Ten years old
Wednesday started out innocently enough, but then there was an alarming call from an Animal Control Officer, Kim LaPierre, asking if we would take in a very pregnant female Golden. Kim said she would be at the shelter after 4 p.m. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I called to leave a big YES!! message on their machine.
A Regular at our Shelter
I first met Peaches, a female Golden Retriever, several years ago when a local resident stopped at a variety store and Peaches jumped into his car and would not get out. I think she wanted to go for a ride.
While Peaches was at our Animal Shelter, she would bark for hours on end and would act out of control. She was starving for attention.
The owners of this dog contacted us and, after checking on her vaccination records, Peaches was returned home. From that point on, Peaches became a regular at our Shelter. The owners would even call us to tell us that she was on the run. After many rides home, many times being impounded, giving many breaks and many fines, we discussed the problems with her owner. We felt that being an unspayed female was the main reason she was always on the run. The owners stated that they would like her to have a litter because they could possibly sell the pups and make some money. Also, they said "It would be good for the kids to see them being born." We explained to them that the cost and time it took to raise puppies before they were placed would be very demanding and that they would not make a lot of money. We asked them what they would do with the pups that were not placed. We're not a dumping ground for "breeders" that cannot place their litters.
Needless to say, after many mixed litters and many problems, the owners asked us to place their dog. When I told them we cannot make any promises, they got quite upset. They thought that we would take the dog and if we could not place it, we would just simply give it back to them. I told them that once the dog was signed over, it became town property. I told them that if we did place the dog, that I could not give them the name and phone number of the new owners. They left with their dog. They were so upset that they filed a complaint against me. They later apologized, but they did not like our policies.
When Peaches became pregnant again last Spring, Deputy Animal Control Officer Kim LaPierre offered her help. Kim also worked as a veterinary technician. She was concerned that Peaches, approximately ten years old, could have complications with the pregnancy. She gave the owners her beeper number and was called out in the middle of the night to help whelp the litter of eleven mixed breed pups. Kim did this on her own time and became friendly with the people. She tried many times to persuade them to have Peaches spayed through local clinics. But each time, either money was an issue or Peaches was in season or pregnant.
When Peaches became pregnant again a few months ago, her owners were getting quite frustrated. Kim decided to contact YGRR to see if they could be of any help. That's when we spoke with Sue.
Waiting -- but not for long!
As luck would have it, ACO Ron Woods was there at the time of my call. When I asked him about the dog, he told me that she is an exceptionally friendly ten year-old Golden who ran loose (no leash law), mooched at the corner market and was "Always pregnant." "How always?" I asked. "She's TEN YEARS OLD!!" Ron told me that they didn't have possession of Peaches yet but that her owners were divorcing/moving and had not figured out what to do with her. He told me that Kim would try to persuade Peaches' owners to surrender her and that I should call back later on.
Needless to say, the day went by a little too slowly. I spoke to Kim that night and she said she was confident she had convinced the owners to turn the dog over to her. The family wanted one more day to say their good-byes and she would pick Peaches up on Thursday afternoon. Whelping was imminent.
Thursday night at 10:45 Kim called to say "HOORAY!! Peaches was safely in their shelter!" I agreed to call Kim at 7 a.m. the next morning to see how Peaches was and set up a time to pick her up. Friday found me heading south at 11 a.m. to the shelter. Both ACOs were so excited Peaches was going to YGRR!
Ron and Kim were big Golden fans, each having a senior, one thirteen years-old and the other seventeen years-old! Their portraits had crowded the tiny office over the years. The shelter housed about five other dogs and multiple cats (in their own little room) and when they let Peaches out she bounded around the kennel and office like she was right at home. The paperwork was signed, and as I was leaving, Kim slipped me a donation out of her own pocket for the "Golden oldies."
Back on the road, I made a quick cell phone call to Wickaboag Animal Hospital to let them know we were on our way. At Wickaboag, I ran into a couple of friends with their dogs. One of them was Art, the new YGRR handyman, with his German Shepherd in for a check up. When I told him Peaches' story, including the fact that YGRR did not have a whelping box, Art and his wife offered to stop at the home of our mutual friend Robin Prouty to get the measurements of her whelping box and make one for YGRR -- OVERNIGHT!!
A physical examination found Peaches to be a healthy mother, except for a burst sebaceous cyst on her back. An x-ray revealed only six puppies (thank goodness) and a titer showed her immunization status to be good. When we returned to Riverview, I relocated Farley and Farrah from the senior room to make room for Peaches and her expected puppies.
Without a whelping box until the next day, we had to improvise. Last summer's leftover wading pool was moved into the senior room in case Peaches needed it that night. At 10 p.m., I walked the house dogs and checked on Peaches before retiring to my apartment. What was that?! A contraction?! The first puppy arrived at 10:45, then one more about every hour and a half or so. By 5 a.m., Peaches was done and all cleaned up. Everyone had the right number of toes!
At 8 a.m., staff member Allyson MacKenna came in. With a departing reminder to Allyson to watch for any puppies behind Peaches' back (ouch), I was back on the road at 8:15 a.m. to take another Rescue Golden to a specialist three hours away. We were home by 4:30 p.m. to meet up with Art with the beautiful whelping box he had crafted overnight. Safe and snug in their new Riverview nest, six puppies -- three gold boys, one black boy, one gold girl and one black girl -- cuddled up with mom to ride out yet another of New England's winter storms!
Peaches was an excellent (very experienced) mother. With good nutrition and tender loving care from the YGRR staff, the family flourished. For six weeks, they cuddled in the senior room at Riverview. As soon as they were big enough, the puppies began to take short outings into the big wide world. They were handled by many different volunteers and staff members to make certain they would be well socialized.
A Very Sad Ending for Peaches
While at Riverview, Peaches received lots of attention too. Volunteers took her on long walks frequently and she got to enjoy the occasional toy or bone. Because she was such a skinny girl, she also received lots of biscuits!
When the puppies were weaned from their mother's milk and relatively independent, Peaches was ready to be spayed. The procedure went well, but to our tremendous sorrow, Peaches died while recovering from the anesthesia.
Although Peaches was an old dog, we felt that she had to be spayed. As an unspayed older female, Peaches would have been at high risk for developing pyometra. The reason that she had not developed it earlier in her life and died was probably because she had become pregnant every time she went into season.
Many people gave of themselves to try to make life better for this senior mother and her babies. Without the Animal Control Officers, Peaches might have delivered in a snowbank or worse, and she would have been sentenced to having litters every year until she died. Sue Averill gave of her time to make the trip to pick her up and then delivered the puppies throughout the night. Wickaboag Animal Hospital took extra steps to assure us of her immunization status without impacting the mother and unborn puppies and then did an X-ray so we would know how many puppies she was carrying. A special golden kiss to Arthur who stopped everything and used his skills to assure a special place for this mother dog and her babies. And thanks to the members and friends of YGRR who support our senior program which allowed us to admit Peaches to YGRR.
Although we are full of sorrow that Peaches never had a chance to enjoy a second chance at life, we are consoled that her six black and gold puppies are in safe, permanent homes, with the protection of YGRR behind them, forever.
Just Getting Back to Normal
Just Getting Back to Normal
When Peaches and her puppies arrived, Sue Averill was just getting back to a regular schedule. She had not had a full night's sleep for many weeks because she had been caring for Dickens, a very special Golden puppy.
A Tiny Golden
The following is an excerpt from a message Sue sent to the YGRR Board last fall.
Weighing in at a whopping 3lbs. 4oz., "Dickens," (we named him after the author of so many heroes over adversity) is currently the littlest gold nugget at Riverview.
Now safe and sound in my living room, being looked after by my cat and Pekingese, Dickens is resting easy. His painful start on his way to us (at the tender age of 5 weeks --fast fact, puppies don't have the fully functioning brain of an adult dog until 7 weeks!) began when his owners left him unsupervised with his father. The owner assumes that the puppy must have gone too close to the water bowl, and his father CRUNCHED him on his head.
The owner took Dickens to his vet and was referred to Tufts due to the severity of the injury and the age of the puppy. The vet also gave the owner our number in case he wasn't able to pay for surgery. His vet also contacted us AND Tufts just to make sure the puppy wasn't put to sleep due to financial constraints. (Hooray for the good guys!!) After some maddening phone tag with the owner and both vets, the owner agreed to relinquish the puppy to YGRR if he couldn't pay. More phone calls and faxes were made to make sure I had verbal confirmation of the release being signed, and a deposit sent to assure that Dickens would get all the help he needed, which turned out to be quite a bit.
X-rays revealed a fractured lower and upper jaw, a fracture of his orbital ridge and a skull fracture. A consult with an opthalmologist revealed no damage to his eye and further tests indicated no brain injury (WHEW!!!) Surgery was needed to repair his tiny lower jaw and the rest is stable enough to heal on its own. We'll have to watch the formation of his adult teeth (now a gelatinous mass in his jaw - as they should be). He may require some dentistry in the future if they are malformed due to this injury. We'll also have to help his social confidence heal with something so terrible happening at such a critical age (Collie, my Peke, is on the job and working hard at supervising his potty walks.)
Right now he's sleeping snug in his crate with a tummy full of warm gruel (goat's milk with pureed Innova dog food) resting his (good) cheek on the world's tiniest E collar, dreaming of the wonderful adventures to come recuperating at Riverview.
Like He's Been Here Forever
We were first introduced to Dickens at the YGRR DogWalk in October, 2000. We had just lost our Sarge, YGRR #2088 two weeks prior to that so it was a very sad time for us.
It was too soon to even think about another Golden. But the good people at YGRR thought we should meet the newest Fluff Ball. My husband and I both thought he was adorable but we just weren't ready.
We had been on vacation over Thanksgiving and Wendy (a YGRR volunteer) had been calling to tell us about Dickens. We still weren't sure but decided to go over to Riverview and make sure.
Now it seems like he's been here forever. Dickens is the sweetest, most loving, smart and one hilarious pup. He is friendly to anyone and everyone. He fit into this family like it was meant to be. Anyone who meets him is just taken by his personality. He is now six months old and still everything is a game to him.
It had been fifteen years since we had a pup and we had forgotten what it was like. It's a lot of work but soooo well worth it. He has brought a ton of joy into this house.
His injuries have healed well, but he will need dental work. Because of the extent of surgery done on his jaw his teeth have grown in very strangely, so he sees a nearby veterinary dentist. She has assured us that with either extraction or orthodonture, he'll be just fine.
Dickens has been through Puppy Kindergarten with Sue Averill and then first grade with us. He did great. He is still learning new things and is very willing to spend the time to learn. We LOVE him so much.
Dickens spends most mornings at work with me, then were are home where he is enjoying all the snow. I think he'll be disappointed when it is finally gone. We're hoping he'll love the water as much. He has eight acres of land to run on and a big pool for the summer.
We take him everywhere. His behavior is so good that it allows us to take him just about anywhere. Every experience is a new adventure for Dickens and he welcomes anything that comes his way. Our lives have been greatly blessed by this little peanut.
Special thanks to Wendy and Sue for making it happen. They knew he was meant for us even when we didn't. He is the love of our lives.
Relocated by Peaches and Her Puppies
When Peaches and her family took over our senior room, two dogs were relocated into other areas of our headquarters. Each of them had stories, too.
One of the Animal Control Officers with whom YGRR works frequently called us about an older female Golden. They weren't certain that we would be able to take her, although she was described as incredibly sweet and friendly.
The as yet unnamed Golden had been picked up as a stray in their medium sized city. After the Golden had remained unclaimed for ten days, she became available for adoption. She was an easy placement because she had an easy going manner and she got along with other dogs and with cats. She was quickly adopted by a local family.
Within two days, the Golden was returned to the ACO. She hadn't "done" anything wrong, but she dribbled urine and the family wanted a completely housebroken dog. When the ACO called us, he wasn't sure that we would want to take on a senior Golden who might not be housebroken.
Thanks to the YGRR senior program and donations to our Look Beyond Time Fund, I did not hesitate to admit the dog. At our collaborating veterinarian, the Golden was named "Farrah," a reference to Farrah Fawcett (Charlie's blond angel). The veterinarian determined that Farrah had a severe urinary tract infection and she was given antibiotics. Other than the infection, Farrah was in found to be in good health and already spayed, so she was transferred to Riverview within a few days.
We decided to keep Farrah with us while the antibiotic ran its course. To our dismay, Farrah's dribbling continued, even after the infection had cleared up. She wasn't a terribly messy girl, but I wondered whether I would be able to find her an adopter. To my absolute joy and amazement, when I called Austin and told him about Farrah he exclaimed "What's a little pee between friends. When can I come and get her?"
She's In the Top
Late in the year 2000, I thought I might place the following ad in the "Personal" section of my local paper: "Seeking middle age female, non-smoker, for live-in companionship. Must like to take long drives and just hang around. Will even allow sleeping in my bedroom!"
After many responses and lots of looking, I found "Farrah." She's just beautiful, sixty-three years old (you do the math), with golden hair, 65 pounds and is built! This is love again at first sight.
What can I say about Farrah? I have lived alone for eight years - my wife was in a nursing home before she passed away three years ago.
I can only say some great things happened in my life.
I married the right girl. We were high school classmates. We were two weeks shy of fifty years together.
We had (and still have) a wonderful daughter.
I built on the Cape in 1972, having bought land in 1962, and retired here in 1982.
In 1989, I had my first and only dog - a Golden named Breaker for the Chatham Breakthrough. Due to tumors, I put her to sleep in May, 2000. A very, very sad day.
Liz, my daughter, sent me the YGRR magazine and I decided I wanted another Golden. This makes five important things in my life.
I was so excited when I received a call to come up and meet Farrah. She is a beautiful animal, friendly, loving, likes to ride, etc. I sure did receive the RIGHT DOG!
We get along great. I'm unable to walk far, but we go out several times a day, plus we have the fenced in back yard. Farrah walks well, comes when called. She is a super side kick.
A senior dog is perfect for me. We'll grow old together. So she has a urinary problem -- we both take our pills together!
As I said, I've had many great things and times in my life but Farrah is in the Top Six.
The other inhabitant of the senior room who was displaced by Peaches and her puppies was Farley.
In early November, YGRR was contacted by a shelter requesting services for a senior stray Golden. During his ten day holding period the shelter had found the dog to be a friendly and attentive boy with no apparent fears. Unfortunately, however, he had heartworm disease and the shelter was unable to afford to treat him. Could we help the dog they had named Farley?
A volunteer was recruited to pick up Farley and transport him to one of our collaborating veterinarians, Fremont Animal Hospital. At Fremont, it was determined that Farley had a very high burden of heartworm disease with both adult worms and microfilaria. Immediate treatment was required to save his life.
After his first treatment, Farley was sent to Riverview to recuperate. The effects of the strong pesticide used to kill the worms made Farley quite ill and seemingly depressed. Staff and volunteers alike did everything we could to encourage Farley and, over time, he rallied and seemed less unhappy. Regular handouts of dog biscuits helped him to cheer up and put on some much needed weight! Although he had to be kept quiet, Farley's outlook improved dramatically. Given the chance, Farley would toss a tennis ball into the air and catch it himself.
It was while Farley was completing his second treatment that he was evicted from the senior room by Peaches. But he didn't mind because a few short days later, Farley headed to his new home.
Brewster, Took a Hand
I can't tell Farley's story without mentioning Brewster. Brewster came to me about two years ago. He was 11.5 when I adopted him and, as fate would have it, he came to me on my birthday with an appropriate Cape Cod name. From the moment we met we were a team. He clearly had been a very lonely dog in need of attention and affection.
Brewster was unique. He had a great ability to communicate his feelings and needs. The day I brought him to his new home we were watching television in the evening. I was on the couch, lying down and he was on the floor resting. At one point he got up, looked at me, climbed onto the couch and put his huge paws onto my shoulders and looked down into my eyes and just stared. I looked back at him and told him that he was home and he didn't have to worry and that he wouldn't be lonely anymore. The moment passed and he climbed off the couch and fell asleep. He never climbed back onto the furniture again.
Brewster lived with me for almost two years. He came to work with me, he supervised the landscaping of my Cape Cod home, made many neighborhood friends and he attended classes with me when I decided to return to college.
By late November I knew Brewster was very ill. He had battled cancer in the spring and my hopes were that he would live to have another summer, as he loved the water and beach. Fate was good to Brewster. He enjoyed his summer, gained weight and had good health. When I started school in the fall he provided much needed moral support to an older student who was totally intimidated by the reality of returning to school. Brewster was getting sicker and the reality of his death was too devastating to consider. I was hoping desperately that perhaps whatever he had would go away, unfortunately it didn't and Brewster passed on in early December.
Brewster died on a Monday. I called YGRR on Tuesday to tell them about his death. I think I talked with Sue. In the course of the conversation she told me to let her know when I would consider adopting another Golden. I said I wanted another dog like Brewster. I wanted a big, red, white muzzled male.
She said great, we have one right here and his name is Farley! I couldn't believe what she was saying to me. Farley was the name of my very first Golden Retriever! I had goose bumps. Really? You guys really have a big red male named Farley? Yes it was true, only Farley wasn't big. As a matter of fact, Farley had nearly starved to death as a stray in New Hampshire. He barely weighed 50 lbs. when animal control picked him up. Sue warned me that he had gained some weight but was still a little guy. Plus he was very sick with heartworm. I made plans to meet Farley that Friday. I chuckled to myself when I got off the phone. I felt that Brewster had a direct hand in this coincidence.
I met Farley that Friday. It had been one of the longer weeks of my life with Brewster's death. When Farley and I met he was a bag of bones! I nicknamed him Bob, short for bag of bones. He was a beautiful red male Golden with lots of playful energy. But he was still very sick with heartworm and he had very sad eyes. According to Sue, Farley needed an additional treatment for heartworm and time to recuperate. He wouldn't be ready for adoption until after the holidays, which was fine with me, as I wanted some time to mourn Brewster.
It was Christmas time and I asked Sue if Farley needed anything special to make him happy and she suggested a soft bed. Farley spent a lot of time resting in his crate so a soft bed would be appreciated. Needless to say I promptly mailed a doggy care package to YGRR. Apparently Farley likes to unwrap packages as I received a photo of him admiring his new bed surrounded by wrapping paper. Over the next few weeks I spoke regularly with Wendy, Sue and Emma regarding Farley's progress. He was slowly gaining weight, his health and a renewed spirit.
Adoption day was the Friday before New Year's. Farley was ready to come home! I couldn't wait to bring him home and the family all wanted to meet the dog that Brewster had sent from heaven. (My nephew and nieces all loved Brewster and were sure that Brewster had hand picked Farley for our family.) Farley's heartworm condition needed monitoring, as he couldn't experience periods of excitement or stress. His heart needed time to heal.
So a quiet New Year's weekend had been planned.
Farley said good-bye to his family at YGRR and hopped into my minivan for a ride home. We were headed to Concord to meet some family. During the ride home Farley was quiet, but he seemed appropriately concerned about the changes in his environment. He arrived home, had a drink of water and began to explore the new surroundings. Within a few minutes he started to vomit, only nothing came up. I thought he was nervous.
The behavior continued and the effort of unproductive vomiting became more difficult and painful for the dog. I called Sue, somewhat panicky at this point and described the dog's behavior. Sue was concerned and told me about an emergency veterinary facility nearby -- should it become necessary for Farley to see a vet.
The dog's condition continued to deteriorate and was in extreme pain. I knew something was dramatically wrong. Within an hour of leaving YGRR, Farley was dying in front of my eyes and I didn't know how to help him.
It was 5:30 on New Year's Eve weekend and I had a near dead dog, which we bundled back into the minivan and headed towards an emergency veterinary hospital fifteen minutes up the road. We called ahead and they suggested that the dog had "bloat" a true dog health emergency. Farley was in shock by the time he arrived at the hospital. An x-ray quickly confirmed their diagnosis of "bloat" aka gastric torsion. Farley was going to die unless he had immediate surgery.
I gave the OK for surgery and called Sue at YGRR and told her the grave news. She told me she would meet me at the hospital and that YGRR would assume responsibility for Farley's care. Poor Farley, he had survived being lost in the woods, nearly starving to death, heartworm disease and now he was so close to death again. It was almost unbelievable.
Farley had surgery that evening. He had survived. But the next 48 hours were critical. We visited Farley the next day, just 18 hours after surgery. Farley was shaved, bandaged and had tubes coming out from all over his tiny little body. He was truly a sad sight. But he smiled when he saw us and even wagged his tail. Gosh, he is one tough dog. What a tenacious spirit! Farley continued to improve hourly. Cardiac problems can be a side effect of gastric torsion and with Farley's heartworm history, this was an area of great concern. But Farley persevered.
Farley was discharged late in the evening on New Year's Eve. Almost 48 hours after his initial adoption he could come home, again. Needless to say we had a very quiet, but grateful, New Year's Eve. Our New Year started with a new family member, Farley O and a resolution to provide him with lots of food, love and protection.
Farley continues to do well; he's now a chubby 76 lbs!
These stories beautifully illustrate the yin and the yang of Rescue work. The sorrow of Peaches' death stands in sharp contrast to the joy of the birth of her six healthy puppies and Farley's and Dickens' survival. The thrill of finding a perfect home for a girl like Farrah tempers the sadness of knowing that an old girl like her was abandoned in the first place. And so it goes. . .
All of these Rescue Goldens owe their survival to you, the members and friends of YGRR. Thank you.
Rescue and Adoption services for Golden Retrievers from the six New England states.
Address: P.O. Box 808, Hudson, MA 01749-0808