Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hatching a Golden

I've often referred to my dogs as Golden Chickens. Despite being classified as large dogs, Golden Retrievers — or shall I say our Goldens —tend to behave in ways that call their canine qualifications into question. Honey, God rest her soul, once sausaged herself between two pickets of our black aluminum fence in a desperate attempt to evade thunder. At over 70 pounds, she was no fly-weight, and the pickets couldn't have been more than six inches apart.  Needless to say, it took a mighty hug and tug to pry her lose only to have her bolt seconds later.  To her credit, she was a tireless waterdog and retriever of floating sticks, but one clap of thunder reverted her to Golden Chicken-with-her-head-cut-off status. Maya, our current Golden, is fine with thunder and explosives. It's men, feet, thermometers, garden gnomes, and cars that send her into a mindless tizzy. The list could go on, but time is precious. So if Honey was a chicken, Maya might qualify as a chick with a fear of hatching.

Maya's first experience with water was the garden hose. She'd discovered a puddle created by a leaky outside faucet and had played to her heart's content until interrupted by the girls. The result looked like this.
Little did she know that the the faucet had, if not a dark side, a much colder one. I sometimes wonder if this first chilly rinse contributed to her aversion to water. Later that summer we took her to Oak Run and tried to coax her into the lake. At most she waded ankle deep. We tried again at our friends' heated pool. She hated it, recoiling between deck chairs to avoid the gigantic turquoise tub. It was hard for us to believe a purebred waterdog could hate the very thing that was in her nature to love. We couldn't keep our first Golden out of the water. Now we had one we couldn't get in.

It may come as no surprise to you that Seattle is particularly dog-friendly. Dogs can be found everywhere, from the grocery store to the mall. According to our banker, dogs are more welcome in the branch than children. We couldn't ask for a more perfect environment to break Maya out of her proverbial shell. Our first mission: swimming.

The off-leash park we frequent has a slow moving river along one edge where dogs are welcome to dive in and cool off. The water is shallow enough in parts that even short dogs (and Golden chickens) can wade without actually having to doggy paddle. It took one visit for Maya to overcome her fear of wet rocks, a few more to wade in unaccompanied. Big thanks go to Emma and Mouse who called her tirelessly from knee deep water as Maya whimpered and paced on the water's edge. After nearly three months of practice, Maya is almost there. She enters the water from shore without cajoling and can finally swim without her front paws clawing the air on each stroke. She still won't leap in from a swim platform or dock, but I have faith that will come. She's even retrieved a floating stick or two! Seattle: the land of small miracles.

The question now is which fear to conquer next? Human feet or garden gnomes? I think the gnomes have it.


  1. Honey! Maya! Silly chickens!

  2. Maya reminds me of our golden (Ollie), both in her photo and in her dislike of water. He never does anything more than wade in the water. Luckily he's fine with thunder, and most other things. He's 2½.

    Craig, in Sydney, Australia.