Godiva Ghiradelli Maerkle
4/26/2006 - 11/9/2019Our journey began almost fourteen years ago, as we traveled home from a relaxing family vacation on Hilton Head Island. During the car ride I remember a phone call I shared with a dear friend of mine, Chris, describing her recent adoption of a chocolate lab puppy (Milton), from Becky’s Kennels (a breeder who coincidentally, had children we taught at Laurel School District). Hearing that her newest litter contained Labrador retriever puppies combined with our desire to expand our family and surprise Gabrielle for her sixth birthday, we knew we simply had to make an appointment to view these pups.
I remember the day as if it were yesterday, as Aunt Di and Lauren watched Gabrielle (to ensure the surprise), Autumn Faith, Bill, and I went to meet a yellow lab puppy. However, much to our surprise, our tiny, three year old, Autumn Faith bypassed the yellow labs, and proceeded to make eye-contact with a small, roly-poly brown bundle of fur in the corner of the outdoor fencing. Immediately, I noticed the smile on Autumn’s face as her big brown eyes caught a glance of your vivid, green ones. The connection was instantaneous. As Autumn started to gently play with you, my mind raced between thoughts that, this is not at all what Bill and I intended for the girls (as the research I completed during the last week indicated “yellow” labs make the best pets for a family with young children), besides we were just inquiring about the potential of adopting one of the newest pups, we were not prepared to bring one home today, nor could I envision brown puffs of fur all over our newly installed wood floors.
Yet the next thing I knew, there you were on my lap, driving home in my arms, with those beautiful green-eyes peering, hesitantly into mine, appearing a tad bit shy, and bewildered as to what was actually happening. I recall hearing Becky say, “goodbye” as we pulled out of the gravel driveway, and thanking us for providing a good home for this dog, who was previously not adopted. Personally, I was nervous about taking care of a toddler, a five year old, my Mom who was failing in health, and now a puppy. I sat silently for a moment, and looked down, through your eyes, I could sense reassurance, happiness, and curiosity as to what this journey for you and our family meant. Well, I stated to Bill, as we heard Autumn’s small voice coming from her back car seat, repeatedly, attempting to cheerfully say, “Ghiradelli” (after her favorite ice-cream shop at Downtown Disney), she chose her. She typically does not like dogs, but she chose this clumsy, squatty, brown creature to come home with us on July 26! At that time, I did not know Godiva, how your life would impact and become so intertwined with ours.
You next, met, Gabrielle, your “person” in this life and immediately jumped to greet her. You endured her five-year old arms grasping and smooching you with unrelenting excitement, as she realized you were hers. Recognizing, she too could not clearly say, “Ghiradelli” at the time, your new name, with Lauren’s suggestion, became Godiva (in honor of Gizmo and Gadget, and of course chocolate). Again, I caught a glance of your eyes, peering with great love at Gabrielle and solidifying as they shined, that this is your name and that you were home!
Through those eyes you have expressed and taught us so many things over the years! Your unbounding energy burst through those beautiful greens, as you would interact with the girls that first summer, learning how to navigate the wooden playground so you could stay in step with the girls, scaling the spiral staircase with your short legs so that you could catch the scent of what Bill was cooking for dinner and hopefully procure a taste, and sprawling your blunderous, graceless body into your personal baby pool to cool off. As you grew, your strength and spirit did as well, and we were worried that you could accidentally hurt the girls, as you chased them up and down the driveway as they scootered and biked. Looking in those eyes, I recognized that you already knew to slow down and precisely how to be a gentle giant, as you would carefully grasp, Autumn Faith’s tiny arm and retrieve her back to the safety of your home. I noted the thrill, encouragement, and excitement in your eyes, as Gabrielle and Autumn would attempt new tasks or embark on new endeavors. It was almost, as if they were directly communicating, “It is alright---you got this!” Joining them on sled rides, first down Mr. and Mrs. Wray’s small hill, then at North Boundary, continuing as their feats and hills became increasingly more difficult at Moraine, etc. You were there by their sides, relishing in and adding to their joy and our memories as a family! As their boundaries grew, so did yours. You would run, side by side with them as they practiced cross country, exploring new fields, new smells, new sights and new pathways. You loved venturing to the pond in North Boundary for a quick swim and run, followed by sharing a bowl of ice-cream at the Cranberry Creamery; to Erie for a day soaking in the sun, rolling in the rocky sand, and swimming for endless hours in the lake, followed by, none other, than an ice-cream cone at Sara’s; or a car ride to North Park with the wind blowing on your ears, to rustle in the colorful leaves on a crisp fall day, take yet one last dip in the warm water of the lake prior to winter, and again, followed by an ice-cream treat from Wildwood. (Grandma definitely had some influence on you)! Often our Easter Sunday traditions would bring us to one of your favorite parks. Not only would you join the girls in their egg hunts, through the trees, but attached to their new bikes and scooters, respectively, you would lead and pull them around obstacle courses, up and down hills, and steady them as they discovered how to enjoy the ride life offered in that moment! As you grew, so did your appetite for food, friendship, and water. You were such an opportunist. ANYTHING was fair game! You loved, as we did, entertaining family and friends. You could sense the growing excitement in the air, as we planned for special events, celebrations, and the holidays, associating them immediately with the freedom to pounce on new folks with a full-fledge, exuberant hello (never passing your “four on the floor” classes), as well as delectable dining opportunities. Your eyes radiated this love, as you welcomed guests over the years.
You also took these times (often without being ask) to taste new recipes and sneak food whenever presented. Many of our memories and laughter are associated with your adoration and unending hankering for food! We often questioned the order of your love: is it family, food, then water?, or food, family, then water?…or…Depending on the moment…your affection would deviate slightly toward the most advantageous. Although the most memorable of your food escapades, without a doubt, remains the $55.00 dollar rich, decadent, chocolate Tulios cake you consumed while at the Outer Banks, when Jerry left it on the kitchen table (at a vantage point those eyes could not miss), I would be remiss without mentioning the entire package of chicken from T-Bones (foil, bones, and all) Caroline brought over, on one of the many summer swim days with friends; nor, the countless snacks, sandwiches, apples, and cookies you would steal from the girls and their friends as they played in the house. You have been such the opportunist, that you managed to find treats, no matter where they were or how they were intended for use. Not only would you steal the peanut butter and seeds from the bird feeders, Gabrielle would hang in the front trees to observe the cardinals, woodpeckers, and blue jays, you would knock the pumpkins down the front steps (after we would decorate for fall) to eat the pulp and stems and run around with the cornstalks in your mouth. Once you even tackled Autumn Faith’s snowman to the ground in the front yard to devour the carrot nose. Most recently, you snuck under the Christmas tree to gain access to a goody bag Uncle Dave and Aunt MaryAnn brought for both you and Butterscotch, on Autumn Faith’s sixteenth birthday. And this past July, you managed to sneak past MaryAnn and a secured cooler lid, to obtain a chocolate ho-ho cake; I guess you thought it was your birthday cake! In those moments, when caught in the act, your eyes would express, this devious notion, recognizing this may not be the wisest, but I am going to push the boundaries and literally, “eat up life!” Another valuable lesson you have taught us through the years: celebrate life to your fullest capacity.
Sometimes this consumption got you in trouble in terms of health. I recall as the summer drew to an end during your second year of life, when water must have been first on the list, you drank some of the pool closing chemicals, causing your stomach to twist and your esophagus to burn. We were so scared we were going to lose you, as was Dr. Frank, but still during this difficult time you managed to teach us something. Your eyes expressed, not to give-up, but to hold-on and sustain faith. Through your sickly, glazed covered greens, we could still sense hope and after several weeks, you proved us wrong and were back to your antics! As the girls’ school, sports, and activities, expanded you would relish the times sitting in the yard, listening for the school bus to arrive. Knowing it would bring the prospect of playing “soccer ball” (where you would actually run and kick the ball with your front legs to each girl), hockey (where you loved obtaining the orange round ball) tug-time (with an infinity towards work gloves and socks the most), or simple belly-rubs.
carolyn maerkleCranberry Twp, PennsylvaniaNovember 10, 2019
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You were and will be my best friend! I love you with all my heart "GG!" I know too that I will see you again!Gabrielle Maerkle - November 11, 2019
Godiva was a shining light for so many! She will live on in warm memories and shared stories. Those who love and miss her are in my thoughts during this difficult time.Allison Kachmar - November 11, 2019
Such a wonderful friend. She will be missed. She’s in the
large pumpkin patch in heaven.
Dave Defide - November 10, 2019

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