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Do You Know Where Your Dogs Are?


On May 14, while millions of people were preparing for special family gatherings to honor mothers, I was lying on a series of dog beds underneath a skylight in my home surrounded by my three “children,” anticipating the arrival of the doctor.

While the four of us were snuggled on their beds, I kissed them, stroked them, and spoke to them about what was going to happen later in the day. Nothing went unsaid. Through my tears, I reminded them how much I love them, what a gift their love has always been, how beautiful they are inside and out, and that I couldn’t possibly love them any more than I do. I singled Katie out for special praise because I had been the recipient of her love, affection, and devotion for over 15 years. And, for a golden retriever, living 15 years is a praise-worthy accomplishment.

While prone during Katie’s final hours, I gazed through the skylight to the clouds rapidly moving past. In the clouds I saw lots of golden retriever faces, my face, the face of E.T., and terrier faces. Cloud images formed and disbursed and disappeared giving way to generations of other cloud images, one after another. With our hearts wide open and clouds racing by, I shared my thoughts and my abundant love with the three beings I adore most in the world.

For many years, I have had the amazing good luck to live with three generations of golden retrievers (mother, daughter, granddaughter). Their devotion to each other was a joy to behold, and their love filled my heart each and every day.

By the time the doctor and nurse arrived in the early afternoon, Katie, Lucy, Ava, and I were as prepared as we could be to have the rich tapestry of our family change forever. On the kitchen floor, surrounded by those who loved her best, Katie passed away peacefully.

In the wake of our profound loss, the three of us are searching to find our own peace. Of course, peace will come in the fullness of time. Our emotional worlds are unique and individual but the common denominator is that each of us is acutely aware that we miss our Katie.

A week ago I knew exactly where Katie was. She was lying with us on dog beds underneath the skylight with clouds racing by and I could touch her, watch her breathe, and whisper to her. Today, I locate her in my heart, and I know that her light is shining in another place. As for Lucy and Ava, they are lying at my feet while I write our little story about big love and what happened in our family on Mother’s Day.


Kathryn Ischinger lives in Orinda and enjoyed her bittersweet trip down memory lane while selecting photos of her beloved Katie to share here. She said Katie, who had two litters of beautiful pups (11 total), participated in a golden longevity study at UC Davis. “I am so proud that Katie contributed to the study … and am hopeful we can learn more about how to make our adorables live longer. Katie was a remarkable dog, from day one. Always calm. Always poised. Oh! And all my girls supported President Obama! They have their “I BARK FOR BARACK” scarves! The quintessential accessory back in the day!!! (And please God, can we have those days back?)


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Main article photo by: Kathryn Ischinger