When we arrived at the breeder‘s farm near Cuba, Missouri, the father of the litter was there to joyfully greet us. I was shocked at how big he was. I’m about 5’ 11” and I did not have to bend down to pet his head. Also surprising to me was how docile he was. We were strangers on his territory and he could not have cared less. Let me say right here and now, if you can say “no” to a Golden Retriever puppy, your wife, and your daughter, then I don’t want to party with you. I was hooked. I wanted to take one home that day, but they weren’t yet weaned so we had to wait a couple of weeks. It seemed like years.
Our daughter Emily quickly selected her favorite. It was all by itself sleeping in a corner of the whelping pen. I chose the one who was the obvious leader. He was moving the other pups away from the mom, climbing over them, muscling his way around. Emily picked the runt and I was having none of that. I told the breeder to mark the aggressive pup as sold and gave her a check. But a funny thing happened on the way back home.
The fathers out there will understand my situation; it’s hard to tell your daughter she can’t have the puppy she wants. But I’m a strong man and I put my foot down. I told her all the reasons why I wanted the pup I picked. I bravely quoted all the dog training books I read. I lectured on the scientific reasons for my perfect choice. Then I picked up the phone and changed the order to the pup Emily wanted. (Tell me you wouldn’t have done the same, then save it for the golf-course.)
We named our new puppy Gabriel and immediately began calling him G-Dawg. I’ll never forget the night we picked him up. In 2003, Hwy. 44 was a mess of construction and a steady rain slowed us down even more. It took hours to get home that night (The cover picture for the short film that accompanies this blog was taken that night.) Since he was sleeping on the kitchen floor in that photo, we jokingly say that he was “one square big”.
I read somewhere that dogs bred to retrieve are only truly happy when they are retrieving. I also knew how big Gabe was going to get and I did not want an unhappy or unruly 100 lb. dog on my hands, so we started his training right away. Lucky for us, Mary’s brothers are dog trainers, and with their help and a great book on the subject, Water Dog, we were able to get through his training reasonably well, first using a whistle, and then whistle and voice, and finally just voice. I looked forward to my nightly retrieving sessions with Gabe for almost a decade.
He is now too old to retrieve. He suffers from both bad hips and a bad back, mainly from working so hard for so many years. But he still gives love and is still an important part of our lives. He is a really important part of my life now that I am home with him almost every day due to my Parkinson’s Disease.
So I hope you enjoy my Throw Back Thursday movie featuring Gabe. The background song is a little filler piece I wrote a couple of years ago and recorded here at Single Rose Studio. It features me on my Martin D28 and my evil twin Maurice on the bass.
Don’t forget to be kind to someone today, it doesn’t cost anything and you might feel better.
And as Abby says, “All done.”
I was not the perfect son, written and performed by Mark Whitehead. 2012 copyright Single Rose Studio, LLC . All rights reserved.