Julie: What do you think makes dogs so special?
Barbara: Their energy is pure. There are no hidden agendas. Most are filled with love and want to give it, and most soak it up when they get it. They live in the moment. They are so joyful and yet also very stoic – some more than others. Most want to please. They’re sensitive. And loyal. They’re curious. They try so hard to understand. They look you in the eye, want to connect. They seem to understand the importance of relationships with others. They seem to actually need relationships and are not afraid to show that need. They love almost no matter what. They made friends with our species – no other species has done that with us or for us. I’m so thankful. My life has been made so much richer by having dogs in it.
Julie: Did you grow up with dogs?
Barbara: But here’s the irony – I was not allowed to have a dog when I was younger and living at home with my parents. I begged and pleaded but to no avail. My parents wouldn’t believe me when I said that I would take care of it. A couple of my close friends in middle school and high school had dogs. I was at their homes a lot.
Julie: What is your most vivid memory of your life with dogs?
Barbara: This is impossible for me to answer. I’m flooded with so many memories of my dogs. The days I got them, their first days at home. All their funny, charming, and cute ways. Charlie handing me a rock that was too heavy for him to carry in his mouth. Giving it to me willingly and then running off to continue his walk in the garden. Simon holding a bit of a grudge. Sabrina running off with a tin filled with sourdough bread. Taking it into the garden where she could eat it in peace. Mandy chasing squirrels until the cows would come home. Arthur sitting on his sofa knowing that it was his. Barney meeting and greeting everyone with a smile, the consummate politician. Harry’s eager face when he knows there’s a ball game just around the corner. The memories are endless…
Julie: Have you always had Golden Retrievers or have you had other breeds too? Which is your favorite?
Barbara: As I mentioned earlier, I love all dogs! All breeds, mixed breeds, all sizes, all colors. Each dog is unique and special in its own right. But the Golden has captured my heart. We got our first Golden in 1987, and it was with her that I vowed that I would always have at least one Golden by my side forever. But here’s the list of dogs I’ve had and have:
That first Golden was Mandy, a reddish blond with an exuberant personality, who never sat still, loved and was friendly with everyone, was brilliant, housebroken in a minute, and loved to chase squirrels.
Then there was Arthur, our Afghan. Goofy and elegant, that’s the only way to describe him. Arthur was gorgeous – cream-and-black fur, soul-searching eyes. He primped regularly on “his” sofa, was independent beyond words, and never became totally housebroken. I do think that this unbreakable behavior was his attempt to make sure that everyone knew it was his house. Smart as a whip, as long as the situation involved him. And absolutely adored Mandy.
Next came Charlie. Nirvana right from the beginning. I think he had me laughing starting when he was a puppy. He was just a funny being. Ever so earnest, and big. I think at thirteen weeks he weighed something like forty pounds, and for most of his life, as I mentioned, he was at least one hundred pounds. A big, gentle soul, a big, generous spirit, and connected with me right from the beginning. Though he loved playing with Mandy. She taught him how to dig.
And then from the streets of Los Angeles came Sabrina. A beautiful Sheltie that David rescued. Without a qualm, she marched into our house with our three big dogs and figured out how to get along, was never intimidated, was in fact truly fearless, and had more chutzpa than any being I’ve known.
Barney, another Golden that I rescued (I found him crossing four lanes of traffic on Pacific Coast Highway!), knew exactly what to do when he came to our house. I didn’t want another dog when I found him. As a matter of fact, I looked for a home for him for about a week. But the longer Barney was with us, the more I wanted to keep him. After being with him for that week and looking diligently for a home for him, there was none that was good enough, and so he stayed. He was so smart and so socially appropriate, and he took the concept of friendly to a new height. Everyone – dogs, cats, children, in fact almost every child in the nearby elementary school looked forward to seeing him – everyone adored Barney. He made friends with a local policeman, who, to this day, still looks out for our house and who has become a wonderful friend of our family. We call him “Barney’s cop.”
Our fourth Golden Retriever who lives with us now is Harry. “Happy Harry” I call him. He’s six years old and still retains that joie de vivre. He might be the happiest dog I’ve ever known. He loves life, loves the outdoors, and loves but loves to play ball, actually is quite good at it, particularly the lost-ball retrieving part. He’s an extremely graceful and gorgeous Retriever – long fur, beautiful face, more than classic appearance, and very quick and smart.
Oh, let me not forget the first dog I had. Simon, a Cairn Terrier mix. He had such an unusual personality. Again, he was very bright, but quite standoffish and independent. Picked and chose who he would be friendly with, and there weren’t many people who were honored with his attention. As an example of how bright he was, when I was a flight attendant and had to be away for two to three days at a time, he was able to stay in our (his and my) apartment, pace himself with his food, use only a certain area to go to the bathroom, and never bark. Brilliant! He’d been a Christmas present, and I did not want to give him up. So he and I just figured it out. He would hold a little grudge when I would return from a trip, but he’d soon get over it. Unusual guy.
Besides the dogs that I’ve had at home, I go up to practically every dog I see. I go to the local shelter and give all the dogs treats. I love all dogs. But I love the Golden Retriever the most. For me this breed epitomizes the best qualities in dogs, particularly their joyfulness, their playfulness, and their need to connect with other beings. And they are almost always happy. They’re the kind of dog I dreamed of having when I was a little girl. For me, living with a Golden is a dream come true.
Julie: Do you and your dogs participate in any dog sports or activities?
Barbara: Can’t say that we do, unless you want to count the many ball games at home. And only two of my retrievers really wanted to play ball. As you may well imagine, my Afghan and Shetland Sheepdog had absolutely no interest in that. Arthur (our Afghan) seemed to think that playing ball was a ridiculous waste of time, even though he loved running like the wind. And Sabrina (our Sheltie), she was too busy thinking – analyzing and assessing – and trying to herd everyone. Charlie was absolutely uninterested in athletics – something of a klutz, and much more interested in what people were doing and thinking, particularly me.
However, those two ball-playing Retrievers were really obsessed – for a long time now, everywhere you look, inside the house or in the garden, you see balls, balls of all sizes, textures, and colors. Barney was a superb ballplayer, rarely missed a throw, liked to make the game of catching the ball harder: short hops, mid-air changes of direction, that sort of thing. Harry, the Retriever I have now, also loves to play ball and is also very good at catching it: one of his specialties is the no-look over the shoulder catch.
But Harry’s favorite game, which he invented, consists of him first running out of sight somewhere in my garden, then my throwing the ball, and then when he hears it land going to look for it. He absolutely loves this game. The instincts involved in this particular ball game may be similar to those for which his breed was developed: searching for a game bird after it’s been shot, then after finding it carrying it carefully back to the hunter in that soft Retriever mouth. The eagerness I see in Harry as he comes bounding back to me during this game is so much greater than in the other games we play. I think that’s because of how much he loves the search, because while he’s doing that his long fluffy, billowy tail is wagging really hard, as hard as he can wag it while running at the same time. Two truly great talents. Between Harry and Barney, it’s hard to say who would be considered the better ballplayer.
Julie: What do you think inspired your love of gardening?
Barbara: It’s so hard for me to know how my love of gardening got started. My best theory is that I saw my mother gardening and knew how much she loved it. When I was about three years old, I started going with her to a nursery right across the street from our house in Los Angeles. She would be so excited picking out plants. I used to love those trips. And then we would come home and I would watch as she planted what she just got. And then miraculously, to my young mind, these plants would grow and get more and more beautiful. I would watch my mother cultivate around the plants and then go out with her and water. Sometimes the neighbors would bring potted plants to my mother that they were having trouble with, and inevitably my mother would bring them back to life. That was always so exciting.
So my mother had a green thumb, and her mother had a green thumb, and now I have a green thumb. I too love to garden and get plants and watch them grow. But it’s more than that. I love all aspects of gardening. I love raking, watering, pruning, potting plants, designing – all of it. Dogs and working in the garden bring me so much pleasure, peace, and joy.
Julie: Do you have a favorite plant or type of plant?
Barbara: I have so many favorite plants – breath of heaven, Mexican marigolds, solanum, grasses (almost all kinds, especially pampass), bamboos, flax, ficuses, heavenly bamboo, Texas privets, angel vines, gravillias, lots of forms of sedum, Veronicas, agapanthas, leptosporum, pittosporum (some varieties), scheffleras, asparagus ferns, lots of different kinds of succulents (they’re so much prettier than they used to be) and then there’s all the plants I love whose names I don’t even know.
Primarily I seem to like plants that are not too neat. I like to see a flow to them and a natural, uneven look. Open, carefree, and relaxed.
Julie: Describe your dream garden.
Barbara: My dream garden is wild and open-looking. An English cottage garden. Not manicured. Plants seeding themselves, allowing that to happen. Plants and trees everywhere. Seating arrangements throughout. Pots all over, some with plants in them and some empty – I love looking at empty pots. Cobblestone paths, uneven but easy to walk on. Bird baths throughout. And I’d love to have a small swimming pool or waterfall among all this. Maybe a little stream and a little bridge. Maybe a little glass house in the garden. A place to write, to think, to relax.
My own garden is a lot like my dream garden already. Missing the body of water, the little glass house, and the cobblestone paths. I have Arizona flagstone for paths right now.
Besides the appearance of a dream garden, there are other aspects of a garden that make it a dream. Gardens and gardening are so forgiving. If you make a mistake, it’s usually so correctable. That’s one of the things that makes gardening so relaxing for me. I’m very happy in the garden I have now. I have so many plants and trees that I love, filling almost an acre, and the whole garden was designed by me. It’s beautiful, but there is so much to do, always. Another wonderful feature of gardening as far as I’m concerned.
Julie: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Barbara: Again, thank all of you so much! I appreciate this opportunity to connect with you and tell you about Charlie and his story, about our very special relationship, and about me. I would love to hear about you and your pets (pictures would be great!). You can contact me on my website: www.charliealovestory.com. Please let me know if you’d like me to post your pictures and your stories if I decide to start a blog.
I wish you well!
Thank you Barbara, and the same to you. Best of luck with your blog tour, and give Harry a belly rub from Bea.
If you want to read more about Charlie, the book is out now, in paperback and ebook, so go get a copy! After you read it, come on back and share your thoughts.
Barbara and her blog tour company, Tribute Books, are giving away one paperback copy to a US resident.
Enter using the rafflecopter widget below.
Please read my Giveaway Policy.
a Rafflecopter giveaway