My senior year of High school, Bette Midler’s, Wind beneath My wings, was popular. So popular that for graduation it was sung. I remember listening to the song during graduation, of course knowing the lyrics well, feeling emotional and thinking so many people who helped me to get me to where I was, and how it literally took an army of people to be the wind beneath my wings. I remember friends being extremely emotional with this song as one person came to mind and how that person helped them so very much. At the time, I wondered what that would feel like to have one person who had been so apart of your life, that they had been there for literally everything and always just stayed in the shadows so you could shine.
Never in a million years did I ever think, ever comprehend that a dog would fill that roll. I mean, how could a dog do that? That’s just crazy.
In February 2008, Brad and I flew to California to meet Costner, a Golden Retriever. Little did I know what would become of that. The meeting was simple. I was hesitant spending so much money on a dog and could only hope my hunch that a dog would do so much for him would work. So the meeting was to see if Brad and Costner could hit it off. Of course even saying that is so laughable because what little boy and what dog wouldn’t hit it off? But there is where the magic started.
Brad was an 9 year old quiet, apprehensive little boy. He didn’t say much, but was pretty intent on meeting a dog that was going to be his. He practices learning the commands the dog had been trained for and there we waited. We waited for Costner to be brought out. We politely visited with the breeders and then there he was. Still a little wet from a bath, but standing tall eager to say “hi”. I’m pretty sure I called out to him to grab his head, ruffle those velvety ears, and love on him. Love him in hopes that maybe he could love us back.
About at this point Tim, the breeder has a handful of steak and is giving a piece to Brad to give to Costner. Again, what dog won’t eagerly take steak?? But it was more than that. Costner didn’t snap at the meat, he politely waited for an apprehensive little boy to release the steak before gingerly taking it from him. That was enough for Brad, he didn’t worry about a big dogs teeth by his tiny little fingers. Quickly Brad was giving Costner commands to “sit” and give him some more steak. I sat and watched as this chapter in life was unfolding. The breeders sat in awe as if pixie dust had been sprinkled over the two. We were all mesmerized in watching just a boy and his dog. We sat in silence for a moment, no one wanting to break the magic that was unfolding.
A Mother’s hope and dream is for the success of her children. Brad needed a miracle in his life, and my hope and dream was in believing a dog could do what I couldn’t for him. With a lot of faith and hope, I was trying my hardest to not get “too attached”. Pretty quickly the trainers were invited to meet us, and more specifically Brad. To see how the dog they had been training was responding to such a young boy. Even they were shocked. It wasn’t just a boy playing with a dog throwing a ball, or walking on a leash. It was a boy giving commands with an expectation of a result. And a dog eagerly responding.
And so it began from there. Of course there were a few bumps in the road, a transition to having a constant companion by your side but the unconditional love was amazing. Costner officially joined our family February of 2008. He was a young 11 months old at the time.
We soon joined a local dog club for additional training classes and soon after a 4-H club for Dogs where Brad and Costner could compete at the local and state fair. It was almost unfair how these two bonded and worked together. It was quickly noted and wondered by many if Brad even saw Costner as a Dog? It was evident that Costner never believed he was a dog and just ran with his boy.
The years have gone by and both boys have grown a little bit. The once short little 9 year old now stands over six feet tall. A college student, working towards a degree in Computer Science and the once young pup now with greying muzzle aged as well. But their companionship still the same. Neither one seeing the other as anything but an unconditional friend, an equal… not boy or dog but just one, together.
Through the years we’ve all had our share of love and attention of Costner. Living in a house full of boys, I’ve always been completely out numbered. Costner was just one of my boys with the same expectations of good manners, education, and treating others kindly as I had for my other boys. Except, I was the alpha. Brad never took that role with Costner. Something Costner needed. Pack order is important. As a Mom, I fill the Alpha role well. Costner responded to that and thrived. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me. He loved his boy, they were two peas in a pod and he knew his place was beside his boy. But that didn’t stop him from having a watchful eye over me.
Costner knew I would rarely ask for help, and would always attempt to do everything myself. Even when I shouldn’t. He followed me from room to room, always by my feet, always near by. He knew he could come to me for anything, and I’d be there for him. I knew when I let life get me going to fast, that Costner would be there to slow me down. It never failed, after any surgery or illness there he was, within inches of me always. Always worried when I’d get up on my own, always cautious of what I might need. He was my Hero. My hero for what he gave to Brad and to me for that unconditional watchful eye. He was my strength as a mom, to fight for my sons when they needed it and to sit back and watch when they needed to learn. He was on so many occasions over the years, the wind beneath my wings.
As time ages us all, unfortunately dogs age differently than people do. We always knew at some point we would have to say “Good-bye” but honestly, never believing it would come.
Costner fought a hard battle silently, never showing an ounce of discomfort, never showing anything but devout devotion to the family he loved. Only a short time before his passing did we learn he had lymphoma an unfortunate disease that is far too common in Golden’s. Costner’s lymphoma had developed into advanced stages. A silent killer but Costner, in true form, never let us know he was struggling. Even his exams showed little sign of larger problems.
Costner went quietly to a peaceful place on October 5, 2017. He only needed a nudge. He loved his family to the end, especially his boy. Even more concerned with their sorrow and grief than his own circumstances. Giving loves to the end.
Costner, you are my hero. There will never be another one like you and oh how we miss you terribly.