July 30, 2014

Our Golden Story

Story of a family that loves Golden
Billy and I brought our first Golden home during our first year of married life.  Billy never had a dog growing up and he always wanted one.  A big yellow dog. We thought that we would get a yellow Labrador Retriever, but after meeting our friends' Golden, we decided that a Golden Retriever would be the perfect dog for us.   As soon as we purchased our first house, we began the search for a Golden and we found a breeder in NJ.  Our first Golden puppy, Bogey, made us fall in love with the breed.

He was there as we welcomed all three of our baby boys into our family.  All of the dog books told us how wonderful Goldens are with children and Bogey did not disappoint.  He was gentle and fun and always ready for any adventure.
Golden Retriever and toddler
Kyle and Bogey
When he passed away suddenly at age 8, we were devastated.  We learned the pain that comes along with loving this breed, which is plagued with cancer.  Sadly, death at age 8 isn't really all that rare in Goldens.  However, we decided that our family just didn't feel complete without a dog in it.  So, we set out to bring home another.  Forrest, who is named after Forrest Gump and lovingly called "Gumpy" in our house, joined our family when our youngest boy was just 6 months old.  Our parents thought we were insane.  Three active boys, one of which was an infant, and now a new puppy.  To us, there was no other choice.
Forrest, 8 weeks, and Matty, 6 months
But, Forrest was up for the task.  He didn't complain when he had to spend time in his cage because we had a new crawler and his razor sharp puppy teeth were dangerous for a baby.  He loved these boys something fierce from day one.  They were his pack.

He has taught our boys about unconditional love and compassion.  He has taught them about responsibility and joy.  
Golden Retriever and boy
When Forrest got sick at just five years of age, we couldn't believe we could be saying goodbye to yet another young dog.  The vet told us that he had cancer, hemangiosarcoma, and that he probably wouldn't survive through the night.  His heart was filled with fluid, likely from a ruptured tumor.  They could try to drain the fluid, but chances are, his heart would fill back up.  Despite the high cost, we asked them to drain the fluid.  We came home and tried to be strong for our boys. We all returned to the animal hospital to pick up our Gumpy and bring him home after the procedure.  He survived through the night.  Christmas was 2 weeks away and we were in the middle of renovating our family room.  We took Gumpy everywhere with us.  He came to the stone yard to pick out our hearth.  We snuck him into my mom's condo, that didn't allow dogs, on Christmas.  I cooked him scrambled eggs for breakfast and chicken and rice for dinner.  We spoiled him rotten.  And aside from the part of his fur that they had shaved to drain his heart, you wouldn't know there was a thing wrong with him.  He ran around with the kids.  We spent a large amount of time researching his condition.  We learned that there was a small chance that this fluid build-up could be idiopathic (no known cause) rather than cancerous.  As he got stronger each day, we prayed that would be the case.  We welcomed Keeper, another Golden, into our family.  Her name represents what we hoped she would be for our family if we lost Forrest, a keeper of our hearts.  
Golden Retriever puppy and adult

Boy and Golden Retrievers in snowy
We celebrated Forrest's 8th birthday this past year.  His heart has filled with fluid twice more.  Both times, we recognized the symptoms (lack of appetite and white gums) immediately and brought him in to have the fluid drained.  We have consulted with a heart surgeon who was willing to do surgery to remove the sac that surrounds Forrest's heart, but he told us that there was a 50/50 chance the surgery wouldn't help at all, and in fact the surgery and recovery would be very tough on him.  We were so grateful to have found such a compassionate vet who wasn't just concerned with making money from a very expensive surgery.  We opted not to have the surgery and to continue being vigilant about his health.
We never leave Gumpy to go on vacation.  Billy and I know him so well that we can spot when something might be wrong right away and get him to the animal hospital to get checked out.  We are fortunate that he can come away to Upstate NY with us.  Our kids understand this and, although they might be missing out on that trip to Disney, they are learning what it is to be responsible pet owners and what is is to put another's needs first.  They all agree that Forrest is worth it.
While we were in Upstate NY this summer, we had to take Forrest to a local vet for an ear infection.  When the vet commented on what a healthy dog he is, Billy told him our story.  He was amazed at all Forrest had been through.  We were reminded, yet again, how lucky we are.   

I know we are a bit extreme about our dogs.  We really do consider them our 4th and 5th kids. Goldens (and lots of other types of dogs, purebred or not) just have a way of getting into your heart. We have learned a lot about the breed over the years.  If you have any questions about Goldens, please feel free to e-mail me and I would be happy to tell you more.


  1. I loved reading this. We recently lost our golden and it was heartbreaking. I think it was the last post I wrote. We adopted a golden puppy from a rescue and are falling in love again... It's just so sad that this wonderful breed has so much cancer.

    1. Hi Marcy,

      I am so sorry about the loss of your golden. I remember reading your post and I hope that you will post pictures of your new puppy soon! The cancer in this breed really is devastating :(

  2. What a lovely post. Since we have welcomed a four legged friend into our family I totally get what you mean about them being an extra child.x

  3. Courtney, thank you for sharing your story with us. I had tears the whole time I was reading it because I completely understand the love you feel for your dogs. Our Rosie is definitely an important member of our family and now I cannot imagine not having a dog! I hope Forrest continues to do well. He is so lucky to have you and your family to look out for him!

    1. Thank you, Shelley. Those goldens definitely become a part of the family!

  4. I loved your story! I grew up with 2 goldens, and they are the BEST! My husband hadn't ever had a dog either, so after a year of marriage, we rescued a crazy, wild hound mix who IS our baby! We don't have human children, but Cady is such a major part of our lives, also. Dogs are great - and I can't wait to one day raise kids with dogs in the family!

  5. What a wonderful story, thanks for sharing it! We had a toy poodle for 17 1/2 years. When she died it just broke our hearts, it truly IS losing a family member. Your goldens are beautiful!!!

  6. Thank you for sharing this - we had a golden mix that we got when our first daughter was only a year old and I can't imagine there would ever be another dog that could have been better. He would play with her - rough at first with those sharp little teeth but because she was born an animal lover she didn't mind but it seemed like he just quickly learned to be careful with her. Since he grew so fast he figured out that with her he would play gentle, with me a little stronger and with my husband (who also never had a dog growing up and Gus was his first experience) it was all out "on". His favorite toy was his rope and he could be quite aggressive with it. He would put one end in his mouth and swing it into the ground in a figure 8 kind of motion and then throw it and play happily by himself. But when anyone grabbed it he was so happy. Again, with our daughter (and subsequent second daughter) he would just lightly tug and pretend that she was a challenge. It was so heart-melting to watch him absolutely know the difference and make a decision to be gentle. He was with us for 15 1/2 years! He was older than my youngest daughter and when he passed it was like I had lost my middle child. He passed in 2008 and as I write this the tears still flow. He was so selfless and loving. We have a friend who is an artist and made a drawing for us that is a perfect likeness and I still love seeing his beautiful face on the wall. When he finally passed it turned out that he had bone cancer but he was so strong and we didn't even realize it for such a long time because he never complained! We had been talked into a chihuahua about 6 months before by our youngest and he was so confused by that, as were we. I have to say that she has been my constant companion ever since and I love her deeply but she is self-centered and 100% different. She loves me but expects everyone to fulfill her needs - Gus would never have expected that. Everything he ever did was to please and love in the most selfless way. All he wanted was to be loved back and I miss him every day. It is hard to think of ever having another Golden because the bar was set so high, but it seems like it is pretty much part of the breed to be so loving. Thank you for indulging me for a minute to remember such an important member of my family. Angus (Gus) October 2, 1992 - May 9, 2008.

    1. Hi Kelly,

      Thank you so much for sharing about your beloved Angus (great name!). Our dogs become such an integral part of our families and it is so sad to say goodbye :( I am glad my story stirred up some great memories for you, but sorry it brought tears too. I will say that we have lived with 3 different goldens now and they have all been fabulous dogs. All a bit different, but that huge loving heart has been present in all of our dogs. It’s a great breed and if you ever try again with another one I don’t think you would be sorry. Take care, Courtney