‘Are you Willow?’

“Are you Willow?”

Red and I had sat one last time with our old golden retriever, Onyah, as her gentle life passed out of that beautiful furry frame the day after Easter 2009. And Red insisted that it would be a long time before she was ready to bring another pet home. I suspected differently, but I nodded and agreed with her.

Sure enough, a little more than two weeks later, she looked over the newspaper at me and said, “Do you think we should get a puppy?”

I made a show of saying no, you wanted to take time to grieve, but we both knew that we would soon be welcoming a new member to the family. As wonderful a companion as Onyah had been, I did not object when Red declared it would be another golden retriever.

After we set a date to visit a breeder, we sat across a table one night throwing possible names back and forth. What would be a suitable name for a golden retriever?

Roberta. Isabella. Mozarella. Ziva. Toni. McGee. Abby. Kaylee. Zoe. River. No, no, no, maybe, no …

Angel, Buffy, Willow – Willow.

Willow? What a beautiful name for a lovely red-haired puppy girl. Willow it was.

The breeder had only 5-week-old one golden left from the litter that would be ready to go home in mid-May. Before we arrived she brought out the little fluff ball and left her alone in the waiting cage.

When we entered she was sitting in that awkward way that puppies sit and looked up at us with curiosity. The breeder plucked her out of the cage and eased her into my hands.

While Red carried on a conversation with the breeder, I held her to my chest and looked down at the little puppy eyes. I completely lost track of what the two women were saying.

“Are you Willow?”

The only response was to knead my chest and snuggle into me. Something melted inside me.

I became aware that the breeder was offering to show us puppies from a younger litter if we weren’t sure about this one. “No,” I said perhaps a little too firmly.

Willow joined our family a couple of weeks later on May 16, 2009. I only remember two dates connected with family dogs – Feb. 7, 1959, when my parents surprised us with Lady, and May 16, 2009, when we brought Willow home.

Willow fit her name. But that’s a story for another day.

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WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith, journalist and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, and a couple of cats.