Legacies of Love


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Golden retrievers bring the magic. Their glistening fur, big smiles, and wagging tails have a knack for prompting smiles everywhere they go. Smart, eager to please, and deeply intuitive, they seem to always gravitate toward the person who needs them most. Despite the infinite happiness and love our dogs bestow upon us, we seem to never be ready for the sadness of saying goodbye nor the weight of the grief we are left with. Acknowledging our grief and honoring our beloved pets eventually allows us to move forward, take action to help others, and keep our hearts open to welcome another dog when the time is right.

The golden community lost several beautiful and special goldens over the last few years, including Abby, a healer of hearts. Our Fall/Winter 2021 cover dog Apple. And Scout, who gave out free hugs and inspired others to pass it on.



Jennifer knew diving into rescue work after the loss of her dog would help her heart heal and let her know when the time was right to adopt again. When a plea went out to help a dog who had been picked up while wandering in the high desert, Jennifer and her husband stepped up to foster her.

They weren’t sure what to expect at first, as the dog was underweight and covered in mange and ticks. They took her home and cleaned her up, fed her, and tried to make her feel welcome. Then, in a touching moment, when Jennifer’s husband sat down on the couch, the dog jumped right up next to him and promptly fell asleep. “That was it,” Jennifer says. “In that moment, I knew she was meant to be with us.” They named her Abby.

It took Abby a year before she would look anyone in the eye, and she would hide out among the bushes to keep a safe distance. With time, Abby grew more comfortable, confident, and understood that she was home. Eventually her personality was in full bloom, and her intuitive nature made her the perfect unofficial “therapy” dog for Jennifer, who lives with MS. Jennifer says Abby helped her navigate life with MS. “Abby became my heart.”

Together, they did outreach for rescue and MS, where Abby always seemed to seek out the people who needed her love the most.

Abby’s favorite toy was a plushy bone affectionately named “Skanky Bone.” One of her favorite things to do was greet everyone with Skanky Bone in her mouth, earning her the nickname The Golden Greeter. She loved the beach, car rides, and learned how to deliver gifts during the holidays.

“My favorite time with Abby was in the morning,” relays Jennifer. “I’m the first one up, so she would get up too and bound down the stairs to be with me. I would meet her at the bottom of the stairs with two cookies, and then we would watch the sunrise and welcome the morning.”


When Abby passed away, Jennifer was by her side. “I didn’t know how I would breathe without Abby. But I felt a responsibility to tell her mommy was okay, and she could go. No dog will ever replace her. I honor her every day by being present. I enjoy our dog Skye and our life, and I slow down because of Abby. My heart grew bigger because of her. It was such a privilege to be her mom. I am so grateful for her.”

“When you receive a diagnosis, be super kind and gentle with yourself. Reach out for help, seek proper medical advice, get a second opinion, and listen to your dog. Enjoy and love them. A diagnosis is a very personal journey, do not compare your journey to others. Focus your energy on your dog, on enjoying and loving them.”

—Jennifer, Abby’s mom

Apple. PHOTO COURTESY @apple_thegolden

Apple @apple_thegolden

Apple was 14 months old when her forever family welcomed her home. Her joyful personality was infectious from day one. She was happy, playful, and charismatic. Her human sister thought it would be fun to give Apple an Instagram account and share the joy she brought to their family with others. Over time, Apple became a pup star. As her Instagram following grew, Apple became known for her fashionista looks.

Apple was more than a style icon—she was a canine athlete who excelled in agility and nose work, earning more than 60 AKC titles. She was a therapy dog, a commercial actor, and a model who walked the runway at L.A. Fashion Week. Apple and her family used her social media platforms to inform, educate, fundraise, and most importantly spread joy.

In May of 2023, an OncoK9 blood test for early detection of cancer returned a cancer signal detected result. After multiple diagnostic tests to try and locate the cancer, there were no definitive findings. Apple continued to enjoy her favorite activities and explore beautiful places until October 31, 2023, when a CT scan found a mass on Apple’s heart, with metastasis to the lungs, likely hemangiosarcoma. The oncologist warned that Apple’s prognosis was poor, even with chemo and/or radiation.

Apple’s mom shares, “Getting a hemangiosarcoma diagnosis feels like you have a guillotine above your dog’s head. I lost my first golden Roxy to this disease. She had no symptoms and suddenly passed away overnight.”

“In my experience, traditional oncologists tend to be very fatalistic. If you are faced with a canine cancer diagnosis, don’t let them steal your hope. With the guidance of my integrative veterinarian and integrative oncologist, I was able to make treatment choices to give Apple the best quality of life for as long as possible.”

—Apple’s mom

Apple was fortunate to have her treatment guided by some of the best holistic veterinarians and experts in the country. The goal was to give her a good quality of life for as long as possible. Although Apple was retired from all of her canine sports when she was diagnosed, she continued to adventure and enjoy life, remaining mostly asymptomatic.

On January 24, 2024, six weeks shy of her 11th birthday, Apple lost her hemangiosarcoma battle.

In January 2023, the Morris Animal Foundation launched a multiyear, multimillion dollar Hemangiosarcoma Initiative to dedicate resources to hemangiosarcoma research. Apple’s family created a fundraiser in support of that initiative. Apple’s family also created a tribute fund to support Canine Cancer Alliance, a charitable foundation that funds and publicizes cutting edge canine cancer treatments. To date, those funds have raised more than $5,500. (Links in sidebar.)

Apple’s mom honors her legacy today by sharing her story and cancer journey, supporting and educating other canine cancer warriors, and fundraising for canine cancer research. “My hope is that one day hemangiosarcoma will become less common and won’t be a death sentence.”


Scout @scoutgoldenretriever

Scout was just a puppy when Melissa and her family welcomed him home, and he was loved from the very start. A year later, Scout and Melissa began training as a therapy team. Once they received their certification they jumped into therapy work, paws first. Scout was a natural. He loved people, and people loved him.

Scout was extroverted and silly, full of love and always brought laughter and joy to those around him. He loved traveling with his family, running on the beach and taking walks. Melissa shared those adventures and special moments on her blog and Scout’s social media.

“Scout possessed an extraordinary love for people and had a remarkable ability to intuitively sense who needed his love and comforting hugs. His unconditional love knew no bounds; he embraced everyone without judgment, leaving an imprint of love and acceptance wherever he went. His joy knew no bounds when he was out and about, eagerly greeting people with hugs and soaking up their affection in return. He had a remarkable ability to spread love wherever he went, leaving an indelible mark on everyone he encountered.”

In 2021, after returning from a family trip, Scout fell ill. He was diagnosed with cardiac hemosarcomia and passed away shortly after. He was only 6 years old. Melissa has been very open on her sites about the shock, anger, and torturous heartache she felt after losing Scout. To other pet parents experiencing a loss, she offers this advice, “Embracing grief after losing a beloved pet is not only normal but essential for healing. Finding a supportive community that understands and validates our feelings allows us to grieve authentically. Rushing the process only hinders our ability to honor the deep bond we shared. Remember, it’s okay to mourn, to talk about our emotions, and to seek solace in those who understand. And while it’s natural to feel hesitant, let’s not deny ourselves the opportunity to love again. Each pet brings unique joy and lessons into our lives, honoring the past while making room for new bonds to form.” Melissa continues to honor Scout’s legacy by sharing his story, talking about him often, and hosting Scout Hugs Day. She also adopted a rescue dog named Archie. “His presence has brought light back into my life, reminding me that every soul deserves a second chance, and every wagging tail holds the promise of new beginnings. I rescued him, but in turn he’s also rescued me.”


“Embracing grief after losing a beloved pet is not only normal but essential for healing. Rushing the process only hinders our ability to honor the deep bond we shared. Remember, it’s okay to mourn, to talk about our emotions, and to seek solace in those who understand. And while it’s natural to feel hesitant, let’s not deny ourselves the opportunity to love again. Each pet brings unique joy & lessons into our lives, honoring the past while making room for new bonds to form.”

—Melissa, Scout’s mom

Scout Hugs Day

“During our travels, Scout started randomly walking up to people and putting his head between their legs and standing there until they gave him affection. This was the birth of #scouthugs. On February 13th he wore his Free Hugs bandana and Scout Hugs Day was born. In honor of the very first day he wore his iconic sign seven years ago, let’s make this day a tribute to the joy he brought into our lives. Join us in creating a wave of love and memories. This day is about encouraging our community to spread the joy of canine affection throughout their community! I encourage people to share their favorite memories of Scout, hug their furry friends a little tighter, wear their ‘free hugs’ bandana, and extend acts of kindness to those around their community. Whether it’s volunteering at a local animal shelter, donating to a pet charity, or simply sharing Scout’s story with others, every gesture honors his legacy and spreads love in his memory.”

Golden Retrievers and Cancer

Hemangiosarcoma is the cancer that most commonly afflicts golden retrievers. It also afflicts other breeds, as well as mixed breeds. A dog dies from hemangiosarcoma in the United States every two minutes. Despite this sobering statistic, there has been little research into hemangiosarcoma, because it is a cancer that rarely occurs in humans.1

Learn More And Get Involved

The Morris Foundation Lifetime Golden Retriever Study


Canine Cancer Alliance


Tribute Funds Created in Memory of Apple


The Morris Foundation Hemangiosarcoma Initiative


Alicia Bailey
Alicia Bailey
Alicia Bailey is a writer specializing in animal welfare topics and issues. Prior to writing full time she spent 13+ years working in rescue and animal sheltering, holding leadership roles in both. She has worked with numerous local and national non-profit organizations including Best Friends Animal Society, NKLA, The Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Coachella Valley Animal Campus, and many others. Alicia is mom to 3 uniquely abled dogs, including @LittleBoogieShoes & @Bust.A.Moves.


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