Golden Heroes

Sisterly Love between two Goldens
By Lanie Blackmon, Durant, Oklahoma, November 24, 2003

It was a busy day for me in Durant Oklahoma where we had settled down to live temporally while my Husband Ron did a major tilt up job for the construction company he works for. Beautiful BrandiWe left Corona California on Christmas Eve night 2002, with just a suitcase of clothes and 3 golden retrievers in the back of our Toyota Tacoma truck.
We had been in Oklahoma about two months when I had to stop at the tractor supply store to pick up some dog food for the girls. My girls, are my three beautiful Golden Retrievers, Brandi (pictured here), Ally & Ginger. I refer to them by B.A.G for short, since I am always talking about my girls. Ginger is six-years-old, Brandi is four-years-old and Ally will be two years of age in December 2003. Ginger's brother Rootbeer is Brandi's father and so Ginger raised Brandi from an eight-week-old puppy and when we got Ally a few years later, Ginger also took her in as her own and raised Ally too.
This story is about Brandi, my middle girl. The reason I am telling this story is because Brandi is my quiet dog. She is loving, quiet, and doesn't bother anyone type of dog. Since bringing Ally into the family, Brandi was a little upset about it and wouldn't play with her, or do anything with her let alone be near her. When they were in the truck with me, Brandi always gets front seat and the other two girls are in the back. Ally is jealous of Brandi and is always trying to get to her and she will do the things Brandi does to show me she can do it. I personally think it's adorable, but Brandi doesn't. They have had 1 fight between the two of them and I think since that fight, Brandi didn't want anything to do with Ally. This has been going on since the fight.
So, I pulled into the parking lot, rolled the windows down one-fourth of the way and opened the sunroof and said "I'll be right back "to the girls. I pushed the remote to lock it and I was off into the store to grab the bag of dog food. I was up at the check stand waiting in line when I heard a dog barking. Brandi has a very deep bark for a female and it sounds a little scary when she means business. That barking I was hearing was a little different but it was Brandi's no doubt in my mind. So I looked up from where I was standing in the checkout line and saw the truck.
Right before my eyes, there was this car along side the truck and here I am seeing this kid opening the back passenger door and had Ally by the collar. I dropped the dog food, dropped my purse and took off running out of the store. On my way out, there in a big trash can display were green plastic rakes for sale. I grabbed one on the way out and was swinging that rake in the air and screaming "Get away from my dogs". Brandi is still barking and the kid saw me and let go of Ally who was one-half way in their car and when he let go of her, she took off away from their car and went around the other side of our truck. The kid jumped in to their car and the driver who was a woman started to leave. As they were pulling away, I caught up with Brandi with Allytheir car and started beating it with the rake in my hands and yelling "STOP!"
I couldn't keep up with them anymore, and as they drove out of the parking lot, I stopped running only to turn around and have my three girls come running up to me to make sure I was okay. I hadn't gotten their license plate number, but a customer in the parking lot did and two days later after making a police report about the ordeal these dog nappers were caught. To my surprise, the police had told me the kid who was 15-years-old was trying to steal Ally cause they were homeless and his mother who was the driver in that car, told him to steal Ally since she knew of someone who wanted a golden retriever and would pay for one and that would get them food. The kid also told the cops that the barking dog (Brandi) was trying to keep him from getting Ally and when he did get a hold of Ally, Brandi started barking loudly and was trying to bite him. Never in my whole time owning Brandi did I ever see or hear of her trying to bite or hurt somebody.
I believe that Brandi saved Ally from being stolen from us (pictured here together, Ally in front of Brandi). Here all this time I felt Brandi couldn't stand her, but in that moment, Brandi ended up being Ally's hero and saving her from the unknown.

Today, after all this and it's been months later, Brandi and Ally now play together, lay next to each other and give each other kisses. Oh sure they have their moments just like any sisters would, but there is a different kind of attitude between them. Brandi I know is a hero to Ally and Brandi knows she is a hero in my eyes also, Thank you Brandi, for keeping your sister here with us and saving her from those people. That is my story and I am so glad it turned out with a happy ending.




Dog Helps Police Find Lost Child: Boy, 2, Fell Down Steep Embankment
By Terri Sanginiti, Delaware Online News Journal Staff Reporter, July 4, 2003

A New Castle County police officer credited a family pet with aiding in the rescue of a toddler Thursday who wandered away from his Bear home and tumbled down a 6-foot embankment.
Officer Courtney Fry said she and her partner were called to the 700 block of Barrett Run Place shortly before noon to help find a missing 2-year-old boy. When police arrived, neighbors were combing the area. The missing toddler's mother was hysterical, Fry said.
The boy apparently slipped out the back door and was gone about 30 minutes before his mother noticed he was missing. Fry said she spotted the family's golden retriever, Copper, in the distance behind the house. The dog was barking and appeared agitated. "I could see the dog in the field going nuts, and I knew the dog was trying to tell us something," Fry said.
She and her partner, Officer Donovan Delaney, headed in the direction of the barking dog a half mile away. They passed a construction site to get to the wooded area beyond where the dog was "barking its head off," Fry said.
As she got closer, Fry said, she could hear a child crying. Officers found the boy, muddy and crying, down a steep embankment. The officers plucked the toddler out of the deep ditch and carried him home to his mother. "Copper saved the day," Fry said. Police did not release the name of the child or the name of his mother.


Man's Best Friend: Retriever Saves Owner from Heart Attack
By Julie Novak, Narragansett Times Reporter, June 25, 2003

WAKEFIELD - To be man's best friend a dog usually has to display loyalty and like fetching tennis balls or going for long walks. While saving his owner's life may not be a requirement, Steve Boyle's dog Grommett went above and beyond his call of duty when he did just that last year.
Boyle had been feeling short of breath and increasingly fatigued over the course of three weeks. And the worse he felt, the more Grommett, a six-year-old golden retriever, followed him around the house. "He would circle and circle around me, getting under my feet. And then he would lean on me. He made me so uncomfortable that I decided to go to the hospital and they diagnosed me with congestive heart failure," Boyle said.
Doctors determined a virus had settled in his heart, forcing it to swell to three times its normal size. This wasn't the first time Grommett had detected an illness in a member of the Boyle family. When Steve's son Francis, a theater major at the University of Rhode Island, was between performances, Grommett started to circle him "like a sheep dog." A blood test later confirmed Francis had mono.
"He's more empathic than some people I know," Francis said. If a guest is not feeling well, Grommett displays the same behaviors, the family says, and will sometimes rest his head in their lap.
According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, the director of animal behavior at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, Grommett's behavior is not at all unusual. He has studied animal behavior for more than 30 years and is one of 30 veterinary behaviorists in the world. Last summer, he published his latest book on the subject titled "If Only They Could Speak," which relates 13 stories about pets and their abilities. "Dogs are experts at reading our body language," Dodman explained in a telephone interview Monday morning. "They can perceive things that are beyond our perception."
Dogs are renowned for their sense of smell, which is 100 times more powerful than a human's, and their visual capabilities are also heightened, Dodman said. During his 22 years of research at Tufts, Dodman has encountered cases where dogs have been able to detect some cancers, including melanoma, and have sensed oncoming seizures and heart attacks.
"They may not know what is wrong, but they sense something is out of whack," he said.
Analyzing Grommett's behavior, Dodman suspects the dog was able to perceive Boyle's mood was different than usual. He characterized his leaning behavior as "utter submission" to his master. "The dog is thinking, 'If I show him how much I defer to him, it might make him feel better,'" Dodman said.
While Grommett's pacing around his owner is more typical of herding breeds, it is not uncommon for dogs to behave this way to displace their anxiety. When a dog starts to pace, particularly in a circle, it shows he knows something is wrong and wants to alleviate his discomfort. "Different breeds react to stresses in different ways," Dodman noted. "Because the dog is a retriever it wouldn't have surprised me if he had brought things to his master."
Boyle's diagnosis last May forced him to retire from Brown University, where he sold computers. He traded his job for a rehabilitation regimen of treadmills, biking and free weights at South County Hospital to improve his health. Grommett rides with Boyle to his therapy sessions and accompanies him on walks through Chirstofaro Park in Narragansett, where he enjoys chasing down tennis balls. "We're together constantly, day and night," Boyle said, admitting that he wasn't always so attached to the dog. "I don't get lonesome."
The family, which includes Steve's wife Cheryl and sons Andrew and Daniel, adopted Grommett from the South Kingstown Pound about five years ago for Francis, who trained him and spent the most time with him. Grommett was turned in to the animal shelter by a woman whose son was going away to college and her apartment was too small to keep the 110-pound canine. "Within a day he had made himself at home," Boyle said.
The family decided not to change his name, which came from the animated claymation series "Wallace & Grommit." In the program, Grommit is a vocal, intelligent dog that reads the newspaper. The Boyle's Grommett - they added a "t" - is not quite so gifted as the animated version, but he makes up for his lack of language skill with his friendly disposition. He will sit on command, freely gives his paw and carries his food dish in his mouth when he wants to eat. The family is so happy with their pet that they would like to adopt another dog from the pound. "We'd like to have a companion for Grommett," Boyle said.
Once Francis graduates from URI next May, he has plans to attend graduate school to continue his theater studies and will leave Grommett entirely in his father's care. "He's the first dog that's ever really gotten to me," Boyle said. "He really wormed his way into my heart."

July 7, 2005 Update
After Googling my dog "Grommett", I found you reprinted the interview Grommett, my father and I gave a few years back for the Narragansett Times. I thought you may appreciate an update. After I moved to Virginia for graduate study, Grommett and my parents moved to Florida. There, my father enrolled Grommett in a special program. For children who have difficulty reading, Grommett provides a loving and captive ear. Here, children who are reading impaired read out loud to animals, helping the child to learn without frustration. Grommett also has been certified as a therapy dog, and my father frequently brings him to the doctor's office and even to the hospital. While I miss Grommett greatly, I know he is needed much more by my parents. Thank you for noticing exceptional animals. Francis Boyle

September 11, 2009 Update

Dear All, For the past 12 years, I was Grommett Boyle's boy. Despite reason itself, I never truly expected that yesterday, when he was mercifully put to sleep, would come.

He is honored as one of your "Heroes", and I hope to meet him again. I remember a year old Golden I met one sunny spring day at a pound in South Kingstown, RI. He had former owners, his first being a college student who could not keep him.

I had not wanted Grommett at first, he would pull me along on the walk we took, he did his own thing. When I broke into a run, he ran all around me. Petting him and scratching his belly was all it took, I fell in love. Between that day and this, there were so many memories, too many to count. That sock sucking, shirt biting, Armadillo disarming, 110 lb reddish Golden dog is one of the greatest friends I will ever have.

Worth his weight in gold, Grommett Boyle will never be far from my thoughts. In the words of Charles Schultz, "Happiness is a Warm Puppy." I really do not know what else to say, except that he is leaving a massive hole for myself, my family, and especially my father. Amazing what fur and a cold, wet nose can do. With love for all dogs and their boys and girls,
Francis RTM Boyle, Friend of the Late Grommett Boyle


Alert Dog, Quick Action by Firefighters Save Boy
By Patty Brandl, The Reporter, June 17, 2003

The house on North National Avenue was dark and the family asleep when the seizure struck the 12-year-old boy on a quiet Sunday night in May. Helpless, he convulsed over and over again as his blood sugar dropped to life-threatening levels, while the rest of the family slumbered, unaware of the crisis. One household member, however, was instantly alert, and took control of the situation.
Realizing that something was wrong and unable to dial the telephone, Jed did the next best thing – he jumped on the bed and barked until Jordan’s parents realized that something was wrong.
The golden retriever’s unusual behavior led them to their son’s bedroom, where they discovered the boy fighting for his life. Jordan Haag, who has diabetes but had never suffered a seizure before, needed help immediately, prompting them to call 911. When the call arrived at the National Avenue station, though, the ambulance was on the other side of town, and emergency personnel made the decision not to wait.
Thanks to a recent policy change allowing fire engines to carry medications that were formerly limited to ambulances, the Fond du Lac Fire Department Engine 2 team was able to respond immediately, said Lt. Todd Shippee, who raced to the Haag home along with Firefighter Brian Westby and Engineer Doug Baltz. “I wasn’t off the phone, and they were there,” said Jill Haag, Jordan’s mother. When they arrived, they realized that Jordan’s situation was critical and began life-saving procedures, shouting to his parents to remove Jed from the room.
Shippee explained that having a dog present can sometimes interfere with the emergency actions that the team must perform. “But Jed wouldn’t leave Jordan’s side,” Jill said. “The dog went under the boy’s bed and stayed until we left,” Shippee said.
They administered glucagon, a drug that is now routinely carried on all city engines. The medication can correct low blood sugar that might have caused the seizure in the first place.
In Jordan’s case, after receiving the glucagon, his seizure ended and the paramedics were able to stabilize his blood sugar level before the ambulance arrived on the scene. Jordan was taken to St. Agnes Hospital where his condition was monitored for a few hours. He was then released. By Monday morning, his mother said, he was back at school and playing basketball as if the episode had never occurred.  “They went above and beyond the call of duty,” Jill said of the Engine 2 personnel. “We felt very safe and knew we were in good hands.”

Looking back on the chain of events, she said that the family was caught completely off guard by the emergency, since Jordan’s diabetes has always been easily controlled by medication.
The only one in the Haag household with a history of seizures is Jed, not Jordan, Jill said. The 5-year-old dog suffers from idiopathic epilepsy, and averages a couple of seizures per year. “Jed knows when he has one himself,” Jill said. “I don’t know if he recognized it when Jordan had the seizure.”

Following Jordan’s close call, the golden retriever who slept on Jill’s bed since he was a puppy hasn’t left the boy’s side. And each night, the ever-vigilant Jed takes his new position at the foot of Jordan’s bed. “It has been a very special thing,” she said. “Ever since it happened, Jed just sits and watches him.”

One in 11 people will suffer a seizure at some point in their lives, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Some researchers and animal trainers believe that certain canines are able to detect subtle changes in human behavior or scent before a seizure occurs, according to an April 16 National Geographic news article.

Seizure-alert dogs can be trained to exhibit attention-getting behavior anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours before the episode begins when they sense that a seizure is imminent, said trainer Sherman Hermansen of Canine Seizure Assist Society of North Carolina. Dogs cannot be trained to detect the episode, Hermansen said, but must be born with the ability.


Never-Say-Die Dog Saves Owner in Flooded Ditch
By Paul Stokes, Telegraph News, May 20, 2003
Click here to see a video with Cheryl and Orca

A dog's persistence saved his disabled owner as she lay trapped under her motorized wheelchair in a rain-swollen ditch for two hours. Cheryl Smith, 22, a university student, was enjoying an afternoon out near her home in Heslington, York, with her golden retriever Orca running alongside, when her wheelchair hit a brick on a dirt track. The 3cwt machine plunged 20ft down an embankment and landed on top of Miss Smith, pinning her flat in the water.
Eighteen-month-old Orca, who finished specialist rescue training eight weeks ago, immediately ran for help. The first person he encountered mistook him for a stray and tried to take him back to his home before the dog slipped its lead. Orca ran back to check on Miss Smith, who was growing more distressed, before setting off again.
ditchThis time he attracted the attention of Peter Harrison, who was jogging through a nearby field, by leaping up and down and running to and from the scene. Mr Harrison followed him and found Miss Smith, who has a neurological illness that prevents her from walking. He ran to his home nearby to call the rescue services. He arranged to meet a fire crew half a mile away at the nearest road while his wife Julie and daughter Rosie went to stay with her. Firemen lifted Miss Smith out of the ditch and kept her warm until a paramedic vehicle arrived. She was treated at York Hospital for mild hypothermia.
Yesterday Miss Smith, a chemistry student at York University, was recovering from Sunday's ordeal. She said: "It frightens me to think what would have happened if Orca had not been there. "It was pouring with rain and the chances of anyone passing that way were remote. Without him I might have died in that stream. I owe him everything."
A passer-by told the emergency services that he had had mistaken Orca for a stray and tried to take him home. Miss Smith said: "When he came back without anyone I really began to give up hope. I thought he had just been chasing animals around in the woods or something. "I was lying there for what must have been about two hours and it was pouring with rain and hailstones. There was a foot of water in the ditch and I was being pushed down into the thick mud below it. "I was really scared. I was freezing and I knew no one would find me by chance. It seemed like an eternity before Orca arrived back with a man right behind him."
Orca has been rewarded with a steady supply of carrots, his favourite treat, and bones. Miss Smith said he was able to obey 105 commands, including unloading the washing machine and pressing buttons at pedestrian crossings. She said: "He is still only a puppy but he is so intelligent. I don't know what I would do without him. People have described it as like a scene from the old Lassie movies. Maybe Orca will become a star as well."
Fire sub-officer Carl Vinand said: "The dog is the real star. Cheryl is extremely lucky to be alive. The fall alone could have killed her as the wheelchair is very heavy." For more information about Canine Partners visit:

Life-saving dog gets medal honour
Cheryl Smith with her assistance dog Orca
Cheryl Smith said Orca deserved public recognition for saving her life
A golden retriever that saved the life of his owner when her wheelchair plunged into a ditch has been rewarded with a medal for his devotion to duty.
BBC News, April 5, 2006

Orca ran more than a mile to get help after Cheryl Smith's wheelchair struck a brick and fell into the ditch in York trapping her face-down in rainwater. Fire crews who rescued Ms Smith said the dog's actions had saved her life. Orca received the PDSA gold medal for bravery and devotion to duty - seen by many as the George Cross for animals.

Ms Smith had been walking Orca, an assistance dog trained by the charity Canine Partners, along a dirt track near Holmefield Lane in Heslington in May 2003 when the drama unfolded. She said it was fantastic to see his efforts rewarded. "I'd only had him five weeks so I did think it was a bit much to ask of him to come back at that stage, but he really came through for me.




Just an Old Golden Retriever
By Sara Whalen, Executive Director, PetsAlive

Golden Brandy and AdamI grew up in your average middle-class Jewish home where pets were not available. I never had a pet. There was a lot of plastic on the furniture. Basically, pets were considered dirty, unwanted things. Animals were not part of my experience, so I had no conscience about them.
I got married in 1968, and in 1970 I had a baby. When he was 18 months old, we were living in a bungalow colony in upstate New York while waiting for our home to be built. An elderly woman and her old golden retriever lived next door. I used to see them together when the woman was outside gardening. My son liked the dog, and she was a friendly animal, but that was all as far as I was concerned.
When the woman died, her relatives came up, and they emptied her house of her treasures, her clothing, anything they thought of value. They contacted a real estate agent who put out a For Sale sign on her property. Then they locked the dog out and drove away. Because I'd grown up with no conscience about animals, it didn't even cross my mind to say, "Wait a minute. Someone should be taking care of this dog" or "who is going to be responsible for her?" It just didn't. I was not responsible for the dog.
Some of the neighbors mentioned that they'd feed her occasionally, but the dog mostly stayed near the house where she'd lived, where her owner had died. When the dog would come over to play with my son, Adam, he would feed her cookies; once in a while I would give her some leftovers.
One afternoon I went to get Adam, who'd been outside playing in our yard, a safe, level grassy area, and he was gone. Just gone. I was frantic. I looked for him, and then neighbors helped me look for him. We called the police.
For three hours the police looked for him, then they called the state police. The state police brought in helicopters. My husband rushed home form the city. I was hysterical. We could not find Adam. We didn't know if he'd been abducted. We didn't know if he was alive. We could not find him.
The search had been going on for six hours when a neighbor, who'd just returned home, said, "Where's Brandy?" Brandy? The dog? Why was he asking about the dog? Someone else said, "Maybe she's with Adam." What did I know about animals? I said, "Why would she be with Adam? What does that mean?"

One of the troopers recalled that he'd heard a dog barking deep in the woods when they were doing the foot search. And suddenly everybody started to yell "Brandy!" including me. We heard faint barking and followed the sound. We found my 18-month-old son, standing up, fast asleep, pressed against the trunk of a tree. Brandy was holding him there with one shoulder. One of her legs was hanging over a 35-foot drop to a stream below.

She must have followed Adam when he wandered off, just as a dog will with a child, and she saw danger. She was a better mother than I; she'd pushed him out of harm's way and held him there. This was an old dog. Adam was an 18-month-old child. He struggled, I'm sure, but she'd held him there for all those hours. When I picked him up, she collapsed.
As the trooper carried my son back home, I, sobbing with relief, carried Brandy. I knew in that instant that she was coming home with me, too. Brandy spent the rest of her life with us, and I loved her completely; she lived to be 17 years old. From then on, I made it a point to learn everything I could about animals. My focus at the time was old golden retrievers. Obviously, I thought they were the smartest, the best, and there was nothing like them. I started the first golden retriever rescue and have had as many as 35 of them in the house at a time, and it mushroomed from there.
Because of Brandy, I have a calling. I have a reason to get up in the morning. Because of Brandy, thousands of unwanted animals have been given safe lives. I can't save them all, but I can make a difference. We now have 300 animals all kinds, including birds and pot-bellied pigs and are a well-recognized humane animal sanctuary. We take the animals that other shelters won't take ones my mother would have said were dirty; the old ones who are incontinent, the blind, the ugly ones; they're all beautiful to me. So many organizations feel it's easier to euthanize these animals.
I don't agree. How could I? If someone had put an abandoned 11-year-old golden retriever to sleep 29 years ago, I would not have a child. I wouldn't have a son who is the light of my life.


Tale of a Hero
By Bonita News Banner Staff/Cathy Cottrill, January 11, 2003

There's a hero in our house. His name is Clyde. Monday night, our Lassie wannabe saved his aging buddy from drowning. The older fellow, a deaf golden retriever named Rudy, had wandered out to the swimming pool to dunk his paws. Chilly water and dysplastic hips took their toll, however, and he was unable to hoist himself out of the water. We figure Rudy struggled on the pool step for at least 30 minutes before hubby ventured outside to take the garbage out. That's when Clyde spun into Lassie-mode, whining and scampering like he's never done before.
Rudy will be fine, thanks to the efforts of his buddy. A thorough blow-drying, the cushion of a comfy bed and a bit of cuddling totally erased the ordeal from his mind. Clyde, however, knows we're proud, and I think he will forever be watchful of situations that could bring harm to his frail friend. What makes the feat somewhat amazing is that we've always considered Clyde to be not the brightest candle in the pack. Life's always been kind of a struggle for the little fellow. As a puppy, he was abandoned at a boarding kennel. When we got him, at the age of 2, he was an unsocialized, overeager, hyperactive bundle of fur without a speck of training or manners. We took him home primarily because he jumped in our car and we couldn't get him out.
It took a solid year of obedience training to make him manageable, something unusual in our experience with goldens. They are bright, trainable dogs, and our experience with rescue dogs — all of ours have been strays — has always given us canine friends with high IQs. For the longest time we thought Clyde was a tad mentally deficient. He mastered what we called the thousand yard stare, a gaze off into space that could not be interrupted, no matter how hard we tried. He spaced out dozens of times a day and we despaired of ever getting his attention.
Despite his mental challenges, Clyde has been a wonderful companion to me, traveling with me to horse shows and even earning his Canine Good Citizen certification. It was almost two years ago this month that we discovered the true cause of Clyde's spaciness. Those bouts we'd seen for several years, it seems, were actual tiny seizures. And at midnight on a January night, he had the first of many horrific grand mal seizures. Nothing with any animal — and we've had many — has ever terrified us as much as that experience.
When it was over, I was fairly certain Clyde would be dropped off at the emergency vet clinic so I could take my husband on to the hospital. There is nothing like the feelings of helplessness and panic that first seizure invoked. Our vet offered solace: Sometimes a pet has a seizure and it never happens again. Unfortunately, her hope didn't hold true. Since that night, we've experienced many seizures. Though we now have a routine — I hold the shaking dog while hubby runs for paper towels — the experience never gets any easier. I'm always certain the seizure will never stop and we will lose our boy.
In October, when I was out of town, Clyde had his first bout of cluster seizures — five in one weekend. He had suddenly developed a tolerance for the Phenobarbital that curbs his episodes. Clyde handles his epilepsy like a trouper, much better than hubby and I. He tolerates bloodwork like a gentleman and gently downs the pills he must take morning and night. He deals with his illness far better than we do, that's for sure. Clyde saved his buddy's life Monday night. But in our book, he already was a hero.


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