Archive for January, 2008

Assigned Travel Seating


Our Goldens love to take a ride. Our ten year old minivan has seen its share of vacations, college trips, and hauling virtually anything our children have needed on their frequent moves into their now adult worlds. The van, though weathered and scratched, is working toward the 150K mile mark without a complaint or hiccup. Like a pair of comfortable shoes, I don’t worry about the dirt or dog hair anymore. The girls and I just load up and go. It still amazes me that this vehicle can fit more stuff than our Suburban. It just can’t keep up though when you need to get through a big snowstorm or the slippery mountain rodes to our cabin in Vermont.

Everyone has a seat of their own choosing, and like the creatures of habit that we humans are, the dogs may change now and then, but will soon revert to their most favored seat. The captain’s chairs allow everyone a little space so there will be peace among the family members.


Riley above likes to have the shotgun seat. She is alert to the goings on of everything and everyone passing close by the van and lets out throaty growls to make herself known.


Solo, being the most alpha, (except when her mom Emma is pregnant), stakes out her claim by lying next to me in the center. She is content to have me scratch her head as we drive along. If I have to leave the van for a moment, she sits in my seat. With Riley on the passenger side, this usually stops passing people seeing what looks like Mr. and Mrs. Golden out for a drive.

Lily is content to sit in the second row along with Emma. They quietly look out the windows with their heads on the window sills.


Our youngest, Lucy, loves to walk back and forth on the third row bench seat.


Of course, all these seating arrangements are very fluid. If I leave the van for a moment to run into one of my offices or stop to get a Dunkin coffee, when I return, everyone is in a different place. However, once we start moving, everyone finds their usual spot. One of their favorite trips is to the bank drive up window. The teller is always amazed to see the five dogs sitting in their own places. For their good behavior she always rewards them with a treat.

Above, Emma is now sitting next to me.. While below, Solo is visiting her younger sister.


And here Solo is hamming it up a bit.


By bringing everyone along on even the most mundane task, we bond as a dog family. And all that matters to me anymore when I am not working, is how wide a smile I can have doing even the most simple task. That is now how I take the measure of my life.

As you can see by the size of the smile on Riley’s face after our morning run today, the day is off to a very good start.

Night Storm


Last week a fast moving storm dropped eight inches of snow on us here in Farmington overnight. The dogs are always up for a new adventure and had a grand time frolicking in the backyard while the snow came down in large fluffy flakes.

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I am only an amateur photographer and I still haven’t figured out a way to get the dogs eyes to stop glowing when they look at you in the dark of the night.


Here Solo looks like one of those hounds from the fires of hell. When you get a photo of three or four of them with the same bright orbs of glowing yellow, it is very ghostly and a little disquieting. Barb is responsible for a good number of our dog photos now. When I am away at work, she is great at taking interesting shots for me to use in our stories.
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I have no idea why Riley just decided to get up on the tabletop and sit for awhile. She has never done that before. Apparently she liked the view because she looks very comfortable there. There is nothing like the amazing unspoiled beauty of a fresh snowfall. If you click on the lead photo above, you will have to agree.

The next morning broke clear, cold, and quiet. Since the schools were closed, we had the fields to ourselves. Just the way we like it. You can see the pure joy in Solo’s face as she races along the snowy ground.

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You can clearly see the pack mentality in the next couple of photos. Once the dogs get their exuberance out, they are looking for something to chase or catch. Birds or squirrels are fine, but an elderly woman out with her little ten pound dog is off limits. When they demonstrate this pack attitude, I have to be very wary of what is in the area. They don’t listen at all, unless I get the jump on what they want to do. Once they are off and running, it is all over for whatever has their attention. And then red faced, I have to face the other dog walker’s wrath.
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Another reason we like the fields to ourselves. So an early start before the rest of the world decides to join us is always best.


In my mind, a sunrise always will trump a few extra moments of sleep. And sunrises, like heartbeats, will always be one less than you would like, once your alloted number is up.

Favorite Chairs


With the calendar being mid January, our dog family is very happy to go for outings in the chilly cold, and then settle in on their favorite chairs afterwards for a quick nap. Although every golden seems to have their favorite seat, as soon as someone relinquishes their spot, another takes their place. The result is an ever changing configuration of blond hair and large brown eyes filling our arm chairs and couches.


Heaven forbid if Barb or I want to sit down and read or watch TV for a spell. One of the girls will join you and gradually try to smother you with their cuddling, hoping that you will be the one to move and not them. Occasionally, they want nothing better than to enjoy their leather seat along with you as shown in this former photo that Barb took when Riley and I were sharing a napping moment.


We have long ago given up on proper dog etiquette in our household here with our children grown. While some reading this might object mightily, we now live for a peaceful comfortable existence. Entertaining consists of family, friends, and dog people sharing quiet and laid back moments here.

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Our home is the shelter which shields us from the buffeting winds of human illness, frailties, and a hostile world. Dogville for me is where I can reflect and recharge my defenses against these never ending challenges.

Mulder, Berna, and A Daughter’s Pride


Regular readers of our stories here will be familiar with the name “Mulder”. He is the amazing male Golden owned by Berna Welch of Pebwin Goldens. He is the father of our Emma’s last litter and our own one year old, Lucy.

Mulder and Berna were recently honored with a two page spread in the Golden Retriever Club of America’s national magazine, “Golden Retriever News”. Mulder placed first in Best of Breed and Stud Dog of 2007 this fall at the Nationals.

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I would highly recommend that all our dog owners consider joining the Golden Retriever Club of America. While the yearly fees are modest, you quickly realize from reading their magazine just how varied are the talents of our animals. I am humbled when I realize that what I know is a thimble full of information on just one small aspect of Golden Retrievers. When you look at the dedicated club members all over the country who run and participate in Field Trials, Obedience, and Agility Competitions, being a pet owner seems a very small accomplishment.


The “Nationals” are coming to Rhode Island this fall for a ten day extravaganza of judging, meetings, and lectures on our breed. This is like having the superbowl in your backyard with tickets that will be available to all. If you would like to see the best of the best across the country, then you should make an effort to attend. I, myself, will be going for the first time.

So what Mulder accomplished this fall is like being named the MVP of the superbowl. While he looks very distinguished and regal in his formal poses, I will remember him best as an affectionate big boy that I had the privilege to bring to Emma’s insemination a year ago.

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Our Lucy is losing her puppy looks and developing her father’s distinguished bearing.


She also has her mother’s quiet, calm personality, and we are hoping that she will be a proud mother in another year or so.

I showed her the magazine photos of her dad and she seemed suitably impressed. When she tried to brag about him to her half sister , Solo, Solo was more interested in tasting the magazine print. Just sister’s jealousy I guess.

And finally, it is official. Emma is not pregnant. A formal ultrasound at our vet’s office confirmed our suspicions. Our next breeding efforts will be this Spring with Riley’s upcoming heat.

Bath Chores


I thought it would be appropriate to start the New Year with a story of a recent bathing adventure. You know the New Year still being a clean slate and all. Amazingly we don’t have to give our girls baths very often. Despite the mud, dead material, and dirt that they continually get covered with on our runs, their thick over and under coat allows pretty much everything to stay on the surface. Like the comic Charlie Brown, where “pig pen” leaves a pile of dirt wherever he sits, we sweep up collections of all kinds of dirt when they crash on the kitchen floor after our outside runs.

Still for those in the know, the smell of a new puppy is amazing, and a freshly shampooed dog is a close second. With five Goldens, the cost of a professional cleaning is costly, and even a short visit to the kennel for a group bath can leave the pack open to a case of kennel cough, as we have previously found out. So, on a recent Saturday, we decided to have our girls look a little more glamorous for the holidays.

Here are some photo shots of the girls in all their soggy glory.


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When they are wet, they look much more similar than different. I can’t say that they liked the experience, but they didn’t seem to find it much of a hardship either. We certainly went through a bunch of bath towels trying to dry them.

Afterwards, they gathered in the kitchen while we let them dry completely.


Of course after being well behaved during their baths and now looking and smelling great, like any young lady, they were expecting to be taken someplace to go and show off..


I decided a ride in the dog van was just the thing while I ran some errands.

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