior. As General began to have fewer and fewer good moments I decided tomorrow would be the day. We had held off the inevitable long enough. Now there was just sadness and sorrow seeing him suffer. He was weak and could not be told why. This would be our last evening. Just as I thought that he jumped on my lap and gave uttered his last bark of devotion. That was the end of his life. In some ways, it was the end of mine. If I have any regret in this life it is that I let him spend over a year away from home. I lost a huge piece of me I can never regain when he jumped on my lap and said his last farewell. The chair I was sitting on is a relic, but we took it along to our present home in the Shenandoah Valley. It was a little child that named him the General. It turned out to be appropriate to his courage. I am not a religious man, but I still cry in the hope that we might one day be together again. If we are, I will spend eternity apologizing for my stupidity.
"So take a look at me now,
'cos there's just an empty space
And there's nothing left here to remind me,
just the memory of your face
Take a look at me now,
'cos there's just an empty space
And you coming back to me
is against all odds and that's what I've got to face"
I was soon to have another friend. There could never be another General. I knew that. But I would callmy little guy GenGen after Pam's puppy name for The General. It turned out GenGen, though different, would also become a loyal and devoted pal. He helped me go on in a desperate situation. Needless to say, GenGen was a pure Golden Retriever. But after 10 years, he is gone too. He became my travel buddy . But it was the General that taught me how wonderful Gold can be. GenGen showed me I cannot be without it.