Weather Forecast


A New Friend Is Golden

1 / 3
2 / 3
3 / 3

The plan seemed perfect. We wanted two dogs, so why not

adopt two puppies from the same litter? They'd comfort

each other during those first difficult days of transition away

from their mother and would grow together as lifelong friends. Plus,

we wouldn't have to deal with the jealousy that would surely come

if we waited a few years to bring a second dog into our home.

Oh, thank goodness we were talked out of that plan.

We knew puppies were a lot of work. We'd been through this

once before - 11 years ago. But somehow, in the ensuing years, we'd

forgotten just how much patience-testing, sleep-depriving, sanity stressing

work such a sweet-smelling bundle of fur could be.

Our first dog, a golden retriever, had grown into a wonderfully calm

and well-behaved member of the family. We adopted Maggie in our

first year of marriage and she very much was our first baby. Through

her, my husband and I discovered - and worked through - our

differences in parenting styles. It was with her we welcomed two

children. When our son arrived home from the hospital, Maggie greeted

him with gentle curiosity. Two years later, when we came home with a

daughter, Maggie's expression told us she knew she'd just slid another

rung down the priority ladder.

Maggie was forever loyal and loving - everything we could ever

want in a dog. Which made it that much more difficult to learn earlier

this year that Maggie had osteosarcoma - a cancerous bone tumor. The

horrible options outlined by our veterinarian included amputation of

her leg, amputation plus chemo-therapy, or euthanasia. Based on the

cost of the first two options, plus the odds that we'd extend her life by

only a year at most, we nursed her along for several months on pain

medication before ultimately having to say goodbye.

A few weeks later we learned of a Duluth breeder whose golden

retriever had just given birth. We reserved one of the puppies and

started visiting them when they were just a few weeks old.

The first visit was surprisingly difficult for me. How could one of

these tiny creatures, eyes barely opened, ever fill the void left by

Maggie? But with each passing week and subsequent visit, I could see

the puppies growing remarkably - both in body size and personality.

At six weeks, we picked which puppy would become our "Gustav

the Golden." We call him Gus. More accurately, we let him pick us.

While the other puppies wrestled with each other and swarmed around

my kids, one quietly and strategically approached my husband. Excess

fur wrinkled his brow, and the fur on his ears curled slightly. Once

picked up, the puppy who would be Gus contentedly snuggled in my

husband's arms and nuzzled his neck. We looked at the other puppies,

but it was pretty obvious no other compared.

Eight days later, we went to pick him up for good. All of the

puppies crowded at the gate to greet us. The breeder inched her way

in, searching for Gus, using a scanner to read the microchip implanted

in each puppy. As she worked her way across the kennel, all of the

puppies followed her, a moving mass of fur around her ankles. All

except one, who stayed by the gate staring up at us with gentle brown

eyes. The scanner soon proved what we seemingly already knew. He

was Gus.

In his first week with us, it's hard to gauge if we're making progress

house-training him, or just better trained ourselves at watching for

signs he needs to go outside. Why is his tail in that position? Is he

squatting? No, no, no - you just came inside!

Gus is sleeping better and whimpering less. He's grown more

comfortable with us, and with that has become bolder and more

confident. He likes attacking ants, doesn't like his leash and no longer

barks at his reflection in the mirror. He gnaws on anything and

everything, and I fear he's going to be a digger. He's a very messy eater,

leaving crumbs in a 10-foot radius around his dish.

He's also cute and sweet as can be. His excitement to see us when

we arrive home from work overshadows any stress from the day and

reminds us of all the wonderful reasons we ever wanted a dog.

He's no Maggie, but he's an awesome Gus. And if he doesn't drive

us crazy in the meantime, we just might do this all again next spring.