New England Golden Jubilee - 2016
Tears of Joy
By Sandra L. Lok
It was May 20, and the time had come for the Second Annual New England Golden Jubilee at Dog Mountain, a celebration of the 3,000 Golden Retrievers enrolled in the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. I organize this event along with my husband, Peter, and our three Golden Retrievers. We plan to do so for the duration of the study. It is our way of helping to build and sustain support for the study and the promise that it holds for future generations of Golden Retrievers, and all canines, by determining what causes canine cancer and helping to find a cure. Peter and I are committed to the success of the study. Our three-year- old Golden, Andy, is enrolled in the study for his lifetime. We have known that canine cancer is a reality and that the statistics are numbing. The harshness of this reality hit home when our very own Ginger, one of the original four-legged organizers of the Jubilee, lost her life to hemangio sarcoma just nine days after being diagnosed and three months before this year's Jubilee. Peter had accurately described the Jubilee as "particularly poignant" for us this year. It wasn't clear just how we could move forward with the celebration, yet in doing so our loss became our strength.
From the moment we arrived at Dog Mountain and a rainbow appeared, it became clear that not only was Mother Nature up for a celebration, but that our Ginger, the Dowager Countess as we liked to call her, would oversee the entire affair from above with her angelic smile and her infectious Golden spirit. Clear skies and a full moon welcomed us and the Golden Retrievers who gathered with their people at Dog Mountain on Friday night to kick off the festivities with a bonfire and s'mores.
We laughed and some of us cried, and on Saturday morning, we were greeted by perfect weather and the promise of a truly Golden day. More than 85 Golden Retrievers had arrived. They came in all shades of gold, from all over New England, New York and Virginia, too. From three months to seventeen years old, there were fifteen Heroes who are enrolled in the study, six cancer survivors, fifteen Golden Retrievers over age ten, many litter mates, generations of Golden Retrievers, several therapy dogs and the very youngest of them all at three months old, our very own Lord Grantham (Grant) - all gathered together for a day full of treasure. They wriggled and romped, hiked the trails and retrieved tennis balls from the pond.
Opening Ceremonies included my welcoming remarks, sharing the news of Ginger's passing, lighting of a remembrance candle, reading the New England Golden Jubilee Scroll of names of Golden friends who had passed and a moment of silence in their honor. A warm welcome from Katie White and Pam McGann of Dog Mountain followed. Guest speakers included Allyson McKenna, Executive Director of Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue, who shared news of recent rescue efforts including a word about the Goldens who will soon be coming to New England from Turkey, and Chandler Rudd, producer of the YouTube video "Rainbow Bridge," who shared with us his inspiration for the incredibly touching video that includes scenery from Dog Mountain.
Everyone enjoyed viewing the "Rainbow Bridge" video while it played on the porch entering the Gallery, the incredible works of Stephen Huneck on display inside the Gallery and all of the auction items so nicely arranged for the bidding.
Father Chris Micale of the local Corpus Christi Parish shared a prayer with us and walked the grounds offering a blessing to each of the dogs.
A prize was awarded to the youngest attendee, the oldest and the one who had travelled the furthest to attend. In a new and fitting category, the New England Golden Jubilee Tears of Joy prize went to Bowie, who with his Mom, Laurie Sullivan, had graced the lawns of Dog Mountain with a dance one year ago at the very first New England Golden Jubilee, just a few months after he had been diagnosed with hemangio sarcoma. There was not a dry eye among the crowd as all watched this boy dance to the "Fight Song." It was as if in that moment in time we had all joined Bowie in his fight. This year, after his beautiful and talented sister Georgia performed, Bowie once again took center stage for a repeat performance of the "Fight Song." All eyes were on him as he danced and the eyes were filled with tears - tears of joy at the realization that Bowie is winning the fight.
Soon after, the grill was fired up, the salads set out and the picnic was on with hot dogs and cheeseburgers for all. Each Golden Retriever received a bag full of goodies, including a New England Golden Jubilee bandanna, with the logo created by our son, illustrator/artist, Jeff Lok.
Throughout the weekend, Golden Retrievers and their people could be seen throughout the Town of Saint Johnsbury and they were welcomed at several local businesses who supported the event, including Riley's Fish Shack, Milk House Ice Cream, Fairbanks Inn and the Comfort Inn.
A donation of $850. will be made to the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study from the New England Golden Jubilee, and $1,055. raised with the Kibble-Cup Auction will be donated to Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue. Plans for the Third Annual New England Golden Jubilee are already underway.
Yes, it was hard to imagine the Jubilee without our little girl, Ginger. When all was said and done, very early on Sunday morning, I took Nutmeg, Andy and Grant outside on their leashes to the lawn of our hotel. A short while later, Bowie's human Grandpa approached me with tears in his eyes. These were tears of joy. You see, he wanted me to know that he was certain that he had seen me earlier in the morning with four leashes and four dogs, not three.