Dad’s Thanksgiving Gratitude Blog

Thanksgiving had been on my mind since Morgan and I drove by the town of Plymouth on our way to Nana and Grampy’s Cape Cod house. Last year Morgan got to write the Thanksgiving blog so this year it’s Dad’s turn. Click here to see Morgan’s blog: http://rescuedbygoldens.com/2013/11/morgans-thanksgiving-gratitude-list/

I’m very grateful for my family, my partner and my country. But I want to focus on my gratitude for Morgan. It’s obvious from all the pictures I take of him that I adore him.  I felt the same way about my first two dogs, as well. But I’ve been trying to decide what it is that makes him unique from them.

Many of you are aware that Morgan was a rescue, and a damaged one at that. But from the get-go I knew he had a lot of love in him despite his problematic behavior. You can read the story about the first night we brought him home on the Rescued by Goldens web site:  http://rescuedbygoldens.com/chapter/  We nicknamed him our little Terror-Dactyl and referred to him as a Jekyll and Hyde.

Thankfully, life with Morgan is now calmer. Often people comment about his smile. It fills me with wonder at how a creature who has had such a rough start can have such a joyous beam on his face all the time. I’m so grateful that I get to see that smile every day. Morgan what’s your secret? Can you teach Dad how to do it? Especially when driving in traffic?

Because of Morgan’s fear of other dogs, we learned that the best time to get him out and exercised was early in the morning when no other dogs were around. Now, it’s part of our everyday routine.  Whether we’re on Cape Cod or in San Francisco or home in Palm Springs we’re out the door before sunrise. So we get to see the morning beauty of Craigville Beach on Cape Cod or dawn at Ocean Beach in San Francisco when no one else is there. Even this morning in Palm Springs, to witness the crimson red glow on the San Jacinto Mountains before the noise of the leaf blowers – What a gift! I wouldn’t have this without Morgan. I have to admit that some mornings I just don’t want to get out of bed at that hour. I resist until I see his sweet face looking up at me with those bright brown eyes and goofy grin.

There’s a lot of discussion about ways to get a dog. Either from a breeder or a rescue group. Morgan has offered me the chance to rescue an animal. He’s my first rescue and I am grateful to him. Morgan has also given me the opportunity to thank the Golden Retriever breed for rescuing me. My way of saying thank you to man and woman’s best friend.

Please share what you are grateful for at this Thanksgiving holiday time.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

When my Dad moved from Sonoma County down to Palm Springs eleven years ago, he did so with the intention of always leaving during the brutal summer months. The plan was to travel either to San Francisco or to his parents’ Cape Cod house. Since I joined the family we’ve continued this tradition and this year just as the temperature broke into the 100’s we headed north for San Francisco on June 18th.

Usually on our journey North we stop in Santa Barbara to visit one of my best friends, Skyler the Basenji. But this year, poor Skyler got into a nasty dog fight and it was decided Skyler needed some rest before having a houseguest. I was sad for my friend Skyler and not being able to see him.

But the next day we arrived at our loft a few blocks from the bay. Right away my Dad took me to Crissy Field dog beach and I dove into the water and I felt like I was home. This year we didn’t go to Ocean Beach too often because of the Velella velalla – a small blueish jellyfish-like ocean animal that washed up, covering the entire shoreline. I couldn’t resist scoffing them up and my Dad was worried that I might get sick. I missed the beach but I couldn’t help myself, they were so delicious.

Every day we did something different. Sometimes we went to Golden Gate Park or for a long walk along the waterfront. One night we even went to ATT Park where the Giants play. We were able to sit in the infield and listen to a simulcast of the opera, La Rigattoni, or something like that.

My favorite part about visiting the city is leaving and going to Golden Retriever heaven – the Russian River, where I got to chase the ducks. I’m talkin’ lots of ducks and swim in the river twice a day. I got to meet a new friend, Rocky the Golden puppy. Rocky and I weren’t able to play this year as he’s still too small to horse around with big dogs like me. But boy was he adorable. I can’t wait for us two to play in the river next year. Of course, the highlight of the summer for everyone is my birthday bash on August 16th, when I get lots of cards, toys and treats. (See picture.)

Our two months in the Bay Area went by too fast and before I knew we were packing up and returning to Palm Springs. Usually this means the end of summer vacation. But this year, my Dad and I got on a plane and when we got off there was Nana and Grampy and I knew where we were. We spent a few days at their city house and it was good to see all my cousins, but I knew where I wanted to be and before too long we were swimming every morning at Craigville Beach on Cape Cod. I couldn’t believe my luck.

One day, Nana, Grampy, Dad and me all took a big ferry over to Martha’s Vineyard. It was so exciting to be on a big boat. You know that famous presidential dogs summer at The Vineyard. Then my Dad went to New York to see some people about this book he’s writing about me, of course. As soon as he got back we were at the beach again every morning. This time when we returned to the beach most of the people had gone away and nature returned. It was like somehow all the sea creatures knew. We explored from one end of the beach to the other. I got to chase the seagulls but I never caught one. Twice I saw the beach covered with hundreds of tiny sand crabs. I wanted to devour them but my Dad pulled me away. Seals were popping their heads up and we finally saw a blue heron.

We spent the last few days of our visit back at Nana’s city house where we walked every afternoon around Wollaston Beach. I enjoyed spending quality time with nana and it was an emotional moment when we said good-bye.

Finally we boarded the plane to come back to Palm Springs and can you believe that there were 5 dogs on the plane! I’ve never seen so many canines on a flight before. Luckily they were all lap dogs and didn’t bother me.  Now Dad and I are home. The weather has cooled down and we’re back to our old routine. I know I’ll be dreamin’ about my best summer vacation ever for a long time.

Labor Day: Let’s Honor Working Dogs, Too

Back in the 90’s, I began to have serious sinus infections that punctured my ears drums and soon I lost most of my hearing. At that time I was living alone in a house in a forest of Redwood trees above the Russian River.  If the phone rang I couldn’t hear it. If someone came to the door I didn’t know it. But soon Nicholas, my first Golden, would come sit by my side. At first I thought he was coming for a head rub but then I realized every time he sat next to me and nudged me there was someone at the door.

With the loss of hearing, taking my daily walk around the hill in my neighborhood became dangerous as cars came up from behind me without my knowing it. I learned to watch Nicholas more closely. When his ears would go back I knew something was there. Night time, alone in the house, began to frighten me. Not only could I not hear but in the dark I couldn’t see as well. Some nights my paranoia took hold and I would imagine hearing noises outside the house. But then I learned to trust Nicholas’ attention and he was always right.

My second Golden, Willy, who I got when Nicholas was 13, caught on quickly and soon assumed Nicholas’ duties. I’ve always wondered if perhaps Nicholas trained him.

Then, a friend highly knowledgeable in disability laws suggested that I make Willy’s job official. So with a doctor’s letter, I got Willy tagged as an assistance dog from the County animal control. Now I could take him anywhere: in restaurants and shops, on planes and buses. It changed my life for the better. Some readers may remember the story when Willy saved my house from burning down. Here’s a link to that story in case you missed it: https://www.thedodo.com/community/rescuedbygoldens/willy-saves-our-home-from-burn-402047651.html

Now there’s Morgan, my rescue. Although it took some time to reverse his inappropriate behavior, we trained diligently for nearly two years and now he, too, looks out for me. He comes and gets me when someone is at the door or the smoke alarm goes off. He warns me about cars, even pulling me away from them.

Labor Day is a day to honor workers. I want to honor all of our canine working companions. Please share a story about how your dogs have served you or your family. Happy Labor Day Weekend.

Happy Birthday Morgan

 

August 16th is the day that we celebrate Morgan’s birthday. We don’t know whether that’s really the day he was born. It might have been. As many of you already know, Morgan’s a rescue and that’s the day that we drove him home with us in the back seat of my pick-up. The rescue organization, “Golden Retriever Club of Greater LA” told us he was about a year old. Morgan was small for that age and although he was adorable, he didn’t have that full face and body. We could feel his ribs. You could tell he had had a tough start.

While we were filling out paper work a car drove into the parking lot with a big white-faced Golden in the passenger seat. Morgan lunged towards the car and started barking wildly. It was then that we were informed that he had been turned in to a shelter for biting his owner.

Though Morgan’s behavior startled me, I was a “love will conquer all” kind of guy. I just knew with enough love and positive reinforcement Morgan would learn to behave. But it didn’t start out so well. Morgan had major issues around food that we didn’t know about. When we moved his food bowl he bit us.

Goldens had been there for me when I was sick and my life was in shambles. Now it was my turn to be there for one of them. I resolved to do whatever it took to give Morgan a good life.

Now six years later, Morgan has come around nicely. He’s still a dog who enjoys getting into mischief.  That’s a part of him that I love the most. But now when he gets into the trash he lets us pull food right out of his mouth. In the morning, he leaps up on the bed expecting his tummy rub. We’re inseparable. He’s laying right under my desk while I write this blog. I can’t imagine our life without him.

For more of Morgan’s first few days with us please check out the website RescuedbyGoldens.com and read the sample chapter from the book. Thanks.

Morgan asks, “Was it Sirius?”

 

Have you ever heard someone refer to the heat in August as the “dog days of summer?” Well at first, I thought it meant that August was so hot that us dogs (and probably cats, too) just laid around the house or in the back yard all day and did nothing. Too lazy and hot to get any work done like digging holes, swimming in a river or chasing the squirrels. But then I heard someone talking about “Dog Day Afternoon” and that really piqued my curiosity. So I went online and looked up “dog day afternoon.”

It’s a movie about a bank robbery that happens in August and it was so botched by Al Pacino that it became a circus. I’m sorry I still don’t know why it’s called “dog days” There was no dog. If there was, he would have gotten the loot and gotten away.

Then I saw that there’s a song called “The dog days are over” by someone I’d never heard of – Florence and the Machine. Check this link for the MTV unplugged video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwrfZ5hnhhc

I listened to it. It’s a catchy little tune, I’ll give her that. But the lyrics make no sense. It’s all about trains and bullets and running. Again, there’s no dog in the story. It’s more about her fear of some horses coming. If anyone ever needed a dog in her life it’s Florence. In my opinion if she had a dog she wouldn’t have to worry so much about the horses.

Then finally I got to “dog days of summer.”  As I said earlier, most of us think that “Dog Days” are about human’s best friend panting in the shade of a covered porch sipping lemonade. As endearing as this image is, that’s not how the expression started. But a dog does have a role in the origins of this term – a celestial dog. The origins come from the ancient Romans who looked to the stars for guidance when August temperatures reached into the 100’s.

Many of you probably know of constellations that look like bulls, lions, and horses. Well, one constellation, Canis Major, depicts a big dog. And the brightest star in this constellation is Sirius, the “dog star.” Sirius is visible throughout the year, but in July and August, it rises during the day with the sun. The ancient Romans thought that Sirius, combined with the sun, pushed the summer temperatures up.  They referred to this time of the year as the “dog days.”

We now know that the reason July and August are so hot in the Northern Hemisphere is because of the tilt of the earth. But the term has survived our enlightenment and remains our favorite way to describe this endlessly hot time of year.

Whether it’s Sirius doing his job or not, August still sends dog and man/woman to the protection of a shade tree. The heat in August can seem like it will never end. But in actuality, the forces of Sirius are beginning to subside.  A few more weeks of the intensity is all that is left for this year. Soon we’ll be worrying about the next polar vortex and how it’s too cold to go outside and that all the swimming holes are frozen.  So savor the last month of summer enjoying the glow of Sirius who brings us the dog days of summer. Let me know some of the ways you keep cool during these dog days.

 

Hot Cats On a Bun

It’s Morgan here and I’m having a “Grand Old” time here in San Francisco for the summer. As some readers know, we live in Palm Springs where it’s 108 today so to escape the heat we drive north to San Francisco every June where Mark Twain once wrote, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Where the local electric company puts up a billboard that reads, “It’s summer in San Francisco. Time to think about lowering your heating costs.” Where the July Fourth fireworks typically disappear in a thick bank of fog.

The Fourth of July is one of our nation’s most important holidays. It’s a time when families and friends get together to celebrate our freedoms. It’s also a time when us pets get a lot of attention, too. People play with us and throw balls for us in the parks and back yards and the beaches. Some of us are dressed up like Yankee Doodle dandies and that’s OK. My favorite holiday food is hot dogs on the grill but I would like to change the name to hot cats on the grill. Doesn’t that sound way more appetizing? No offense to my kitty friends.

But then when the sun sets, the day is capped off with my least favorite part of the holiday – the Fireworks.  When those “rocket’s red glare” and “bombs bursting in air” start making their noises us pets get pretty freaked out. According to the Humane Society and the ASPCA more pets run away on July Fourth than on any other day and it’s because of all that popping sound going on around us. We just want to get somewhere away from them as fast as possible.

We’re pretty clever, us pets. We can dig under a fence. Squeeze through an opening. We can jump over a fence. We can unlock a latch. We can jump out a window. We can come loose from a rope or just bite through the rope. With all that noise we do things that we don’t ordinarily do. Also, don’t forget that with so many people coming and going someone might accidently leave a door or a gate open. And once we’re out – we’re gone. We don’t stop running until we find a quiet place.

We have a holiday tradition at our house. Just before sunset my Dad closes all the windows and sets up a spot for me in the closet where I like to hide when I’m nervous. He stays right near with treats for me. He plays background music to drown out some of the noise.  But that’s only because my Dad has learned from past mistakes. He told me about Willy, his second Golden, and how he got loose one holiday afternoon when neighbors across the river lit off some firecrackers. Luckily he found Willy up the hill safe at a neighbor’s house. People who have never had a dog might not know what it’s like for us and in the excitement of the holiday it’s easy to forget.

So, my Fourth of July holiday wish is for everyone to have a safe and fun Fourth of July. But for all of our sake, before you rush off to get more sodas or an extra package of hot cats and buns for the unexpected guests, take an extra minute to make sure your four-legged kids are secure and safe.

As I mentioned, my favorite 4th of July treat is hot cats aka hot dogs. What’s yours?

How To Prepare For Your Pet’s Vacation

It’s June and the weather is heating up – well it’s been hot here in Palm Springs for some time but I know for the rest of the country it’s been a cold long winter. But as the Beatles sang – “Here Comes the Sun.” We’ve been planning our summer vacation for months. We’re heading up to cool foggy San Francisco. It’s great place for Golden Retrievers. Besides the usual planning and preparation when you have a pet there are additional considerations.

First is a check-up from the vet. We don’t want to start the trip out on the wrong four legs. Today I made sure that all of Morgan’s shots were current. It’s important with a retriever to make sure his or her ears are clean and clear. With the amount of water Morgan gets into that’s always a concern. And of course his eyes. Here in the dry desert heat and with chlorinated pools that’s always a body part that needs diligence. I always make sure I carry his eye lubricant and eye drops.

Besides my own medication I also need to make sure I have ample supplies of Morgan’s. Due to Morgan’s back leg injuries, he has early arthritis, so I always carry his pain medication for an as needed basis. As you might know from following Morgan’s Facebook page he’s quite active and my approach is to let him keep going for as long as possible. However, some days we both overdue it. I know from my own experience that with body pain, it’s important to get a good night’s sleep, so I keep a supply of Morgan’s pain meds around. It settles Morgan down nicely for the night without causing grogginess the next morning. And then he’s ready to go again.

We will be spending July 4th in San Francisco. The loft we stay at is close to the Bay where they set off the fireworks celebration. As many pet owners have experienced, this is a traumatic time for animals. And sometimes it doesn’t end on the holiday. A few years ago when we were on Cape Cod the neighbors up the street lit fireworks for the following two weekends. It was hell. Also, the loft that we stay at in San Francisco is located near the Giants ball park and whenever they win the set off fireworks. Last year, fortunately for Morgan’s sake, they didn’t win too many games but this year they’re in first place.

Another time, we were at a motel in San Francisco and there was a loud banging coming from a construction site next door. The wind was causing something to bang on the roof. In this particular instance I had run out of his meds and I called the vet and asked what I should do. He suggested Benadryl. It worked pretty well. Eventually Morgan slipped off to sleep.  I don’t suggest you give your pet Benadryl – I suggest that you talk to your vet about this possible option.

I know that many readers live in parts of the country that gets severe thunderstorms in the summer and this gets the pets nervous, too.

I keep Morgan’s fur really short for the summer for three reasons. First and obviously is that after he’s been swimming in the bay and rolling in the sand it’s easier to clean him up. Second, out here in the dry West during the summer there’s lots of fox tails to be stepped on and run through. Foxtails are the spiked like seeds of the wild grasses here and can get into a dog’s paws, ears, eyes, anywhere really and can be very painful. Having a summer clip makes it easier for me to keep an eye on his paws and anywhere else one might lodge itself. Like his ears. What I do ahead of time is practice running my fingers in between Morgan’s toes so he gets used to the feeling. I remember when I first got Morgan he refused to let me touch him in this manner. Now he likes it. I can tell. If we’re out on a hike and he steps on something he stops immediately and lifts his paw and waits for me to remove it. It’s so touching.

And lastly, as many of you are aware there is a growing outbreak of Lyme’s Disease, particularly in the northeast. I can speak from firsthand experience. Even after inspecting my previous Golden, Willy, every evening for ticks somehow he came down with Lyme’s disease. It was frightening. One of the main symptoms is lameness. Willy just wouldn’t get up from the shady spot he was in. If you see this behavior rush your dog to the vet.

Wherever we travel I always go online ahead of time and look for a pet store that carries Morgan’s brand of food. Traveling isn’t the time for switching. In San Francisco I was lucky to find a store just three blocks away from the loft. I also bring Morgan’s blanket and some toys with us to make him feel more at home. Even if he never touches them once we’re there.

I would love to hear how about some of the ways that you prepare to take your pet on vacation with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come Back as a Golden Retriever

I can’t tell you how many times someone has watched the way I treated my Golden Retriever and said to me “I want to comeback as your Golden.”

It makes me laugh but there’s a lot of truth to it, too.

I confess I do treat my pet better than I treat other people. I’m sure I am not the only pet owner guilty of this.

But let’s look at the facts. Does your spouse or significant other greet you at the door every night wagging their cute tail and running around in circles because they are happy you’re home? Does your true love jump up on you, try to lick your chin, nearly knocking you over?

And that’s just the first greeting. I am sure many of you have your special morning greeting with your pets. It sure beats the trash talk I heard this morning from my significant other when I woke up,

“Did you remember to put the trash out last night?”

My day usually begins at 6AM when I feel a bounce on the bed and open my eyes and see Morgan with two paws on the mattress with a big smiley face. Who else would be so happy to see my morning mug shot and smell my morning breath?

Morgan’s adoring expression made me think of an article I read by Dr. Suzanne Phillips, clinical psychologist at Long Island University. Dr. Phillips writes how pets can teach us about improving our relationships with our wives, husbands, partners, spouses, or significant others. I’ll take it one step further and say what pets can teach us about the way we treat each other in general.

Dr. Phillips asks some insightful questions. See how you do?

First – No matter how you feel and what mood you are in, you greet your pet with a positive, even animated hello and often with a display of physical affection. How often do you do this with your spouse? Or even your friends?

Second – How many times have you been waiting at home for your spouse, irritated that they’re late and then when they finally arrive we greet them at the door with “Did you get the dry cleaning?” I hope you didn’t forget the milk?” “Did you mail my letter?”

I know when I’m late and irritated there is no better welcome home than hearing Morgan’s tail thump, thump, thump on the floor as I turn the key in the door.

Third – When your true love puts away the mail and they forget where they put it, how many times have you reacted by losing your temper?

Dr. Philips says there is a natural tendency to forgive pets their trespasses and I agree – after all, the dog wasn’t trying to torture you by eating the mail. Was your partner really trying to torture you by putting it in such a safe spot it can’t be found?

So if you failed this quiz don’t feel bad, so did I. But I’m going to make a genuine effort to follow Dr. Phillip’s advice and try to be a little more patient and sweeter with my partner by following Morgan’s loving example.

Does your dog sleep on the bed?

Recently, I posted a Facebook photo of Morgan on the bed. It was captioned as Do you let your dog on  the bed? It generated the most comments that I’d ever gotten. So I decided it warranted a blog of its own.

As a boy I can remember my grandmother always trying to keep their Yellow Lab, Duke, off the bed. She’d come in and shoo him off and not more than twenty minutes later he would be back on the bed. Of course, that was the safest place for Duke when me and my two younger brothers showed up at his house. We lived a few blocks away from Nana so we were there often.

But I think this shows that a bed can be more than just a place to sleep. It’s a place to take comfort and feel secure. Morgan loves being on the bed and I love having him there. We cuddle and watch TV together. He seems particularly amused by Rizzoli & Isles. Sometimes I write at night in bed and I like having him right next to me.  I can run my hand along his big goofy head.  I just have to look at him and I relax. It’s like a meditation.

Nicholas, my first Golden, and I had a mutual appreciation for the bed-companionship. Twenty-five years ago, when my partner died, facing an empty bed at night was the most painful time. Nicholas sensed my despair and would jump up on the bed. I’d put my arm around him and run my hands along his big broad head twenty or thirty times until I finally drifted off to sleep. Sometimes in the evening if a storm came up, I’d feel the bed rock a bit in the middle of the night and I knew that Nicholas was jumping in – afraid of the lightning and thunder.  I’d put my arm around him and we’d fall back to sleep.

However, not all my dogs liked being on the bed. My second dog, Willy, did NOT like the bed at all. Even with a bribe. He’d jump up, take the bribe and then jump right off. But I think this had something to do with how Willy joined our family. When Willy came along Nicholas was too old to be on the bed and puppy Willy liked to sleep on the floor near Nicholas. Then, even after Nicholas crossed over the bridge Willy continued to sleep on the floor. Another reason was that when I would finally get Willy up on the bed he liked to stretch out across the entire foot of the mattress. He refused to lay like a person, top to bottom, and I think I might have pushed him a few times with my leg. Naturally, I always started out in a curled up position to let him sleep but I think when I fell into dream world I might have hit him with my foot.

As I said, Morgan loves the bed and I love him on it but because of his weak back legs I don’t like him jumping on or off by himself. I prefer that he put his front paws up and wait until I lift him up. More often than not, he waits. But if I’m too slow and he becomes impatient he gets down. He backs away and then comes running forward and leaps up onto the bed. It’s always a surprise to see his big body come flying through the air and he makes me smile.

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