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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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

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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: