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Torch was a star from the beginning, earning her Junior Hunter, her Tracking title and her Working Certificate by 15 months of age. Then she began experiencing health problems–Lyme’s disease, a strange abscess in her neck, etc. Although she continued to train, we did no showing in 2003. Now we know why.
In early September 2003, at the age of 2 1/2 years, our beloved Torch was diagnosed with malignant histiocytosis (MH), an aggressive form of cancer. Although common in Bernese Mountain Dogs and Flat-coat Retrievers, this terrible disease is on the increase in goldens and Rottweilers.
MH metasticizes quickly so usually leads to death with weeks. Most feel it does not respond to chemotherapy but Dr. K. Ann Jeglum, a veterinary oncologist in West Chester, PA, convinced us that there was a chance, albeit a slim one, to get Torch into remission.
Torch started chemo on September 21, 2003. The first three rounds of chemo went well but half-way through the fourth, I knew we had lost the battle. Torch died in my arms this morning, December 21, 2003. She was surrounded by her family and knew she was loved. Her mother, Flyer, lay her head across Torch’s body, continuing to love and protect her as her sweet spirit passed from this world.
Our dear friend, Linda Daffron told it this way:
“In talking to Jenny this morning, I shared with her that I’d like to believe that they were preparing for the most wonderful live nativity in heaven this week and God explained to his angels that they needed just one more animal to complete the scene . . . so he asked his angels to find the most wonderful, the most deserving animal on earth, and Torch was chosen.”
It is tradition to use candles to light the way of dogs who are passing to the Rainbow Bridge. As our friend, Randi, pointed out, Torch died on the third night of the Festival of Lights so there were candles lit throughout the world to guide her way.
Goodbye, sweet Torch.
Love, Gayle and Andy
Throughout Torch’s illness, our friends and family stood by us, supporting us in so many ways–driving to chemo with Torch and Gayle, helping with treatments, throwing the ball for the other dogs who were quite bored, bringing foods from around the world to tempt Torch to eat, and just loving her, which did more for us than anything. They continued this support after her death by raising money–over $2,000–for the Golden Retriever Foundation’s Zeke Cancer Fund. The also put a tribute to Torch into the Golden Retriever News. To see Torch’s tribute, go here.
Torch was diagnosed with MH on Sept 18, 2003. We spent the following weekend doing all of the things that Torch loves best–swimming, walking in the woods, retrieving ducks, doing obedience and playing with dog and human friends. Here are some shots from that weekend. In the group shot, Torch is on the diving board with the ball in her mouth :-). Other party guests include Corey, Una, Flyer, Tanner, Hailey, Goose, Taylor and Cash. Three-month old cousin Chex was there, too, but couldn’t sit still for the photo. What a great time they all had!
Although Torch is quite young, she has quite a group of fans. Here a few tell stories about their interactions with her. My thanks to all of you who have written such wonderful words about our girl.
From Paul Ingvoldstad
“Over the years we’ve always found great pleasure in observing our Golden Retrievers display their natural abilities in the many aspects of the world we share with them. But this past Summer during one of our regular Tuesday field training sessions at Stewart State Forest I observed what can only be described as a ‘Super Dog’ exhibition of one of those abilities…Tracking!
“In the afternoon we moved our training site to the notorious Stick Pond, a 200 yard long by 50 yard wide body of water filled on one end by a forest of black tree stumps and edged on the far side by lily pads. I offered to man the gunner’s station on the far side of the pond and took off with backpacks of bumpers and equipment on the 15-minute trek through woods filled with fallen trees, knee depth streams, and marsh brush. After about an hour of lobbing bumpers into the lily pad cover as directed by our trainer, Gayle Watkins, on her two-way radio from the line across the pond, we finally finished two singles for each of a dozen dogs. I gathered my equipment and made my way back around the pond to the vehicle staging area.
“As part of our wrap up procedure we sorted equipment and noted that one of the two-way radios was missing, and after careful analysis realized that I must have dropped it across the pond or somewhere in between. We were exhausted from a long day, but Gayle and I, accompanied by her young dog Torch, decided to give what was equivalent to ‘the search for a needle in a haystack’ a try! As Gayle and I struggled over fallen logs trying to find and following my original route through the woods, Torch after having been shown the other two-way radio by Gayle, moved out ahead with apparent confidence. We heard her out there ahead…twigs snapping, etc. About 2/3 of the way to the gunner’s position, as I waded out of knee deep water into the marsh brush, Torch flew by me coming back along the path. I didn’t notice anything in her mouth, but a moment later I heard Gayle’s exuberant, “She got it!!!!” (According to Gayle, the little orange locator ribbon on the radio was sticking out of Torch’s mouth.) It was a feeling and moment that I, and I’m sure Gayle, will never forget.” –Paul, 24 September 03
From Cathi Jefson
“As many of you know this past April, Gayle and I, along with Flyer, Corey, Torch, Una and Cricket headed down to Tallahassee to breed Cricket with Gunner. This proved to be quite an experience for me since “I had never traveled with 5 dogs anywhere, ever. The trip was long and the camaraderie wonderful. When we finally arrived in Tallahassee both Gayle and I were bushed. We went straight to Glenda’s house to let her know we had all arrived in one piece and to introduce Cricket to Gunner.
“Just a few days prior to our departure Torch had undergone her first surgery and had about 10 stitches in her neck. With that in mind, you may have expected a more sedate pace for this little ball of fire. At every rest stop (our trip took a full 2 days) Torch kept up with and more often than not, was ahead of the others when we exercised them, throwing balls, etc. She never stopped and was always open to any opportunity to steal the tennis ball from any of the others. If Flyer or Cricket got the ball and stopped to pee on the way back Torch would simply take the ball out of their mouth and run like the wind back to Gayle.
“We couldn’t help but laugh at her antics. I remember thinking what a remarkable spirit this beautiful girl possessed and how smart she was. She seemed to know she could get the ball and ease it out of someone’s mouth on the rare occasion she didn’t get it first. Her expression upon returning with the ball in her mouth and tongue hanging out seemed somehow gleeful and joyous, ‘Nothing to it, Mom.’ After meeting with Glenda and having her show us where we would be staying, we finally set off to find a place to eat and found a Pizza Hut right out of the Twilight Zone.
“The next day we attempted the first tie of Cricket and Gunner. That in itself was a hoot; Gayle and Glenda were practically standing on their heads trying to see if a tie was formed. Later that evening Gayle asked if I’d like to help her remove the sutures from Torch since they were a day overdue in being removed. Once again I was blown away by Torch’s spirit. After a full day of agility, field practice and swimming all the dogs were beat and had finally settled down. Gayle and I brought Torch into the trailer and called her up on the bed. Here we were with tweezers, scissors, alcohol, cotton and Torch on a 1-person bed. Torch decided that she did not want the sutures removed. Gayle tried to hold her steady while I tried to remove the sutures. Her 4 legs became 8 and her strength doubled and she moved as fast as lightning. I got 2 sutures out and we decided to let her up to give ‘her’ a break, we said. We were drenched in sweat. Torch shook herself and jumped off the bed. The look she gave us held a bit of disdain ‘Humans, Ha!’ We tried twice more to remove the sutures before putting her in her crate for the night. Shortly after, Gayle had a glass of wine. I recall thinking that the wrong one was drinking the wine. We should have given Torch a bowl full before we began to remove the sutures! When we finished for the night I remember looking at Torch and feeling such love. That night I prayed so hard that she would be all right.” — Cathi
From Rosie Higdon
“This story isn’t a spectacular individual event but an accumulation of seeing Torch since she was a little tyke. I first met Torch when she was 3 days old and I was babysitting the litter for Gayle and Andy. At this point which puppy would be staying hadn’t been decided.
“As the litter matured and Gayle decided to keep Torch there are some things that stick in my mind about this puppy. She was incredibly sweet. And she had an unbelievable work ethic for tracking, birds and other activities (minus the agility). She also loved life and the fun side of life such as cannon balls into the swimming pool and mugging other dogs for the tennis balls.
“Something I’ve always felt about Torch is that she is wise beyond her years. It comes out in her demeanor or she seems to ask why would I do this.
“I’ve had the pleasure of training with Gayle and Torch on a couple of occasions for tracking. Torch is one little tracking machine. What a nose.
“Then there is the training session Gayle and I did with Annie and Torch. It was rainy, wet and muddy day and we were working agility. I was having issues with Annie playing the game and Gayle was having issues with Torch understanding the jumping game. We kept working until we felt we had made some progress. However, I think that Torch and Annie were humoring us humans and did as requested so they could do something else.
“My most recent memory is at Gayle’s home in July. I was throwing the tennis ball for the gang. The gang was running up and down the hill. On one particular throw, Torch looked at Una and off the two went to the creek. In about 5 minutes here they came wet and happy dogs ready to continue playing. Then they laid in the mud. Now I’m convinced that activity was done so us humans would take them to the creek to wash them off. And of course us humans did exactly as they had planned. Guess who the instigator was for laying in the mud? You are right if you guessed Torch.
“Torch is one very special puppy with many talents and has never ending love for Gayle.” — Rosie
From Dana Morris
“It is hard to put into words all the emotions we are all feeling as Torch fights the hardest ‘fight’ of her life…but I have always thought of this pup as a true fighter. From the time she was hardly 6 weeks old…she gave 110% to everything. From the tennis ball to the first bird she carried to the first live flyer she had! I have always related to Torch because she reminded me of myself as a little girl….always into trouble and very competitive! Torch would never let anyone keep the tennis ball….Gayle would let out a ‘hooray’ when Hailey caught the ball and would not give in to Torch as she practically pinned her to the ground as she came of the hill! She would ‘steal’ the ball from anyone who gave her the chance! If Gayle took her eye off Torch for a small minute….Torch was into the creek and covered with mud but smiling all the way! We’d go field training and Gayle would be so frustrated because Torch made the most beautiful mark but would ‘cheat’ coming back……but she looked so good doing it !
“More than anything, Torch is her mother’s daughter…..in my mind that is the hardest part of this crisis….when you look at Torch you see a young Flyer with no fear and more determination than most goldens. She has the most wonderful disposition and that has come thru in spades as she has battled the last six months…to watch her with IVs, needles, et all…it was mind boggling but not to Torch..she knew it was to help her and she did whatever had to be done!
“Even as Torch is feeling less than 100%, she still amazes me…..today we threw birds for her and she did not want to stop….we threw tennis balls for her and she did not want to stop….we walked in the woods and she did not want to stop….again and again she gives 110%. She is my strength as I continue the battle of my life….Torch will never give up!!!” –Dana
From Linda Daffron
“My Torch story . . . there was something very special about the Flying litter. They arrived at a point in our life when we were busy going back and forth to Gayle’s house for lessons with Riley and Annie. I don’t know whether it was because we enjoyed raising our two Gaylan’s pups so much, or what, but the thought of being present just after this litter was born and while they grew up was very, very exciting. To share in this excitement was almost more than my daughter Jenny could stand. There is nothing she enjoyed more than finally finishing a lesson with Gayle (whom she adores), knowing that she was going to get some time with those gorgeous pups!
“While it was sad to see the pups leave one by one, there was a certain thrill knowing that someone was going to stay. There’s nothing better than watching one of these dogs grow–and we had just that opportunity with Torch. It was amazing to see how this little ball of fur grew into such a gorgeous dog. Week by week, as we drove home, Jenny would tell me about all of the new things that Torch was doing, and how she couldn’t believe how big she was getting—and how she had all of these wonderful ideas of how she could sneak Torch out of the house into our car.
“I’ve always thought that Gayle had some of the most beautiful dogs I have ever seen, and as she grew, Torch was no different. She seemed to become a member of ‘the gang’ with a style and a grace that was all her own. She usually had a different ‘style’ hair than the rest because of something she had done during the week, but she didn’t seem to mind or care. She had the grace of a young dog so eager to learn and explore.
“More than anything, I was amazed to see just how beautifully she became a member of the family. She didn’t realize what big shoes she had to fill, she just grew into them naturally. Whatever the other dogs did, she did too. Whatever the other dogs tried, she tried too. She held her own. She made certain she got her share of tennis balls and scratches behind the ears. Each week, it was heart warming to see the interaction between the dogs.
“There’s a special bond that Jenny has had with Torch, probably because she had the privilege of watching her grow. It was a gift that doesn’t come along too often in life and one that I know she will always cherish. Those of us who shared in this time will all cherish it. And even today, as we keep Torch in our thoughts and prayers and pray for miracles, we recognize what a blessing she is and how lucky we are to be a part of her world.
“Torch, if Gayle reads this story to you, know that you are a lucky girl to have been chosen to spend your days with Gayle and Andy and the girls. I know you are loved, and love is the greatest gift that we can share with one another.
“We are praying for a miracle for you little one. Puppy tail wags and big sloppy kisses are coming your way from Riley and Annie too. Be well.” — Linda
From Maggie Lukiewicz
“I can think of a few things and will do this later when I get home from the trial. But the one thing that really stands out for me, is when Torchy was just a few days old. She was Miss Black 🙂 and was such a beautiful little girl. Rosie and I were sitting around the whelping box admiring her. Remember Rosie???
“Several weeks later, Gayle’s friend Pluis flew in from CA to evaluate the litter. It was such a pleasure being around Pluis and listening to what she had to say about the structure of these pups. Torchy stood on that grooming table and her tail never never stopped. We were all laughing. That’s just a quick version of that day. More to come!!” — Maggie
From John Runnels
“I have only had the pleasure of meeting Torch once – during the October 2002 Nationals in Orlando. Torch introduced me to the sport of tracking. And a very impressive introduction it was!
“Torch was a little over one year old. Orlando may have even been her first TD trial. She passed with flying colors. The track had been laid in brush of varying height, in a large field that had once been a cattle pasture, surrounded by trees. The morning was hot and humid, with the sun shining. Torch initially took off like a shot on the first leg. But before long she stopped, sniffing and sniffing all around. Many of the spectators thought she had lost her way. But, after a minute or so, she evidently decided she had done enough sniffing, and then took off with confidence again. We later learned that the track-layer had flushed some quail at the same spot earlier in the day.
“Torch then led the way into taller and taller grass, without any further delays. The spectators could soon see only Gayle’s head following behind. After a while, the grass became so tall that we couldn’t even see Gayle’s head. The judges soon signaled that Torch had found the glove, and Torch proudly led the way back to the starting point, head high and tail wagging. It was plain for all to see that Torch had enjoyed her morning thoroughly, and had made her momma very proud of her.” –John
“One of my funniest memories of Torch will be her second Junior Hunter leg. Torch is one of the most talented cheaters in the world. She has a mind for geometry and can figure out the fastest land route to the bird in a split second. I’ve never figured out why she does this given she is a superb swimmer, but she does.
“The second part of the water test at this JH was across a short piece of water at the edge of a pond and up onto the land. Unfortunately, there was a land route to the bird, too. Although a large growth of trees blocked the view of this dry path, the dogs got to the line by walking down it. So, I knew that Torch would know that she could go around the trees.
“When I saw the test, I asked the judge if a dog could pass if they didn’t get wet. To my relief he said that as long as they got the bird, they would pass but he couldn’t imagine a dog not getting wet. I just smiled.
“The birds went down and sure enough, Torch exited ‘stage left’ rather than taking off across the pond. She hightailed it down the bank, behind the grove of trees, and out into the field. She found the bird in seconds and without a glance at the pond, came flying back to me. The judge was laughing so hard he couldn’t take the bird from me.
“Torch’s cheating drove me nuts for a while but we have spent quite a bit of time working on it and, frankly, I don’t care if she cheats for the rest of her life :-).” –Gayle
From Ann Marie Cioffi
“Although this Torch story was told to me by Fran Roozen, as opposed to being witnessed firsthand, it has always remained in the forefront of my mind as one of Torch’s spectacular episodes, and an example of her talent and abilities. It seems that Torch was born, among other things, to track. With a very young Torch, horrendously hot temperatures, and very little tracking training behind them, Gayle decided ‘Oh, what the heck’ and entered Torch in the TD test at last year’s National in Florida, not really expecting a lot. But it seems that no one told Torch it was too hot to go out there and perform her own little tracking miracle, and in true Torch fashion, she just went ahead and did the unexpected, earning her TD on her very first attempt at it — what a great little gal!!
“But Torch’s greatest gift to the world is her caring and compassion . . . whenever I would lead her from the car to the line in our field training, as anxious as she was to get going, Torch seemed to just *know* that I have trouble with my footing on uneven terrain, and always took her time, putting aside her own desire to hurry up and get there, to be sure I was OK as we walked down to that line. Torch is truly a Golden inspiration, in all ways.” –Ann Marie
From Lise Pratt
“There is no one thing that sticks out in my mind about Torch, just a smile on my face whenever I think about the times I’ve spent with her. Like it was yesterday, I remember the moment Torch was born… that glint in Gayle’s eye. Gayle told me over and over ‘Don’t make decisions, just make observations,’ but I knew that first night that Torch had found her home.
“I spent a lot of time watching the Flying litter grow up since I was hoping to get one of the pups. Every time I visited the litter I saw Torch do something that made me say, ‘What a puppy!!!’ I’m new to the world of dogs by most people’s standards, but anyone who has spent any time with Torch can’t help but see her strongest suit – HEART! As Linda said, she gives everything 110%.
“She’s a girl with tremendous drive, and at the same time is incredibly trusting and sweet. One of my favorite things she does is when you are sitting down she’ll gently nose you, sit up on her hind legs, cross her front paws over your arm or leg waiting, yet not demanding, to be pet. She is the gentle soul of Clovebrook House.
“Last January, Marcy and I brought all the dogs to Long Island for a few days and I had the pleasure of having Torch stay with me. Believe me, Gayle and Andy almost didn’t get her back (but I knew they knew where I lived and I didn’t have time to pack and move) Although Torch loves to DO anything, she is also a champion cuddler and would always displace Goose from his spot in bed.
“She has a special place in my heart and always will!” — Lise Pratt