I found this forum in summer 2011 shortly after my husband and I brought home our first golden baby. I'd like to share my journey, and I'm looking forward to engaging with this community of knowledgeable golden people! It's a long story, but important context for where we are now...
The journey actually starts not with a golden, but with a springer spaniel. Daphne was adopted in 2004 from the Mid Atlantic English Springer Spaniel Rescue when we lived in Pennsylvania. You can read her story here: MAESSR - Daphne - Mid-Atlantic English Springer Spaniel Rescue
She joined our family only two months after we had gotten married, and I spent a good portion of our honeymoon trolling internet cafes in Maine reading about her and the other MAESSR dogs, wondering which one would be ours. Daphne was my heart dog, she would come to work with me at my part time job at a local pet supply shop during my final year of college. We completed several obedience classes and she served as a therapy dog at local nursing homes and hospitals. Our trainer encouraged me to put some titles on her, but life got in the way and I was a bit intimidated by the whole dog show world at that time. In 2007, I was rubbing Daph's belly when I felt a large lumpy mass. I knew it was bad, and the vet confirmed my suspicions the next day when she was diagnosed with a quickly progressing mammary tumor that would require emergency surgery. Surgery and subsequent biopsies confirmed advanced stage mammary cancer, and Daph had two mammary glands and surrounding lymph nodes removed. It was a horribly traumatic time, and with a grim prognosis, we decided to explore alternative therapies and hope for the best. We took her to accupuncture, did a ton of research on food, switched her diet, started a ton of supplements, and prayed. A lot. We were blessed with 4 more years with our girl - the cancer went into remission and she made a full recovery.
After seeing me pretty much bawl my eyes out every day for 2+ weeks of Daphne's recovery, my husband was finally convinced that we should get a second dog. In early 2008, almost exactly one year after Daphne's cancer diagnosis, Ellie joined our family. MAESSR - Eloise II - Mid-Atlantic English Springer Spaniel Rescue
She was a sweet little thing who fit right in to our routine. Daph and Ellie provided lots of love and affection to us over the next few years - including the stress of selling our house in 2010 and moving to Colorado where I would pursue my MS and PhD at Colorado State University. I will never forget the two of them sitting in the back seat of our mercury sable in their dog seatbelts with the cat in her crate in between them on that long journey.
In early 2011, we started to notice Daphne exhibiting symptoms of a brain tumor (diagnosed after all other tests were normal). Due to her age, we decided to approach the situation by ensuring a good quality of life. By May 2011, the tumor had progressed to the point where it was limiting her movement and affecting her cognition. We tried prednisone as a last ditch effort, which made things worse. We made the difficult decision to help her cross the bridge on May 27, 2011.
I had an opportunity to go to Hawaii a few weeks after Daphne's passing for my Master's research on an environmental education program. This came up at the very last minute when my advisor was unable to go herself. I actually had to miss the closing on/moving into our new townhouse. My poor husband, I owe him big. We had decided after Daphne's passing to add a puppy to our family, and having some experience with an aunt who had 25+ years of golden experience, we were convinced that the golden's personality would be the best fit for us and our lifestyle. Daphne's personality was very similar - we could take her anywhere and she would do just fine. She was a star at obedience class and got along with everyone. Ellie, on the other hand, was afraid of a lot of things and needed extra supervision when we had friends over or her routine was disrupted in any way. We were starting to plan for a human family at the time, and we wanted a little more assurance of sound temperament, so we did a bunch of homework and found a breeder in Northern Colorado (my aunt in New York referred us to a breeder in Grand Junction, who led us to the one we eventually used). Anyway, during the trip to Hawaii, I asked some of the kids to help me think of a name for the puppy. One of the places we visited was the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, which is breeding several endangered Hawaiian forest bird species for eventual reintroduction into the wild. It turns out that the Hawaiian meaning of Keahou is "A New Time". I thought that would make a great name for our new pup, and we could shorten the call name to Kea (pronounced 'Kay-a').
Little did I know how fitting the name would be. The day after I got home from Hawaii, Ellie passed away suddenly from hemangiosarcoma. Two days after that, Kea came home. She entered our lives at just the right time to help us heal and move forward.
Since we live within a half hour of our breeder and the breeder knew we were committed to pursuing some performance titles, we were asked to keep Kea intact and consider a breeding at some point (after all health clearances and a few titles of course). She was sold to us under a limited registration, which was recently lifted. The breeder ended up finding a pet home for the female she had kept from the litter because as the puppies grew and matured, it was clear that Kea was a better representative of the breed standard. Our breeder has been a tremendous mentor and has become a good friend over the course of the last few years.
We have greatly enjoyed getting involved in all aspects of this wonderful breed! Kea has earned her CGC and is just one leg away from completing her RN title. We'll start working on her therapy dog certification this month, and she has dabbled in conformation just a bit, but struggles with NOT doing her automatic sit in the show ring
She continues to be a great support, always ready and willing to celebrate with us or provide a fuzzy shoulder to cry on. I can't imagine my life without her. We miss Daphne and Ellie every day, but are constantly amazed at our capacity to heal thanks in no small part to Kea.
My next steps are to look for a CCA event since I'm coming to appreciate the time involved in earning a championship title on a dog as a novice competitor who is also a pet person and not willing to send my dog to the show circuit for months on end. This limits us to competing in a few local shows, and I'm really struggling with using a handler vs. learning to handle in the conformation ring myself. We're planning to do hips/heart/elbows/eyes clearances when she turns 2 in April. I'm starting to look at bloodlines with titles at both ends to create a list of potential studs. I'd love to hear from some of the breeders/show people out there - how did you get started, and what advice would you have for a newbie?
Her registered name is Endeavors Keauhou A New Time, CGC.
Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!