Saturday, November 5, 2011

Forget Diamonds ~ This Girl's Best Friend is Golden!

I love my dog. Ask anyone who knows me and they will vouch for it. His name is Makani and he is a Golden Retriever and (in my opinion) the sweetest dog on Earth.

I was not always a dog person. My family had a Sheltie when I was very little, but I don't really remember him. Growing up, I was only allowed to have birds or fish. A lot of my friends had dogs, and many of them I was afraid of. Rob loves to remind me that when we first started dating, I was afraid of his yellow Lab, Kona. I really was...he was a big dog and kind of a spaz.

Family Portrait 2003
with Baja
When Rob and I bought our first house, we started talking about getting a dog. Rob has always had dogs in his life. He really wanted a pug. I started looking in the newspaper and found some pug puppies for sale. We drove all the way down to Pembroke Pines. The puppies were adorable. Then, the owner asked if we'd like to meet the daddy - we said "Sure!" The black pug she brought out was one of the ugliest dogs I had ever seen. He looked like a gargoyle. He was wheezing and slobbering and I started to reconsider the whole "getting a dog" thing. I had also found an ad about Golden Retriever puppies for sale in Hollywood. Rob had a Golden Retriever named Baron growing up and said they were great dogs. I swear it was a set-up. We went to that house on Cleveland Street and it was love at first sight. I took one look at the puppy that we would name Baja and it was OVER (or just beginning). I knew we had to bring him home.

Baja's 15th Birthday
(He LOVED Publix cupcakes like me!)
Baja was an awesome dog. He prepared Rob and me for having kids. He wasn't the most well-behaved puppy in the world, but he was smart, loving and protected our family. When we moved to our new (current) house right after Hurricane Wilma had knocked out power to the entire area, Baja delighted in the fact that our entire family slept together on the bedroom floor that first night. He was in Heaven! Baja lived a good, very long (especially for a big dog) life. The week after his 15th birthday, he started running into things. Over the course of the next week, he went downhill fast, getting to the point where he could no longer stand to go outside. We knew that we had to put him down. We were there when he took his last breath and we all cried. Baja's death hit me especially hard - much harder than I had ever imagined. I hadn't lost anyone whom I had been so close to, and he really was like my first baby.

Adoption Day for Makani
We knew we wanted another dog, but I didn't think I would be ready any time soon. A few weeks went by and we started talking about the possibility of adopting an older Golden, so we didn't have to go through the puppy phase again. After having one Golden, I knew I never wanted another breed. I did some research and discovered Golden Rescue South Florida - a wonderful organization that places Golden Retrievers (and occasionally other breeds) in good, loving homes. The first time I logged on to their website, they had a litter of puppies up for adoption. Part of me thought it was too soon, but seeing those  sweet little puppies made me long for a dog again. I asked Rob if he thought it was too soon to consider getting another dog. He told me that he was ready, but he wanted to make sure that I was. So, I made the call. Golden Rescue doesn't just let anybody adopt the dogs in their care. They actually conduct interviews and home visits (which is awesome). Lee Ann came out to our house and met us and we were approved! :) We were given a date and time when we could go and pick up our new little guy. When we arrived, there were only two puppies left - both adorable. One was (temporarily) named Tommy and the other was Gizmo. We decided to take Gizmo home. We renamed him Makani (which means "the wind" in Hawaiian) and a new chapter in the life of our family had begun.

Sweet little Makani
sitting for a treat
Makani was a good puppy and learned very quickly how to sit for a treat. He was housebroken quickly and soon learned to actually retrieve toys and tennis balls (which Baja NEVER had any interest in). Makani rarely barked at all and was very timid. He was always so eager to please. The few times he did the "puppy" things he wasn't supposed to (digging holes in the backyard, chewing up things that didn't belong to him, etc.) we only had to look at him sternly and say "Makani...What did you do?" He would get all submissive and pee on the floor. He hated letting anyone down (kind of like me). When he does bark though, this tender little guy sounds like James Earl Jones! He has a deep, mean-sounding bark - which makes for a great security system.

Makani is now two-and-a-half and he is the most well-behaved dog I know. He behaves better than Baja did at five-years-old (of course that might have something to do with the fact that he left his cojones in Hialeah when he was less than a year old). He is as sweet and loving as can be and is positively OBSESSED with chasing tennis balls. He is a retriever through and through. He knows that Rob throws the tennis ball for him after dinner, so he'll wait patiently by the the garage door until Rob is ready to take him out. Rob has trained him to not only return the ball, but to place it in his hand or the thrower. If Rob is working in the garage, Makani will sit for extended periods of time with his ball, just waiting for Rob to take a break and throw it. He even falls asleep with the ball in his mouth! When I get my suitcase out to go away, Makani stays by my side the night before I leave and he always greats me with a wagging tail and plenty of kisses when I return home. It's nice to be loved!
The "Sweetest of the Peas"
Our foster Golden

Our Goldens have brought us so much joy that we decided to volunteer to be a foster family for Golden Rescue. We have only had one foster dog so far, but we fell in love with her. Her name was Sweet Pea and she was a "Golden Oldie". She was estimated to be at least 11 years old and we knew it was unlikely that she would be adopted. We contemplated adopting her ourselves if nobody else came forward - that's how much we loved her - but decided to leave it in God's hands. We had Sweet Pea about six weeks when she was adopted by a wonderful man (also named Rob) from Miami. He was specifically looking for an older dog and fell in love with Sweet Pea on the spot. I believe that Sweet Pea has won the doggy lottery. Rob is so good to her, and he is kind enough to share Sweet Pea with our family. We Sweet Pea-sit when he goes out of town on business. We love having her, and she seems happy staying with us. It's a win-win for everyone.
Nothing beats a Golden smile!

We will continue fostering Goldens as long as we can. Every time Golden Rescue puts a new dog up on their Facebook page, my heart says "Awww...I want him (or her)!" :) They are the best dogs and companions anyone could wish for. They truly do love unconditionally and always look like they are smiling. I know that no matter what kind of day I'm having, Makani will be there for me. He'll bring me his tennis ball to congratulate me on good days or to make me feel better on bad days. He's always there with a smile, kisses and a tail wag. If you are thinking about getting a dog, consider a Golden. If you live in South Florida, contact Golden Rescue! We are so glad we did!

With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy

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