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Red Lion family makes most of dog's last days

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

Dogs are often called man’s best friend. But to so many, they’re clearly much more — they’re family.

Siblings Chloe, 10, and Elliot Griffin 8, pose for a photo with Clydesdale Jack along with their dog Molson at Brewery Products Thursday, June 15, 2017. With the help of the sibling's father Tim, the family is completing a "bucket list" of items for the dog who is terminally ill. The meeting with the horse fulfilled the item "meet a famous animal" from the list. Handler Larry Manypenny presented the horse. Molson was wearing his Dalmatian tshirt for the day. Bill Kalina photo

Over the past dozen years, Red Lion resident Tim Griffin's "first kid” Mr. Molson has been by his side whenever possible, whether going on walks through the woods or tagging along to the classes Griffin teaches as training director at the York Electricians Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee in East Manchester Township. 

Griffin said Molson “made growing up a little bit easier” for his children, Chloe, 10, and Elliot, 8. Molson always wanted to wrestle and play with them, Griffin said, and the children looked to him for a sense of security when going on walks and staying home alone. 

Tim Griffin gets a hug from his son, Elliot, and his dog, Mr. Molson, as his daughter, Chloe, looks on after Molson's wedding ceremony. Griffin and his children are embarking on dozens of adventures as they work through Molson's bucket list.

After finding out in March that his 12-year-old golden retriever’s days were numbered, Griffin set out to show Molson just how much he meant to the family.

In the three months since he was diagnosed with maxillary fibrosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer in his mouth, Molson and his humans have embarked on dozens of adventures to cross off some of the nearly 40 items on his "bucket list." 

One day at a time: From camping in the backyard to eating his very own Happy Meal, protecting his sailboat against invading pirates to getting married, Molson has experienced a whirlwind of new sights, smells and feelings. 

But the adventures aren’t just to show Molson the same love that he has always shown his family. 

Mr. Molson captained a sailboat during a "pirate invasion" on one of his adventures. Tim Griffin and his children are embarking on dozens of adventures as they work through Molson's bucket list.

Through Molson’s bucket list, Chloe and Elliot are learning how important it is to live in the moment and “make the most of the time we have with him,” Griffin said.

“I want them to have a chance to prepare themselves and show Molson the love I know they feel for him,” he said. 

The bucket list might keep Chloe and Elliot from having any regrets about how they spent Molson’s final months by encouraging them to shower him with even more attention than normal, Griffin said.

Elliot Griffin 8, and his father Tim wait to meet a Clydesdale along with their dog Molson at Brewery Products Thursday, June 15, 2017. The family is completing a "bucket list" of items for the dog who is terminally ill. The meeting with the horse fulfilled the item "meet a famous animal" from the list. Molson was wearing his Dalmatian tshirt for the day. Bill Kalina photo

“It helps them realize that it’s going to happen to all of us one day,” he added. “Whether it’s furry animals or whether it’s humans, we all need to treat each other just like we might not see them tomorrow.”

Top dog: Since the diagnosis, Molson has worn a number of hats — literally.

The bucket list began after a suggestion from Kristi Myers, who was a veterinarian technician for Molson’s surgeon and Molson’s neighbor when he was a puppy, Griffin said.

Mr. Molson searches for a cat burglar while on patrol with Cpl. Brian Torkar of the Pennsylvania State Police. Tim Griffin and his children are embarking on dozens of adventures as they work through Molson's bucket list.

Myers made the suggestion somewhat jokingly, he said, but he and his children started writing down ideas as soon as they got back from Molson’s appointment.

The list started with small things that could easily be crossed off, like playing in the sprinkler, eating homemade dog treats and swimming in a hot tub, Griffin said. 

Once some of the easier “adventures” were completed, the ideas started to evolve into finding Molson a job — actually, many jobs, he said. 

Griffin has documented Molson’s bucket list online, creating comical backstories to explain Molson’s unique adventures.

After donning a helmet and jacket to ride around town in a Yoe Fire Co. engine, Molson put his firefighting experience to good use in the U.S. Army. 

After being drafted into the Army, Molson excelled through flight school, where he realized his long-coveted dream of riding in a helicopter.

With a wealth of civil service under his collar, Molson was called out of retirement in May and equipped with a tactical vest to track down a cat burglar for the Pennsylvania State Police in Loganville. 

Molson tracked the burglar to a nearby deli and ate the suspect’s sandwich while his partner took him into custody, according to Molson’s online diary.

Mr. and Mrs. Molson: Following his meteoric professional rise from house dog to K9 state trooper, Molson settled down and got married at the beginning of the month to a black lab named Josie.

Griffin said Chloe and Elliot have tried to play a part in every one of Molson’s adventures, but they took extra steps to ensure Molson’s wedding was a day to remember for the ages.

Chloe made Molson his own cupcakes for the wedding, and Elliot acted as the ring-bearer, he said. Instead of a ring, however, Elliot carried a special dog treat, which he broke in half for the two dogs to mark their nuptials.

Mr. Molson rides off with his new bride, a black lab named Josie, after their wedding. Tim Griffin and his children are embarking on dozens of adventures as they work through Molson's bucket list.

While delivering the best man’s speech at the ceremony, Griffin said he teared up talking about what Molson means to his family and what he has learned over their 12 years together.

Griffin said his daughter told him it was the first time she had seen him cry. Griffin said he is trying to deal with Molson’s illness the best he can while setting an example for his children.

“I’m showing sometimes it’s OK to be vulnerable. Even grown-ups can be emotional,” he said. “Sometimes it’s OK to cry.”

Molson and Josie — and Griffin as the third wheel — left the ceremony in a 1927 Jaguar, with the small car giving Molson yet another chance to feel the wind blowing through his hair.

Siblings Chloe, 10, and Elliot Griffin 8, watch their golden retriever Molson before they met with a Clydesdale at Brewery Products Thursday, June 15, 2017. With the help of the sibling's father Tim, the family is completing a "bucket list" of items for the dog who is terminally ill. The meeting with the horse fulfilled the item "meet a famous animal" from the list. Molson was wearing his Dalmatian tshirt for the day.  Bill Kalina photo

More to come: Molson was scheduled to become a local TV weatherman Wednesday. On Thursday morning, he met the Budweiser Clydesdales to cross off “Meet a Famous Animal” from his bucket list, though the Clydesdales might also be a little starstruck to meet Molson.

Griffin said he still has plans to take Molson on a long car ride through the mountains and hike to one of the peaks to watch the sun set. To complete the trip, Molson and family will stay at a dog-friendly hotel, allowing them to cross three more items off Molson’s bucket list.

There also are plans being made for Molson to ride on a train, ride in a motorcycle sidecar and go to New York City to eat a Coney Island hot dog and sniff around Central Park, Griffin said. 

He said he also hopes to throw a “dog party,” at which Molson can meet other dogs and Griffin can raise money to donate to the National Canine Cancer Foundation in Molson’s name.

“It’s starting to sink in now that there’s not a whole lot we can do other than make him feel comfortable and make his last days as exciting as we can,” Griffin said.

“We love him and we’re going to miss him.”