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Golden Retriever Stories
Golden Retriever Stories

Here’s Tecumseh as a puppy with Cousin Robert. They’re gone now,
and I dearly miss both of them.
Golden Retriever Stories
Golden Retriever Stories
 

Donald Deer had just retired from the Norfolk & Southern Railroad when he bought his puppy. "We're gonna call him General Custer," Donald said.

"You're naming your dog after a Yankee? Why not Jeb Stuart, or General Lee?" Jay asked.

"Those boys lost. I like General Custer!"

"How about Fightin' Joe Wheeler?" Jay suggested enthusiastically, not wanting a good, but stubborn Tarheel to make a tragic mistake. "Call the dog `Wheeler'."

"No! General Custer," Donald insisted inflexibly.

Donald Deer, like alot of puppy buyers, kept in touch with Jay and Robin. He called about once a year and stopped by when he was in the mountains west of Asheville. General Custer grew into a good-looking Goldrush dog from the 70s, like Charlie; he didn't have the chunky Rottweiler head and short snout all the breeders are striving for in the 90s. The general's head was angular with a longish snout, like a collie.


Here’s Tecumseh when he was 14 helping George replace a faulty water pump.”

Donald lived out in the country and let the general run free, after he was neutered. Jay was concerned he'd get hit by a car or stolen. "The general will take his chances in life just like the rest of us. Dogs like that weren't meant to be kept in fenced yards," Donald had said. Jay disagreed, but didn't feel it was his place to argue the point. Donald Deer was a retired train engineer used to driving massive and powerful diesel locomotives. Jay just assumed Donald Deer was set in his beliefs.

"When the general was eight," Donald told Jay, "we were walking my property line and stumbled right into a copperhead sunning itself. The snake was forty-one inches long and as big around as a soda can. The old copperhead got in a few nasty bites before the general killed it. Custer's neck swelled up like a basketball and I had to take him to the vet for three shots."

"You chose to let him run loose; consequently, the general grew into a warrior," Jay observed.

"Neither of us would have had it any other way," Donald responded, his tone reflecting old-fashioned Tarheel resolution.

Then, when the general should have been about twelve Donald stopped calling. Instead, Donald's widow called and said, "He died from a stroke last month. I'm selling the farm and going to live with our kids. But I can't take the general. I spoke to Pat Murphy from Triad Golden Retriever Rescue about finding a home for the general. When I told her you were the breeder, Pat suggested you might want him back."

"Of course I'll take him," Jay said without any hesitation.

And General Custer came home to the log cabin on Campbell Creek Road. He spent his last years in Maggie Valley. Robin bought Jay a rocking chair for the porch. "Your beard is turning gray," she said, "you need one of these."

Jay and General Custer would sit outside in the cool evenings, enjoying the eternal mountains, towering evergreens, and listening to the noisy, crispy-cold, rushing creek. When Jay looked at the old general he thought of all the litters, all the puppies over the years. "Placing these dogs with good families is the most gratifying experience of my life, except for my relationship with you," Jay said to Robin, and took her hand.

"It has all been worthwhile, despite the problems? I don't think we ever made a lot of money at breeding goldens," Robin mused.

Jay smiled, caressed the general's noble, handsome head, and the retriever layed his chin on Jay's thigh. "Who cares."

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