Gemma

Gemma is our first golden, and my first dog! Born April 17, 1997, she is officially Chardon’s Chantilly Lace n’ Levity CGC TDI.

Click here for Gemma’s pedigree.  Gemma’s sire was handsome Arsey who, sadly, died at 8 1/2 years old from the dreaded hemangiosarcoma. Her wonderful dam Sandy died of old age in Nov. 2008 – at 3 months shy of 16.

Suz with puppy Gem

Monday, February 15, 2010. We have lost our darling Gemma.

It all happened so quickly I can barely wrap my mind around it. On Friday and Saturday based on blood tests and scans, Gemma was diagnosed with a tumor in her abdomen (pancreatic carcinoma) and one lung filled with cancer (metastatic). Her symptoms for the past two weeks had been some occasional hacking and retching, panting and slight lethargy. But quite suddenly she was going down hill so quickly we decided not to wait until Tuesday for the pathology report or the appt. with an oncologist. Despite paying for nearly 13 years for a cancer rider on her VPI insurance, we knew right away that she wanted no surgery or more tests or futile life-extending procedures. We wanted her to go on her own terms, with dignity before suffering. On Saturday night and Sunday she had visits from those who love her most so that they could say goodbye. She could barely walk, and her breathing was becoming labored. She ate a little chicken Ted roasted for her yesterday morning, but nothing after that. Still– our proud independent girl somehow managed to get herself up and outside to pee. No accidents for our Princess!

Sunday night we slept (tried) on the floor next to Gem, and I held her paw all night long. Why did it seem so small? Her breathing was shallow but not labored. In the early morning glow I saw her face, eyes wide open, look directly at me and ask, “When?” So on Monday morning in our van in which we had taken so many wonderful trips to Faraway and elsewhere, we made a soft bed for her. Our vet Dr. Gerry who had taken care of her for 10 years came outside to send her very peacefully to the Rainbow Bridge. Finnegan, Ted, and I were all there. It was our last gift to her — to exchange her pain for our own.

To help Finn we took him right away to the field and threw bumpers. Every time we hug each other and cry, he wedges right between us.

Now the hardest part begins: how do we live life without her? It hurts so much, more than anything I’ve ever known. I trust I will eventually be able to focus on all she gave us, but right now it feels like a loss I cannot bear. She was my first dog and changed my life so profoundly I don’t remember life without her.

My only small comfort right now is to visualize her in a beautiful place full of ponds and fields and squirrels and deer and warm sunshine with cool breezes, being greeted by her mentor “Uncle” Clancy, her brother Cooper, and all the other wonderful dogs who have gone before her, running free, young and healthy again.

We will take her ashes to Faraway in a few weeks to all her favorite places, where just two weeks ago she romped and swam — if slower than before — Gem was a very happy girl even though I am sure she felt her body beginning to fail her. Somehow we both knew the end wasn’t that far off — and so took many photos which we will cherish. For us now, we feel adrift in a roiling sea of pain, trying to hold each other up. The sweet memories must ultimately be our life preservers.

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

-Mary Oliver

Last visit to Faraway, Jan/Feb 2010

Gemma loved to swim more than anything (except maybe her blue ball).

Gemma's incredibly direct gaze, age 12 years 9 months

Gemma could melt you with those dark chocolate eyes

Here are some of my favorite photos of our Best Girlie.

At age 11 after swimming in the pond at Faraway.

at 10 years old on the trail

Gemma was a very independent-minded, strong-willed, and affectionate golden. She suffered all her life from an incurable case of IGS (Irrepressible Greeting Syndrome). She had absolutely no sense of anyone not liking dogs or not wanting to see her up close and personal — wags, licks, and all. Not what one thinks of as “biddable,” Gem preferred to please herself — the rest of us were on our own. Her mottos included: 1) “Show me the biscuit!” and 2) “You talkin’ to ME?” She acted like a stereotypical dumb blonde when it suits her, but was deceptively smart. Gemma also enjoyed excellent hearing– she could tell when we are coming home from a block away or when the lid of the cookie jar is lifted, and she learned commands and tricks easily when a treat was involved!

Another motto of hers: “Call me anything, but don’t call me late for dinner!”

Smiling girl

Smiling girl

Gem had her quirks: she’d never been a fan of puppies or small dogs and would sometimes correct them very firmly yet efficiently when they got into her face — rather like an army drill sergeant! Otherwise she was extremely good with other dogs and very adaptable as we travelled around in our minivan, enjoying every adventure. Her very favorite thing in the world was her blue ball, and her very favorite activities were hiking and swimming!

Gem on the hiking trail

Gem on the hiking trail

Carrying her own hiking gear

Carrying her own hiking gear

Swimming, even in the ice!

Swimming, even in the ice!

And Gem adored cats; she thought they showed a lot of class. They could rub up against her and she didn’t mind a bit.

Jasper and Gemma take a snooze

Jasper and Gemma take a snooze

But Gemma’s greatest strength and most endearing quality was her gentleness with older folks. Raised in part by my in-laws, she was amazingly gentle and tender, never jumping or pawing those with delicate skin –presenting her head to be petted for as long as the “human” is so inclined. She was a true therapy dog for the elderly, providing a loving calm.

But she could be a wild child too!  Here she is at age 12 1/2 barking at me for taking photos of her (when I could have been throwing her ball!). This was taken at our last stay at Faraway, January 31, 2010.

BARKING GEMMA VIDEO

And as a youngster in the snow at Mt. Shasta with Ted (yes he is throwing the ubiquitous blue ball).

Air Gem!

Air Gem!

on her 9th birthday

9th birthday

Looking for some action

The years turned her face a snowy white, and she sure liked her naps.

Tired girl

sweet girlie

at Faraway in Spring 2007

amidst the lupine at Fawaway in the spring

See photos of Gemma and Cooper’s 11th birthday celebration HERE!

Gemma_11_down

enjoying the sunshine at age 11

Hiking at Mt. Shasta, Oct 08

hiking at Mt. Shasta, Oct 08

Big boulders? No problem– even at age 11 1/2.

Gem in Root Creek at age 11 1/2

Swimming in Root Creek at age 11 1/2

One day after her 12th birthday! April 18, 2009.

One day after her 12th birthday! April 18, 2009.

Last Faraway photo taken of Gem waiting for us to catch up on the trail. (Feb. 2010)
Please see our Elegy for Gemma.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susan
    Dec 23, 2008 @ 17:53:18

    Suzanne-
    I remember when you first joined the list and Gemma was just a pup. I was waiting for my first golden to be born and had joined the list to learn in the meanwhile!
    Seems ages ago now. I lost Pride to cancer in his tenth year and now my second golden Denver is 10. And full cycle, I am awaiting the birth of my third golden who should arrive in late January or early February. The circle of friendship is a comforting thing in life isn’t it! Please give Gem a hug for me from an old friend and give Finn a hug from a new friend! Merry Christmas!

    Reply

  2. Bari
    Mar 03, 2010 @ 03:57:57

    Suzanne-

    I am not sure if you remember me, but I was a member of G&H years ago with Fenway. You and I used to chat quite a bit back in the day. I happened upon your name through a rescue site and came to see how you were all doing. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Gemma. We lost Fen in ’06 to cancer and not a day goes by when he isn’t in our thoughts. Today we will add your family and Miss Gemma to them.

    Reply

  3. amy
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 13:05:12

    I just saw this part of your website…after inquiring about pups. I feel awful – we too lost our golden, Charley, who at 8.5 years old died suddenly from a tumor on his heart. I’m sorry for your loss – we know exactly how it feels.

    Reply

  4. Victoria Bottini Curtis
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 10:50:54

    Just found your website after a visit to the Sac Kennel Club Show last weekend. Your Gemma reminds me so of my two – Mother & Daughter – Lily & Valerie. My first dogs, first goldens and my forever girls. 10 years later the pain of losing them is just like yesterday. May they all be romping together over the Rainbow Bridge, waiting for us to join them one day. My heart goes out to you, but oh the joy and love they gave us. We lost our Lab in Nov and I am lobbying for another Golden. Will be in touch

    Reply

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