Parting Thoughts


Posted 12 July 2014

Last January, we adopted Rio, a wonderful golden retriever. Here’s our first picture of him, at the Homeward Bound rescue facility:

He was 20 pounds underweight, having been a stray for some period of time.

R.I.P. Shasta

Shasta, who had been in our family since she was a puppy 14 years ago, died in late summer, and it took us a while to be ready for another dog.

Shasta was part of our family for most of the time our kids were growing up, and we’ll always remember her fondly.

Finding Rio

When we started looking around, we just weren’t falling in love with any of the dogs at the local shelters. So we started thinking about breeds, and dogs that we knew and liked, and gravitated toward golden retrievers.

We couldn’t find any golden retrievers, however, in Northern California shelters. We did, however, come across a couple of rescue organizations that focus on these beautiful dogs. One of them, Homeward Bound (which is a little north of Sacramento) is where we met Rio.

Rio is a big bundle of love. He’s extremely relaxed, and reacts to almost nothing except squirrels and birds. He ignores our two cats, and doesn’t react to other dogs at all—even the barking snarling little things we run into on the street.

Rio loves to be rubbed just about anywhere, for as long as you’re willing. If he’s just met you, that’s fine too.

He’s a beautiful animal, and he draws far more attention than I’m used to. Shasta was pretty, but she didn’t draw people like Rio. I’ve had conversations with more strangers in the six months we’ve had Rio than in the previous six years.

Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue

Homeward Bound is an amazing place. They have, at any one time, a couple dozen dogs they have rescued, all goldens or golden mixes. In their 13 years of existence, they have rescued, healed, placed and provided sanctuary to more than 7,400 dogs.

That’s a pretty amazing number, and it is all privately funded, with most of the work done by volunteers. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on veterinary care; every dog gets whatever treatment it needs.

The Mystery of Rio’s Past

Rio was actually called Jacob at Homeward Bound, but this is just a name they made up when they rescued him from a Merced-county shelter, so he didn’t recognize it. The shelter had picked him up as a stray. He had no collar, and was not chipped, so his "real" name and his history remain a mystery.

The vets think he is about 5 years old. He was still an "intact" male, as they call a dog that still has his testicles, so he got to live an usually long time with all his hormones. This may partially explain his larger-than-usual size for a golden.

The rescue organization considered him a mix, and we’ve assumed he has a rottweiler, or something of that size, in his blood.

Some folks have said he could be a purebred field-style retriever, and could be larger than most because of all those years of testosterone. A style still bred in England for hunting, Rio has the blocky head that makes him look different from other retrievers.

Just Two Challenges

We love Rio more than we could have hoped. There are just two things that we continue to struggle with him over.

The biggest issue has, from the start, been walking on the leash. It seems likely that Rio was a farm dog; he was loved, but not trained. And then, for an unknown period of time (long enough for him to be 20 pounds under-weight) he was a stray.

Inside, or in a backyard, Rio is the most relaxed dog in the world. But out on the street, he really isn’t interested in going at a walking pace. Nor does make a big distinction between sidewalks, streets, and bushes.

The second challenge has been his approach to our garden. He loves the plants. He likes to lie on top of them.

He also likes to dig in the yard, and we’re talking some serious digging. But that will have to be a story for another day.