The Robert Redford of Golden Retrievers

by John Delach

Two puppies arrived at our house on a Wednesday that also happened to be Mary Ann’s and my forty-third wedding anniversary, Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2010. Mary Ann had engineered the purchase through a breeders’ network based in Florida. The two Golden Retriever pups had been bred in Missouri and had been delivered by truck with the unlikely name, PetEx Express. The driver and his helper found us through a series of events, but here they were being handed over to Mary Ann and our daughter-in-law, Jodie.

Both gals lifted the pups into the air to determine their sex. We were taking delivery of the male; the female was Jodie’s birthday gift. Right sex determined, the grand kids moved in as part of this exciting morning. Both families had already named them, Max and Ruby after the story-book and cartoon rabbit brother and sister. Ruby went off to Fairfield, CT with three kids, ages 11, 9 and 5 and a sister Golden, Barely, seven-years old. Max stayed in Port Washington with two sexagenarians.

Separating the puppies reminded me of an old Budweiser commercial where two Dalmatian pups arrive and the pick goes to the fire house. That lucky pup stuck out its tongue at it’s sibling as they departed not knowing that its mate was heading for the Bud’s Clydesdales’ wagon. At the end of the commercial, they pass on a road. The shunned pup is sitting on the wagon seat with the teamster driving the Clydesdales. The chosen pup sits in the open cab of the fire engine. The shunned pup sticks out its tongue at its sibling; touché! 

Max is our sixth Golden Retriever. The first was Harry. Then came Fred, Bubba, Jumbo and Maggie. Harry was our first and a grand dog. Knowing what I now know about Max, his disposition, attitude, temperament, etc. Harry would have been a great name for this Missouri dog. Failing that, I would have pushed for Truman because he is a “Show me dog.”

Max was our first pup in a long time. We acquired Maggie in 1999 when she was ten-months old and already a certified Looney Tune. Anyone who knows us and knew Maggie will certify that she was f—ing nuts.

Folks we know looked at Mary Ann and me in a way that clearly showed their thoughts: “The two of you are either dumb or crazy.” I too had real doubts about what we had done. A puppy with all that brings. The biting, destruction, housebreaking, sleepless nights and other unpleasant happenings and events. WHAT HAVE WE DONE?

Admittedly, we had some bad moments, but this new pup was special. He gave us a pass on one of the fundamental problems, crying through the night. Not Max. He took to his crate (cage) for naps during the day and to sleep without fuss and remained quiet until we woke him up. And those are magical words: “Until we woke him.” He’s remained contented until he heard action. Then he’d whine, but when we opened the door, he usually reacted by first looking at us, stretched, got up, stretched again and so began his day.

Also importantly, almost from the beginning, the floor of the crate would be dry even after eight hours. Max was clean even for Goldens who by nature house break themselves quickly. His only early accidents usually happened when he was excited and these stopped after a few months. Max also proved to be very trainable. He’d cooperate for love but he’ll do almost anything for food.

The biting lasted more than a year, never vicious, he just had the need to use those teeth. Unfortunately, this meant that play sessions deteriorated into bloody sessions especially for Mary Ann whose thin-skinned arms and hands soon made her look like a serial knife fighter. Mary Ann’s ultimate defense was to cut the toes off of athletic socks and fashion them into shields to minimize the damage to her skin.

Max grew rapidly almost before our eyes and quickly became known in the neighborhood as the dog who carried sticks around in his mouth the size of small trees. A fine-looking dog, one gal remarked to me one day: “Wow, is that dog good-looking. Why he’s the Robert Redford of Golden Retrievers.”

Now a young adult of three he would be a pleasure if not for his need to steal. And steal he does, clothes, shoes, towels, throw rugs, mats, pillows and even blankets and bed spreads. The only good news about his stealing regimen is he considers it to be retrieving and he brings the items to us with his plume tail high in the air proud of his prowess.

On the whole, this adventure has gone well, but, if sometime in the future, hopefully way down the road, we even consider a puppy again; please shoot us.