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Janet Burrows, Member of Trinity United Methodist, GHS Alumni Association, Red Hat Society


Fond Memories Of Our 8 Labrador Retrievers, Gone To Soon



William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNewsnet 

102707_0535_PETTIPSBYAL1Erica (left) and Lacey were friends from the first day they met. (CNBNews photo)



GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (July 4, 2022)(CNBNews)--We have been very fortunate to own so many wonderful Labrador retrievers over our 58 years of marriage. Three of our Labs were therapy dogs, Lacey, and Erica, both deceased, and now Peyton. Seeing the face of a senior citizen and or a patient in a hospital brighten when we walk into their room with our dog is very rewarding. 


One of the places we visited with Lacey was a correctional facility for young kids incarcerated for breaking the law. The kids ranged from 10 years old up to 13. We had to go through several locked doors before we entered a large empty gym. A few minutes went by and the kids were brought into the room accompanied by several guards. We were instructed to not let our guard down as some of the juvenile delinquents committed serious crimes. There was this one young boy who went running over to the gym wall and sat on the floor. When I approached him with Lacey he said, "Mister get that dog away from me, I am afraid of them." The guard told me the kids come from Camden City and the only dogs they see are ferocious pit bulls. "They think all the dogs are like them," he said.  Hearing this I just had to try to change this kid's mind. It took some time but eventually, the boy reached out and petted Lacey and she did the rest. Before we left he was walking Lacey around the gym with a big smile on his face. 

IMG_1849Nikki Cleary lived for 15 years...in this photo she was given a time-out for jumping into our swimming pool.


Growing up I wasn't allowed to have a dog. But, shortly after we were married and in our own house, a friend heard we were looking for a Lab, and along came Trooper.  A big black male who epitomized everything a Labrador Retriever was supposed to be from the large head at the front of his body down to the perfect shape otter tail that a Lab needs to propel it along the water.  Add the friendly disposition that most Labs possess and you have Trooper. 

Screen Shot 2022-07-01 at 20.06.49
source Getty Images


At this time in my life, one of my passions was duck hunting.  That was another thing I wasn't allowed to do growing up but after marrying into the Sarlo family my father-in-law Tom, who hunted and fished all his life, took me under his wing, (pardon the pun). One of the things Tom told me was, "If you were going to be a duck hunter you need to have  a Labrador Retriever."  So Trooper, who was 4 or five years old when he was given to us, fit right into my grand plan at this stage in my life.  


Not only was Trooper nice to look at he was already trained. Stay, heel, sit, fetch all of those commands and then some. For example, he responded to some hand signals. On the opening day of duck hunting, the two of us are sitting in a duck blind with the decoys out in the pond in front of us. A duck flies in and I shoot, "bang!".  Trooper goes busting through the cattails that surrounded the blind. Wow, I am thinking this dog is so anxious to retrieve that duck he is not waiting until I opened the grass door. How lucky am I; this dog really loves hunting. But, that feeling quickly faded. Instead of going after the duck, Trooper was running the opposite way. I found him where I had parked my truck, he was under it. He was gunshy. I asked a trainer at a field trial what secrets could he share to help me fix my gun shy Lab. As he walked away from me he gave this advice, "Shoot the dog, don't waste your time, you'll never break him."   Just in case you're wondering, we didn't shoot him.


Screen Shot 2022-07-06 at 12.25.01We adopted Erica at 15 months. She never left my side.


Some of those other Labs we owned had some quirks too. Lacey the counter surfer, and Misty the hole digger, and Sheba who came only when she was ready. I would be setting the decoys in the water and Sheba would jump in the water and swim away with one in her mouth. Nikki, who looked like a Newfoundler or a baby bear as a puppy would insist you pet her, or she would bark at you until you did. There were times when I would come home and one of my kids had a pillow covering their face with Nikki sitting in front of them staring. If they took the pillow down Nikki would jump on their lap.  I swear Erica would nudge Lacey to jump up on the counter and throw the food down to her. 


277561582_10160225184874228_6036826320818498215_nLacey (died at age 11) and Erica( died at age 13). One of their favorite spots was laying at the front door of our home.


As I reminisce, I can see the face of each one, Trooper, Sheba, Misty, Bear, Nikki, Lacey Erica, and now Peyton. Anyone who has ever owned a pet will echo this same response, "they don't live long enough". The oldest dog we owned was Nikki who lived until she was 15.  Lacey was 11 and Erica was 13. Having to euthanize your pet is one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life. Can you imagine if you had to decide whether to euthanize your wife or a parent?



After Erica died we said no more animals. Thirty days later we were in Gettysburg, Pa.

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Peyton at Hilton Head Beach, SC

adopting our present furry friend Peyton. It didn't take us but a few minutes to fall in love with her. Our granddaughter Brianna made the trip with us, and as soon as the three of us saw her we knew she would be coming home with us. At the time Peyton was 14 months old. She entered the room  carrying a stuffed toy in her mouth and was making this funny noise like a turkey gobbling walking around the room smelling each of us. 


There hasn't been a day since that time she hasn't made us laugh. To think we actually said no more dogs. If we had kept that promise we would have missed out on all the enjoyment that Peyton has given us, and so many other people she has met. She has a little bit of each one of those other dogs inside her which makes her even more special. 




Some say they could never go through the heartache of losing another dog (pet). That it was worse than losing a human being that they loved. But, in doing that they are depriving some other animal of their love.  Peyton turned eight this past February. From experience, I know that her twilight years will fly by way too fast. Although I dread the thought of life without Peyton I cannot see myself without a dog by my side. Connie and I are also in our twilight years. Ultimately it will be GOD who decides the fate of all three of us.

Peyton has a little trait of each of the other Labradors we owned

In a Twitter thread on the topic of pets dying the topic was discussed by several people. One person asked a vet what was the most difficult part of his job. 
The specialist answered without hesitation that it was the hardest for him to see how old or sick animals look around the room for their owners before they close their eyes for the last time. 
The fact is that 90 % of owners don't want to be in a room with a dying animal. People leave so that they don't see their pet leave. But they don't realize that it's in these last moments of life that their pet needs them most.
Veterinarians ask the owners to be close to the animals until the very end. ′′It's inevitable that they die before you. Don't forget that you were the center of their life. Maybe they were just a part of you. But they are also your family. No matter how hard it is, don't leave them."
Don't let them die in a room with a stranger in a place they don't like. It is very painful for veterinarians to see how pets cannot find their owner during the last minutes of their life. They don't understand why the owner left them. After all, now more than ever they needed their owner’s comfort.
Veterinarians do everything possible to ensure that animals are not so scared, but they are completely strangers to them. Don't be a coward because it's too painful for you. Think about the pet. Endure this pain for the sake of their sake. Be with them until the end.

I found this poem The Last Battle hanging on the wall of a local veterinarian.  The message it conveys does a  wonderful job expressing the idea that euthanizing a pet who is suffering (or when suffering is imminent) should be viewed as the ultimate expression of love. It is a tearjerker. (The image below is Erica. She was 16 months when we adopted her)


The Last Battle


If it should be that I grow frail and weak 118886009_1475025169354434_3075627567908742190_n
And pain should keep me from my sleep,

Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can't be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don't let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn't want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they'll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don't grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We've been so close — we two — these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.

— Unknown

Screen Shot 2022-07-07 at 20.33.53The following excerpt is from the article I wrote in 2015 after Erica was laid to rest.

When your pet is having a medical problem you sometimes forget about the stress some treatment can cause the animal. Also, your emotions come into play and you never consider the cost involved. Besides the breathing problem,  Erica was having an issue with getting up and down our back steps to go outside to relieve herself.  She had several “potty” accidents inside the home, which upset her. Some days she wasn’t eating. We spoke with Dr. Sheehan and he said that Erica, in his opinion, was not a candidate for surgery. After considering everything, we decided the time had come to let Erica move on to her next life in heaven. Thursday night we had her euthanized. 

Making that decision is one of the hardest things Connie and I have ever done.  We did the same for Lacey two years ago, and also made the same choice 10 years ago for Nikki, our 15-year-old lab.

This is the first time in many years that we have awakened in the morning without a dog in our house. It is empty feeling.  Erica would always lay next to me or under my desk when I was working. I would have to be careful not to kick her or run over her tail with my chair. A couple times why writing this article I found myself looking for her under the desk. A big piece of our heart is missing with Erica gone. We believe all dogs go to heaven, and we can see her now running again with Lacey. They are both young and strong chasing rabbits in the field or running after the geese. Some day our journey on this earth will also come to end. And we look forward to that day when we will meet our dogs waiting for us at the mystical Rainbow Bridge. We will shed tears but this time they will be tears of happiness as we walk with Erica, Lacey, Nikki, Misty, Bear, Sheba, and Trooper once again.


NOTE: Our friend Jan Ferry sent this video to us some time ago. After I watch Jimmy Stewart read his touching poem about his dog Bo I decided to write the article above. I have put it off for over a year because of the heartache that I still have whenever I think about our dogs that are gone. "Thanks, Jan for the inspiration."