My regular readers will know that I love dogs. My husband and I have always had at least two, and sometimes as many as four of these four-legged best friends. They are part of our family and make a house a home. Despite the cost and occasional house-training frustrations when we get a new puppy, our dogs cheer us up when we are feeling blue, keep us company, often offer some much-needed comic relief, and try to wake up the whole neighborhood when a deer dares to creep across our driveway in the middle of the night.
We recently lost our beautiful and much-loved 11-year old Flat-Coated Retriever, Georgie Girl. This was very sad, and reduced our little pack down to two canine Francis family members. A few weeks later we heard about a litter of English Cream Golden Retrievers a couple of hours away near Macon. And so arrived Suzi, a stocky little bundle of impetuousness that captures the heart of everyone she meets. She has gone from 9 lbs to 25 lbs in her first six weeks with us, on her way to about 80 lbs. Like all our dogs, she is always delighted to see us, and I often think of that great saying by author J.W. Stephens, urging us to be the person that our dogs think we are!
The American Kennel Club (AKC) does not recognize English Cream Retrievers as a separate breed but as a pedigree golden retriever with a very pale shade of gold. Suzi’s light cream coat is beautiful and we love the slightly stockier build and face of this type of retriever but the real driver for us is that they have a lower incidence of cancer than most American golden retrievers. Our Suzi is now four months old and is already a much loved member of our family and we can’t imagine our little pack without her!
The history of golden retrievers begins in the Scottish Highlands and a wealthy banking family, the Coutts Marjoribanks and specifically the younger son Dudley, who was interested in dog breeding. In 1865, Dudley was walking with his son while in Brighton, England, and met a shoemaker who had a golden-colored and wavy-coated retriever dog by the name of Nous.
Marjoribanks purchased Nous and used him as a hunting dog for three years, and then bred him with a Tweed Water Spaniel (a breed which is now extinct). The resulting puppies had the hunting instincts of both land and water dogs, and this is where the first golden retrievers made their appearance in 1868. They became very popular and today are often used as service, search and rescue and therapy dogs. They are very intelligent, loving, affectionate and loyal as well as high energy and remain puppy-like for many years – which is both endearing and exhausting.
Golden retrievers first came to America in the early 20th century and the AKC officially recognized Golden Retrievers in 1925, and they’ve become extremely popular over the years. They have been among the top ten dogs in North America for decades and have long held the number-three spot in breed popularity.
Earlier this month, the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland met to celebrate the 155-year anniversary of when the first puppies were born and bred by the Sir Dudley Marjoribanks. This takes place at the ruins of Guisachan House at Glen Affric, located in the Highlands of Scotland about 15 miles west of the famous Loch Ness, and where the aristocratic Marjoribanks family lived. I watched the coverage of this event online, and it was a beautiful sight, with hundreds of golden retrievers from as far away as Australia, Japan, and the USA as well as Europe and the UK. They all sat in front of the derelict house where it all began. Speakers gave talks, dogs performed tricks, and there was a mile-long procession of Golden Retrievers led by a bagpipe-playing Scotsman, which culminated in a piped rendition of The Proclaimers song “500 Miles.”
I say goodbye this week with a quote from American actor and star of the TV show ‘Golden Girls’, Betty White: “When someone has had the good fortune to share a true love affair with a Golden Retriever, one’s life and one’s outlook is never the same.”
God Bless America and dog lovers everywhere!
– ENDS –