When Dante and I first met Diane, she had a wonderful German Shepherd named Jesse and it was with Jesse that Dante started his visiting career – and never had there been a better guide for him.
However, there was a better buddy!
Hunter the Golden Retriever came into Diane’s life sometime in 2000. He had been released from the Seeing Eye program for a medical condition – he coughed when too much pressure was put on his collar. Otherwise, he was a solid working-dog-to-be.
Diane immediately began training him for visiting work. He was a natural – always the perfect gentleman on visits – calm, beautiful, and inviting, he charmed the pants off of many a visitor.
Diane, Hunter, Dante, and I spent many a visit together in those early years of HART Programs. And while our boys worked well together they also played well together off-the-clock. While on duty they made a good odd couple with the serious Hunter offset by the goofy Dante. When a client needed a balancing, barking goof-ball they got Dante, but when a client needed a snuggly, beautiful golden ball of “more fur than fingers could penetrate” for a good cry or hug, they got Hunter who leaned quietly up against anyone who needed it.
Mind you, when he was off duty Hunter was the quintessential golden with as much goof as Dante.
Hunter’s stories are legendary: from the little boy at the Family Assistance Center post-9/11 who spoke first to Hunter about the loss of his father to the man in the rehabilitation area of the hospital who had not been allowed to get out of bed all day due to his fluctuating blood pressure but who insisted he get to see the golden (and insisted they monitor his BP the whole visit – which remained perfect for the entire visit with Hunter). Hunter brought joy and healing to countless strangers.
As a visiting therapeutic activities dog his accomplishments were great, but they were secondary in comparison to the love he gave his own family. Hunter was always there for Diane through major life changes—including both ups and downs and he was there for his new little charge Emi when she came to be a part of his family.
Hunter’s story moved from the Hudson Valley south to Tennessee and then west to Texas. Hunter left a swath of love and affection as he moved with his family across this country. Knowing Hunter and knowing Diane I have to assume he continued to bring joy to anyone who reached out to pet and engage him.
Each dog who comes into our lives – our own and our friend’s – brings us a morsel of love and knowledge. It is up to us to accept both of these gratefully, knowing that it is a gift from the Universe.
Thank you, Hunter, for all that you brought all of us and thank you Diane for letting us share in his love and understanding.
I know that somewhere out there Dante just came running up to the new arrival, ball-in-mouth, saying “Hey buddy, good to see you – wanna chase?”