I always laughed when volunteers told me that writing their own story was not an easy task and now I know what they meant. Where do I start? Can I tell my life through the dogs that shared it? Do I start at the beginning or at the end and work backwards? After much thought, I’ve decided that like the song from the Sound of Music says “Let’s start at the very beginning…”
I was born in Queens, New York, into a family of animal lovers. I grew up, the oldest of three girls, hearing stories of my father’s German Shepherd, Rex, who so smart he would bring the can opener when he was hungry. I knew and loved my mother’s Dalmatian/fox terrier mix, Queenie, who continued to live with my grandparents after my mother’s marriage. Since we lived in an apartment on the third floor of a walk-up building, having a dog of my own was not an option, so Queenie was the next best thing. By the time I was 10, we had moved to a ground floor apartment, and as they promised, my parents got me a dog.
My first dog, named Rusty, was a show-quality long haired dachshund. This was in the days when everyone had either a mutt or a cocker spaniel, and my friends were sure that my Rusty was a mix between a cocker spaniel and a “frankfurter dog”. I knew better of course because he was a gift to me, from a breeder my father knew through work, and he had a pedigree that went all the way back to Heidelberg, Germany. Although Rusty was beautiful, he was far from sweet. He was my dog and slept with me every night, but once I was in bed with Rusty under the covers, my mother could never enter my room without hearing his growls. When we finally left the apartment behind and moved to a house, the number of animals we owned continued to grow. We had chameleons, birds (which my mother hated), chinchillas, turtles, fish, and even a rabbit that was litter box trained. We never owned a cat, although my grandfather did keep one at work. Rusty was followed by two other long haired dachshunds, Brandy and Baron, who came from the same breeder. They were family dogs and I did not have the same connection with them that I had with my dog.
When I moved out of my family’s home, into the big city, I no longer had a dog of my own, but did babysit Baron, whenever my parents went on vacation. I didn’t think it was fair for a swinging single New Yorker to own a dog, since my schedule was very erratic. At this time, I was a teacher, a career I had sort of stumbled into. It wasn’t something I ever wanted to do, and like any job, there were times I absolutely hated it, but the hours and the summers off were perks too good to refuse. Actually, my childhood dream was to be a vet, but my financial situation, as well as the fact that this was a man’s career in those days, prevented this dream from becoming reality. During this time, I did a lot of traveling, took art classes and decorated my apartment with souvenirs from my trips, and paintings that were my own works of art. I loved reading, going to the theater, visiting art museums, and doing all the things that New York City offered. And then I met Herb!
After two years of dating we were married, and now we were a family of three. Herb had a daughter Meryl, from a previous marriage, and although she didn’t live with us, she was still our daughter. Because Herb worked on Long Island, and Meryl lived there, and I worked in Queens, we left Manhattan and moved to Long Island. I went back to school to study computer science, and then started a new career as a programmer. Suburbia revisited was a disaster for me, and I was totally miserable, missing the big city terribly, so after a few years, it was back to Manhattan. Our circumstances were now different, and Herb was working from home. An idea was brewing in my mind – there would be someone home to care for a dog! Actually, Herb had never lived with a dog in his entire life and although he liked dogs, he never had a desire to own one. We had watched my sister’s Golden a few times, and he felt comfortable with Baron, but did he really want one of his own? I’m sure by now you have figured out the answer.
Kasey, my heart dog, came to live with us when he was not quite 8 weeks old. He was an absolutely amazing puppy, housebroken before we even realized it. However, he was not an easy dog in any other way. He was as stubborn as could be, and we always said his song was “My Way”. Ultimately, with a lot of hard work on my part, he became an incredible therapy dog. This was just before Herb and I retired and moved to Florida In 2001. (We actually moved out of our New York City apartment on 9/11.) But that is jumping ahead a little bit. Before we moved to Florida, I was a lurker on the AOL Golden Message Board. Now I had an important question to ask – What did I need to know to successfully acclimate a New York City dog to South Florida? I received countless responses but responded to one in particular because she lived quite near to my new home and her email address was Mresqgoldens. The very first call I received in my new home was Marlene and the rest is history.
She invited me to a meeting where they were looking for a volunteer to answer the Hotline while the Intake Coordinator, Bernie, was away on a cruise. Little did I know that 6½ years later I would still be answering the Hotline. Over time, I was the Secretary, Vice President, and eventually President, a job I have held for three years now. I had always worried about how I would fill my retirement years, but I don’t worry any longer. Golden Retriever Rescue is my passion; this is the first job I have ever had in my life that I truly love. I work at it 24/7 and rarely feel like I need a break. I am a foster failure because we adopted our very first foster dog, Mollie, as a special needs dog. Mollie, who is now a registered Therapy Dog, came to us heartworm positive and with a mast cell tumor, which is a malignancy. Now four years later, she is healthy and an incredible girl.
When we lost Kasey at the age of 12½, I tried fostering again, looking for the perfect male to join our family, but I was very unsuccessful. Each dog made me miss Kasey even more. Ultimately, I received a gift of a 5 year old female, from a breeder. Sara was very shy, and needed a lot of confidence building, so although she wasn’t an EGRR dog, she was a rescue dog none the less. Helping Sara to become a real Golden became my project with the hope of this happening by year’s end. I can happily report that we beat our goal by three months. Our two girls are now very closely bonded, and I am so proud when I walk them around my neighborhood. People always comment on how beautiful they are, but more importantly how well behaved they are.
Just as our pack in Florida has grown, our pack in New York has grown too. We became a pack of four when Meryl married Gary, and ultimately we were six when grandchildren Brooke and Jeffrey were born. Just this past January, our first grand-dog Benny joined our pack. After meeting him recently, I momentarily got the urge for a puppy, but fortunately for Herb, the urge passed very quickly.
The most frustrating about working in Rescue is not being able to save them all. When the emotional scars, or the physical neglect, make it necessary for us to euthanize a young dog, I really wonder why I continue to do this work. Then just when I am feeling really sad about this, it’s Expo time, with the Parade of Rescues, the most rewarding time of all. This is when the forever families and the very dogs who have gone from someone’s trash to being someone else’s treasure, prance around the ring with shining coats, wagging tails, and Golden smiles. Then I know why I do this and it is all worthwhile.