Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Morgan Mallard McGillicuddy

Top of the morning everyone. We’re in San Francisco, a city with a rich Irish history and a city fond of Golden Retrievers. According to the American Kennel Club, in 2013, Golden Retrievers were the second most popular dog in SF. Being surrounded by water on three sides gives it year round cool weather and makes it a haven for this breed. Morgan’s favorite place is the dog beach at Crissy Field. That’s where we plan to go just as soon as we finish breakfast.

You might be wondering why I named Morgan – Morgan Mallard McGullicuddy? First, we liked the name Morgan. Then Mallard is a gentleman pirate and the leader of the pirates known as Mos Le’Harmless. He was a kind and generous pirate despite his profession. We felt like Morgan was this way when we first got him. Lastly, when I was a kid growing up in South Boston there was a McGullicuddy’s Drug Store that we always stopped at on the way to the beach in the summer or the skating rink in winter. McGullicuddy is an old Irish name. (My Irish surname is Flaherty.)

This beautiful sunny morning we’ll start with some Barry’s Irish Breakfast tea and some Soda Bread smothered with Kerrygold Irish butter. Morgan will get a little nibble of the bread. Then we’ll take a short walk around the Eureka Valley neighborhood where our hotel is located. It’s one of the old Irish neighborhoods. Then we’ll have some McCann’s Instant Steel Cut Irish Oats. Morgan likes it mixed in with his food. While I was at the store searching for my McCann’s oatmeal, I came across a new brand called Flahavan’s Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal which I plan to try soon. Then while online looking to compare the two Irish brands I came upon another company called Kilbeggan Organic Porridge Oatlets. I love trying new foods and I’m sure Morgan will enjoy them too.

Later, after Morgan gets a swim at Crissy Beach we’ll head over to Patrick and Buffy Maguire’s coffee shop called Java Beach Café which is just around the corner from the United Irish Cultural Center of SF (UICC). Java has the best blueberry pie in SF. Morgan will get one of his Bully Sticks, his version of a mini Irish shillelagh.

I’m not a big fan of corned beef and cabbage but if I find any throughout the day I will give Morgan a little taste. I‘ll be passing on the Irish beers and liqueurs, as well. Did enough of that in my younger days.

Morgan and I wish you and your favorite companion a Happy St. Paddy’s Day.

My Hairy Valentines

It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with my first dog, a Golden Retriever. It happened the night we brought him home. He was only eight weeks old and a little red ball of fur. It was just before Christmas so appropriately I named him Nicholas. I was in between jobs so I got to spend all my time with him.

I come from an uptight, tough, working-class family. Nicholas opened my heart for the first time with his unconditional love. We went to beaches, Golden Gate Park, and Lake Tahoe. It was on our walks and our hikes that I discovered the beauty of nature.  I was a city boy and suddenly I became a lover of national parks and seashores, of the wilderness, and of places far away that I could only dream about visiting.  

Then came Willy, a lighthearted, free-spirited, blond Golden. When I became ill, we retreated to the redwood forest together. There my appreciation for nature deepened. Suddenly it wasn’t just the open spaces, pristine beaches and the woods that I cared about. Now it included the animals whose homes were in those places. As we watched an osprey build her nest and then care for her offspring and as we observed the harbor seals haul out of the sea where the Russian River empties into the ocean my love of nature expanded to a feeling of stewardship. I wanted to help protect the whales and dolphins in the ocean, the wolves and caribou in the wilderness, and the migrating birds in the skies.

Now, Morgan is in my life. He was a rescued dog who came to us damaged, aggressive and sick. From the beginning I saw a sparkle of love in his eyes just waiting to grow. It’s been an ongoing learning experience with Morgan.  I didn’t always do it right. There have been setbacks. But thanks to the unconditional love that I had received my commitment to him has been unwavering.

On this Valentine’s Day I have my dogs to thank for opening my heart to something bigger. Because of my dogs I now work and fight for the welfare, dignity and rights of all animals and the planet that we all call home. I want to send a Valentine blessing to all creatures and to all those individuals who help protect them.

When Emergencies Strike Our pets Need Us the Most

For my latest blog please see – https://www.thedodo.com/community/rescuedbygoldens/when-disaster-strikes-our-pets-396656001.html

Our New Year’s Day Message

Now that I am older I just don’t enjoy venturing out into the chaos of New Year’s Eve – the crowded restaurants and clubs charging double and triple what it normally costs. The loud noise called music. Elbow to elbow with people I don’t know. But most importantly I can’t stand leaving Morgan all alone at home.

So now I celebrate New Year’s by going to bed at midnight – East Coast time, as many of you know we live in California, and getting up early New Year’s Day and having the world to ourselves. It’s become a New Year’s Day tradition to take an early morning hike with my dog.  One of my most memorable New Year’s Day hikes was to Pt. Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, in Northern California, across the Golden Gate Bridge, to watch the whales migrating. My dog loved being out in the cool crisp morning air. In the winter the sky is deep blue and the sun sparkles on the water.

Since moving to Southern California I’ve continued the tradition and my favorite New Year’s place is hiking in Whitewater Preserve, 2800 acres of wilderness, just a few miles north of Palm Springs. The ranger station is closed on New Year’s Day, along with the parking lot, so it limits the visitors. But we park down the road and walk in and have the place all to ourselves. Morgan loves the open space and the cold mountain water streaming along.

In honor of our hiking tradition I’d like to leave you with a ‘hiking tail’ called “Morgan the Magnificent” that some readers may have read on my Facebook Page – Rescued by Goldens. But I write here the complete unabridged version.


While on our early morning hike today we spotted the elusive, rare, single-antlered Mojave Reindeer. He was perched on a cliff high on the mountain.

MorganMojaveDeer (2)

 We crept – quietly and softly – up the trail and around the boulders. We inched closer, ever fearful of frightening off this shy, magnificent creature. It has been decades since the last sighting of the endangered single-antlered Mojave Reindeer. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, single-antlered Mojave Reindeer have rebounded throughout the Santa Rosa Mountains that divide the desert from the Coastal Plains. But they remain shy and recluse.

We wondered how close we would be allowed to get before he became nervous. We moved slowly. The animal peered left and then right as a flock of crows squawked nearby. He was unbothered by the cawing.  His sight remained on the flock of California Quail in the brush below. 

As the morning mist lifted, the creature came into clearer view. His antler was on the right side which indicated a male. On females, the antlers are on the left. From the size of the antler the creature must have been 4 or 5 years old. They’re known to live for ten or twelve years. His fur was gold colored and radiated in the morning sun.


We inched our way closer. The animal seemed unconcerned by our presence. He must have known that we donated regularly to Greenpeace, Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Society, Audubon, Humane Society, ASPCA, Sierra Club and the Palm Springs Animal Shelter- to name just a few.

Despite his regal-ness, the animal had a perpetual smile on his face and seemed unabashed by his odd evolutionary departure from his Northern two-antlered reindeer ancestors. We named him “Morgan the Magnificent.”


As he basked on the cliffs in the dry warm southern desert it was obvious that Morgan had no intention of ever migrating back to his former frigid home in LapLandia.


This is the first year that Morgan has allowed us to put the antlers on him. In previous seasons he would have no part of it. It’s a sign of his getting older. Our pets are in our lives for so short of a time. I encourage everyone to cherish them even more in the coming New Year. They are all magnificent and deserving of unconditional love back. Two dear friends of mine have had their pets pass over the Rainbow Bridge this past year – Melvis and Woody. I dedicate this New Year’s blog to all of our special friends who have crossed that Bridge this past year. Morgan and I wish everyone a happy and healthy, a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Let Your Pet Keep Your Yuletide Bright

The holidays may be a time of joy, love, families, good food, gifts, warm fireplaces and snowy forests but along with that comes:

Black Friday. Black ice. Blizzards. Sleeting rain. Traffic jams. Crowded malls. Slippery sidewalks. Travel delays. Colds and sneezy runny noses.

Don’t let the second list overshadow the top one. The best way I know to beat the stress of the season is to cuddle up with my dog on the couch by the Christmas tree. Studies have shown that people with pets have lower blood pressure and are depressed less often. This isn’t new information to those of us with animal friends. However, in this busy holiday time we tend to forget this tried and true remedy. When I was out shopping back in Boston in the 20 degree weather and I came in from the cold, I couldn’t think of a better way to warm myself than to sit down next to Morgan and give him a big hug and run my cold hands through his thick fur. He never balks at this extra attention and affection.

I love Christmas music and one of my favorites is the Little Drummer Boy and the “rum pa pa pa pa.” But it will never compare to the bang, bang, bang, of Morgan’s tail when returning home after standing in line at the post office to mail gifts to my family in New England. No matter how tired I am his greeting energizes me and in no time at all we are out on a walk and I’ve forgotten the tension of the traffic and the insanity of the post office.

Once back after a brisk walk in the dry-cold desert air, I make my favorite holiday drink, a steaming hot chocolate. I’ve tried lots of brands, including imported ones, and my favorite is still Ghirardelli double chocolate. I acquired a taste for it when living in San Francisco, the worldwide headquarters of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. I take out my special Christmas mug and heat up some milk and stir in 2 scoops of the dark aromatic powder. Morgan comes running over to the kitchen because he knows what’s next. Actually, Morgan comes running to the kitchen anytime one of us goes there. He might be in a deep sleep at the far end of the house and the tiniest noise in the kitchen and he suddenly appears bright-eyed and tail wagging. But for a moment, in this Christmas story, let’s pretend that he’s at the kitchen for this special occasion. I take out one of his peanut butter scones from our local pet bakery, Bones and Scones, and my homemade chocolate chip cookies. I find a place on the floor and we share our treats. Morgan’s scone looks so good that I’m tempted to give one of them a taste. But then he’d want one of mine and I nix the thought. I close my eyes and wrap my arm around Morgan and take a moment with man and woman’s best friend (cat or dog). It’s the best way I know to keep the yuletide bright.

Have a great Holiday with your favorite animal companion.

Yours Truly,

Morgan and Dan


Morgan’s Thanksgiving Gratitude List


Hello everyone. Morgan here and I’m writing this week’s blog as Dan is busy with his family. We’re “Back East” in New England where the Thanksgiving tradition first began a long time ago. The rain has stopped and it’s cold today and the blustery wind makes it feel even wintrier. The first thing I’m grateful for this holiday is that my fur has grown back out from the summer haircut. Nana says I look like a bear now. Grandpa took me out for a long walk this afternoon and I wasn’t even that cold. I could have stayed out all afternoon though I’m not really a big fan of the wind. We went to a park down the street and it looks so strange for the trees not to have any leaves. I heard everyone talking about snow flurries but so far it’s a clear day.

Morgan Quincy Hill CU 2 (2)

Last night my uncle came over to the house with his three little girls. They were so loud and kept touching me on my head and my tail. Dan kept me close by his side to keep everyone safe. I really like our nieces but the second thing I’m grateful for is that I don’t live with little girls. They make so much noise. I was glad when it was time for them to leave and go to bed and the house got quiet again.

This morning I read in the Boston Globe that “mock turkey” was first introduced for vegetarians in 1894 by Ella Kellogg – yes, the wife of the father of corn flakes. Even though turkey can potentially be harmful to dogs I’m grateful that our home serves the real thing and that there is always leftovers for the next day. I always get a little bit. I’m grateful for the sweet potatoes, too. They’re one of my favorite.

Morgan Quincy Hill CU

I’m grateful that I was born a Golden Retriever. Not that I have anything against other breeds. All dogs are people, too. I’m grateful I’m so handsome. At least that’s what everyone always tells me.

On a serious note –I’m grateful I was rescued that day 5 years ago. And that I went to a good home where I am loved and taken care of.  My Thanksgiving wish is that all the homeless pets find their forever homes soon.

The Hills are Alive with the Sounds of – MORGAN

The mountains surrounding Palm Springs are lined with trails of all levels of difficulty and length. If you’re looking for lush green mountains like in The Sound of Music it isn’t in the desert. These hills are treacherous. It’s recommended not to go it alone. The path is narrow and often a steep grade either up or down. Both directions present unique challenges. Going up is more difficult for stamina and breathing but coming down takes a toll on your ankles and knees.

Part of the attraction is its danger and raw beauty. The San Jacinto Mountains are 10,000 feet high. You feel like a tiny speck. It’s humbling. The rugged outcroppings and steep grades make it a true adventure.

I’ve been hiking these trails with my dogs since I moved here in 2004. First with Willy,

my second Golden and now with Morgan. Hiking on these trails takes precaution. WATER is the most critical, crucial resource. I always bring more than I need. You never know what’s going to happen –how your body is going to respond to wind, the dryness, a change in temperature and even an accidental spill of the water bottle. You don’t want to be up there without WATER. Hiking in the desert isn’t like hiking other places where there are streams and rivers or lakes. Therefore you must also bring plenty of water for your canine companion. His body reacts the same way. He could just as easily get dehydrated. I always keep a close eye on my dogs. His thirst usually happens before mine. But I always let him decide whether he’s ready for water or not. We sometimes even pour a little on Morgan’s nose.


Next is FOOD or at least a snack. You need to keep yourself nourished. Make sure it’s not salty. Fruit is always a good option. Trail mix is a good alternative. We sometimes even make an old staple that many of us had as kids – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I never forget a treat for Morgan. Even if you don’t feed your dog human food or table scraps you’ve got bring something for him. This is a lot of activity for man and canine as well. We sometimes bring Morgan a bowl of his food and fill it with plenty of water so he drinks too.

It took me a while before I got the right balance of water. When I first moved here I sometimes didn’t bring enough and had to shorten the hike and then there were times I brought too much and it was heavy to carry in the knapsack. The good thing about carrying too much is that at some point you can pour a little onto a thirsty cactus.

We also carry tweezers with us all the time. Just in case Morgan steps into something. Those desert plants have some mean thorns and stickers that literally jump out and stick to you as you pass by. And with all the Golden fur it’s easy to happen. You don’t want to pull anything off with your bare hand. Some people brings gloves but I’ve found that tweezers are enough.

As a further precaution I’d suggest you bring bandage and gauze. This rocky terrain is slippery and accidents can happen to you or the dog. You don’t want to be up there with your leg bleeding. Or your dogs. And you don’t want to have to come home early on a spectacular hike. These are things that I always carry when I leave the house for any length of time. It’s not just here in the desert. Willy cut his paw once in the ocean in Maine and I was relieved that I had all the supplies needed to properly and safely bandage his leg. I even taped an old sock around it so he couldn’t pick at it. There’s a photo of him on the web site with the sock.

Not to dampen the spirit of adventure it’s important to know about snakes. Here in the desert we have some venomous snakes that prefer not to come into contact with humans or canines but occasionally slither onto the trail to warm themselves in the winter sun. There have been several reported incidents where dogs have been injured by snakes. We’ve actually given Morgan a snake-aversion class. I don’t recommend this for the faint of heart. The trainers come to your house with live rattle snakes and an electric collar for the dog.

When Morgan got close to the snakes he was zapped and yelped and jumped back. In the final test, without the electric collar, when he saw the rattler this time he ran in the opposite direction. Though in general, I oppose the use of this device for training, I believe that Morgan will never go near a snake again and that could save his life!

Here’s a link to the ASPCA site about pet safety and snakes: http://pets.webmd.com/snake-bite-safety-prevention-pet

Weight Gain

Harvest-time is here and the pumpkin pies are about ready and there’s gravy for the mashed potatoes. And there’s plenty of football games or a cliff-hanging episode of NCIS (come back Ziva. Tony isn’t the only one who misses you) on the telly to keep us couch-bound. It’s not an easy time if weight gain is an issue in your house for either 2-legged or 4-legged family members.

Are you part of the problem? Here’s an interesting fact I read in an article by Eve Adamson in Dog Fancy magazine – according to a recent Pfixer Animal Health study, many pet owners are in denial, veterinarians consider 47 percent of their pet patients to be overweight or obese, but only 17 percent of dog owners thought their own pets were overweight or obese.

“We are killing our pets with kindness,” says Cailin Heinze, VMD, MS diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and assistant professor of nutrition at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, MA, the home of the nation’s first obesity clinic just for pets, according to the university. “Pet owners need to realize we have very good evidence from clinical studies that show chronic diseases associated with (being) over weight and (obese),” Heinze says. “One study showed that obese lab retrievers lived fewer years than their thinner siblings. Cancer, respiratory disease, pancreatitis and dermatological conditions have all been linked to obesity in pets.”

As a Golden owner, I know that Golden Retrievers have a tendency to grow sideways as they get older and this is not good for their legs, their heart, their backs, or for the owners of these big dogs. Nicholas never had a weight problem but still I injured my back his final 2 years when he no longer was able to get in the truck or go up and down stairs. It would have been worse if he was overweight. Willy knew right where the treat jar was in every neighborhood store that we went in to and I had to watch him more closely. Treats are a major stumbling block to cutting the weight. Morgan, unfortunately, injured his rear legs and requires serious monitoring now so that we can delay problems later on.

Firstly, it doesn’t matter to me whether you think your dog is overweight or not. The most important thing right now for any dog is to get him or her moving.  For most of the country there’s still a few weeks to get out of the house. If you aren’t physically able to walk your dog yourself ask someone else to do it. My experience is that the neighbors or an in-law would love to have the chance to walk a dog on occasion. People always volunteered to walk my dogs. Lots of people can’t have dogs and would jump at the chance to walk an animal around the block. Ask about this at your vet. You’d be surprised. It’s worth the effort.

I know first-hand how difficult this is. I am always being told that it’s best if Morgan dropped a few more pounds.  When I put him on the scale at the vet and the arrow still goes to 75 I get so discouraged.

Second, check the food intake. Maybe he is getting too many calories. Or maybe too many all at once. Especially later on when there’s a foot of snow on the ground or a mean wind off the Lake. Check the package. Even the big chains carry lower calorie food now a days. Most sales clerks at these shops will be willing to help you choose one. We’ve already made the switch to low-calorie food. Then I’ve also cut half a cup of kibble out of his normal amount and augmented it with frozen string beans or broccoli.  At first he looked at me like “what the hell is this!”  But over time I’ve learned to heat it or mix it up good by adding a little tuna juice or a little non-fat cottage cheese and he’s gotten to like it. This lowers the calorie count and still fills his belly so he doesn’t feel hungry.

Another suggestion is to spread the meal across the day so it’s not sitting there in his belly fermenting into fat. Morgan gets a cup in the morning when we eat and another cup at lunch. Then he gets his normal dinner at supper time.

As I mentioned above, treats are a tough thing to monitor. Everyone wants to give your dog a bribe and treats can modify behavior. But be strong and limit them. According to this article in Dog Fancy treats should only make up 10% of our companion’s total calorie count. Let me suggest that you carry some low calorie fresh veggie treats like baby carrots or broccoli florets with you and let people give him those.

This may seem like a lot of work but my hope is that it will prevent hardship later on and give all of us more quality-of-life time when our dogs are seniors.

Halloween Safety Tips for Pet Parents

Halloween is just a week away and I see lots of pics on Facebook of pets dressed up in costumes. They all look so cute. On occasion I would put a Red Sox hat on Nicholas. I have one pic on my web site of him with sunglasses looking cool. Willy tolerated hats and glasses, also. One Christmas I found felt antlers and that became a tradition on Willy’s head. He seemed to enjoy the attention he got with them. Morgan will have nothing to do with this stuff. He barely tolerated a Patriots hat on his head for thirty seconds while I snapped a photo so I’ve given up the holiday antler tradition.

I found this on the internet from the SPCA and wanted to pass it along.

Our vets and behaviorists weighed in and said putting your pet in costume is okay as long as you’re certain he’s comfortable in his holiday gear. If you decide to have your pet wear a costume, here are ten helpful tips to keep in mind:

  1. Your pet’s Halloween garb shouldn’t constrict his movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Be sure to try on costumes well in advance—and if your furry friend seems distressed, try switching to his birthday suit. Or consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.
  2. Examine your pet’s costume and make sure it doesn’t have any small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get caught on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.
  3. No tricks, no treats: That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.
  4. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.
  5. Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.
  6. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.
  7. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress.
  8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

A couple of personal notes from me – Pets are a draw to humans anytime of the year, more so if they’re dressed up all cutesy. Children and even adults will be more inclined to want to pet them than before. Don’t leave your pet unattended. My advice is don’t let children around them – it’s a recipe for a disaster. Kids and dogs are already a bit excitable on this night.

  1. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.
  2. IDs, please! Make sure your dog or cat has proper identification on underneath that cute costume. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost during Halloween festivities, tags or a microchip can be a lifesaver and increasing the chances that he or she will be returned to you
Nicholas looking distinguished

Making That Loving Heartbreaking Decision


As the country debates our health care system it made me think about two friends who are struggling with the health care decisions of a different kind. This summer these friends had to cancel a lunch because they discovered a tumor in their 10 year old Golden’s mouth and they were too distraught to meet. Luckily, they’ve got the financial resources to do whatever is necessary for Buddy, medically. Since then there’s been some improvement as the tumor has shrunk but they shared that it was only a temporary reprieve. They’ve decided that with such little time left with Buddy they would take him to his favorite lake in the Rocky Mountains.

This is an issue that most anyone who has ever had a pet knows only too well. I’m not even talking about the financial issues.  Even if we had all the money in the world to buy our pets the best care possible, or had the best pet insurance available, at some point, we all come to that same difficult decision. When do we determine that our little loved ones are not going to get better and are suffering unnecessarily?

As a person with a chronic illness I know only too well the toll that needles and medications and trips to the doctor can cause.

This isn’t an article to say what is right. It’s such an individual decision and everyone has a different opinion. I had one dear friend with a Cocker Spaniel who I thought euthanized her dog too soon, though I didn’t share my thoughts with her. She was adamant that she wasn’t going to let her dog suffer. With tears we both dug his grave.

Twice I’ve faced this difficult situation with my Goldens. Nicholas got to the point where he couldn’t walk anymore and Willy was just too sick. Both times I wanted them to keep battling and stay alive as long as possible.

My very opinionated mother will still tell you that I let Nicholas live for too long, that he was suffering too much. But to me, his mind was still sharp and alert. His white face glowed at night and his eyes still beamed with life.  I couldn’t do it. I’d already been carrying him up and down our many hillside stairs for over two years. But it was a labor of love. He’d given me so much. Finally, his legs gave out completely. After consulting with a local dog whisperer I knew it was time.

When Willy got sick a friend told me I was a good and kind owner to help my boy pass on when I did and not let it drag on with him suffering.

As I said before this is a highly personal decision. But I do have one suggestion that the dog whisperer recommended to me. Don’t let the last night be just a sad occasion. Don’t spend it crying alone in your bed. Celebrate the time that you’ve both had together. I bought Nicholas ground beef and pumpkin pie and went down to the river’s side, a place he loved, and had a picnic with him.  For Willy I took him to a friend’s swimming pool. It’s a place where we cooled off on many warm days. Though he was unable to go in the pool now, I made a comfortable bed for him to lie on. These last moments with my dear friends I will hold in my memory forever.