She was 7 weeks when I picked her out at a dog adoption event in April of 2003. Carmelo was 7 lbs of pure energy. "How big do you think she'll be" I asked the agent. She replied..."oh about 40 lbs". I knew Carmelo would be bigger. She's 1/2 Golden Retriever and 1/2 German Shepherd...a perfect mix if you ask me. Her coloring was that of a Shepherd but her ears and her fur were soft and fluffy like a Golden. She personified the best characteristics of both breeds. She grew up to be about 85 pounds.
I was going to name her LeBron...but I opted for Carmelo. The day I brought her home Carmelo Anthony was on the cover of Sports Illustrated (for winning the NCAA title as a freshman at Syracuse). Plus her coloring was like a caramel. It just made sense. Every one, including me thought my hometown team the Detroit Pistons would draft Carmelo at #2...but no, they took a guy named Darko. But the dog's name stuck and it suited her. She had a guys name and she was a bit of a tomboy...but she was my lady from Day 1.
Carmelo basically trained herself. She taught herself to sit on our very first day together. I bought the book, "puppies for dummies"...but Carmelo didn't need me to teach her anything. She figured it out herself. She taught me. When I first got her in the Spring of 03 we were living on Pine Lake. I decided, any dog of mine was going to be a swimmer. So at about 12 weeks I took her down to the waters edge. She was very timid at first. She tentatively dipped her paws in the water. She seemed afraid. So I picked her up and placed her deeper in the water, about chest deep. She screeched and flipped out and gave me a look that said "wtf, dude". But she was never afraid of the water after that. Within minutes she was swimming way off shore...in water over her head... chasing her beloved tennis ball. Pine Lake, Upper Long Lake, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior...she loved 'em all. She also swam a bunch in the rivers in Colorado and the Ocean in California too.
Ball...you better believe we played ball. Every day, twice a day for almost 13 years. When she was younger...Carmelo never ran out of gas. Hour after hour of chuck-it play just to tire her out. Of course Wagner Park and Rio Grande Park in Aspen were her favorites. We also used to sneak into the finely manicured baseball diamond at Orchard Lake St. Mary's in Michigan. A great field...totally fenced in. We never got caught..and we never left anything behind...the 100% pick-up rule was in effect at all times. Carmelo and I found fields and playgrounds and open spaces everywhere we went. She loved to be off-leash and I loved to watch her run free.
Road trippin'. Oh yeah. Carmelo and I spent over 600 nights in hotels and motels together during her life. We spent an entire Summer in the Limelight in Aspen...the old Limelight. By the time we checked out in September...Carmelo was loved by everyone and she definitely had the run of the house. One time we were checking into the Hotel Nikko...a pretty fancy hotel in SF. The Japanese lady behind the desk was giving us the stink eye. I asked "is there a problem?". The clerk politely replied "the Hotel Nikko has a 40 lb weight limit for dogs". Then she asked "how much does your dog weigh?". Without skipping a beat I said... "40" and off we went to our posh room. Or the time we spent a long weekend in downtown L.A. at the venerable old L.A. Athletic Club established in 1880. By this point we had snagged a very official looking service dog vest off the internet. The LAAC had a strict "no pets" policy. I talked them into accepting us. By the end of our stay...the entire hotel staff was on a first-name basis with Carmie. They even went out and scored a bag of treats for her so every time we went in or out of the LAAC...it was a treatski for Carmelo. Or the time we went camping in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. We found a sweet little make shift campsite in the wilderness not far off the road. It was awesome until a large heard of mule deer started to charge us. Carmelo got real mean real fast and saved the day. I think she probably still has tree sap stuck in her fur from that trip. All those hotel nights and never one issue, complaint or problem She never even barked, not once.
Hiking...she loved it. The Ute Trail, Smuggler, Cathedral Lake we did 'em all. It never mattered where we were headed...Carmelo was always raring to go. Her tail always wagging and that pink tongue sticking out rakishly.
POWDER HOUND? No question. Carmie loved the fresh snow even more than me. She would leap and bound into the freshies...chasing her ball into the drifts. I could tell how much snow had fallen up top...based on how high the snow measured up on her frame. I called it the Carmelo-meter...and it was actually pretty accurate. She loved Aspen and got an energy surge whenever we returned. In fact she seemed to be doing quite well lately. She had been in very high spirits until a few days ago. But heart-breakingly time caught up to her. Carmelo's liver began to fail. A few steroid shots and some pills gave me some hope. Maybe she could recover and continue a high quality of life. But then she began to reject food. She even turned down cheese-burgers. This from a dog who never saw a treat she didn't want to devour. I had to do the right thing for her. I had to let her go.
Carmelo brought out the best in me. I loved her unconditionally and she loved me right back. We were a team. She was my constant companion. We had a deep, deep bond that will never be broken. She was an athlete, a friend and a cuddle buddy...and she never once talked back. She was always super-excited to see me when I came home. In fact home became...anywhere that Carmelo was. Whether it was a sh*tty roadside Best Western in Iowa or a ocean front surf shack rental in La Jolla or an old Victorian in Pacific Heights. We always managed to find shelter together. Wherever Carmie was... it felt like home and thats where I wanted to be...Its where I needed to be.
As she got older Carmelo had a few ailments. Hip displacia eventually slowed her down. And she had a giant tumor on her back. We got the thing removed once and she sported a scar the length my forearm on her back for the past 2 years. The lump eventually grew back and probably contributed to her ultimate demise. Carmelo was a strong , athletic, very, very smart, hugely loyal, active partner. She was extremely sweet and always happy, which made her an excellent companion. She was my lady and my best friend. She never, ever gave me any trouble until the day she died. She gave me everything she had until she couldn't give anymore.
I will always love her and she'll always be a part of me...the good part. I can only pray that her gentle sweet soul will rest comfortably. Our time together was awesome and I am greatful for such a phenomenal dog. She was my best friend.
Now part of me is gone forever.
Rest in Peace Carmelo
I am Carmelo and Carmelo is me.