Life is good for Tucker at Fort Desoto dog beach in Florida. (Photo by Barbara Sherf)

Life is good for Tucker at Fort Desoto dog beach in Florida. (Photo by Barbara Sherf)

By Barbara Sherf

As you read this, our sweet 12-year-old Golden Retriever may or may not have made it out of surgery with Dr. Jaqui Niles of Metropolitan Veterinary Associates of Valley Forge. But I can tell you that we gave it our best shot.

Tucker rescued us in 2007 when he curled up at our feet in his foster home in Baltimore, where we found him through Golden Retriever Rescue, Education and Training (GRREAT). We had made appointments to see several Golden Retrievers through GRREAT and Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue (DVGRR), but when this 90+ pound male settled in by our feet and curled up in a ball, we knew he was the one.

We took him on a short walk, and he was good on the leash and knew his basic commands. What we did not ask was whether he was good in the car. He was not. We travel far and wide in a travel trailer, but the thought of taking him back to his foster family never really took hold.

Instead, we gave him sedatives and later made him comfortable in a crate that takes up the entire back seat of our pickup truck, and we stopped every few hours to get him and us out of the truck.

When we brought him to Dr. Gerry Madden of Madden Animal Hospital, who works out of his Victorian home in Ambler where he and his wife raised six children, Dr. Madden exclaimed in his thick Irish brogue, “You keep bringing the same dog in here.” And it’s true.

Although different in coloring they are all big male golden retrievers with even bigger hearts: Lenny I found at the SPCA; Simba came to us through DVGRR, and Tucker through GRREAT.

Tucker has a condition called laryngeal paralysis in which the nerves and muscles that control the movements of the larynx cease to function, and instead of opening during inhaling and closing during swallowing, the muscles remain stationary in a somewhat neutral position. This leads to inadequate ventilation during exercise and panting as well as incomplete protection of the airway during swallowing.  The condition will only get worse with age and in hot weather. As it is, Tucker is having difficulty with even short walks, and as we are headed to Florida  for a spell this winter, the time was ripe to address the situation.

Tucker was scheduled to have surgery for his laryngeal paralysis last year, but X-rays showed he had a tumor on his rib cage that needed to be addressed first. The tumor was removed and was fully encapsulated, meaning it had not spread as best anyone could tell. Phewww. The surgery was expensive, and we are still paying it off in installments.

So when a friend of my husband heard how much we spent on the first surgery and how much we were coughing up for the second, he commented, “Why not just get another dog?”

When my husband relayed this to me, I went through the roof (not literally).

“Doesn’t he understand that that’s not the way things work. It’s like saying, ‘Why not get another child,’” I fumed.

My husband defended this man, who wished not to be identified, noting that he just wasn’t a dog or pet person.

I guess there are pet people, and there are those who haven’t been touched by our furry friends. I feel blessed to have been touched by three Golden Retriever rescues. Actually, they rescued me.

This sweet, gentle soul simply wants to be with ‘one of his people’ and attaches himself to the humans at the dog park. We call him “the Velcro dog.”

His love and devotion are unconditional.

As my mother was dying 18 months ago and my father this past October, I would come home, plop on the couch and just receive the best kind of therapy; dog therapy. There is no price you can put on that.

Barbara Sherf hangs with Tucker in Flourtown. She can be reached through