Until We Meet Again
By Sandra L. Lok
The Fifth Annual New England Golden Jubilee was May 18, 2019 at Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. This celebration of the Golden Retriever is one that my husband Peter and I organize along with our three Goldens, Nutmeg, Andy and Grant, to help build and sustain support for the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study and to help support the mission of Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue. In each of its five years, it has become more clear that there is no better place for the New England Golden Jubilee to call home than our beloved Dog Mountain with its breathtaking views, rolling hills, Dog Chapel and frequent rainbow sightings. Friendships blossom, laughter abounds and stories of rainbow sightings are accepted as visits from those beloved dogs who have passed before us offering a promise that we shall meet again.
One hundred fifty-nine Golden Retrievers from fifteen states brought their people to the New England Golden Jubilee this year. Each one received a bag of goodies including a bandanna with the new New England Golden Jubilee logo, an illustration by our son Jeff Lok that was inspired by a moment in time when Peter and I made our way over Dog Mountain with Meg, Andy and Grant just after losing our Angel Ginger to hemangio sarcoma. A rainbow appeared. We knew it was a sign and a blessing. The Golden Retriever in the logo is our Andy, who is one of the 3,044 Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Heroes we celebrate.
The morning was full of hugs, smiles and tears and old friends meeting new as our Golden Retrievers did what Goldens do best. They romped, play bowed for each other and sniffed to their hearts content. They offered comfort wherever it was needed. Their people spent time viewing the Kibble-Cup Auction items and the incredible work of Stephen Huneck in the Gallery.
The setting for group photos was spectacular with the Dog Chapel and the beautiful Vermont hills in the background. Our collective laughter echoed through the hills and valleys as we assembled and waited for the entire-group photo. Twelve Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Heroes, twenty-two age two and under, seventeen therapy dogs, sixteen rescues, nineteen age ten and over and seven cancer survivors all posed with their people, each photograph a testament to the strength of the human-animal bond.
Just before noon, Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Heroes Andy, Chompski, Autumn, Skylar, Maggie, Kyrie, Ryki, Zeva, Griffin, Penny, Lola and Sierra assembled on the porch of the gallery and dunning their Hero bandannas made their way to the Dog Chapel and stood facing everyone who had gathered - their presence representative of all Golden Retriever Lifetime Study Heroes. I told details of the extent of their annual health exams and the samples collected from their bodies and told of the dedication it takes for each owner to complete the extensive annual questionnaire detailing every aspect of their hero's exposure during the past year, all in order to help determine the causes of canine cancer and other serious illnesses in the groundbreaking study. A robust round of applause followed. With the lighting of our Remembrance Candle that burns inside the Chapel throughout the Jubilee, all listened as I read the names of Golden friends, including Heroes Chase and Gatsby, who have made their way across the Rainbow Bridge. We spent a moment together in silence to remember them. Father Curtis Miller of the St. Johnsbury Corpus Christi Parish shared a prayer and a Blessing of the Animals for our dogs. Pam McCann, Manager at Dog Mountain, welcomed us and thanked us for making Dog Mountain our home. Allyson MacKenna, Executive Director of Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue, thanked us for our ongoing support. Our special guest, Stephen Prout, accompanied by Claudine Langille, performed a beautiful rendition of the song Stephen wrote in loving memory of his Golden Retrievers Chase and Ramble.
Linda Hadwen and Stew Stryker, were pronounced the Official Photographers of the Jubilee. The two have been capturing our memories with their talented eyes since day one and we are grateful. Loring and Ruth Carlson's Teddy was named the Youngest Attendee at four months of age. Our Most Senior Attendee was Texas at fourteen years of age, belonging to Ed Swietch and Timothy Brooks. Maggie came all the way from Florida with her Mom Bekki Tyler and was our Farthest Travelled Attendee. In loving memory of Angel Paddington, our 2018 Tears of Joy Award recipient, Ruth Carlson gave a moving presentation announcing each nominee for this year's Tears of Joy Award. Nominees included Anny, who was rescued from China by YGRR and now makes her home with Christy and Andy Monahan, has undergone multiple surgeries enabling her to live the life every Golden Retriever deserves; Hazel, who had six homes and two hip surgeries before finding her forever home with John Hart and Carol Ball through Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue; Pistachio, Kara Wetherby-Ferri's Sunkissed Golden who was born just over a year ago weighing less than a pound and diagnosed with Double Kidney Dysplasia at five months of age. With Kara working to ensure her sweet girl every chance at life, Pistachio lived well beyond her prognosis. Pistachio was unable to join us at the Jubilee and on the Monday morning following, she made her way across the Rainbow Bridge to what must be the greatest Golden Jubilee of all. We did not get to meet her, yet we hold her in our hearts with the hope that one day we may meet. Butters was the Tears of Joy Award Recipient this year. In her ten years, Butters has survived a host of medical issues including Chronic Leukemia and Stage II Soft Tissue Sarcoma and with the loving care of Liz and Chris Daniels, Butters lives the full and active life we wish for every Golden Retriever.
Our New England Golden Jubilee Freestyle Ambassador, Bowie, now a four-year hemangio sarcoma survivor, made his way to the dance field where together with the audience he oversaw freestyle performances by his Mom, Laurie Sullivan, with Georgia and then with Rico. Then Colin Ladd performed with Fireball, and Porsche, who at just over a year old, made her debut performance with her Mom, Jeanne Ladd. Each performance was met with resounding applause.
When the dancing was done, the aroma that filled the air was a Golden Retriever's dream come true. It was time for another favorite Golden pastime and in no time at all the 300 hot dogs and 300 cheeseburgers along with salads, drinks and desserts had been served and human and canine bellies seemed to cheer alike.
The time had come for the Kibble-Cup Auction. Attendees bought their tickets throughout the day and made their selections from the wide array of items on display. There were canine and Golden treasures aplenty, a unique selection of antique finds, original works of art, collector plates, a beautiful handmade Golden Retriever quilt and a gorgeous handmade knitted blanket and quilted wall hanging, both works of art made especially for the New England Golden Jubilee.
Our beloved Golden Retrievers practiced their best patience while winning tickets were drawn. Their patience was rewarded as I hand fed them mouthfuls from the three celebratory, homemade canine cakes, lovingly decorated to mark the occasion of the Fifth Annual New England Golden Jubilee.
Rounding out the day, we headed up to the pond for the grand finale - the Great Tennis Ball Toss. To the absolute delight of the Goldens who joined us, we tossed all that was left of the 150 tennis balls that were in the box into the pond on the count of three, bringing out the "Retriever" in all.
When the day was done, we had raised $3,860 through the Kibble-Cup Auction for Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue, and $3,650 for the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, an amount that will be doubled with matching corporate donations.
Plans for the Sixth Annual New England Golden Jubilee are underway. I can tell you that one thing is certain - the logo with its rainbow of hope is here to stay. With tear stained cheeks, we look to the sky and we look to the future until we meet again.