Floyd the Wonder Dog
Floyd the Wonder Dog
Andrew C. Ross
August 29, 2013
For some reason that escapes me now we decided we wanted a dog. It may have been an email I received or some word of mouth news about a male 8-year-old Golden Retriever that needed rescuing from the pound. Debra had a friend who worked as a vet-tech and she knew about animals up for adoption before the public did. That seems like the most likely source.
There was a volunteer organization devoted to saving Golden Retrievers and they would interview people on behalf of the dog. Their goal was to be sure the animal did not wind up as a test lab subject. They wanted the dog to go to a good home. After some discussion among ourselves we said, “Yes we are interested in the dog.” We set an interview date and eagerly waited.
The day came and a station wagon arrived. In the back was the dog. He was a beautiful reddish color Retriever, healthy and happy. He greeted everyone in turn and then proceeded to sniff around the yard.
I had a tennis ball that I scrounged up and I tossed it next to him. He joyfully snagged it and brought it back to me. He and I bonded immediately. He would wiggle with delight when I praised him and would bump into my leg. He loved to be stroked and praised. He knew the simple commands and was happy to please me by doing them.
The dog advocates looked at each other and nodded. They had found a home for the dog. His pound name was Floyd, not the name I would have chosen, but it was what he responded to so I saw no compelling reason to change it.
He came to us with all his shots, a complete physical and he was neutered. He had been ‘fixed’ rather late so he was still very male. He knew the urges, but couldn’t perform anymore. Sorry man. The previous owner had refused to neuter the dog and had a problem with Floyd jumping the fence to go romancing. After repeated attempts to control the dog the owner gave up and took the dog to the pound. Lucky us.
Everything seemed to come together for that dog. We bought a new matching blue collar and leash and they looked great against his reddish-blond coat. We found some nice stainless steel bowls for him and the advocates gave us a bag of dog food. On his first walk I observed that he had been leash trained and knew to stop at the curb before crossing the street on command.
The dog did more to train me how to be an owner of a good dog than I ever taught him how to be a good dog. He loved to romp in the nearby field and it was a short walk to the beach.
Floyd was a water dog. He loved to play in water and it didn’t matter if it was fresh or salt. He wasn’t afraid of waves. He would joyfully rush into the water after a tossed stick or ball.
I was an avid Frisbee player so I made sure I never threw one around him and never allowed him to chew one. It was not his toy.
Lessons Learned From a Dog
At the time we had a VW Golf and one day I was working on it while the engine was running. Floyd was getting very agitated and would swing left and right while staring at the car. I tried to reassure him by saying, “It’s OK boy, it’s OK.” With that he leaped up into the engine compartment and stood on the running engine with a happy goofy look on his face. It was as if he was saying, “Well, this is different, but I’m in the car. Let’s go for a ride!” I had the sudden vision of him burning his paw or worse yet getting caught in the moving belts. My response was, “Nooooooo!” as I scooped his 50lb body off that engine and tossed him on the lawn.
Wow, I learned a lesson there. I learned to be careful with anything that might be misunderstood as permission or a command. If I was doing anything with a car, he would be expecting to hop in and go for a ride. I would never, ever say, “OK, boy,” unless I meant him to jump in.
We would go play around the field or go to the beach and I learned that for every fun activity there was a price to pay in being responsible for the dog. Whether it was pulling grass stickers out of his fur, in particular his ears and eyes or giving him a bath to wash off the sand it was a big commitment to care for him. Hiking in the mountains meant a thorough search for ticks. I learned that the hard way when my wife found a big fat one deeply embedded in his ear. It was my job to get it out.
He was a good watchdog. He really kept an eye on the family, particularly my young sons. If someone came to the house he would jump up, position himself at the door, give a deep woof and he sounded like he meant business. Many people were afraid to have me open the door until I moved him away. He probably would have licked them to death.
The dog was good with my boys. The older boy, who was about 8 years old, made friends with the dog. When the boy got older, he and the dog would go on adventures. The younger boy, who was 4 years old, felt like teasing the dog.
One evening I was sitting on the couch and the dog was lying nearby when the younger boy came in and proceeded to pull the dog’s tail and ears. He kept pestering the dog who would occasionally raise his head and look back at the kid and then lay back down. I watched this while wondering at the patience of the dog. Finally Floyd had enough, he got part way up, put his face up close to the boy’s face, stared him in the eyes and loudly said,”Woof!” The boy was startled and momentarily afraid. I said to my son, “I guess he told you, didn’t he?” He nodded with tears in his eyes and he never ever tormented the dog again.
The boy needed to have that lesson and the dog was the best messenger.
The Fun Times and Adventures
Floyd loved to go on adventures and either I would take him with me in the pick up truck or we would travel as a family. Whenever one of us dropped the tail gate of the truck or opened the rear of the wagon Floyd was right there tail and butt wagging furiously with a big doggie smile. He would often preemptively jump in and nobody could get him out again.
He was going, no matter what else happened. I took him on some surfing trips and learned a lesson. I was out with my boogie board in a line up facing the sea when I heard voices saying, “Here boy,” “Whatcha doing buddy?” I turned and there was Floyd dog paddling way out in deep water beyond the surf coming to join me. I was afraid he was going to drown. So, I dropped out of the line, grabbed his collar and pulled him along into shore. My buddy. OK, so we could hang out on the beach together. He scrambled out of the surf and danced around me and proceeded to roll on a dead seal. Yuck. OK pal, back in the water with you. It’s bath time for sure when we get home.
After that I left him at home and only took him to the beach on “dog days.”
Camping was a favorite of his, we would be loading the truck and he would hop in and plant himself in the middle. He wasn’t budging because he was going. We would have to pack around him. A dog his size took a lot of space so that truck was pretty jammed full of stuff when we went on our ten-day camping trip each year. We would go up to the south end of the Sierra and collect our travel trailer from storage and set up camp.
In July and August the Kern river had dropped enough to be safe for tubing and swimming. Floyd naturally headed straight for the river pool and would swim while lapping up the water. Then it was a lazy time hanging around in the shade.
We travelled The M99 high into the Sierra and found many fun places to walk. Floyd made sure everything was marked. We stopped at an inviting pool about a quarter mile below the Sherman Pass Road. It was large round shape and it was a pretty popular for people to float in their truck inner tubes.
Floyd made a dash into the water and was swept up in the counter clockwise rotating flow of the river flow. He seemed to be struggling. I jumped in after him fully clothed and discovered how strong and cold that current really was. We went around and around as I slowly worked my way to him. Finally I reached him and he was getting exhausted. I held him up by his collar and tried to work us toward the shore. A couple of the guys on shore made a chain and grabbed my outstretched hand just as we were about to pass by. I almost pulled all four of them in because I wasn’t letting go of my dog.
When we first received Floyd he was 8 years old and had a slight graying of his muzzle. Over time the grey turned to white and spread to include all his face. He began to slow down and gradually lost interest in chasing balls. The prospect of a drive would still excite him, but he was having increasing difficulty climbing up into the vehicles. I took an old milk crate I had and attached a piece of scrap carpet to the bottom and set it upside down as a step, which worked for a year. Soon though he couldn’t climb that anymore and I built a ramp for him.
It was sad seeing my old buddy slowing down. My wife came home from her job with news that there was a younger Husky mix available that we could borrow for the long term. I thought this might energize old Floyd.
Sure enough the younger good-natured dog got Floyd’s attention and the old guy started to move more energetically. Immediately there was a friendly rivalry going on and Floyd was not going to be upstaged by this kid. The two of them would go on walks with us. Max was the more vigorous of the pair and Floyd would compete with him for the Top Dog position. Max was so sweet that I suspect he was only being exuberant and he had no motive to show up Floyd.
I’m sure that the new dog arrangement added a year to Floyd’s life. All too soon though Floyd was having trouble jumping into the car. He was a pretty big dog so it took some effort to lift him in. Finally it got to the point where he couldn’t jump out with confidence and he would slip and sprawl. He looked so embarrassed when that happened. Shortly after that we began to keep him at home.
The End of an Era
There were no more trips in the car. We bought him a cushy doggie bed and let him stay inside at night even though he was starting to stink. His bodily functions were shutting down. He had trouble getting up and would on occasion foul his bed.
Soon he stopped eating. On that day I had to travel for work. My wife and I spent most of the night discussing what we should do. We reluctantly agreed that Floyd was well past enjoying life and that he was in pain. He seemed to be depressed.
My wife said she’d call the vet that morning. Later that day I got a phone call. The vet had made a house call. He agreed that it was time. They put our sweet old friend on a blanket on the front lawn in the sunshine. The vet gave a shot in his paw to numb him. Floyd then covered his paw as if to say ‘Ow’ and they waited for the shot to take effect. Debra tried to be brave, but she wept. The vet gave him the second shot that ended his life. The vet gently removed the body and took it to be cremated. I received a phone call explaining what happened. I wish I could have been there. I had other animals put down before, but Floyd was one of the special ones. It’s been 25 years and I still think of him frequently. He is one of my life icons. One of the significant beings in my life.
Goodbye sweet friend. Words cannot express the things you gave us. All I can hope is that we gave enough back and did the right thing at the end.