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Advice for seniors considering another golden

3094 Views 46 Replies 25 Participants Last post by  LucyNoble
Hello, I have just recently joined the forum and I need some advice for seniors who may wish to share their lives with a golden retriever again.

Here's our story: We have just lost the most wonderful dog we have ever known. Her name was Champagne, she was a purebred American and she died at 14 1/2 years old. We are experiencing the grief that only golden retriever owners can know. I am 69 and my wife Annette is 68.
In 2006 Annette, who had already been dealing with serious pain management issues was in a serious car accident after which she required several surgeries on both shoulders. In October of 2007 our lovely yellow lab cross died unexpectedly at the age of 7 from cancer. Jack was an incredibly powerful dog but was as gentle as he was strong and we were totally shocked when we found that he didn't have long to live. Some time early in the new year of 2008 Annette told me that she wanted another dog. I was very hesitant at first because I just wasn't sure if she would be able to handle the responsibilities considering her physical condition. She told me that caring for a new dog would distract her adequately and improve her mental health. It didn't take me too long to agree, with the understanding that I would handle the leash training and walking, and basically take care of its outside activities while Annette took care of it inside the home, grooming etc., and as much as anything they would keep each other company while I was running our home business. I insisted that rather than taking in a rescue as we have done every time in the past we should look for a dog with a temperament similar to Jack's and that a golden retriever would be a logical choice.
Annette agreed and we brought Champagne home in August of 2008. It was the best pet decision we ever made. We had known a bit about goldens but looking back with 20/20 hind sight I now realize that we had no idea just how incredibly beautiful inside and out, loyal, trusting, joyful and intelligent they can be. The affect on Annette's mental health was immediate and long lasing and the past 14 years have been some of the best years of our lives.

Now we are older, Annette has continuing health issues while I am in pretty darn good shape physically. I am often mistaken for a guy in his early fifties rather than his late sixties. I don't have quite the energy I had 14 years ago but not too far off, but what I have now compared to before is a lot of time. I am retired and occasionally agree to fill appropriate woodworking orders when they come in from old and trusted customers.

So here's the question: assuming that we arrive at a stable place in the near future where we have come to peace with Champagne's passing, should we get another golden at our ages? Right now we both realize that it's early days and we won't make a rash decision when emotions are running high, but I find that the thought of doing this again alleviates some of the immediate pain. I have visited the websites of the main breeders close to us in Ontario in anticipation of possibly getting another golden and just doing that makes me feel better. We have a 4 acre property bordered by vacant lands which are accessible to us, we have huge spaces for tearabouts and obedience training and our home and property are better suited than ever before to have a another dog. If we did get another puppy, and it would be a puppy, I would have a plan in place for someone to care for it if for some reason we were both incapacitated (or worse) with financial provisions for the dog's care.

Neither of us is seeking to replace Champagne, that just wouldn't be right, and an injustice to her, but we would be looking for another unique relationship with a dog whose temperament we can be reasonably sure of from the beginning. We have read a lot on the internet about seniors with dogs, a lot of it positive, but there is very little in the way of first hand experience.
Can anyone out there offer us some advice? Has anyone been in similar circumstances? How did it go or how is it going? What should we be aware of if there is something we haven't considered? We want to make as informed a decision as we can some time in the near future because if we do go ahead we will both be all in, just as Champagne was every day of her life with us, and we would want to do the very best for the dog. We would really appreciate what ever feedback we can get.
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
First, so sorry to for your loss of your girl, 14 1/2 is an amazing outcome and it sounds like you gave her the very best of lives. Losing our first golden was one of the hardest things we have ever had to endure. It's a special kind of pain.

I am 65, my husband is 70 and we got our puppy right after Christmas 2021. We lost our first Golden Riley the summer of 2020 and we waited a while and then had to wait some more due to the 2020 puppy famine before we got River. We are both in decent shape physically but I wouldn't say anyone would mistake us for being in our early 50's (don't I wish). We do a fair amount of hiking so we are not in bad shape.

We are so glad to have River!! We have not had any trouble handling her in spite of the fact she is much, much more feisty than Riley ever was. She has opinions about many things. Our first priority was to get her in a puppy class and work really hard on impulse control and leash manners because we did not want to get jerked around or knocked over. My only regret is that we got her in the dead of winter and it was much more taxing getting her house trained and keeping her exercised. We had a particularly cold and windy winter and getting her outside to potty and to walk, not fun. At the end of the day we would get to about 8:00 and say, "Is it time for bed yet?" 馃ゴ馃ゴ. She has been perfect in the crate since day one which helped a lot but we were TIRED!!

We love having her, I can't imagine life without her. She keeps us entertained and training her has been a good hobby for me since I retired and have plenty of time to spend on her. If I was in your place I would find a breeder and get on a wait list ASAP, you can always decline but it took us well over a year to get our girl. We were more than ready and not getting any younger.
Thank you so much for your response, it's very encouraging at a difficult time. I do believe that getting tired (maybe very tired!) might just be a reasonable price to pay for what you get in return with a golden. And thanks for the tip about the winter, presumably a lot of exercise in the yard for River would have been less strenuous for you in the long run. Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
We are a bit older then you, my husband not mobile enough to walk a dog anymore, but since I was the one who was the driving force behind getting another dog I pretty much assumed I would be the "keeper of dogs" here as always.
I must say that another pup would probably kill me at this point, carrying a squiggly pup down icy steps isn't for the faint of heart.
BUT, I would never walk every day if I didn't have a dog, I certainly wouldn't be chasing the ball on the back 40 and retrieving when the retriever doesn't :)
So physically strenuous yes, keeping your healthier then you would be otherwise, and mentally on the ball :) also yes.
At this point in our lives it's more important to have a plan B, so If you break a leg, will you have somebody to take over for a while ?
Thanks for your reply. Yes, definitely we would have a plan B. We want to have all our ducks in a row if we set out on another canine adventure and it would be essential to have that in place before we started. We have already approached a couple of people about it. Thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It might be worthwhile to consider getting a rescue, IF you can find the right fit. My wife and I are around your age, a little older and a little younger. We have 2goldens, one is a year old and one is 8. This past year we rescued a 9 year old Jack Russell chihuahua mix who鈥檚 owner had to go into a nursing home due to dementia. This little dog is totally devoted to my wife which was a perfect fit for us since she lost her dog, a basenji about a year ago.
Thanks for your reply. A rescue would probably be off the table but we may feel differently at some point. I think we are reasonably opened minded about this. Our relationship with Champagne was so intense partly because we bonded through the puppy stage which was beyond delightful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
We are a bit older then you, my husband not mobile enough to walk a dog anymore, but since I was the one who was the driving force behind getting another dog I pretty much assumed I would be the "keeper of dogs" here as always.
I must say that another pup would probably kill me at this point, carrying a squiggly pup down icy steps isn't for the faint of heart.
BUT, I would never walk every day if I didn't have a dog, I certainly wouldn't be chasing the ball on the back 40 and retrieving when the retriever doesn't :)
So physically strenuous yes, keeping your healthier then you would be otherwise, and mentally on the ball :) also yes.
At this point in our lives it's more important to have a plan B, so If you break a leg, will you have somebody to take over for a while ?
Thanks, I dream of staying active with another golden - great health-wise for me and the dog. Perhaps we all should have a back up plan at any age.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I'm 71, retired, and got a new puppy this past May. I run (slower that I used to) and bike, so this helps with my wild, energetic puppy. The way I see it, we keep each other young and healthy.
I'm 71, retired, and got a new puppy this past May. I run (slower that I used to) and bike, so this helps with my wild, energetic puppy. The way I see it, we keep each other young and healthy.
That's great - it's a wonderful two way street. Love your photo.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I鈥檓 56, just retired last November. We lost our Lab in March, and finally felt ready for another dog. We got our Golden pup two weeks ago. He is six months old and very calm and sweet and has excellent house manners.
We have had a bit of a learning curve with potty, because Buffett is so subtle about needing to go outside. So that鈥檚 been keeping me moving a lot to prevent accidents. Along with the usual walks and playing.

My job was fairly physical, but I will say that I鈥檓 ready to go to bed pretty early since getting the pup 馃槀 We had intended to get an 8- week old but we had the opportunity to have this sweet guy, and I鈥檓 actually relieved to have avoided all the young puppy work this time around.

My last dog was also acquired a little older at four months and rock solid potty trained from day one. So maybe don鈥檛 rule out an older puppy when you decide it鈥檚 time to fill the dog space in your lives.
Thanks, getting an older puppy is something we had not considered. I have assumed that since most of the reputable breeders have waiting lists that we would have to take a puppy somewhere between 8 and 12 weeks not 6 months. I will be contacting our closest local breeder soon and discuss that with them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I am 74 and my wife 73. We have had 3 previous goldens over the past 30+ years. We (I) decided to get another due some medical issues (cancer) as a "therapy dog". We live near the beach so walking him is not an issue. I am not as spry I as I once was but he has been the greatest joy. He is now 10 months old and we had some issues when he was 6/7 months but that was due to being on vacation in too small of a place. These days he (and I) are doing great with 2 walks (runs) per day. He might outlive me but I feel we made the right chose
Thanks for the reply. I am so glad to know that so many folks who have owned goldens early in life have cared for them again. Small wonder, they are so great!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I'm so sorry about the loss of your sweet Champagne. She sounds like a wonderful dog who was such an important part of your family.

I also just wanted to say that I loved your post and how thoughtful you are being about this - and also I LOVE all the responses!! I'm a bit younger than you, but I have several friends closer to your ages in my training group (hunt training) and they have ALL had new puppies in the past year or two, along with their older dogs. All of them also do obedience or tracking or scent work, so obviously a pretty active group. But you sound like you'd be up to it physically for sure.

I think it is so important to think about this stuff. I also think that these pups do help keep us healthy - they get us up every day, they get us out walking, they make us play (try to NOT smile or laugh when throwing a ball for a Golden or watching her leap into a lake or pool). I feel like if you physically can handle it, it will only be a wonderful thing in terms of lifting your spirits. A new pup won't ever replace Champagne, but I can tell you from my experience, it is possible to love another so much. I didn't think it was possible until I got my new pup after losing my heart dog - and just magically, I loved her too, just as much. It was like my heart just grew a little bit to make more room. So in that way, I can reassure you, you will never regret getting another. I hope this helps.
Thank you, that was a really nice reply which really does help. So glad to know that your new girl has touched you as well - I sometimes think that these guys are sent straight down from heaven to help us all out here on earth!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I smiled reading your post. My husband and I lost two of our beautiful dogs in late 2017 when we were 77 (him) and 66 (me). So in early 2018, we brought home an 8-week-old Golden boy and then added an 8-week-old Boxer pup in late 2018. We couldn't live without them and we are having a ball doing Agility and Nosework with both :) But we are healthy, take care of our horses at home and keep staying active with all of the "kids". It's never too late if you feel good and have a safety net if needed. Go for it and enjoy giving and getting that unconditional love.
Thank you, you clearly know the territory - it's very encouraging.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
My sympathies for your loss. It's awful to lose a dog, and the grieving process is just as intense as for any other loss in life. Kind thoughts to you.

Now, to answer your questions. First, I'm in my 60s as well, a bit younger than you, but not by much.

We live in a society that often treats seniors as "less than", because we don't have the same energy or physical capacity or whatever else as we used to. Well, we're not "less than". Quite the reverse. We're "more than", because of everything we've experienced. As I told my 21-year-old kid the other day, in life lesson number 10,423: the grey hair, the failing eyesight, the artificial joints and all the rest: they don't mean I'm old and irrelevant, they mean I've grabbed life by the b***s and wrestled it to the ground and come out of it in one piece, a bit worse for wear but victorious nevertheless, and still looking for the next challenge ...

I have a 6-year-old golden retriever from performance lines. He's my agility partner. Four years ago I had a total knee replacement. The doctor told me I'd probably have to give up agility. I told him that I hadn't put myself through the pain of the operation and the long, horrendous rehab just to stay home and knit. The following year my dog and I won the Canadian national championship in our class.This year I ruptured my Achilles tendon in May. I was told by many people that it was a sign I should give up agility and find something more "suitable" (read: calm and sedentary) to do. So I went out and bought large plastic therapeutic boot to stabilize the tendon, and in June my dog and I won the provincial agility championship.

You know, you only get one shot at life. When it's gone, it's gone. Do what makes you happy; there's always a way. If another golden would make you happy, get one. Make a plan B for the dog just in case, but get one anyway.

Photo for encouragement. It was taken in September of this year. The therapeutic boot is still there. And I'm still running.

View attachment 898004
Thank you so much for your reply, you have no idea how timely it was. This grieving process has been physically just incredibly exhausting, I've never experienced anything like it in my life, and it has had me second guessing my physical ability to care for a dog properly - but I want to soooo badly. Every response to my initial post has been so considerate, kind and encouraging. Thanks again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
You're not in the US, so I'm not familiar with the organizations available to you, but you might consider being a volunteer puppy raiser with a non-profit service dog organization. I volunteer with one such organization in the US. We have lots of older folks (and I use that phrasing because it applies to me, too) who are volunteer puppy raisers.

Also, I can't tell from your description of the situation, but maybe your wife's health issues might qualify her for a service dog. A reputable non-profit won't charge you for a service dog and it will properly assess whether your wife qualifies for one of its service dogs.
Thanks for the advice, that is not something we had thought of but we will certainly keep it in mind. We are aware that we still have some healing to do before we make a decision on a new puppy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
I think most of the people on this forum, regardless of age, have stood in your shoes after losing a much-loved dog. I certainly have, and I really, truly understand where you're coming from. If you think it may help, I wrote about my grieving experience after losing my last golden retriever, Ruby. You can find our story here:


Grief is debilitating. It's exhausting. It sucks the colour out of your world. But it's not static, it's a process and you just have to trust it and let it do its thing. The exhaustion will go away and the universe will eventually tilt back onto its axis. Don't second-guess yourself in the meantime.

Kind thoughts to you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
I think most of the people on this forum, regardless of age, have stood in your shoes after losing a much-loved dog. I certainly have, and I really, truly understand where you're coming from. If you think it may help, I wrote about my grieving experience after losing my last golden retriever, Ruby. You can find our story here:


Grief is debilitating. It's exhausting. It sucks the colour out of your world. But it's not static, it's a process and you just have to trust it and let it do its thing. The exhaustion will go away and the universe will eventually tilt back onto its axis. Don't second-guess yourself in the meantime.

Kind thoughts to you.
I read your blog. OMG. Great grief clearly the price to pay for great love. Thanks, we will be back on our feet one day soon I'm sure. So kind of a total stranger to offer support when we need it, I feel we know you a bit now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
First and foremost I send my condolences to you both for sweet Champagne. Yes we understand all too well.. I just want to share my feelings. 'IF" you both realize you "need" ( I say that with a loving wink and a smile) Need, desire, want, hope, to share your lives with another golden then DO SO> Be honest with yourselves that you know what you are "in" for especially the first two years. I am 68 and my husband is 61. Our Last puppy go round was 12 years ago so our math works out to be about the same as you. We are quite active and work at staying healthy and fit. Fortunate that in south Florida I will not be carrying a pup on icy stairs. We are on a list to become Parents again sometime this spring 馃グ and I will say it took a VERY long time to find a breeder we trust as our previous Goldens came from a now retired breeder. It may take you awhile to get on a list and be blessed with a pup. So maybe it will be spring or summer for your potty training time. Maybe you could enlist in a walker to help train and tire out the little one. Or consider a re-homed adult. What ever you decide I hope the best for you. I know that hole in your heart is deep.
Thanks, the idea of enlisting some help at our age sounds like a good one. The more good people around for a golden the better for the dog and us all if you ask me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
We're in our early/mid 60's and honestly weren't planning on getting another dog after our last golden passed a year and a half ago. The reason was that we're busy travelling between 3 places and spend summers cruising on a sailboat. Here we are, now 10 months in, with a new golden who has learned to adapt well to our lifestyle, and has had a crash course this summer on being a boat dog. We found we just missed having a dog.

Things to consider... I didn't remember all the craziness involved with raising a puppy, even though we've had 3 before. Our particular dog is even more high energy than our previous field goldens, so she was puppy craziness on steroids. The skin on my hands is thinner than it used to be when I worked hard for a living, and it took a beating before the adult teeth came in (but it finally healed). I don't remember being shredded that badly by any of our previous dogs. Life might be easier without a dog as all of our daily routine and travel revolves around her, but then we're retired, so what.

That said, any negatives are completely outweighed by the positives of having a dog. We're pretty active anyway, but she gives us a reason to be active on crappy weather days that we would prefer to vegetate (think kayak trips into shore in the rain, and hikes in blowing snow). She gives us more reasons to visit parks and open areas as we do it for the dog, in an effort to find new training and exercise places for her when we're travelling. She (and usually I) went swimming every day this summer cause that's what we do from the boat. I've had a lot of fun doing field training work with her, especially this fall. It's been a challenge, but a worthwhile one at that. The list goes on. Good luck with your decision.
Thanks, we have been advised of the high energy puppy phase by a lot of folks our age. Looking back at the time we raised our lovely Champagne when she was a puppy we realize that we really didn't have a very hard time in that phase with her. Her sister Cider, who we brought in a couple of years later to keep her company was another story though. She ate EVERYTHING! And had to be watched constantly. Neither dog was ridiculously overactive so I guess we got lucky with that even though several items including our son's brand new boots and my favorite easy chair were essentially destroyed. Our main concern at the moment is our energy levels and ability to be there for the dog when she needs us. We certainly won't be bringing in a new dog for quite a while, not until we are past grieving Champagne properly, but whichever way we decide when it's time to decide we will post our situation. So many people who have owned goldens in a similar phase of their lives have been extremely kind and encouraging in their posts. I thank you all. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
 

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Discussion Starter · #41 ·
I鈥檝e been following this thread with great interest. We got our puppy in Feb. 2020 (yes, just 5 weeks before Covid lockdown) at ages 67 and 72. We purposely got a small field bred golden, being more worried about size (as in, don鈥檛 get a dog you can鈥檛 carry) than energy. Three months later I ended up with a cancer diagnosis that required serious longterm chemo, surgery, radiation, and more chemo. I wasn鈥檛 in any shape to attend puppy kindergarten even if anyone had been offering it (other than online, which we did) during early Covid, and our dog was EXTREMELY energetic. Obviously, no one could have predicted my cancer, but most cases of cancer are in older folks. And lots of other illnesses are more common with age, too. Do think about what will happen if one of you gets sick and all the responsibility for your puppy falls on your spouse, who will also be caring for you. Exercising her properly required sending her to half day playgroup, and we have kept that up even though I鈥檓 now in remission and doing agility with her three times a week. But if she makes it to 12 years old, we will be 79 and 84. How could we have a new golden in the house then? How will we live in a house without a dog? There鈥檚 young old, and old old. So think about that, too.
Thank you very much for your post and my best wishes to you in dealing with your health issues - so good to hear that your are in remission and doing agility with her. And thanks to everyone else who have been following this thread. There have been many positive messages suggesting that we should go ahead with another golden, perhaps a puppy, perhaps a rescue, when we have adapted comfortably to the new normal of our family. Your response raises critical considerations and is a welcome cautionary tale amongst the well wishes we have received. Before we lost our Champagne I had suggested to my wife that she and her little companion Cider would be our last dogs based strictly upon our age. Now that we have a lovely (finished finally!) place in the country, perfectly suited to a dog I'm thinking differently. Champagne was a slightly nervous dog with separation anxiety that only waned in her last years when we enrolled the help of a very competent dog sitter. Even if we had had a solid back up plan if we were both to become incapacitated I feared that she would not have done well with anybody but me and my wife. Considering the joy she brought to our family I think that would have been a real injustice to her. Fortunately that situation never arose and as our son recently said she still had, at the age of 14 1/2, the soul of a puppy and was as happy and loved as she had been her whole life with us. The idea of a mid aged rescue becomes more of a possibility. At least if a backup caretaker was required at some point the adopted dog would have had a better shot in their remaining years, and we would feel as if we had given them their best chance (with less guilt for us). We also would not be looking at caring for a dog in our early eighties some time down the road in the "old old" phase of our lives. Now, just three weeks after we lost Champagne I am seeing a light fairly far off still, at the end of a rather long tunnel, and I see my priorities shifting as I think of just what it was that made our relationship so special. I have realized that one thing I really miss is having two dogs. They keep each other company, they learn from each other, they depend upon each other and spark off each other when fully engaged with their family. When you also have four cats, two dogs fills out a great zoo, a bit of a commotion at times but so great. Champagne was definitely the dominant dog in our family and Cider is a beautiful, sweet incredibly obedient girl. Having the two of them together along with all our cats was just awesome. These are early days as far as making a decision is concerned, hopefully I'll be able to post some good news in the not too distant future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
We were in a similar situation. We had goldens in the past but we lost our last dog, a newfie, back in April. I'm 60 and my wife is 76. After recovering from grief, we decided for our last dog we would go back to goldens. We did some research and determined that we wanted to go the puppy route. My wife has back issues and walks with a cane. She doesnt have then energy she once had. We agreed that I would do all the training, feeding and walking, she would do the grooming and dog sitter while I worked from home. We got Spencer at the beginning of Nov. I can't say it was a walk in the park. There are times of frustration and we have to keep remembering he is just a puppy. As seniors we work on out patience but he is also a huge laugh. More importantly he was the best thing for our mental health.
 

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Discussion Starter · #45 ·
Thanks for sharing. We expect to be searching for a new golden fairly soon as the grief of losing our lovely girl is starting to lessen. As Ceegee said, the world is slowly starting to tilt back on its axis, and looking back with gratitude at the luxury of being able to share our lives with such a lovely dog makes things a lot easier. We really didn't know a lot about goldens when we got Champagne so next time, with a lot more time on our hands and knowing a lot more, we will prepare ourselves for the energy it takes to cope. That seems to be the main message everyone has sent us.
And, by the way, it took a fair chunk of energy coping with Champagne at the age of 14 - she had me so well trained at dinner time every night she had me run ragged!
 
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