Golden Retrievers Speak: Alanis And Grieving

Alanis:    What happens when a canine loses a canine companion?  Do we experience grief, or do we think our friend will eventually return?    When Jeter left the house on December 31st, was it to go to the groomer, or was it to go away forever?   Does the concept of time even enter my brain?  Can I count the seconds, the minutes, the hours, and the days?     Do I forget that Josh and Jeter once prowled around this house, or can I still sense their presence days, weeks, and months later?

How do I entertain myself, without another dog to keep me entertained?  How can humans replace the bond I had with my canine companions?   How do I walk alone, how do I jump in the car with nothing else in the back seat?   How do I feel about being the first dog to receive a meal, the only dog that gets the nightly treat?  How I can play with a toy, or chase a tennis ball, without another dog offering competition?

Will another dog come through those doors some day, and how will I react to once again sharing all of this stuff that is only now enjoyed by me?

I have three bowls of water to choose from every time I need a drink, and yet I still feel thirsty.  I get a good meal twice a day, yet I still feel hungry.    I am trying to regain my energy.  I am wagging my tail again.  I am panting more, sleeping better.   I am following my owners around the house like a lost puppy, and that is because I am a lost puppy.

Mommy gave me a toy octopus the other day – the type of toy Josh loved to carry and whip around back in his heyday.   I do some of the same, though I am hoping the octopus will come to life and fight back.  It never does, but I will keep trying, for it is not my nature to give up.

This is weird.  This is awkward.  When I was growing up in a different household for my first six months, I was the only dog.  I should be used to this, but I am not.   This is a process.  I lost my best friend before he had a chance to grow old with me.   The dog that would always give me a tongue bath even after I tormented him.

I am a dog.  I guess I am not supposed to “grieve.”  I guess I am not expected to know exactly what “death” is, nor am I supposed to comprehend what it means when a canine companion leaves.

But if all that is true, why does my behavior change, and why am I sad?   You may have some clinical definition of “grieving” in a dictionary, but I can’t read one of those.   I just know what I feel and what I miss.  And nobody can define that for me.

Me:   Alanis has been out of sorts since Jeter passed.   She has definitely improved as the days have gone on.  She is playing more, she is eating better, and is spending more time outside.   She went on her first extended walk today since Jeter’s death (it has been too frigid in New Jersey to go for a longer walk over the past week+), and she did well with a “play date” she had on Saturday.  That date seemed to rejuvenate her, as she likely needed to be around a dog who was willing to play with her.

Do dogs actually grieve?  Doing research on the topic, some experts think that dogs grieve at the level of a small child:  They comprehend the loss, but don’t understand the death.  

Alanis’ behavior has consisted of sleeping in Jeter’s spots (and sniffing around his favorite spots), loss of energy, and being more “clingy” than usual.   She rejected a piece of string cheese the day Jeter died, but her appetite has been mostly intact.  On today’s walk, she did a lot of sniffing.  Whether she had the scent of Jeter or it was something else, I have no idea.  I just noticed an increase in the behavior.

Dogs will process a death in different ways.  It is up to you as an owner to differentiate what may be grieving vs. what may be an actual illness.   It is easy to chalk everything up to a dog missing their companion, but just watch your dog to make sure he or she snaps out of it after a few days.

Golden Retrievers Speak: Quirky!

Jeter:   The title of this entry describes me perfectly.   I have several little quirks, the most notable being that I refuse to drink water that doesn’t pass my “standards.”   Don’t ask me what those standards are, but I have no problem sniffing the three bowls of water in this house and walking away.

Alanis:   You are probably the more quirky of the two of us, but that doesn’t mean that I am completely void of them.  While I don’t do it nearly as much now as I used to, I have this thing where I don’t like walking down certain streets in the neighborhood.   I probably experienced something “bad” (in my eyes) down certain roads in the past, and now have trouble getting down those streets.

Jeter:  That is very weird, indeed. You are so annoying on walks.  I just want to walk – whether it be for 30 minutes or 90 minutes, I just want to walk, undisturbed.  I just look ahead, without a care in the world, while you are nothing but a scatter brain without any direction whatsoever.

Alanis:  Of course, we have this dipshit walking us, who doesn’t know where he is going and can even get lost if he walks in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Jeter:  That is besides the point, though it is true.  My most recent quirk is that I refuse to go downstairs after Mommy wakes up from her sleep.  When Mommy wakes up (very late at night, or early in the morning, depending on how you look at it.), she eats a frozen dinner.  I am petrified of the freezer, so I have learned to now not go downstairs until after the freezer door closes.   For a dog who really doesn’t like being alone, it takes a lot of willpower for me to stay upstairs alone.

Alanis:  You are a strange bird.   One quirk we both have is that we rarely (or never!) play and get rambunctious when we are only with our Mommy.  We only seem to get crazy if Daddy is in our presence.  I am a barker – I bark to an extreme!  But I am less prone to it when Daddy isn’t around.  When he is around, I tend to bark more, Jeter tends to become more hyper, and we are more likely to be crazy.

Jeter:  This is likely due to Daddy always “wrestling” with us, and throwing the ball all over the house.  We associate that clumsy moron with play, and associate Mommy more with calm….

Alanis:  Except during Wheel of Fortune….

Jeter:  Don’t mention that game show!!  Please  – that is cruel!

Alanis:  Sorry…

Jeter:  I hate, hate, hate that game show!   Mommy yells at the stupid contestants all the time…

Alanis:  I know.  But she is a good puzzle solver.  Much better than Daddy.

Jeter:  WE’RE better than Daddy!

Alanis:  True, that.

Jeter:  I love our quirks – I love that I stay outside for maybe 2 minutes, just to do my business, while you roam out there for up to 20 minutes at a time.  I love that I have no issues with going out in the rain, while you are more willing to hold it in for 12 hours if you have to (that used to be a Josh trait, too!)

Alanis:   Having dogs with the same personalities and traits would be boring!

Jeter:   Correct! Though I do wish you would shut your pie hole from time to time.

Alanis:   Woof!  Woof!  I am a dog, big brother!   I was born to bark!

Jeter:   You are noise pollution, plain and simple.

Alanis:  You are just jealous because your can’t sustain a long bark!

Jeter:   The moment I am jealous of you is the moment I see a doggy psychiatrist.

Alanis:   Can we both agree that we are less quirky than Daddy?

Jeter:  Certainly.  He walks around the house singing songs he doesn’t even know the lyrics to.   Badly.    He will throw a towel on the floor that he plans to use after showering.  How does that make and freaking sense?

Alanis:  When does he go away again for a day or two?

Jeter:  Don’t know, but the sooner the better.

Me:   If you have a Golden Retriever, you likely have your own set of quirks to share about them.   Some quirks are traits that many Goldens have, while others are traits that may be very unique to your dog.  Jeter’s “water sniffing” is something I have never seen before.   I have never known a dog to simply walk away from something they instinctively are supposed to drink.   I have heard of Goldens that do similar things when it comes to their food – refusing to eat it unless it is presented in a specific way.   Having unique dogs will lead to very few dull moments in your dog-owning lives.


Golden Retrievers Speak: Summer Fruit!

Jeter:    Daddy has been bringing home some fruit from the farm stand lately!  I guess it is that time of year again!

Alanis:   Nothing beats fresh fruit, Jeter!

Jeter:  Well, except for sniffing each other’s butts, biting at each other’s legs, going for walks, going for rides, eating ice cream..

Alanis:  OK, we get it Jeter – you have interests beyond fruit!

Jeter:   Oh, shut up – you are the one that barks at anything that moves, and even stuff that doesn’t don’t be telling me that I have bizarre interests!

Alanis:   Barking is what dogs do!  Duh!  Woof woof woof!  Something you never have been able to do with any consistency!  You just let out little “puffing” noises!

Jeter:  When I bark, it means SOMETHING.  When you bark, the humans have to guess whether it means something because you ALWAYS DO IT!  “Time for a walk!”  WOOF WOOF.   “Time to eat!”  WOOF WOOF.    “Time to jump off the couch!”  WOOF WOOF.   “Time to breathe air!”  WOOF WOOF.

Alanis:   Wasn’t this supposed to be about summer fruit?

Jeter:    The people at the farm stand like Daddy.  That is only because they don’t have to live with him.

Alanis:  True, that!  Today, we got BLUEBERRIES!

Jeter:   We love blueberries!   Of course, they have to feed them to us in moderation for the time being – too much of a good thing can have us running outside a bit more than we would want to, if you catch my drift.

Alanis:  We couldn’t get the blueberries out of my bowl!

Jeter:  I don’t know why we couldn’t figure that part out.    They came out of my bowl so easily!

Alanis:  It was annoying.   That was hours ago, and I bet if Mommy didn’t help us, we would still be trying to get them out!

Jeter:    Nothing beats a true New Jersey Blueberry!   So good, and so good for us!

Alanis:  Yep!  People sometimes buy these treats for us – our parents do too! – but stuff like blueberries makes us just as happy as a Beggin Strip.

Jeter:  We don’t get Beggin’ Strips….

Alanis:  Daddy is a meanie, that’s why.

Jeter:    Why don’t we get anything else from the farm stand?  Apples are good for us, too!  Some vegetables can be incorporated into our diet as well.   But we usually get stuck with the blueberries!

Alanis:  Ask daddy.  My guess is that he saves everything else for himself,  because he is selfish that way.

Jeter:  Just ask Mommy about that – he only buys stuff for himself.  We are lucky we don’t just get stale bread.

Alanis:   He would probably take that for himself, too.

Jeter:   We should demand more variety!  More than just blueberries!

Alanis:    Yep.   How about some liverwurst from time to time?

Jeter:  That isn’t a fruit, you idiot.

Alanis:   Well, it should be.

Jeter:  Why do I bother?

Me:   Dogs can get the same benefits as us humans can from fruits and vegetables, but remember that there are some that dogs are not allowed to have.  For example, grapes are toxic to dogs and should not be given to them under any circumstances.  Onions are also a bad choice, but humans also don’t typically sit around the table eating raw onion.

A full list can be found here.

Dogs don’t really care what they get for treats, so giving them something “healthy” doesn’t ring a bell to them like it does to us humans.  Sometimes, when we are presented with a choice between two scoops of ice cream vs. an organic fruit smoothie, we take the ice cream!  Our brains are wired that way.  Dogs?  They don’t care if they get the smoothie, the ice cream, a rice cake, or a blueberry.  They will eat it all.