Raising a Golden: One Year of Bliss
Being ready for a dog
My wife and I got news that a woman at her workplace who breeds Golden Retrievers just had a small litter. She had been asking me for years (half jokingly) if we could get a dog. As we are caregivers for her disabled mother, I was always reluctant. A dog would be another responsibility, when her mother is already a handful. However, Golden Retrievers are one of the most sought after breeds due to their gentle, friendly disposition. Betting that we would probably get "no" for an answer, I emailed the woman saying "my wife and I have been looking for a pet to help us comfort her aging mom." I promptly got an email back saying that all the litter have been spoken for, and to try again next time she breeds. My wife wasn't too disappointed. It was much like buying a lottery ticket coming up flat.
Winning the "lottery"
About a week later I received an email from the breeder. A prospective owner who committed to one of the Golden pups had to back out. The breeder said that my email stuck out in her mind, as she received hundreds of requests asking "how much." She told us many people want Goldens to breed for money, motivated by greed. She said she "had a good feeling about our motivation" and that is why she responded to our request.
Without a second thought, we told her we were interested. After agreeing to the price (a bit expensive), she brought the dog to our home. She was two months old and on her first round of shots. My mother-in-law was immediately captivated and named her "Kinako." Kinako is a Japanese soy powder which has a golden color and sprinkled on top of mochi, a rice dessert. Our dog was the same color of this powder when she was a pup.
Quick Golden Retrievers Stats
Average weight of a mature adult Golden Retriever: males 65-75 lbs. females 55-65 lbs.
The average lifespan of a Golden Retriever is between 10 and 12 years.
Personality traits are even-temperedness, congenial, and intelligent.
The trials of potty training, vaccines, and teething.
Young dogs are at risk for Parvovirus, a potentially fatal disease that can be spread by animal feces. Puppies should get vaccinated every three weeks starting at about week eight, until week 17. As we got Kinako at eight weeks old, she had to stay indoors, not yet potty trained, for two months! We designated the landing on our stairs as her "bathroom" and put down puppy pads.
Cleaning up pee and poop wasn't so much the hard part. It was the constant chewing! When dogs are young they have very sharp puppy teeth. They love to chew because they are teething. And chew they do! My first casualty was a pair of Bose computer speakers, then countless socks and a few shoes. Anything remotely related to paper was shredded and distrubuted evenly throughout the floor. At one point my mother-in-law cried in exasperation. "Doggie doesn't like me because she bites me all the time," she cried in her thick Japanese accent. We had to reassure her that it was just a passing phase.
Once our dog got her last round of vaccines, we rejoiced. Now we were able to take her for walks around the block with no worries. She could now go outside to take care of business in the backyard. A local American Kennel Club chapter was offering obedience classes. We signed her up for the 12 week class. The instructors were like drill sergeants and wanted us to be the same. We learned the basics in this class: how to sit, how to heal, how to stay, and how to stand. Another gem we got from the class is the early socialization with other dogs.
Reaping the rewards
Something magical happened around the end of puppy school time. Our dog shed her puppy teeth for real canines, started "listening" to us when we told her commands, and became very sweet and gentle with other people and dogs. When she greets others she lies on back and shows her belly.
Prior to owning a dog, my wife and I were not that social and spent most of our time at home caregiving. Although we have a few close friends, we don't socialize much. Both of us also had high blood pressure before getting a dog. Since we have had Kinako, we have been going to the park every day after work to let per play with her other dog friends. I remember when I was a kid it was easy to meet people and make friends, but as an adult it has somehow become more difficult. With Kinako, it is easy again! Our dog is so loving it just goes up to strangers and sits on their feet until they pet her. You couldn't find a better way to introduce yourself to others. We are lucky live near a dog-friendly park where we can encounter up to 10 dogs a night. As for the high blood pressure, it is way down with the daily exercise and comfort our dog has brought us. She has also been good to my mother-in-law and keeps her company so she doesn't get lonely. Kinako sits with her and cuddles with the wheels of her wheelchair like it is one her legs. In short, this dog has been healing for the whole family.