The Story of How We Got Alton, Our Golden Fur Son
This is the story of how we got our first golden retriever puppy, Alton.
I haven't been writing for a few weeks. My hiatus is much thanks to our wonderfully adorable and crazy cute Golden Retriever puppy. He came home to live with us on Nov. 16. We named him Alton, inspired by one of our favorite celebrity chefs, Alton Brown. On Saturday it will be three weeks since he came to live with us. Some moments it feels like just three days. Some moments it feels like three months. But no matter what joy or challenge we are faced with in each new experience with him, we wouldn't change anything about him, or the experience of being dog owners again, for anything in the world.
It has been a little over three years since doggie paws graced our humble adobe. And more than twenty since either of us have had a puppy. To say that our first golden retriever puppy, Alton was a welcomed spirit into our lives would be a tremendous understatement. We deliberately waited to even start looking at dog options until after our home remodel was complete. Some days I craved being a puppy mommy again so much that I would watch "Clifford's Puppy's Days" just to see the romp and curiosity of a four-legged fur ball again
Golden retriever puppy internet search to the rescue
Out of desperation one night, when I couldn't sleep, iPhone in hand, I literally typed into Google: "Golden Retriever Puppies San Francisco Bay Area." That was it. One of the top links that popped up was an ad from a family in Livermore (a community about 45 minutes from here) who posted on Ebay Classifieds that they had a Golden Retriever Litter. The family owned and raised, four weeks old, and ready for being reserved for purchase. "Hmmm... I thought. This sounds too good to be true, but I will send it to Andrew anyway to see what he thinks." Sure enough he liked the sound of the ad too, and so he said he was fine with me calling about the litter in the morning.
I called and spoke to the mom, Tiffany, who was super nice and said that we could come and see the pups on Saturday. Because The Hubs and I both use mobility devices, I asked if the home was accessible, prepared for the usual answer which is: "no," or "well, yes, but we have a small step." To my thrill, she said, "YES." I was somewhat speechless. She explained that they had ramp access for her father who uses a power wheelchair. In my mind I was already thinking, "If this isn't a sign, I don't know what is."
Saturday couldn't arrive soon enough. Unfortunately The Hubs wasn't feeling well so I made the drive to Livermore on my own. We had done our homework on what to ask breeders. What to look for in a litter, the parents, the environment, the prospective golden retriever puppy itself. I felt a lot of pressure. There was the requirement of tempering my own excitement and pure intoxication at the thought of being a Golden Retriever owner. With the reality that I had to remain somewhat objective and keep my wits about me. I wanted to be able to make some clear and level-headed assessments to report back to The Hubs with more than just, "Oh he's sooo cute!"
Love at first lick
When I arrived at Tiffany's house, there were three golden retriever pups, all males, that were still available. Alton, was the smallest of the three. And while Andrew and I knew we wanted a Golden on the smaller side, I can pretty much say true to heart, that it was something else about Alton that drew me to him. He woke up for me, while his other two brothers remained sleeping. When I picked him up he immediately gave me the warmest, loveliest, gentlest kisses on my cheek. He nuzzled his way all up to my ear. It was love at first sight, and lick.
Thankfully Andrew felt the same way when he met him the following weekend. The following four weeks crept by soooo slowly!! But in that time we continued to prepare our home for our new golden retriever puppy. We bought toys, a dog kennel and play pen, cleaned up Mac's old dog crate that we are using for his bedtime crate, and looked at what supplies (bowls, leashes, etc.) that we had on hand from owning Ernie and Reggie.
Be prepared for things to not go as the book says they should
We also read more of our doggie book, only to discover that when Alton actually came home we could basically throw the doggie book out the window! ha! Yes, it was good to learn about basic training principles and philosophies. But dog books instruct dos and don'ts as if all dogs, and all dog's homes, are the same. But they aren't.
The dog/human bond and relationship is something that is only felt, not programmed. Yes, you can teach your dog not to jump on the couch. But you can't teach him how to trust you, or how to love you. You can't use language to tell a puppy not to chew your shoe, you have to have other things available for him that he is allowed to chew. And for the potty training thing, well, that comes down to persistence and patience. Our dog book prescribed an "indoor" potty area for Alton consisting of either a patch of grass or newspaper. All Alton wanted to do with either was chew them. It became apparent very quickly that Alton was going to have no option for an indoor potty area in this house.
Which is just as well enough because Andrew and I weren't' thrilled with that option anyway. In terms of destructive house behavior, house soiling is at the top of our list. Owning a dog that you trust will not go to the bathroom in your house, or anyone's for that matter, is one of the most important lessons we feel compelled he must master. And we will do, and have been doing, everything in our power to make sure that he knows to only go potty outside.
Of course that has meant for a lot of sleepless nights and busy days. At times I'm playing Carnac The Magnificent trying to interpret if Alton by the door means he actually has to go, if he's just sunning himself, or he just wants to go out and play in the leaves. With house-training though, you always have to err on the side of caution and go with assumption A: he's gotta go.
I wrote in a Facebook post recently that even though owning a golden retriever puppy is a lot of work, every time Alton learns something new, or discovers something about this crazy world he's growing up into, it makes all the hard work so worth it. Andrew and I are learning too. We are learning about what it takes to raise a good doggie-citizen, which includes as much about ourselves and each other, as it does figuring out how to bring out the best in this amazing puppy that has blessed our lives, now and forever.