Golden Retrievers Speak: Happy Birthday!

Alanis:  Today is my third birthday.   Time flies when you are a dog.   At least that is what humans tell us – we have no real concept of time.

Jeter:  Three years old.  Goldens tend to mature later than most dogs – you are essentially just now entering your “adult” years, whatever that means.  I still feel like a puppy!

Josh:  When I turned three, they didn’t have toys with squeakers that only dogs could hear…

Jeter:  Here we go with your nostalgia.

Josh:   Mommy once baked me a birthday cake!  Neither of you have ever received such an honor.

Alanis:  We get treats and toys for our birthdays!  Yay!

Jeter:  We get treats every day, and toys once a month or so.

Alanis:  True.  So, what is special about our birthdays, anyway?

Josh:  Nothing.  We don’t care one bit about our birthdays – humans just like to live vicariously through us.  Back in my day, I was lucky if I got a bag of Beggin’ Strips – never mind all of this “all natural” crap they have out now.

Jeter:    Cue the violins!

Alanis:   Jeter and I went for a long walk for my birthday!

Jeter:  We do that every day, Einstein.

Alanis:  Right.  So, what exactly did we do differently today than any other day?

Jeter:  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.   Though you did get a Facebook collage.   Wonder how many likes it got?

Josh:  I love the collages.   Mommy knows what she is doing.

Jeter:  Can you imagine if Daddy did them?

Josh:   OMG.  Don’t even.    Everything he touches is already a disaster.

Alanis:  One of the pictures in my collage is a perfect image of me with my “resting bitch face”.

Jeter:  You have that down to a science…..

Josh:   Back in my day….


Josh & Jeter:   Happy Birthday, Alanis!   Here’s hoping for a lot of play, a lot of food, and less of your crazy barking.

Me:   Indeed, time does not really compute in a dog’s brain.   Like I said in the Christmas post, every day is a dog’s birthday in their eyes.  They wake up and get to do whatever they want until they go back to sleep again.    Treating your dogs well should be something you do every day & night, but there is nothing wrong with a birthday splurge.   That can be a toy, a treat, a cake – or whatever your imagination can think of.   For Alanis’ birthday, the dogs will be getting a special meatball treat later.     As for a Golden Retriever’s maturity, it is indeed true that this breed tends to mature a bit later than most breeds.   That may not really be all that meaningful in the long run, but dogs have their phases just like humans do.    You should definitely see at least some change in your dogs as the years go by.  Just like you see changes in your children, or your parents.  It is all a part of the circle of life.

Golden Retrievers Speak: Should You Get One of Me?

Josh:   Of course you should!   Duh!

Jeter:    Why is this a topic of discussion?  Why wouldn’t you want one?

Me:   OK, I understand – the three dogs in this house have it made.  But this is like a baseball fan telling a non-baseball fan “Of course you should love baseball!”   There could be people reading about your experiences who want to know if they should actually move forward and consider adopting a Golden Retriever.    So take that approach….

Josh:  Gotcha.    Dogs of my breed are known to be great family pets – big dogs with clown-like personalities who can keep you entertained with our craziness one minute before cuddling up next to you to watch TV.  We easily adapt to your lifestyle, but we love having people around.   We love to do things.   If we get bored, we will find something to do – typically at the expense of something you would rather us not get into.   For me, it was digging holes in the backyard when I get bored.

Jeter:   I am a people dog.  I admit it – I truly do not like it when I don’t have people around me.   That comes from my upbringing. My mommy and daddy both work from home, so they are usually around.  And if they do go out without me, I have always had another dog in the house with me.  I’ve never been alone in this house.

Alanis:  My first family was your typical working family with kids who went to school, so I have more experience being alone for a while at a time.  I adapted to that lifestyle, but love my new family as there is always a person or a dog around me.

Josh:   If you are thinking of getting one of us (well, not us – my family would never allow you to take us!), remember that we do like to be around people.  That doesn’t mean you need to be around us 24/7.   Like most dogs, we can adapt to your schedule.  But if you are a family that leaves at 8 AM every morning and doesn’t come home until 9 PM, that is going to be rough on us, unless you hire a dog sitter.

Jeter:  We are also a very playful breed.     We love our tennis balls and love to play a good game of fetch.   If you only bring one of us into your household, remember that it will be up to you to keep us exercised and fulfilled.  We can certainly entertain ourselves, but we can also get to be a bit lazy if you let us.

Josh:   When I was the “only” dog, I would entertain myself (and hopefully them!) by running around the house, flailing a big turtle toy (typically ripping it apart within a few weeks of getting a new one).   But, as I said above, I would also dig holes in the yard if I needed to let some energy out.  My parents learned that even though I am a bit calmer than a typical Golden, I still needed to be exercised.  To be exact, being calm means I needed to be exercised more.  Why?  Because I could easily get lazy.

Jeter:   Walks can be a big help.  My daddy takes us for walks very often for 40 minutes up to an hour.   Nobody is saying you have to do that, but even a nice brisk walk around the block can do wonders.

Alanis:     Also remember that our coats can tend to be gnarly if they aren’t properly taken care of.   Brushing our coats every now and again can keep nasty tangles at bay.

Josh:  In this house, that was always especially true of me!

Jeter:   Yep.  I have a great coat – even if it doesn’t get brushed, it tends to stay very clean and easily managed.

Alanis:  Mine is somewhere in between!  Last time I went to the groomer, she essentially needed to cut all of the hair around my butt.  I was a bare butt dog.

Jeter:  That was funny.

Josh:  Also remember that we can have some medical conditions.  We are prone to having bad hips (me!).    The dreaded “C” word is also prevalent in our breed.  Most of us won’t get struck by these conditions until later in life, but be aware of the fact they are more common in Golden Retrievers than most breeds.

Jeter:    Don’t let that force you to stay away from  us.  We are just like humans.  Some humans can live until they are 100 without a single surgery in their lifetimes, while others can unfortunately get struck with cancer as babies.   While you certainly should take medical worries into consideration, remember that most of us will live a normal Golden lifespan.  A lifespan that would certainly be longer if not for those potential issues.

Alanis:     There aren’t any certain ways to prevent cancer in our breed, just like you can’t 100% prevent it in a human.  But a strong diet, exercise, and regular vet visits can reduce some of the risk.   A strong diet can also help when it comes to issues with arthritis.

Josh:   Of course, that didn’t help with my arthritis, which I developed early in life despite my outstanding pedigree.   Stuff happens – as dogs, we just smile and move along.

Me:    If you want an active breed that is typically great with kids, a Golden Retriever ranks high on the list of dogs you should consider.   Given their sweet dispositions and overall beauty, it is easy for families to fall into the trap of adopting or buying a Golden without doing full research.  They are active dogs that can cause some destruction if they are bored.     They will need training.  I would never say a fenced-in yard is a must for any dog, but it definitely does help.  Some Golden rescue operations may not even consider you unless you have a fence on your property.    The breed can get to get big (over 100 pounds in some cases, though none of our dogs are that big), so keep that in mind.  If they are very playful, they have the potential to knock over a small child.    Overall, they are one of the most popular breeds in America for a reason – they are wonderful, friendly dogs.   If you are active family, they will fit right into your lifestyle.  If you live a calmer existence (which my wife and I certainly do!), they will adapt to that lifestyle.     If you go to a reputable breeder or rescue organization, they should tell you flat-out whether a Golden is right for you.   And if so, they should be able to match up your lifestyle to one of their dogs.    Just enjoy the process from start to finish and you will have many happy years to spend with your pup.

Golden Retrievers Speak: Off to the Vet!

Josh:  Oh, the dreaded yearly checkup at the vet.    When I was younger, I was the best dog in the world at the vet.  I was calm.  I would let the vet do whatever they wanted to me with a smile on my face.   Nothing bothered me.  Sure, I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.  Sure, I would jump on my daddy when I got nervous.   Overall, however, it never did quite bother me much.  It was just a major inconvenience.

Jeter:   If only I was like Josh!  The vet terrifies me.  Not the doctor herself – just the entire idea of going to the vet.  I get panicky.  I am not a vocal dog at all – I rarely bark and I rarely cry.  If I get accidentally closed into a room, I don’t cry to come out – I just sit by the door and wait for someone to get me.   When I bark, I can’t even sustain it like most dogs –  I let out a few before stopping.   However, when I go to the vet, I do cry.  I jump on my daddy, and I want nothing to do with going into one of the dreaded rooms….

Alanis:  I know you are all going to call me strange, but I am used to that by now.   It isn’t that I actually love the vet, but I sure do act that way.  I look at it as I look at everything in the world:   A play session!  I try to go behind the receptionist desk to play with the people back there.  I try to play with the vet techs.   I bark like a lunatic, like I always do when I am actually excited.  I don’t push or pull to leave – I walk into the dreaded office as if it is a playroom.

Jeter:  You are one strange dog – I can’t even.    The worst thing about going to the vet is that someone, a LONG time ago, put the dreaded “WILL BITE!” sticker in my chart.   My daddy swears I have never bitten a soul at the vet.  The indicator was put in there a long time ago – the entire staff has changed since then – but we have no idea how or why it got there or how I got the stigma.  There is no doubt that I hate it there and that I need to be held for when they take my temperature or draw blood.    But BITE?   Never.

Josh:   That is strange, indeed.    Probably my funniest story (which wasn’t funny at the time!) is when there was a grooming accident at home – my owners accidentally cut me as they were grooming me.   As the story goes, I had blood on my fur but pretty much didn’t complain one bit.  I didn’t yelp or “shout” in pain.  I didn’t cry.  I acted as if nothing at all happened to me.   My parents didn’t call the emergency room that night, but they did take me in the next day.  I needed to go into surgery to get some stitches on the wound.  Daddy didn’t tell my mommy that I needed to go under for the stitches – didn’t want to panic her.  I came out of it all just fine……..

Jeter:  That indeed was a scary story that became just another tidbit about Josh – the happy-go-lucky dog that never complains.

Alanis:   I don’t really have any funny vet stories just yet…..

Jeter:   I don’t really have one either – other than the gross stuff.  When I was younger,  I was unable to “express” myself when I pooped.  I was prone to scooting because of this.  Daddy had to bring me to the vet fairly often so that they could work on those anal glands!   I guess somewhere along the way, my body started to do it since I never have to go to the vet for that purpose anymore.

Josh:   How about the leg injury?

Jeter:  Well, yeah – when I was really young, I was playing ball with my daddy.  I started limping badly on one of my legs, so he rushed me to the vet.    By the time the doctor saw me in the office, I was no longer limping!    I was acting as if there was nothing wrong with me at all.  The doctor decided not to do any kind of x-ray because I was acting fairly normal.   It is possible I simply strained a ligament………

Alanis:  You two are full of stories!   Maybe one day, I too will have a good vet story!

Me:   Boring is good in this case, Alanis!    Just like kids will be kids, dogs will be dogs.  They will injure themselves.  They will have days where they simply don’t want to eat for reasons you are not likely to figure out (especially if it is a benign reason!).   They will have days where they don’t want to play or be active.    When you own a dog, observe them closely.   Even dogs who are of the same breed will have unique characteristics about them.    Something that may raise an alarm bell about one dog may be more common for another.  A perfect example in our house:  Jeter has always been an active dog.  So when he is lethargic, we know something is wrong.    However, even in his younger days, Josh had a tendency to be a calmer Golden Retriever.  A day of Josh not wanting to play was not really concerning.     I have said this a few times in this blog:  KNOW YOUR DOG.   Don’t panic at every little thing that is out of the ordinary, but also don’t gloss over an obvious change in behavior.    As for shots, talk to your vet about how you want to go about keeping your dog protected from disease.  Rabies will always be mandatory, though in recent years, they have developed a 3-year shot for that disease.   Other shots are also now going the 3-year route.   A good vet is not going to force vaccinations down your throat.  A good vet will work with you to offer the best care for your dog.  Studies on vaccines are always being conducted.  Do your research and make the best possible decisions you can.   You may also want to look into titer testing, a test that is designed to see if your dog is still immune to the diseases a vaccine is trying to guard against.  (Full disclosure:  I have never done any titer testing for my dogs, but have considered it).    Obviously, i am completely in favor of taking your dog to the vet at least once a  year just to get the basic wellness.  Just like with humans, that one trip to the doctor can save their lives if something underlying is going on within their bodies.



Golden Retrievers Speak: It’s Snowing!

Josh:   When I was younger, I loved the snow.   Whenever it would snow, I would run around outside like a goofball, prancing over any snowbanks in the yard.  I also had this tendency to roll around in it, to get myself nice and wet – after all, I didn’t have to clean myself when I was done!  That was for my parents to do.   As I got older, I would still roll around in it, though I was no longer the goofball I once was.

Jeter:   Only a few months or so after I moved in here, we had a blizzard.  It was crazy.   Daddy had to put Josh and myself out on that crazy night, and went into panic mode when Josh essentially lead me to a blind spot in the yard where we couldn’t be seen.   I am not sure how we got back into the house (I am sure Josh simply lead the way for me to follow), but what was fun for us certainly was not fun for daddy.   That also was the first night where I was allowed to stay out of my crate all night long.   It wasn’t the last time I was able to do that, but it was nice to spend the cold, wintry night with my family.  Daddy didn’t let us back out until the next day though.

Alanis:  The big snowstorms they are talking about are storms I have not yet really experienced here.  I understand that down the Jersey Shore, we can get hit with some monster storms due to all of the moisture coming off of the ocean – but they are quite rare, as many such storms turn into rain events if they form at all.   Today, I experienced a nice 8″ storm though, and I was having a blast.  My mommy commented that she got a bit nostalgic for Josh, because I was acting like Josh used to act in the snow – running around like a crazed lunatic without any cares in the world.   Maybe someday I will experience a big blizzard, but this storm was perfect for me….

Jeter:  She really was crazy today.  While she was doing that, I was actually laying down in a big pile of snow on the deck – with the junco birds, who weren’t all that scared that I was laying there (until I moved, of course!)

Josh:  I just watched from inside the house – no real motivation for the snow.  Nice and toasty inside the house, where I can eat, drink, and just sleep.   That is the most important thing in my life nowadays – sleep.

Alanis:  I wish I was around when Josh was crazy in the snow.  We could have had so much fun!

Josh:   I think fences would have been broken.

Jeter:  I was never like that in the snow – I do like to eat the snow and dig through it, though.  Especially if I know there is a tennis ball beneath it all.  I also will pull out sticks and chew on them.   Interestingly, I never do this when there are sticks randomly laying around the yard.  I only do it when there is snow!

Alanis:  Daddy didn’t play ball with us in the snow today.  Lazy daddy!

Jeter:  He claims he is still getting over an illness and didn’t want to expose himself to the conditions….

Alanis:  Yeah, right.  He just didn’t want to be bothered.  But we made our own fun.  We were out there for at least a half an hour on two different occasions today……

Jeter:   I am exhausted from it all, to be honest – I am going to go take a nap now so that we can play at 1 in the morning and drive them crazy as they are watching the Dummy Box!

Alanis:  My favorite part of the day……..

Me:   Dogs seem to LOVE snow, and it certainly can make things easier for owners who are looking for ways to exercise their dogs.   They pretty much take care of it all themselves by rolling around in it, running through it, etc.  I am getting over a cold, but in the past, I have been able to keep them occupied simply by throwing a tennis ball in a snowbank.  They would dig through the snow, trying to find it.    Just like with children, dogs consider a “snow day” a fun treat, and there really aren’t many precautions to take.  Obviously, you want to make sure they don’t overdo it, and watch for any signs that they are getting lethargic or feeling too cold to stay out there.   Dogs like Golden Retrievers are built for these elements, though – and you really shouldn’t have to worry about much of anything, other than an injury as they run around.   Enjoy days like these with your pups – they don’t get too many of them in their lifetimes, unless you live in Alaska.    The days will give you memories that can last a lifetime, just like the memories we had today of Josh back when he would run in the snow like Alanis did today.