Golden delicious

How are Goldens retrievers different from Labrador retrievers? That’s something Steve and I have been pondering since we got Dilly last November. Dilly’s the first purebred Golden we’ve raised for CCI. Among his predecessors, two were purebred Labs (Tucker and Yuri). All the rest were so-called crosses, a mix of Labrador and Golden genes. Some had softer, curlier coats (the Golden influence), but they all basically looked like Labs (some black and some yellow). Compared to all of them, Dilly feels like a strikingly different doggy experience.

How so? It’s hard to put it into words, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

— The beauty factor. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder. There are probably folks out there who genuinely think French bulldogs are the most beautiful dog in the world. Or pit bulls. Or Shar-peis. For me, however, golden retrievers, male and female, embody Beauty. (As one friend notes, they all look like they’re girls.) I often look at Dilly and think of Farrah Fawcett (a person whom I otherwise pretty much never think of). They have that gorgeous glowing mane in common.

It’s not just me who reacts to Dilly that way. A higher percentage of people on the street stop and exclaim about his looks.

— The affection factor. I’m probably on thin ice here, but Dilly feels more cuddly and affectionate than almost any other dog I’ve lived with. He craves physical closeness; curls up on my feet, for example, when I’m washing dishes. Often when I sit down, he has a way of insinuating himself in front of me, first to be petted, then subtly slipping up first his front legs and putting them on my shoulders, then — almost imperceptibly! — his back ones so that his body fills my lap and covers my chest and he is perfectly positioned to take tiny licks of my ears. Usually he smiles and wags his tail while doing this, which makes him look very happy.

It is seductive in a way that feels completely ingenuous.

— The goofy factor. Labs, even puppies, possess a certain dignity. I think that’s much less true of Goldens. We see it in Dilly every morning, when he leaps straight up in the air, over and over, overcome by the excitement — be still my heart!!! — of getting to eat an entire bowl of kibble!!!!!!!!!!!!

Recently, I’ve discovered that he seems to enjoy dancing with me. This experience too has a special goofy Golden quality.

— The sensitivity factor. Here I really feel nervous committing my thoughts to type. But after living with a dozen Labradors (both CCI’s and my own), the labs seem tougher and sturdier than Dilly. He’s fine as I type these words, but he still can wake us up at 2 am with mystery diarrhea. Just eating a dead flower or twig can set him off. We shrug it off now. “It’s like owning a Ferrari,” Steve says.

Not that we’ve owned one of those — or ever would be tempted to. I’m not even sure I’d want to own a Golden retriever for his whole life. All that hair! All that brushing! All the special dietary dog food!

For the moment, however, and for the next ten golden months, we’re reveling in this extraordinary experience.

Dilly’s tasty tail

Steve and I have long been interested in the tails of the CCI puppies we’ve raised over the years. They’re not all the same. Dionne (puppy number #5) had one with a distinct twist at its tip, which gave it a slightly porcine look. The tail of Kyndall (#6) appeared to be kinked, just about an inch from its end. You could see and feel it.

For some time, we nursed a theory that the longer the tail, the more dominant the dog. This notion was fed by the fact that despite his size, Tucker (#1) had a rather wimpy little tail and a docile, submissive personality to match it. Dionne and Darby (#4), both smaller physically, had long tails and — bossed Tucker around unmercifully. But our Tail Dominance theory took a beating with the arrival of Kyndall, who had a nice long tail but was more subservient to Tucker than any other dog he had lived with.

The fact that Dilly’s tail is in a class by itself is hardly surprising. He’s the only purebred Golden Retriever we’ve raised for CCI. Matching the rest of his body, his tail is a magnificent feathered scepter. It’s hard to capture its beauty with a camera; so often it’s in motion, wagging.

We have thus been dismayed recently to notice that very end of Dilly’s tail has begun to resemble… a bony finger.

Notice how it narrows down to an almost furless section.
You can almost see the tail bone that should be holding the fur.

We know why this is happening. We have on occasion caught Dilly in the act of ripping the fur out, though of course we have no idea what would move him to do this. Boredom? Neurosis? Hunger? (Once ripped out, he seems to like chewing the fur. We do not know if he then swallows it.)

We haven’t yet consulted with any authorities about this problem. Steve found an old bottle of bitter apple in the garage, so he is spraying it in the hopes that the bad taste with discourage this bad habit.

We’re not wildly optimistic. Look at the way he’s licking his lips. (Seasoning!)