I always wanted a dog.
We had been married for less than two years when I made a silly doodle of a puppy and slyly left it on my husband’s desk. Two years later, we got Meeko, our very own golden retriever.
The day we took him home was all smiles and perfection. The next day, and the next week, and the next month were NOT.
Expectation vs. Reality
When I thought about getting a dog, there was a huge gap between expectation and reality. Call me crazy, I expected the picture perfect family companion, a well-behaved golden sitting on our front porch (like in the commercials), while we sat in peace and ate apple pie.
Instead, the first time we tried to reenact this, Meeko took off at full speed at our neighbor’s toddler, ignoring our desperate calls to come back.
This was NOT what I was expecting, not what I had been dreaming about for years.
More Difficult Than You Ever Imagined
If you’re at that impossibly difficult stage of a new puppy, if you’re dealing with a little monster who cries constantly at all hours of the night, pees every ten minutes, and chews up the house… If you’re at your wit’s end!!!! You may wonder:
Is it worth it?
All the sleepless nights, the damaged furniture, the endless scrubbing of the carpet. The lack of time for yourself – or for anything other than the new puppy. Is it really worth it?
Well, golden retrievers don’t get the reputation of being the perfect, friendly family dog for no reason.
Here’s the key: even a super naughty golden puppy will improve your life a hundredfold.
The Key to Happiness
It’s a dog.
Period. They are always there for you. They will always love you with absolute, unconditional, pure love, a pure heart, and a wagging tail.
1. The Most Faithful Companion
Dogs, particularly goldens, are the most therapeutic animal on earth.
Meeko and Pascal bring me the one thing that money can’t buy – happiness. Even if I’ve had the worst day, when a big happy ball of fluff bounces up to see me with eyes full of love, it’s near impossible to be sad.
In another article, I talk about how getting a golden retriever can improve mental health. The rest of this article will focus on other amazing effects a golden can have on your life.
Can A Dog Strengthen a Relationship or Marriage?
A golden retriever probably can’t “save” a marriage that just doesn’t work, but he can certainly bring you much closer together.
2. Sharing Responsibilities – Whose turn is it to take the dog(s) out tonight?
Marriage, like anything really great in life, is difficult. So is raising a puppy!
Sure, it didn’t seem like it when we were kids, and mom and dad were doing the brunt of the work, but getting a dog is ridiculously hard work!
Enter your spouse, your teammate, your go-to person! Having a puppy forces you to work together to train them, play with them, and socialize them, not to mention feed and take care of them.
We got Meeko when we were in our twenties, and although we were technically “adults”, getting Meeko was a rough awakening. It certainly helped us learn responsibility, although we were a pretty good team before, we’re even better now.
Not to mention, getting a puppy is great training for having kids.
3. The Fluffy Buffer
My husband and I are human (or hooman); we fight.
But since we have gotten Meeko, our fights are fewer and end faster than before. Why? Because Meeko is our buffer.
He is the constant that we both go to and talk to, we both hug and kiss when the other person isn’t going to give hugs and kisses, and the one who is always on both of our sides. He’s the one who loves us, who listens to why we’re right, understands we’re upset, and soothes us. He is our common ground. Our intermediary.
Just his being there is a calming presence, and a reminder that we’re a family through thick and thin.
It may sound silly, but goldens have the perfect temperament for acting as an intermediary like this. They are known for their steady temper and trustworthiness, and their eagerness to please means he is always on your side. Having someone with these traits around is a natural diffuser of any argument, and has certainly improved our marital health.
4. Adventure for Three
So with a golden retriever, you’ll be facing nonstop energy and super playful excitement from your puppy for the first 1-2 years, but fear not! They will mellow out. Meeko mellowed out around two years of age, and I can honestly say that I love him more and more every day.
Don’t get me wrong, a golden puppy is tons of fun – almost too much fun to handle; but a slightly calmer, trained golden is like a fine wine. He’s the perfect buddy for all of your adventures. He will enjoy going to new places and seeing new things, and he’ll show you and teach you new things every day. He makes your journey more than just a journey as a couple, but it becomes a journey as a family. What could be better?
The Physical World Too
Apart from the emotional and mental side, golden retrievers are the ideal companion for everything else too.
5. The Workout That Doesn’t Feel Like a Workout
Goldens are extremely active dogs that require a lot of exercise. They need at least a walk a day plus some free time to run around, roam, sniff, and be a dog! This essentially has forced me to adopt a healthy lifestyle as well. As part of my daily routine, I now take walks with the boys around our neighborhood and to the nearby park.
Yes, that means I get off my lazy butt! Even when I’m super busy working, I know how important it is for the dogs to get their walk, so I get up and do it.
And yes, that means I get LOADS more sunshine and fresh air than I used to – I have a Vitamin D deficiency as it is, so I (and everyone else) really need the sunshine.
According to the American Heart Association1, owning a dog may protect you from heart disease and lower blood pressure. This should come as no surprise, considering they tend to make you exercise more and stress less.
Truthfully, there is not a single person who shouldn’t care about improving their health and wellbeing. I was a bump on a log, staring at a computer all day. I’m guessing that a lot of other people are too. I had good intentions, but terrible follow-through.
A dog forces you to follow through.
6. Do You Get Nervous When Strange Cars Drive Around Your Neighborhood?
I work from home. I’m alone at the house pretty much all day, most days, and the street we live on is less than a mile from a busy park. And I’m a woman.
I won’t say I’m paranoid, but if a car I don’t know circles my cul-de-sac a few times, or parks in front of my house, I WILL take a picture of the car’s tag and send it to my husband.
I also will open my window to let strangers hear the bark of my big, scary dog. If people are doing maintenance on the electrical pole across the street (because who knows if they’re legit without an official vehicle) – my loudmouth, woofing dog is standing up at the fence to tell them this is his territory.
Because of my dogs, I never feel unsafe anymore. It’s a fact: people are less likely to rob a house with a dog, especially one with an extremely deep, low, deafening “WOOF!”
Yes, you can tell from Meeko’s bark that he’s a hefty boy.
Even when I’m walking in the park, I’m not as nervous around strangers anymore. It would simply be unwise to attack a woman with a big dog.
Now, we have golden retrievers who qualify as large breed dogs, but small dogs are fantastic for this too. Our neighbor’s 10 pound Yorkie can tell exactly which cars belong in our neighborhood and which ones do not. He keeps a close eye on the lurkers, and lets EVERYONE know they aren’t supposed to be here.
7. Neighborhood Welcome Wagon – Puppy Style
I, like many, am an introvert. I’m not comfortable in social situations.
Going out with the dogs forces me to be more social. I may not search for socialization outright, but Meeko (who loves absolutely EVERYONE in the whole world) forces me socialize.
When he barks at a stranger, or a stranger with their dog, I inevitably yell out at the very least, “I’m sorry! He’s actually very friendly!” At most, the stranger with dog will come up and chat for a few minutes, and the dogs will sniff each others’ butts and become friends.
This this is actually how I’ve met most of my neighbors. And guess what? The ones that like Meeko are all really nice!
8. Sometimes You Just Want To Stay Home
In a complete 180, if I really don’t want to go out and socialize – if I want to actually Netflix and chill – I can lounge on the couch with the dogs next to me and watch TV.
When something scary happens on the show, I bury my face in their fur. If something sad happens, I hug the dogs.
More times than I’d care to admit, after a big Survivor blindside, I turn to Meeko and go, “OH MY GOSH! I did NOT see that coming!” He shakes his head as if to say, “I know, Mom! I didn’t see that coming either!”
With dogs, it makes it perfectly acceptable to be social or anti-social depending on your mood!
Yes, Life with Goldens IS Hard, but it’s worth it!
It’s okay when your patience is wearing thin, or you miss a week of training. Even a naughty golden retriever will still grow up to be a good dog. As long as you keep trying your best, your dog will reward you with more love than you could dream of.
Meeko and Pascal bring me the one thing that money can’t buy – happiness.
They’re hard work and bring hundreds of headache, but they’re worth it. Every time I get a wet dog kiss or see the dedication and love in their eyes, I know they’re worth every minute.
Meeko and Pascal are on Instagram! Follow them @meekoandpascal for only the cutest golden retriever pics, and watch their antics and adventures.
1Walking your dog helps your heart, American Heart Association News, May 2013