It is hard to remember exactly when you fall in love because it just happens. But I am certain I fell in love with Rosie on August 15, 2007. It was our 15th wedding anniversary and I honestly don’t remember much about our anniversary, but I remember seeing a look on Abbey’s face as she cradled her new puppy that stopped time. That photo will forever be etched into my heart and my memory. And so will the countless other good memories of Rosie.
If you are a dog lover and have ever read the book, “Where the Red Fern Grows,” you may remember the beginning of the book where the little boy wants a dog so badly. The way he worked for that dog is somewhat similar to our family’s version of how badly Abbey wanted a dog. The story of the Widick family getting a dog was ramped up with typical “Abbey Widick passion.” Trying to be good parents, Darrin and I told her if she had good behavior, didn’t fight (as much) with her sister over the summer, did some chores, and proved to us she was responsible enough to own a dog, then we would get her a dog.
As the end of July 2007 was approaching, Abbey had used at least two reams of printer paper and several ink toner cartridges doing her research on our computer and on the one at Grandma Lea’s house. She had a good summer with Allie, did her chores, assimilated a binder of research on dogs, and made each one of US sign a contract on how WE would behave around a dog (honest to God, I cannot make this stuff up and I still have the contract and the three ring binder to prove it). So she and Darrin set out to the find the perfect dog.
They visited several Golden Retriever breeders around the region and settled on a breeder in Peculiar, Missouri. That breeder had differentiated the puppies by a colored ribbon around their neck. Rosie’s ribbon was cream colored; therefore, her name at the breeder was Cream. There were several Golden Retriever puppies to watch, but Cream and a lively female pup named Peaches caught Abbey’s eye. Darrin pointed out that Peaches had a tendency to bark, and for a rare moment, Abbey listened to Darrin’s words of wisdom and chose Cream as her puppy. They would return a few weeks later when Cream was old enough to leave her momma.
That warm summer night in August of 2007 Rosie joined our family and it was just the beginning of so many happy memories. I will never forget the look on Abbey’s face that night as she cuddled her new pup and introduced Rosie to our home and our family. Rosie got her name from Abbey’s love of soccer at the time. Airbud the Golden Retriever super dog movies were popular and the female dog in the movies was a soccer playing dog named Rosebud. So Rosie’s full registered name was Kamara’s Rosebud Cream Widick.
Abbey worked hard to train Rosie with help from my patient and friend, Jennifer. Training service dogs was Jennifer’s real job, but she agreed to take on Rosie and Abbey. She later told me with her sharp, non-sugar coated truth, that she was really training Abbey.
Rosie loved people. She loved being around our immediate family, our extended family, anyone who came to visit, or anyone who walked by our house. She loved sledding and playing in the snow with Abbey and the neighborhood kids. She loved swimming in Aunt Pam’s pool. But swimming in the lake after a running jump off the dock with Abbey was special. She also loved going on long walks around the neighborhood with me. I even dropped my gym membership because Rosie needed to lose some weight and I thought we could exercise together. Clearly, we both should have gone to 24 Hour Fitness for more intense workouts, but I treasure that time and those long walks with her. Abbey taught Rosie to do an agility course she would set up in our back yard during warm weather and moved inside to our basement during the winter months. Uncle Max built an agility ramp and teeter totter for Abbey’s birthday gift and Santa brought the tunnel and weave poles. We always had an endless supply of dog treats on hand. Rosie was easy to train because she was smart. And because she would do anything for food. We really did monitor her weight in spite of how all of that sounded.
As Abbey grew up, so did Rosie. She did agility less often and posed for Homecoming and Prom photos with Abbey more frequently. Abbey once wanted to introduce Rosie to her favorite twins she used to babysit. She brought them to our house to visit Rosie. Abbey said when one of them met Rosie he said, “Abbey! Rosie ‘wicked me!’ She ‘wicked me’ on the ‘wips!’ “ I love that story for so many reasons – and certainly NOT to laugh at his speech, because Abbey articulated sounds exactly like that at that age. I love it because he didn’t mind it too much and he and Abbey shared yet another bond: a love of dogs. His family got their own Golden Retriever a few years later.
Rosie was not exactly low maintenance. I guess we made her that way. We warmed her food. We made sure someone was home to let her out every four hours or less for the entire 11.5 years of her life. And when we were out of town, she got extra TLC – often at Aunty Kathy’s and Uncle Max’s house, Grandma Lea’s house, my parents’ house, or Ryan came and stayed with her at our house.
For her first 7 or 8 years Abbey and I would bathe Rosie ourselves and meticulously brush and blow dry her Golden Retriever coat. There was once a time when Abbey and I were brushing and blow drying her at the Brookside Barkery when we were asked if we were professional dog groomers! We laughed about that often. After Abbey left for college and my back couldn’t tolerate it, we let the professionals bathe her. I tried to always send Abbey a SnapChat or photo of Rosie after her bath because she looked so pretty, was so happy I had come back to get her, and was just so pleased her bath was over.
Although Allie’s cat, Chief, was smaller by over 50 pounds, he was the dominant one. He made the rules. If he wanted to intimidate Rosie, she allowed it and didn’t seem to mind it too much. They were siblings in an animal sort of way, but Rosie was really more like Abbey’s sibling than Chief’s. I still can’t tell if Chief understands or cares if Rosie is gone. I guess that’s my answer.
As Abbey left for college at TCU, I am sure she missed Rosie more than anyone else in our family. Each of Abbey’s visits back home began with a joyous reunion, but each goodbye was heart wrenching. I used to say if Rosie could text and use an iPhone, it would have helped so much. But since she could not, I sent hundreds of photos and SnapChats to Abbey of Rosie just being Rosie back home. Sometimes I worried it might make Abbey miss Rosie too much and make her homesick, but now I am glad we have all of those memories of Rosie well documented.
While Abbey was away at college, Darrin picked up the slack in loving on Rosie. When we moved to Lakewood years ago we put in an invisible fence. We have never used it. Not even once. Darrin did not have the heart to teach her with any possible use of that collar. Over the last 3.5 years while Abbey has been away, Darrin and Rosie had their routines. They walked each day, went to the bank on Saturday mornings, and worked together in his home office late into the night. He spoiled her with ear scratches and constant back rubs if they were in the same room. He did all of the fun stuff with Rosie sitting shotgun in his car. I took her to get a bath and to the vet. Who do you think would be Rosie’s favorite parent? He earned and much deserved the title of “Rosie’s favorite” while Abbey was away at college.
While Abbey was at TCU she ran for Student Government office. During both her Vice Presidential campaign and again in her Presidential campaign, Abbey used Golden Retrievers. She borrowed dogs from families she knew in Fort Worth to “work” at her campaign table. Who wouldn’t vote for a candidate that loved dogs like that? She won both elections with the help of those four-legged members of her campaign teams. There was a photo of Abbey campaigning with the Golden Retrievers in the TCU newspaper during the presidential election campaign last spring. It was a photo of one of those dog’s licking Abbey on the face just like Rosie had licked her little friend years ago. You cannot buy, nor fake, nor recreate a moment like that. She won that election and is currently serving as TCU Student Body President during her senior year. Abbey always worried Rosie would be jealous of those dogs. It is a sad irony that one of them passed away within days of Rosie. Hopefully, they have met by now and are sharing their stories about Abbey.
Darrin and I have officially been empty nesters (I hate that term) since August 2018. It had surprisingly not been too hard on us. We have been fortunate to visit Abbey in Fort Worth, Allie in Columbia, and haven’t missed a Mizzou game since our nest emptied. But every time we left, we got to come back home to Rosie. Her dog hair is everywhere in spite of my best efforts to vacuum frequently and use a lint roller, but she was worth it. So if you see any of us around town, please don’t offer to pick the dog hair off our black clothes for a while. It’s just too soon. And Abbey may need to just buy another coat and not bother getting her black coat dry cleaned. It’s still too painful.
This last week has been tough. But it has also been a blessing. We got to look back through all of the hundreds of photos; sometimes doing so over FaceTime with Abbey until each of our iPhones were drained. We got to relive those moments of Abbey’s childhood and Rosie’s life together. And we recognized how grateful we are for so much. Rosie was with Darrin, and me, and Abbey over FaceTime until the very end. And for that, we are most grateful. Thank you, Rosie, for being the one Abbey fell in love with that summer long ago. Our house is much more quiet now even though you were never a barker. And I can’t imagine our life without you going forward because you prevented Darrin and me from being “empty nesters” even though that is clearly what we were. But our family’s love and memories of you will help us until we see you again. You were a good girl, Rosie. Thank you.