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Golden retrievers make good role models

Jan Hearne • May 21, 2012 at 9:13 AM

In 1928, the Republican presidential campaign promised a chicken in every pot and car in every back yard (or garage, depending on the source).

I say the government should issue a golden retriever to every home so that we might know how we are supposed to behave. Our society would be the better for it.

Goldens are happy dogs. A co-worker who is dog-sitting a golden retriever this week commented on her sweet disposition. When he tells her she’s the most beautiful dog in the world, she smiles, he said. I knew exactly what he was talking about.

There is a photo somewhere of my golden, Cinnamon, and her litter mates. They are lined up at the foot of the breeder’s stairs, facing the camera. Cinnamon is clearly smiling.

Though Cinnamon died in 1984, my sister and I talk about her often. She was this sweet light running through our lives, full of mischief but without a malevolent bone in her body.

Golden retrievers know they are alive and take joy in every moment. Give Cinnamon a set of keys and she was over the moon. She clutched them in her mouth, the keys dangling, and pranced like a pony around the living room. If we did not give the keys to her, she was not above “borrowing” them.

One morning I had to call in late to work because Cinnamon had dropped my car keys off the second floor balcony, and it took me an hour to find them in the grass. When I came back in the house fuming, I was greeted with the open-mouthed golden grin. She was so genuinely pleased to see me, how could I be angry?

Goldens love everyone, and though they love their owners, they transfer their affections readily. That is what makes them excellent therapy dogs. They can go from the handlers of their youth to the person they will serve without sulking or pining for what had been.

A golden retriever will go at life full tilt, especially if a ball or stick is involved. You can throw something until your arm falls off and a golden will still be at your feet looking up expectantly, body trembling, waiting for the next throw. Add water, and they are delirious.

Cinnamon and I used to go down to Cherokee Boulevard in Knoxville on UT football Saturday mornings. A procession of boats made their way to the stadium, kicking up waves that broke on the shore. Cinnamon ran along the edge of the lake biting at the waves, so thrilled with this one little thing, you wished you could be just like her.

The word “grudge” is not in a golden’s vocabulary. I was 21 when Cinnamon came into my life, so there were times when I left her alone too long because there was a party to go to or a band to hear. Did she sulk? Never. Do I still feel guilty? Yes, and forevermore. How could I have put anything before my precious girl?

Though Sadie and I make a perfect pair, my retirement plans include a golden retriever, more than likely a rescued senior.

A golden taught me how to go about life when I was young. I suspect an aging golden will be the role model I will need in my later years.

Jan Hearne is Tempo editor for the Press. Reach her at jhearne@johnsoncitypress.com.

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