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On behalf of the staff at Bouton Veterinary Hospital, we are honored to pay respect to our beloved animal friends who have passed.  We also welcome you to create a lasting tribute for your beloved pet or animal friend on our website's Pet Memorial page. Please feel free to complete the following Pet Memorial Form in Adobe Acrobat format, which requires the free Acrobat Reader to view.

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The following is a lovely memorial to "Gator" Richards written by his mom, Kimberly.

The Ball

Fall is my favorite season. Here in Colorado, we have had an unusually hot summer and having intentionally moved from the searing deserts of Arizona to the Rocky Mountains, I was reminded why. I am invigorated by the typical daily (sometimes hourly!) weather changes of Colorado and I long for the transition to fall. The crisp freshness of cool nights and early mornings causes me to pause, reflect and breathe in life. I start to anticipate my first fall hike, a bike ride without 50 SPF and eventually a downhill powder run on my newly waxed skis. The lush flowers that used to grace my deck and patio are now withered and spent. I can relate…our 15 year old dog, Gator, was peacefully euthanized in our home yesterday.

Gator was a 90 pound Chesapeake Bay Retriever who never allowed his brothers, very friendly and effusively social, but forgetful of the "Retriever" part of being a Golden Retriever, to define his existence nor his life purpose…to swim and retrieve his tennis ball. It was his job, his mission and heaven help anyone or any animal that got in the line of his laser like focus. Gator was also supremely loyal to my husband and me even up until the moment he passed painlessly and effortlessly with the assistance of a Veterinary angel.

While I could write a book on lessons learned from each of my dogs, and the gut wrenching heartbreak of loss, I will take a clue from Gator and write about the power of focusing on "the ball", living in the moment, releasing the gift of our inner selves and removing the facade of external definition. Through the twists and turns of my life, finally I am able to face the fear of sinking and do what comes naturally…swim! I have been blessed to mostly swim in a collaborative school of other likeminded "fish", yet the occasional encounter with the deceptive allure of mermaid fish may have briefly taken my focus off the ball. No problem! That instance was erased with another throw of the ball chucker!

As Gator perfected the snowplow with abandon and would leap without fear into sometimes frozen water, breaking the ice with his powerful momentum, determination, and fueled by passion, I too have found my biggest successes occur after just "going for it", without worrying how I am defined by others. His life was big, focused, joyous, uninhibited yet sometimes messy and just plain crappy. We always knew how he felt and he asked for what he wanted. Gator never stopped to wonder how he must have looked to his brothers, the "born to please" Golden brothers, Sammy and Valentino who are notoriously seeking approval and attention. While treasured, they are beautiful followers and even as Gator slowed and lagged behind, they understood that Gator set the tone for every walk to the park, every encounter with other dogs, and would correct every errant way of his much younger brothers.

Even as his massive body wore out, his mind and his deteriorating eyesight was still focused on the ball. He did not know that he could not run after the ball without suffering the later consequences of pain…he just ran! He did not know that a younger, more agile dog would catch his ball…he ran like he was one with the ball! He simply wanted to carry the ball and stayed the course of his passion! Yes, others (specifically little yappy dogs) may not have approved of his assertiveness, but so what? He was the master of his destiny.

I have only known Gator for 6 of his 15 years and admit to being very intimidated by his "eye lock" on me when I invaded his space and married his Dad. After all, Valentino was a new puppy and I had only had a miniature daschund before then! In the years since, big Gator became a mama's boy and I was smitten with the combination of his sense of enormous power, protectiveness and self control, yet childlike sweetness as he would cry like a baby when I walked in the door after trips away. Often, no words were needed to communicate. If you are a dog lover, you know the bond. It is unyielding trust. In the last few months, at 5am when I awoke to see him staring at me to help him navigate steps to go outside, he knew, without a doubt, that he would be cared for with compassion, gentleness and honor reflective of his gifts to us.

 With the last hydrotherapy session, (a treadmill in a water tank!) it was painfully obvious the thrill was gone…we chose to let him swim with assistance in the big pool and even though he carried the ball in his mouth, he was struggling. He was asking us to let him go. Swimming with a "just in case" Speedo diaper was not his idea of dignity, nor ours, and he was, for once in his life, terrified of sinking.

If you are not a pet lover, you are probably wondering why all the effort. If you are, you already understand. A life of focus on a purposeful ball, swimming freely and living fully is a worthy life. His memory lays buried within my heart.

 

Jump in.

Swim.

Keep your eye on the ball.

Release your gifts.

Define your own life.

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