Big boots to fill

Online First Riverside Stories

It is often said not to have a puppy introduced into the family at Christmas time but our experience turned out to be a most magical one.

River’s arrival a week before Christmas Eve became a holiday focal point and gave memories long to be treasured by family, friends and neighbours. People couldn’t wait to stop by to see the new 10-pound bundle of fur and at eight weeks old, River was tuckered out by the endless selfies with whomever we visited or who visited us. For such a young pup, he had a certain serenity that he demonstrated consistently, especially for little children or older folks. He posed for photo after photo, taking the abundance of attention and stimulation in his stride. He was showered with toys and treats and we received little gems of mementos from frames to Christmas collectables and ornaments all with a golden retriever theme. It was similar to welcoming a new baby to the family – everyone was so happy for us.

River has pretty much slept through the night since day one, while for our two other family dogs, we saw many moons during those early puppy weeks. House training turned out to be smooth with only a few accidents, most our fault. Within days, he started to quietly side beside the back door and stare at us. Not too quick on the uptake, we ignored the signal at first and he then would strut up to us and then return to the doorway and sit. Finally, the light bulb went on and we realized that was how he was telling us he wanted out. It was smooth sailing from that point on.

The Christmas tree did not prove to be managed quite so easily and eventually all ornaments from the tree were removed from the lower branches which were a constant temptation to him. River also loved every snowfall as he danced and pranced vigorously eating each snowflake. Also, there were no dirty dog days or weekends as we used to say when we welcomed our other two puppies in the spring. He was an adorable cuddle-bug, nuzzling into my hair or settling down on the lap of his Dad or big brother; confident with lots of energy but not brash. He was also a great traveller right from the get-go so trips to the beach – even in winter – were a joy. River loved the new freedom running at full throttle on frozen sand.

We also proceeded to make the house puppy safe, installing three baby gates and having a big crate for him to stay in when we were away. He looked so tiny in it at first that we called it his hotel. The hotel would be downstairs during the day and upstairs beside our bed at night. We would leave the door to it open and often during the day he would crawl inside and take a nap – content with the security and the blanket which still has his mother’s scent.

River has springs on his paws – his greetings are always full tilt with a leap forward at the end. Meal time he also explodes forth, barreling towards his dish as if it were to be his last.

He also displayed some traits and habits remarkably like our other golden retriever, Striker, as a new pup. He nibbled incessantly at my hair and burrowed deeply between my neck and my shoulder. He liked his bones best when we were holding them and when he first ventured the stairs – he hopped them, never walking or running. He also bends one paw when he lays down and when overexcited to see us will not let go of our hands. And then there is the tiny little crease under his jaw that Striker also had as well as his habit of falling asleep on my husband Barry’s big ole rubber boots or beside his work boots. The more stinky the boots, the better the sleep! In the book and movie A Dog’s Purpose, the hero’s dog is reborn in different bodies of breeds of dogs and eventually returns to his owner. We would peer deep into puppy’s eyes during those very early days and wonder had Striker returned.

Part of us liked to think Striker came back to us but we also felt disloyal to River that he would not have his own full identity. I believe we have both. I sense a part of Striker inside this handsome creature but River is indeed his own special dog. It was a big step when we finally changed the message on our phone after we rang in the New Year, but the world now knows clearly you have reached River’s home and family and that he is lodged securely in our hearts and lives.

Stay tuned for more stories as River grows and grows …

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