Summer time is “golden” time. And I’ve enjoyed getting to know the Golden retrievers who have been part of our “pack.” They’ve all been unique dogs, possessing the central characteristic of a golden. People-love. A vet treating one of my dogs summed it up this way. “He’s a golden so he will mope when he’s not with his family.”
Our first Golden was Kalahan. Selected from a shelter as a gift for my husband, basically the smartest dog I’ve ever known. A friend once told me “he’s not a dog he’s a person in a dog suit.”
Kalahan, could open a peanutbutter jar, and not leave teeth marks. He opened drawers, and rearranged stuffed animals-neatly-under the dining room table. He also retrieved items on command. An especially helpful trick, when my hands were full of baby. He never growled or frightened children. But he guarded his “charges” loyally, always placing himself between them and approaching strangers. Eating the babysitters dinner seemed to be a small price to pay for such devotion. When it came time to help an aged Kalahan on to his next home, we were all bereft. But he looked at us with his typically wise eyes and bid us fairwell with grace and dignity.
The children were young and I missed a walking partner so seven months later we brought home Yankee. He joined our family at two-months old a few days before the Fourth of July. Hence the name. (Which my husband came up with in fear that the kids would name the dog “Guy.”) Although only a puppy, Yankee was always ,to put it simply, huge. He grew taller than any other golden I had ever seen and though I kept his figure svelte ,he weighed in at over 100 pounds. Other golden owners would stop me and ask where I had gotten such a mountain of dog. Yankee just smiled his golden smile and waited to be petted. And that was Yankee’s gift. A large heart just wanting some love. If Kalahan was one part of the canine IQ scale, Yankee sat on the other end. I never had to clear the counters of food. Cookies out of the oven could cool on the kitchen table and I could leave the house! Yankee seemed to have no faults except for his inability to fit places. Which was fine with me since that included most of the furniture. He just lumbered through life. My son, a teenager at the time called him “Sweets”. And never was a nickname more justly deserved. When Yankee did not wake up last July 5th the entire neighborhood was shocked and saddened. No one could belive he was 12 years old he seemed like such a puppy. One neighbor remembered how just a few days earlier,Yankee had appeared on his back porch gave one bark to be petted, and than trotted home. “As if to say ‘goodbye” to me , he mused.
“So,” my husband said as this year’s Fourth of July neared, “we lost Yankee last year at this time and a few months later you brought home Ethel Merman.” Well, her name is actually Bella. Named by the family who turned her into a local Golden rescue group. And like Ethel Merman she sings. It’s loud, really loud, and untrained ,and full of gusto. It’s a fullthroated song of joy when any of the family returns home after a prolonged abscence of say 5 or 10 minutes. She also sings when friends arrive. Bella is also our retriever most likely to truly play fetch -for hours and hours if she could. She is, my husband says, our most athletic dog. To use his basball analogy , Bella is a centerfielder, Yankee was a DH, and Kalahan was a baseball executive.
Loving a golden means sweeping up soft mounds of golden fur, having a large supply of tennis balls , and keeping track of your socks. It also means unconditional love, and being the recipient of that daily “golden smile” that means “I love you, and it’s so great we are all together.” What more does anyone need? I’m just say’n.