Nancy Fox: Fox Family Retrievers

riley-relaxing3Nancy Fox taught kindergarden for 28 years before she retired in 1987.  She and her husband, Doug, raised a blended family of eight children and they have many grandchildren.  Born in Toronto, Nancy grew up during the 1940s and 1950s in Port Perry, Ontario where her father used to own and operate a small theatre.  “He was forever bringing stray dogs and cats home.”


“It was at the Royal Winter Fair in1959 that Doug and I first were introduced to Golden Retrievers.  All the other show dogs were snarling at each other and pacing back and forth, but the Goldens seemed to be relaxed and friendly.  We immediately put in an order for a female puppy with George and Dorothy Mehlenbacher, breeders from Fisherville.


Our puppy Tasha was born in January 1960 and she came to live with us that April, just when I happened to be home sick with the mumps.  In those days people weren’t inoculated like they are now.  I stayed home quarantined from teaching little kids for two weeks while I went through the mumps and this gave me some time to start training the puppy.  Those first two weeks went well, but when I returned to work, all hell broke loose.  She chewed up rugs, shoes, gloves, records, (LPs) and books.  (Her favourite book was James Lamb’s “Training Your Retriever).  Nevertheless, she was a wonderful dog and the whole family loved her.


When our dear Tasha was four years old, she became crippled with arthritis.  Six weeks of cortisone shots later, and it seemed that the outcome was inevitable.  When we left for our summer holidays, we took Tasha back the kennel in Fisherville for boarding, fully expecting that she would have to be put down.  We had already selected another puppy, Captain Cash, to take home with us.  But when we got back from vacation, imagine our amazement to see that Tasha had improved while we were away!  So we took both dogs home with us.  Competition with Captain Cash gave Tasha a new lease on life and she recovered and lived to the ripe dog age of thirteen.


Captain would always be the underdog with Tasha.  He once assisted her in shredding twenty feet of curtains.  He also followed her to investigate a skunk’s nest in the field and in spite of two tomato juice baths and two days penance in the garage, he joined her for a repeat skunk visit. 


Maybe the retrieving instinct is inborn with the Goldens.  They are, after all, retrievers.  Tasha deposited a baby skunk at my feet after the second spraying incident.  She was also yelled at for swimming round and round after geese in the pond near our house in Florida.  A later Golden we had, Duchess, swam so far out in the icy waters of Lake Ontario to chase ducks that she had to be rescued by my son and husband by boat. 


Each and every one of our Golden Retrievers has been devoted to our family, right down to the grandchildren, especially the new babies.  The only time I heard Duchess snarl was when Grand Baby Andrea persisted in poking her in the nostrils with her tiny fingers.  As much as they love people, our Goldens have tended to ignore other dogs, with two exceptions.  Tasha almost killed a Poodle in the park because she remembered a Poodle who had tormented her from beyond the reach of her rope.  And Duchess threatened to grab Max, our neighbour’s Chihuahua when he kept jumping at her throat.


One bitterly cold night when I was expecting my son Neil, Tasha and Captain took off after another dog during their nightly walk.  I had to go home, hire a baby sitter, and go out looking for them.  The following day I invited my father to take Captain until after the baby was born. Captain became my Dad’s best friend and died in Port Perry at the age of thirteen. Tasha’s health also began to fail as she approached the age of thirteen and when my back gave out carrying her 85 lbs up and down the back steps I had to decide on euthanasia.  I held her during the procedure and then sat in the parking lot for three hours before I could drive home. 


After that it took ten years before I had the courage to love another puppy.  Doug bought me Duchess for my 50th birthday.  It was obvious from the beginning that she was very affectionate and clever, but also quite headstrong.  When she was three years old, Doug and my brother Donald wanted to breed her with another Golden. But they waited too long and she chose her own mate, a mutt whom we called Big Ears.  When her five puppies were born, there were two near Goldens, one blonde something, and one black puppy.  It was an exhausting summer.  Four puppies were adopted and we decided to keep the fifth, Taffy, who was spayed immediately.


Taffy was always devoted to his mother and took his obedience training cues from her.  Since he was only part Golden, he was different in many ways.  He loved to bark and was very protective whenever in the car.  He’d go nuts with gas station attendants and people passing by.  As well as barking, Taffy would sing when prompted by the kids, and had to be distracted to get him to stop.  When Taffy developed epilepsy in his third year, we took him to the Veterinary College in Guelph, Ontario, and spent thousands of dollars to help him.  Eventually we realized that all we could do was to keep him sedated on Phenobarbital, a drug which eventually destroyed his liver and kidneys, and we tried to keep him in a safe environment when he had his seizures.  They happened at first once a month or so and then progressed to seven or eight in one day.


Six months after Taffy died, we brought home another male Golden Retriever whom we named Riley.


We had asked for a female puppy because we found that they were more affectionate and seemed more intelligent, but then both Doug and I both picked Riley because he had a funny little tuft on his head.  And he did turn out to be a funny guy.  He had a big body, a big heart, a big appetite, and probably a small brain.  Like all our dogs, he was inclined to overweight, topping the chart at 121 lbs.  He liked cat food but couldn’t balance successfully on the three inch ledge to get to it.  Riley wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he had enough sense not to chew up our valuables.  He did eat six inches of my offspring Marion’s winter jacket, Percy’s entire hat, and most of Dorothy’s shoes.


Golden Retrievers are the best friends in the world if you are looking for companionship, devotion, and gentleness with children.  But if you’re looking for a guard dog, be sure to check some other breeds.


Riley’s list of fears was lengthy. After being deserted by a dog walker in a field, any loud noises like vacuum cleaners or lawnmowers or any threatening hand held objects scared him.  Once when two policemen came door to door looking for a kidnapper, Riley rushed to the door to greet them.  But as soon as he saw the big flashlights they held, he raced to hide behind the chair.  He also got car sick regularly and refused dog treats from the vet after he had his nails clipped.  Unfortunately, Riley didn’t have any role models, so he never got past his knees in the water or lifted his leg to pee.  But he was entirely loveable and loving and he always wanted to talk with everyone.  We included him in all our family ventures.riley-wedding


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