Amos’ first love is not what you would expect. You can find him showing his love sometime, nearly every day.
Can you find his love? Its there, right in the picture.
It’s the sunshine. Amos loves to lie in the sunshine, often baking himself nearly to the point of heatstroke. The picture above was taken today, on a deliriously sunny day of 88 degrees Fahrenheit and 51% humidity. He will pant and drool while lying there and then get up and go into the air-conditioned house and cool off. Nearly every day he will repeat this activity unless it’s raining or overcast.
To understand this behavior we have gone back to his puppy-hood. Amos, born in October 2004, is a puppy mill dog. He wasn’t one of the lucky ones that would get to go to the pet store to be sold to some poor sucker that would complain about getting a sick puppy. He wasn’t that kind of dog. Amos was the next generation breeding stock for the puppy mill. He would get to spend his entire life in the puppy mill. He lived in squalid conditions. He occupied a 36″ dog crate with 8 siblings. The bottom of the crate was buried in 4 inches of feces, and except for somebody occasionally tossing food into the crate through the bars, he and his 8 golden retriever siblings had never had contact with people — for four months.
All of the puppies were sick. If one puppy had an ailment, they all did: roundworm, whipworm, coccidia, eye infections in both eyes, ear mites, tapeworms, fleas, ticks, anemia, and scabies (a variation of mange.) Several puppies had scars and some had open sores, all presumably from fights among the siblings. And they were dirty, filthy, disgusting. They lived in a barn, with dozens of other dogs of various breeds in similar conditions. The current generation breeding stock was there too. More than 40 dogs were present.
And they were all rescued when the state of Missouri closed the puppy mill down for health code violations. They were transported to St Louis where Gateway Golden Retriever Rescue took in 5 adult golden retrievers suffering from various medical and mental problems and 7 golden retriever puppies. Somebody with the Missouri agency responsible for the rescue kept two of the 9 golden retriever siblings.
Each foster home got naming rights. None of the goldens, including the adults had names.
Amos was the sickest of the four-month-old pups and wasn’t expected to live. He was fostered by a family with medical training. Casey came home with me. He was sick too, but at least he wasn’t running out both ends as brother Amos was. A week later, Amos was much better and he came to live with my wife, me, and Casey and our two golden retrievers: Cody & Jasper. Casey went to a great home and Amos chose to stay with us.
A wise person once told me: “We don’t choose our dogs, they choose us.” I didn’t understand that until Amos chose to stay with us.
Today, Amos is 4 years old. He suns himself every day that it is warm and sunny. He will get up from a spot in the shade and move to the sun. If the shade moves and covers him, he will get up and move to the sun. We have talked with other families who have adopted Amos’ siblings and discovered that all the goldens from that litter exhibit this behavior.
The barn of his puppy mill home was most likely a cold place during the October through January timeframe. We believe that at least some of the time, the sunshine would find its way to their crate and warm the puppies. At that time, they learned how great the sunshine was and fell in love with it. Some of the fights among the siblings may have happened as they scrambled to be the dog on top of the pile for the best sunshine experience.
Today, I have to check on him when he’s sunning himself for fear that he’ll really cook himself. While he’s busy enjoying the sun, he’s perfectly happy to share it with me.
Afterall, sunshine is good, but playing with brother Jasper or Mom or Dad: that’s good too.