It was a beautiful, quiet Midwestern spring afternoon. The windows were open and the intoxicating scent of lilacs filled the house. I sat down with a turkey sandwich, tall glass of blackberry iced tea and the weekly small town newspaper. As I settled in, Dogzilla jumps on the table out of nowhere, like in a slasher movie. Iced tea flows like a river on the table while Dogzilla savagely eats my sandwich leaving only a pickle on the soaked newspaper. That’s a pretty typical day with our six-year-old golden retriever, Lillie Beatrice a.k.a “the bean”, “Lil Spil”, “that damn dog”.
Almost seven years ago when our beloved cocker spaniel suddenly passed away, we could only stand two weeks of silence before we decided to replace the fallen canine member of our family. A co-worker found a picture of a litter of golden retriever pups online and I was instantly in love. My husband had great luck picking out his first dog so I sent him to pick out our new puppy. He told the breeder, “I want a dog with some personality”. The breeder said, “How about this one? We call her Spunky.” I think the breeder probably whispered, “Special”. A misunderstanding that can be compared to one in the classic movie, “Young Frankenstein” when Marty Feldman’s character, Igor, is sent to get a brain and he recalled the name as being, “Abby. Abby Normal”.
There wasn’t anything Lillie didn’t eat — the laundry room wall, underground sprinkler system, furniture – just to name a few of the more costlier items we had to replace. One particular talent was devouring a roll of toilet paper in five seconds flat. Sporting scratches and bite marks on our arms and holes in all of our clothes, my husband and I looked like we were homeless drug addicts during the first year of her life. She had a wild ”I’m gonna git you sucka” look in her eyes. The invisible fence repairman affectionately nicknamed her, “Crazy”. This coming from a man who has a permanent smile on his face from ear to ear as a result of hundreds of electrical shocks over the years. Her deafening bark drove neighbors to write numerous complaint letters, even suggesting training facilities. She’s eaten enough crayons and plastic toys to poop out a Fisher-Price village complete with a rainbow overhead.
We were shocked when we took her to puppy socialization class and she hid under the chairs. The trainer did not believe we were having so many problems with her. About a year after our daughter was born, out of pure desperation, we took her to the equivalent of a doggie Betty Ford Clinic. After two weeks as an “inpatient”, they refunded our money and diagnosed Lillie as the most severe Type A golden retriever the trainer had ever seen. We were close to giving her away, but we are dog people and we just couldn’t do it. She was part of the family and we all had to learn how to co-exist peacefully.
We had a major turning point with Lillie after we read the book, “Marley and Me”. Maybe she was just wired a little differently and she is only capable of controlling herself to a certain point. Made sense to us.
This fall she’ll turn seven. That’s almost 50 in dog years. The latest research indicates people feel less stressed after age 50. This theory is holding true with Lillie. She still thinks she rules the roost, however, that wild look in her eyes has given way to a loving glance. Our walls remain intact as long as the goodie jar is filled, there is a steady supply of rawhides and she gets her nightly walk with her daddy. The Barbie townhouse has even remained untouched after being considered a canine Golden Corral by a younger, more rebellious and quite frankly, hungrier Lillie.
Food, love and attention. Doesn’t that make everyone happy? Now, if only there was a cure for table surfing.