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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Can I Get a Golden Retriever Fix?

Our traveling buddy, Archie, provides a very important public service. There are a lot of people out there, for whatever reason, just need to hug or touch a golden retriever - we call it a golden retriever “fix,” or “GR fix” for short. That oversized mass of fur seems to bestow a “feel good” sensation that some people crave or just seem to need.

Not everyone knows this, but heights make my husband very uncomfortable. One particular afternoon at the Grand Canyon, I went hiking with some friends who had made the trip with us. Mike took Archie for a stroll “on top” - far from the edge and ended up outside a souvenir shop where lots of people were milling around. About 4 or 5 women approached them. (Maybe this is where I should mention that Archie is also a great “chick” magnet, for anyone out there who might be needing one.) Suddenly, one woman broke away from the group and threw her arms around Archie. After a long hug, she looked up at Mike and asked, “What’s your dog’s name?” When Mike told her, she started to tear up and nuzzled down in Archie’s fur. “I can’t believe it - that’s my golden’s name and he looks just like your dog. I miss him so much.” She was visiting the Grand Canyon from Scotland and wasn’t able to bring her pet along.

Once, in Salt Lake City, we were walking around the campground when a couple waved us over to their site. They said, “We need a golden retriever hug; Archie was happy to oblige. They told us GR’s were their dog breed of choice and they had owned up to six golden retrievers at once. Now they lived in their motor home and no longer had any pets. I looked over at the size of their motor home, one of the gargantuan type, and wondered why not? Our motor home wasn’t anywhere near the size of theirs and Archie didn’t seem to mind the smaller accommodations at all.

At an Indian casino (that is almost a second home to us because it has a nice RV park and is located close to my son’s house), I was sitting outside playing cards with my oldest granddaughter. Mike was puttering around outside while Archie napped in the morning sun. A woman walked out of the registration office and headed straight for our site, arms open wide and a big grin on her face. She was even shouting, “I need a golden retriever fix.” Just before she threw herself on our dog, she asked if it was OK to hug him. Luckily, Archie loves affection, even from strangers, because I don’t think she could’ve stopped herself if she wanted to - she had way too much momentum going! During our conversation, we learned her golden retriever had recently died. She shed a few tears as she patted Archie’s head. After she perked up, she started talking about her grandson, who she had come to visit and lived in the area. Turns out, he is a well-known motocross racer. Mike had raced motorcycles since 7th grade until right after our son was born, so he enjoyed getting the inside scoop on one of his favorite riders. She stayed and visited with us so long, her husband finally drove over and picked her up as he was leaving the park.

One favorite encounter was with a little boy in a motorized wheel chair. As we were out for a walk, the mother asked if her son could pet our dog. Archie had never been around anything like that wheel chair and Mike wasn’t sure how Archie would do. The young man was quite eager to feel our huge fluff ball so Mike decided he’d give it a try. Turns out, Archie didn’t seem to notice the chair; he didn’t even pause as he approached it. There was a big smile sitting on those wheels as Archie provided another “GR fix.”

We never know who Archie is going to bring into our lives and we aren’t always in the motor home when Archie casts his spell. Mike and Archie were on their way to Los Angeles in our truck. Anybody familiar with SoCal freeways knows you can come to a complete stop anytime and several times during a trip. As Mike and Archie were waiting for traffic to start moving again, windows rolled down so Archie could stick his head out and watch the non-action, a man in a Prius pulled up, leaned out his window and asked, “Hey, is it OK if I pet your dog?” Mike said, “Sure,” but didn’t pay much attention to who was asking/driving; he figured it was another bored driver looking for a way to help pass the time. The traffic finally started to move and the fellow said, “Thanks, man!” Mike looked up in time to make eye contact with Leonardo Dicaprio as he waved, big grin on his face, and drove away.

Another time, Mike drove me over to a health food store but sat in the car with Archie while I ran in to shop. Mike was kind of dozing, not really paying much attention to his surroundings, when a voice boomed into his consciousness, jerking him back into reality, “Hey, can I pet your dog?” Mike was surprised to find Tony Hawk’s face at the window. Archie got a pat, Tony stated he loved golden retrievers as he left to do his shopping. I passed the guy and never noticed the skateboarder extraordinaire. See what you miss when you don’t have a golden by your side?)

The story closest to my heart, though, did take place in the motor home. We took my grandmother on a week-long trip when she was 97. My husband was a little nervous because he was sure she was going to die while we were in charge of her. My main concern was Archie getting too excited and knocking her over. We needn’t have worried - Archie seemed to sense she was frail and he always was cautious when he approached her. My grandmother never was much of a dog person but she fell under Archie’s spell, too. Grandma would get settled in her favorite chair in the motor home and say, “Archie, come here.” He would come to her immediately, get a few pat’s, while Grandma would say, “This is the best dog ever!” She would then sit back and relax after getting her GR fix.

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