When I met Denny he had a puppy named Riesling. She was a Golden Retriever and she taught me everything I know about Goldens. Or so I thought. That was 26 years ago.
Since then we have had seven Goldens. Five of them have been found through Golden Retriever rescue groups – in Virginia and Florida. We have laid Riesling, Beau, Maggie and Charley to rest. We now have Amber (7 years old and 56 pounds), Jake (6 years old and 104 pounds), and Ben (somewhere around 8 years old and 77 pounds). Goldens come in all shapes and sizes, colorations, curly coats, straight coats, funny, sad, shy, boisterous, healthy and not so healthy.
Every time we get a Golden, I think to myself “wow, what a unique dog”. So is every Golden special? Sure! Is every dog special? Sure! Is a rescue dog special? Absolutely! Let me tell you why –
Last October, a Golden Retriever rescue organization in Naples gave us a call and said a male retriever needed to be picked up in Sarasota. He needed to be fostered by a caring, therapeutic family as he was thought to be older, injured and sickly. He was underweight, had undergone surgery to remove tumors, had been medicated for infection, had his ears treated, and been cleaned of hundreds of fleas and ticks. He had a number of sores. He was found wandering around a schoolyard obviously starving and in need of emergency veterinary care. Once the Sarasota vet had him stabilized it was time to see if he could be adopted.
Denny went up to get “Ben” and arrived home with a bony, hairless, limping, bandaged, stapled and shy dog that looked to need some serious TLC. He came with strict diet and medical instructions and looked like he may not be able to stand on all fours. They thought he might be as old as 10. But Ben was interesting. He got along immediately with Jake and Amber. He ate well and tolerated being fussed with. After the first couple of weeks, Ben got his staples removed and got a lot more active. He became more independent. At about a month Ben started staring at us intently and then talking to us. This wasn’t a random bark – this was get in your face, make eye contact and talk. It became clear Ben was trying to connect. So we got the message – we adopted Ben.
As winter passed, Ben filled out and his hair started growing back. He was really becoming part of the family and enjoying the full Guyitt treatment – shampoos, comb outs, treats, toys, swimming lessons – which resulted in towel tug-a-war - walks and car rides. Ben goes nuts when he thinks he is going on a walk or ride. A walk is a joyful wiggle down the road. A ride is a like having an eight year old in the back seat – where are we going? When will we get there? Will we see lots of people and dogs? Are we there yet? And the head goes out the window with a big grin.
In the last 4 months, Ben has clearly taken up his place in the Guyitt household. And he has a coat of hair most polar bears would envy. In fact, because his back legs muscles don’t work correctly he has a funny wiggle when he runs and everyone says he looks like a baby bear. We recently purchased a set of carpeted stairs so he can get on the bed and cuddle for a while. Ben loves to cuddle. In fact, Amber and Jake love to cuddle too. Our rescue dogs are incredibly affectionate and interactive.
We think Ben is closer to 8 years old. At least we hope so. We want to have Ben for a few years. He makes us smile and we are so glad to have him in our family. I call Ben my therapy dog. When I am stressed or anxious, all I need is a Ben fix. I think he was sent to us for a reason. Rescue dogs all come from serious situations – some of them unthinkable. And we think we rescue them. But in the end they always rescue us.