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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In Memory: Luke O'Grady

He was a blond, four-legged version of Michael Landon's TV character in "Touched By An Angel." He just showed up one day at my sister's house...this gorgeous, robust and mature purebred Golden Retriever. He was the "old style" of Golden, bred big and strong for hunting. He had the disposition of a Golden too...sweet, eager to please, sometimes obstinate, sometimes goofy, and always ready to chase a ball.

His one unique identifying feature was his tail; it was short and crooked at the tip, as if it had been slammed in a car door when he was little.

My sister tried to find his home. She ran a "Lost Dog" ad, and one party called and actually confirmed the part about the tail. They described him to a tee, and said he'd wandered away several times before. But when she brought this dog to the home, the husband denied it was his dog. Something fishy was going on there. So the dog went back to live with my sister until she could place him in a forever home.

She called him "Luke the Drifter," which was the late Hank Williams' alias. She considered listing him on In the meantime, I told her about a student of mine, Becky, who was in the market for a service dog. Becky was amenable to meeting Luke, so the three of them got together.

It was instant love between Becky and Luke. She took him home and began working with him, teaching him the things he needed to to do help her through the day. The two were seldom apart. Even when Becky took a part in a community theater production, Luke was there on the set and on the stage, playing his own part.

Becky was a bit dismayed when she took Luke to the vet and found out his estimated age was 10 years. Their time together would be much shorter than she would have wanted. So they spent it wisely, cherishing each moment together. After just a few months, Luke developed a lump. Becky again took him to the vet and received the diagnosis she didn't want to hear. Cancer. The number one killer of Golden Retrievers. Lukie was given only a few months to live.

Love, french fries, cheeseburgers and ice cream cones extended his life for an extra five months. On July 31, Becky said goodbye to Luke at the vet's office, and released him back to the dog-angel headquarters from which he obviously came. Luke had fulfilled his earthly mission by enriching Becky's life and touching the lives of so many others along the way.

Luke O'Grady is survived by Becky and a tri-pod terrier named Sparky.

Meanwhile, this dog angel is no doubt awaiting his next assignment.

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