Two carefree, smart and beautiful Golden Retriever dogs will never be aware of how much I have learned from them. I am sure the panic I feel when they go near a small cliff is only a tenth of what a mother feels. It is the same stomach dropping fear that I get from roller coasters. The love I feel for them is much stronger than I could have ever imagined. Bailey was the first dog we ever owned, and she left a paw-shaped stamp in my heart. When I was three, she was the dog I wanted more than anything in the world. Kylie is my current dog who is six years old. She thinks she is a human, and she would be a great track and field long jumper.
1. They taught me determination. Bailey would dig a large hole under the playground because she was warm and needed to cool off. Two feet into the ground, covered in brown sand, she would grin up at you like she was the most intelligent and only dog to ever think of digging. Kylie is the same way. I can throw a tennis ball into three feet of snow, and she will find it two minutes later. Trying to find my keys in my purse can take longer than that.
2. They taught me patience. Cheese, eggs, ice cream, chicken, peanut butter, and the occasional actual meal of dog food are all worth waiting for. They stare at you until you cave, but their patience is almost unnerving. It’s almost as if they are thinking, “It’s this or sleeping, and I’ve already taken four naps today, so…” I still have to consciously exercise patience at restaurants, in lines, and during commercials. Bailey could entertain herself for hours with a stick while we ran around ignoring her outside. They taught me good things come to those who wait.
3. They taught me that not all rodents are fluffy and cute. Sometimes, squirrels are a pain in the butt, and you just have to chase them. Especially if they are teasing you, and don’t even try to justify it if they are drinking out of your outdoor water dish. Bailey once gave a chipmunk a heart attack because she had it perfectly cornered. Sometimes, rodents cross the line.
4. They taught me kisses and high fives are simple ways of showing your love. (Even if you slobber on the person or miss their hand during a high-five and actually scratch them). Communication through touch is something dogs understand, and on bad days, both dogs would let me come lay on them. There’s a reason therapy dogs exist.
5. They taught me my mom and dad are people I should trust. Both dogs followed my mom around as if she was the greatest person to ever grace them with her presence. She puts on her tennis shoes, and suddenly Kylie knows a walk is on the agenda. She would say, “Grandma is coming,” and suddenly Bailey had her nose against the front door. When my dad puts on his hunting gear, no amount of food will distract those dogs. We would often travel, but both dogs always knew we would come back. They trusted us enough to not run away or get depressed.
6. They taught me jumping into leaf piles and off a dock are two of life’s best activities. The feeling of flying or being all consumed by leaves or water is something to treasure, and definitely something to wag your tail about. Sledding is also good fun when you can chase sleds at high speeds.
7. They taught me to always get a window seat. Kylie begs to sit on our laps in the car because the view is better, the smells are overwhelming, and the petting is endless. Bailey was too large to sit on our tiny laps, but I am sure she would have been the same way. I try to get a window seat on buses, planes and trains now, and I will see more of the world because of it. Sticking my head out is yet to happen, but I don’t exactly have the ears or the nose for it.
8. They taught me to live simply and not care what other people think. Bailey would be covered in mud, smell like whatever she rolled in last, and still have the confidence to strut up to a male chocolate lab she met at the dog park. Kylie’s biggest worry in life is when she can have her next fix of water. All they need is a tennis ball and their family.
9. They taught me to say goodbye. Bailey’s death at age 14 was so heartbreaking for me. She lived through my childhood and teen years, so she was wound into every part of my life. I will never forget our last moments together, and I know that my life was better because of her.
10. They taught me how to deeply love. Love with a pure, unconditional love. Bailey once saved my little sister’s life at our old house. Abby, my little sister who was three at the time, was playing in our backyard at a big party my mom hosted. Whoever was supposed to be watching her got distracted with their own children, and Abby started to wander towards the lake. Bailey saw her, ran back towards the house and to the lake again, and even began to bark. She had barked only a handful of times in her life, so my mom immediately questioned it. She came outside and asked where Abby was. She followed Bailey and found Abby near the edge of the water.
Kylie has growled and stepped in front of my mom when threatening dogs come near my mom on walks, and she would defend any of us with her life, I am sure of it. Golden Retrievers are incredible dogs, and we got extremely lucky with ours.