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After my husband and I had been married for about 2 years, I bought, on the spur of the moment, a fat, cuddly, gorgeous Golden Retriever puppy. They were for sale in Missoula, on Reserve Street by the Burger King, at the same moment my bank was being robbed next door (which isn’t part of the story but of interest nonetheless).

I had already had three Golden Retrievers before and they were the absolute loves of my life (besides my kids. Of course!). My husband Butch, also a dog lover, had somehow never owned a Golden. So as I was driving home with this roly poly ball of yummy puppy, I was excited for my hubby and the love affair he didn’t know he was about to have.


When I got out of the car with my arms full of puppy and a huge grin on my face, he took one look at us, rolled his eyes and acted like, ‘No you did not bring home a puppy without talking to me first.’ To which I responded gleefully, “This is going to be your first true doggy love, I promise.” He just rolled his eyes again, took the puppy from me, walked off with him and never gave him back.

He wanted to name him ‘You’ as in “Hey You!” which I thought was stupid because these are very special dogs that need to have names befitting their specialness! I reluctantly agreed though because I was pleased that he had claimed this dog as his own. But when I took the pup to the vet for the first time, I couldn’t make myself tell them his name was ‘You’ so I said ‘Hugh’. He was then ever after, ‘You’ to my husband and ‘Hugh’ to everyone else.

Butch never knew the difference.

Those two were inseparable. My husband spent three years building our home and barn on our Potomac mountaintop while I lived in Lolo and worked. Hugh was always with Butch keeping him company and helping him build the house by stealing his hammers, screwdrivers and pencils, plus protecting him from all the wild grouses and deadly chipmunks.  They became very best friends. A true bromance. The love affair I had promised my husband.

When Hugh was 4 years old, he ran outside to bark at something, dropped to the ground and didn’t get back up. I immediately knew something was wrong and as I was running to him and yelling his name, he wagged his tail one last time as if to say goodbye, and then he was gone. He had suddenly and mysteriously died.

The vet later told us she believed his heart gave out on him.

To say we were both heartbroken is a colossal understatement. I’d never seen my husband so low. It was a bleak March to say the least.

We buried Hugh on top of the hill behind our house, in full view of the gorgeous mountains and valley. Butch said he buried him there so Hugh could watch over us.

As I walked away from Hugh’s fresh grave, so distraught, I noticed one of his dog toys on the ground. It was a little red Clifford dog. Oh it hurt me to see that. I picked it up and for some reason plopped it on a tree branch right by Hugh’s grave. I didn’t tie it on, fix it to the branch or have any intention other than to get it off the ground. I just put it there.

Nine years later that toy is still on that branch. It has never fallen off, not once, even with all the snow and gale force winds we have up here. It’s still there reminding me of Hugh and making me smile. I can see it out my bathroom window every morning when I brush my teeth, and each time, I feel like Hugh is saying, “I’m here.”

So grateful for the time we had with that dog. What a treasure he was to us. Good friends come and go, blessing us so much while they are here. We still miss him but that sweet dog showed us something –  that we would now always want the pure love of a Golden in our lives. We have since had seven more of them – each one it’s own furry love affair, each one a joy.

– Alisha Brewer Nelson is a city girl learning to live off the grid on a mountain in Montana with a country boy. She says it makes for an endless supply of funny stories, even if they weren’t always funny at the time . . . You can follow her on The Roanoke Star as well as her blog:


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