So it has been nearly 11 years since my last dog. My previous dog was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which you can see in the photo opposite. His name was Red Eclipse, named after an eclipse of the moon on the day we got him - and his eyebrows which looked like little red half moons (he was a tri-colour Cav as you can see in the puppy photo).
He died, early, from a heart murmur that got progressively worse as he got older. It wasn't bad when he was a puppy - he was obviously examined by a vet before we bought him and we had no idea that a relatively minor heart murmur would kill him well before his days should have been up. It is a common genetic problem for Cavaliers and it is horrible to watch one die from it. He was only just 7 when he died, and small dogs are meant to live the longest. I think they are superb family dogs, so friendly and happy, but I would always always make so sure that every generation of a Cavalier back at least 4 generations didn't die from a heart murmur or mitral valve disease (another common genetic defect). I couldn't see it happen again. From such an active happy dog, who used to go running with my dad and loved to do obedience and jumps in the backyard with me, he virtually became an ancient depressed dog within about 6 months. He was taking so many medications, had his lungs drained several times, and eventually, as a family, we decided to have him put down. He died the next day, before he could have the injections. I still feel guilt that I allowed it to go on too long, that he died himself, that I didn't end it sooner.
When I buy a Golden Retriever this time I am going to be so very stringent with checking out the health of the ancestors of my prospective puppies. I must be even moreso because I will want any dog to take part of my weight upon occasion and goldens have joint issues and must must be completely sound or I would have to retire it or even rehome it - unthinkable. They have a lot of cancer problems, which would be catastrophic, and that runs in the genes also. Arthritis, epilepsy, eye disease and hypothyroidism also are breed issues. So I am going to be super nosy. I'll be getting regular x-rays as it grows to check that its hips and elbows are growing well, although the puppy will come with certain scores(of its parents, grandparents etc) that will give at least a small indication as to whether it might be suitable as a mobility assistance dog (and to show it is likely to be a generally sound dog!). I am planning to do a slow growth puppy feeding plan to maximise the chance of very sound bone structure (will add a link to info on it down the side), and will not desex the dog until its growth plates have closed, so perhaps not until 12-18 months. I know a male will really want to mate before this time, but for the best joint health of the dog, keeping in mind the job he is meant for, this is the best way to go.
I've been reading a fair bit about nutrition and supplements also, have realised that Science Diet isn't actually the good food I thought it was (gasp), and am planning to use a few different supplements to keep my pup in top condition. I want him to stay slender for his pupphood and indeed his entire life, carrying any extra weight could again spell disaster for his joints.
Planning all this stuff, especially in order to maximise the prospective health of my helper and best friend to be, really makes me feel good. I am rather assuming all will go smoothly re: landlords. If it doesn't I am going to be upset, and I am not sure whether I will legally challenge. But for now, it is really great to have something absorbing and at times even complex (such as some of the operant conditioning theory) to muse over. Been a while since I prodded this old brain into thinking!
In the meantime it is nice to look at the photo of my darling dog Clipsy (short name for Red Eclipse), although even now it makes me sad. It is definitely time to get a new dog, time and well beyond time! But this time, no mistakes picking the dog or breeder! I am going to be the most annoying nosy doggy-health conscious prospective owner on the planet! :D