St. Bernards with heartworms, epileptic miniature schnauzers, and Maltese mixes with receding lower jaws. Irish setters mixed with labs and German Shepherds on Collie legs. The damaged, the mutts, the displaced—those are my kind of dogs, so when we recently decided to add a dog to our pack, of course, I started looking at the city shelter where I volunteer every week. I was hoping to find a large dog that I could train to be a therapy dog to work with children, but when I consulted our vet, she recommended I find another small dog because of the fragile physical state of our Maltese mix, Stella. “If you really want a big dog,” she said, “it needs to be something super gentle like a Golden…a Buddy.” Buddy was the puppy we got for Mitch when he was in Kindergarten. We had lost a couple of rescue dogs in short order and so decided that while we would continue having a rescue in our family, our son needed a childhood companion, a dog he could grow up with. Buddy took his responsibility seriously, and despite the cancer that we thought would take him in Mitch’s senior year of high school, Buddy hung in there until after Mitch left for college the following fall. When his body started shutting down, Mitch came home from school, and our vet came to our house to put him down while we surrounded him in our living room floor, a memory that still brings tears when I think of him taking his last treat from my hand and licking my fingers. I’ve loved all our pets, but Buddy was one of the loves of my life.
Another Golden was out of the question; there would never be another Buddy. So I started searching for a small dog. I quickly realized this new pup would probably not be the therapy dog I dreamed of and settled on the idea of a companion for Stella. We signed up for a trial adoption with a Chi mix I’d met at the shelter, but after a week, she had not warmed up to Stella and had instead become aggressive. I called our trainer, Steve, and when he came to assess the situation, he strongly suggested we return her. She needed to be an only dog. Since we had some extra time, I shared my plan to some day train a therapy dog with Steve. When he said a puppy would be the easiest to train, I groaned. The last thing in the world I wanted was a puppy. And what if we went through all the pain of puppyhood, and the grown dog didn’t have the disposition to be a therapy dog? Steve pointed out that it might be a good idea to get a breed that was known for having the right disposition.
I thought about it for several days. I looked up designer dogs…labradoodles and golden doodles and every other kind of doodle, but I kept coming back to the photos of Goldens. I finally realized that I was destined to have another Golden in my life, so I went searching for Buddy’s breeder. It took me about a week to find her, now in Amarillo. She told me she had an eight-week-old male puppy that might be available if his testicle didn’t descend in another week or so…the same scenario that brought us Buddy almost twenty years ago. Two weeks passed, and the puppy’s testicle still didn’t descend, so on Monday, Dave and I brought him home from Amarillo.
I can’t imagine our family without a rescue dog. We will always have a place for a St. Bernard with heartworms, an epileptic miniature schnauzer, or a Maltese mix with a receding lower jaw. But it seems we also have a place for one more lovely Golden. This dog isn’t Buddy. He’s less goofy and much more calm. And his destiny won’t be to fill a boy’s childhood with love, but hopefully he will someday bring sick children comfort. I’m looking forward to being his partner in this adventure. Welcome to the family, Bonkers. Now where’s my flip flop?