"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
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
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