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.