I have raised more golden retrievers than any other single breed of dog. I am currently raising my 7th golden retriever. I started my experience with goldens when I became a volunteer puppy raiser for service dog organizations. At that time I knew nothing about golden retrievers, had never been around them and frankly thought they were a bit of a foo-foo dog.
All seven of my goldens have been quite different physically and with very different personalities. But then, no two dogs of any breed are ever the same and the variety is part of what makes it fun and interesting. These are the golden kids I have raised.
Canine Companions for Independence in CA sent me my first golden retriever, Gareth in 1998.
He was four months old when they shipped him. I was a little reluctant to take him because of his age and concern that he may not have gotten a good start; and also I wanted an eight week old puppy. But CCI had given him a good start and they really needed a raiser for him; I am glad now that I was his raiser.
They flew him to Helena and when I got him home and out into the front yard, he just raced back and forth, paying no attention to me, but running off the energy from the long flight. Gareth turned out to be a great dog, easy to train and gave me a whole new perception of golden retrievers.
My next golden was Joy from Loving Paws Assistance Dogs in CA.
She was a sweetie and we bonded very quickly. Because of our connection, and an early good partnership, she was easy to train but she was also sensitive, not in an insecure way but more in an awareness way.
Joy was called back for Advanced Training when she was only 10 months old. I was used to having the pups for a least a year-14 months. When she got to CA she was depressed, would not work, ate very little, and had no spirit no matter what the trainers tried. They decided she was not meant to be a service dog and planned to release her in December 2001. Upon release of a pup the puppy raiser is given the opportunity to take the pup back before it is adopted by someone on a waiting list that the organization has screened. There was no question that I wanted Joy back and since she had been turned in early at 10 months (probably one of the reasons she could not handle the program) she was just over a year old when she returned to MT.
We picked up where we left off and after a few days of recovery, she blossomed into a wonderful, loving companion. I continued to raise service puppies and she adopted each one, taught them many things, watched over them like they were her babies.
Joy was quite versatile; we did some agility, a bit of free style dancing with Carolyn Scott and her golden, Rookie and we became a therapy dog team. The kids at Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena called her “Slipperfoot” because of the long hair between her toes.
She learned many tricks the most famous of which was her math work. She could add, subtract, multiply and divide numbers I gave her, by barking the answer. Actually, it was a trick that she mostly taught me! We had great fun with kids and adults when Joy did her math. They would hear a dog barking and come to see what was happening and then stand around to watch. Everyone was amazed but it was really very simple to key her.
In her later years she decided she wanted to be a pheasant hunter instead of staying in camp while Ruger and the others had all the fun. Mostly I think she just wanted to get out and roam; she loved it but it was agony for us to remove all the burrs, other effus from her coat and mud from between her toes.
With each passing year Joy and I grew closer, in a kind of relationship I had never had with any of my other dogs even though I love all my dogs dearly. So when she was diagnosed with lymphoma in June 2010 and died from complications of her chemotherapy treatment in October of 2010, a piece of me felt like it shattered and my grieving process continues. We had the ideal relationship, she was like a sister to me and I hope that some day I will have a similar relationship with another dog.
I have often wondered why our relationship was so unique, intense. Maybe because she was a golden retriever that I raised to adulthood, maybe because she was taken back too early but then got to come home to me, or maybe just because…..?
The summer after Joy returned home Loving Paws sent me two more golden puppies to raise. Tarka came first and a few weeks later LP called me and asked if I would also take her sister Tring because her puppy raiser had dropped out of the program. I debated about raising two puppies at one time but decided to give it a try with Joy’s help; don’t think I would ever try raising two puppies again.
Tarka came first. A mischievous little sweetie with a very sensitive spirit. Here she is sharing a chair with Joy.
Tring looked much like Tarka although I can still tell them apart when I look at their puppy pictures. They were delighted to see each other and I think Joy was delighted to have two new kids to watch over, play with.
Both Tarka and Tring had shorter and lighter coats than Joy. This photo was taken shortly before I returned them to Advanced Training.
My next golden was Star from New Horizon Service Dogs in FL.
In March of 2010 I purchased a golden retriever puppy from a vet in Great Falls. The puppy was for Nicole and Adrian in CA. Nicole had adopted Tarka and since Tarka was now in her senior years they wanted to start another pup but they did not want to do the training so I offered to do that.
And my seventh golden is Sacajawea. I got her in March 2010; she comes from strong hunting lines and will be part of our hunting pack.
But Sacajawea has a strong prey drive giving her a different personality than the other goldens. When we are leash walking it is difficult for her to keep her head up and nose off the ground. But a strong prey drive is perfect for a bird dog.
Because Saca was bred for hunting she has a very short coat, wavy on her back, and hardly any bloomers or flags. It is a nice reddish/gold color.
With her strong prey drive, she loves to watch birds and chase them if they are on the ground, will chase butterflies, loves to retrieve tennis balls but especially the practice dummies that she does not like to give up but is learning that.
I doubt I will ever be without a golden now. They are super dogs, no matter what their job is.