Remembering Newhart

Love Comes On Four Legs

May 2, 2011 by

I love reading about the pets whose presence in our lives combined companionship with guidance, silliness with responsibility. And when they die, we miss them, mourn them and tell stories about them.

My dog Newhart came into our lives as a Guide Dog Puppy which my teenage daughter raised as her 4H project.  He quickly revealed himself to be an extraordinary spirit garbed as a Golden Retriever. Even the other parents of kids who were raising guide dog puppies admitted that Newhart was different. He was smart and goofy, totally tuned to whoever was with him, and a love magnet beyond any I’ve encountered since.

We were good 4H members, following the rules that allowed puppies to develop the right social skills without spoiling them in ways that would hinder their later life of service. He didn’t get on furniture. He didn’t catch tennis balls or Frisbees. And he learned to relieve on command, something guide dogs must do so their blind companions can trust them when they are in harness.

But when he was rejected from further training due to an incipient spot of arthritis in his hips – something that would have shortened his years of service – he came back to us as a ‘Career Change Dog.’ His new career was ‘Pet’ – our pet – and while we didn’t abandon all the training of his puppyhood, we allowed him to develop his own idiosyncrasies.

The first time we threw a ball for him it was akin to watching a master switch being turned on a light board. His whole body became alert, his eyes watched the arc of the throw and he bounded after it with joy, bringing it back to us after we established the whole concept of fetch.

He sang to the theme music of All Things Considered, the NPR afternoon show. It took me months to figure out that the combination of keening and moaning emanating from my dog every half hour between 4:00 and 6:30 pm was actually accompaniment to the station’s theme. I admit I exploited him a bit, recording the theme and then letting him sing along for whoever was present. He always obliged. I liked to think the treat at the end wasn’t the inducement, just something that was part of a favorite activity.

We have many Newhart stories we still tell and I think of him daily when I look at the small ‘shrine’ I have on a windowsill next to my phone. Two small statues of Goldens, two photos – one with one of his beloved stuffed toys – we called them his ‘babies’ – and the best thing of all, his bronzed Squeaky Christmas Tree, one of his all-time favorite toys.  It has real heft to it and has a goofy quality that matches his essence and makes me laugh the same way he did.




About the Author

Rebecca Crichton Has Written 40 Articles For Us!

I try to stay aware of one main concept: We see things through different lenses. We get caught in our own belief systems and most of us are pretty attached to being right. I am one of those inveterate Life Long Learners. I like new ideas, new experiences, new people, new challenges.
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1 Comment

  1. As someone who knew Newhart, I have my own memories. My favorite was when this big dog finally got to be carried around like a little one. While swimming in the lake, he would simply paddle over to your daughter to be held, as he should be.

    I love that you bronzed his squeaky toy.

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