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New England Golden Jubilee - 2022

Full Hearts

By Sandra L. Lok


It had been far too long, and now the Eighth Annual New England Golden Jubilee is history.  The New England Golden Jubilee began in 2015 as a celebration of the Heroes enrolled in the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study (GRLS).  In 2016, we added support of the Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue mission to our cause. The Jubilee is held at Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.  I organize the event together with my husband Peter and our three Golden Retrievers, Andy, Grant and Tori.   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. We know too well the harsh realities of canine cancer. The statistics are numbing. Our Andy is enrolled in the study, which is now entering its tenth year. We plan to host the event for the duration of the study.


We kicked off the event at Riley's Fish Shack with dinner and free ice cream treats for our Goldens.  We then headed up the mountain for our traditional kick-off event - the bonfire.  The warmth of the flames matched that in our hearts as we greeted long missed friends and made new ones, too.


On Saturday morning just after a bit of a Golden romp and our usual group photos, we opened the program with a fitting tribute to our GRLS Heroes.  Hero Chompski's Mom Missy Lessard led Heroes Jettie, Madison, Kyrie, Putter, Andy, Griffin, Zeva, Skylar, Pixel and Autumn in a parade through the crowd as I announced their names and described the requirements of their participation in the study. Once on the front steps of the Dog Chapel, our heroes were met with a round of applause for their dedication to the groundbreaking study and the life saving benefits it will have on future canine and human generations.  With our Remembrance Candle lit, we shared a moment of silence after I had read the names of angels who had crossed the bridge since we last gathered. Among the far too many remembered was our very own Nutmeg, one of the very first canine organizers of the Jubilee; Bowie, the Jubilee Freestyle Dance Ambassador and GRLS Angel Heroes Carly and Sammie, each forever in our hearts.


Reverend Canon Susan Ohlidal provided a most moving blessing of our Golden Retrievers, and Creative Director Amanda McDermott welcomed us all to Dog Mountain, beloved home of the New England Golden Jubilee. A prize was awarded to each of our two youngest attendees, four month old littermates Spenser Collins and Parker Zagami, and then to our most senior attendee, Chandler and Dee Dee Rudd's beautiful "Sheepie" Lily, age fifteen and contributing participant in the Golden Oldies Study and the Shine On Project. Our Greatest Distance Award went to the very golden-hearted human Christopher Cornwall who came all the way from Texas. His dog, Levi, did not make the journey yet is sure to enjoy the prize. Carolyn Zagami's Jettie was this year's recipient of the Tears of Joy Award in recognition of her status as a hero and her valiant fight against spindle cell sarcoma.  The plan was that we would have two recipients of the Tears of Joy Award this year, but GRLS Hero Carly had a different plan.  Nominated by her human sister Lindsey, Hero Carly far outlived the prognosis given her due to an inoperable brain tumor. It was with the loving care of her Mom, Helen, and Dad, Michael, that she accomplished this remarkable feat.  Just one week prior to the Jubilee, Carly packed up her tennis balls and crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Forever touched by the photograph that her family placed in the Dog Chapel at the end of the day, I will remember Angel Hero Carly beaming with pride while wearing her Morris Animal Foundation Study Participant bandanna. She will always be a hero.


Mother Nature began to turn up the temperature and our dance lawn heated up, too!  Attendees were in for a real treat with Freestyle dance performances by Rico and Tango, both with Laurie Sullivan, and then Porsche with Jeanne Ladd and Fireball with Colin Ladd.  The crowd cheered after each special dance routine and literally burst out laughing at Fireball's own personal addition to the dance routine his Dad had prepared.


The best laid plans are those that can be easily adjusted as needed, and when temperatures reached a Jubilee record of 85 degrees, we changed the schedule and made our way up to the pond for a most favored tradition, the Great Tennis Ball Toss! On the count of three, Retrievers in all shades of Gold wasted no time getting into the water. They cooled themselves while retrieving tennis balls, some managing two at a time.  It may have been a figment of my imagination that I saw at least one mouth full of three, maybe four, balls at once.  The temperature continued to climb and the Golden Retrievers did their best to provide cool comfort to us humans as they shook the excess water from their fur coats.


As one nose and then another picked up a familiar scent, everyone seemed pleased at the aroma that filled the air. The growling that could be heard came from the bellies of humans and canines alike as they made their way to the lunchtime buffet.  Hot dogs, cheeseburgers, salads, drinks and a wide array of freshly baked desserts all made for quite a feast.  When Aaron Smith had flipped the last of the burgers, we marked the occasion of what was perhaps his thousandth on that grill by presenting him with a personalized maple cutting board and pronouncing him the New England Golden Jubilee Master Chef.  Aaron and his wife Cyndy are the reasons our cookout is the simply the best.


The time had come for the Kibble-cup Auction to benefit Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue. Excitement mounted as each winning number was called. Our Goldens practiced their best patience throughout and were quickly rewarded as several of us hand fed them mouthfuls from six cakes that were baked and decorated by one of our long-time sponsors, Emily at Quite Fetching Barkery. We are so very grateful to every one of our sponsors, including Golden Dog Farm, Dale Rogers Studio and Sniff Your Snack, all three new this year.


Each of the 142 Golden Retrievers who attended went home with a New England Golden Jubilee Goodie Bag with a logo bandanna and other special items inside.

When all was said and done, we had raised $200 for Dog Mountain, $3,860 for Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue and $5,568 for the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, an amount that will be doubled with matching corporate donations.


As I begin to think about plans for next year's New England Golden Jubilee, I have a full heart.  I trust that your heart is full, too!

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