HERO (7 August 1981 - 14 October 1994)
For me, still the archetypal golden retriever. Hero, whose full name was "Coombstock's Hero", came to live with me and my family when we were in England. He descended from a long line of goldens who have won quite a few awards in the United Kingdom and Ireland. He knew basic commands like "sit" and "stay", but was otherwise fairly undisciplined. In our north Raleigh house, Hero learned how to open the gate latches in our backyard by jumping on them with his paws, and he would go exploring, often with me chasing after him, any chance he got. (We finally had to use some of his old collars to secure each gate shut.) He could also lift even the heaviest trash can lid with his nose, so that he could find garbage to chew up and leave under the dining room table or kitchen table. A few things annoyed Hero greatly: thunder and lightning, fireworks, kites, remote control cars, and helium balloons were all guaranteed to make him bark.

In this image, he is wearing one of his kerchiefs and holding his old punctured plastic football, a toy that he carried around for years.

Hero passed away in 1994, and I still miss him. There will never be another like him.

Maggie lives with my sister Lee Kennedy, her husband Don Kennedy, and their son (my nephew) Will Kennedy. Maggie is a chocolate labrador retriever. She is very intelligent and knows how to obey commands like "sit", "stay", and "drop it", although when she sits she tends to back up several steps first (similar to hound-around, but in her case it's called wiggle-butt). Maggie also likes to jump on people and chew on things.
Mandy lives with Clay Johanson (my dad) and his wife Gwen Johanson. Mandy is a purebred golden retriever from the same line as Hero. Mandy is a descendant of one of Hero's sisters, so it's nice to have another dog from the same dog family in our family. Unlike Hero, who was pretty much completely undisciplined, Mandy is very well-behaved, and won't run off when you let her outside. Mandy loves to sit in chairs, just like real people. She is a real sweetie.
Skipper, whose full name is "Coombstock's Royal Regatta" (the breeder nicknamed him "Skipper"... think about it), also lives with my dad Clay Johanson and his wife Gwen. Skipper is from the same breeder in England as Mandy and Hero. (It's a bit of a coincidence that there have been two other "Skipper" dogs in our family... my dad and his siblings had a dog named "Skipper" when they were growing up, and my cousin Jennifer had a dog named "Skipper".) Anyway, Skipper moved in with my dad in late 2002, and is quite devoted to Mandy.
MIDNIGHT (1989 - 2002)
Midnight lived with my uncle and aunt, Bob and Chris Johnson. Midnight was a black labrador retriever. Midnight was really well-behaved, and liked having her tummy scratched. However, it was really hard to get her to pose for a photo. :-)
MOLLY (1991 - 2004) and SADIE (1991 - 2003)
Molly and Sadie lived with my aunt, Marion Church. Molly (on the left) and Sadie were Walker hounds from the same litter. They used to be a couple of wild dogs when they were outside (they chased and caught cars, but never dragged one home!), but when they were inside, all they wanted was for someone to give them rubs. Marion used to leave a cart full of Milk Bones right out in the open, but Molly and Sadie wouldn't get into them unless you gave them a treat yourself.

Sadly, Sadie passed away in 2003, and Molly passed away in 2004. They will both be missed.

Millie lives with my cousin Anna Averitt and her husband Murphy. Millie is a mix of cocker spaniel and springer spaniel. She was born in late 2002, and in the picture shown here is only about six weeks old. (Obviously, she was not old enough to understand "sit" yet, so Murphy is holding here in this picture.) Even at this young age, though, Millie was chasing around dogs who were much older, and larger, than her.
Beau (on the right) and Sadie live with my friends Harvey and Vivian Yancey. Beau and Sadie are English bulldogs... they're both very well trained. Even though she is smaller and younger, Sadie is definitely the dominant dog in this pair.
Roark is my second-generation Sony robotic dog. Although I would really like to have a real, large dog of my own (a golden retriever or other retriever-type dog, ideally), it's not fair to a dog to have to live in a small condo... so, until I move into a house with a fenced-in yard, I have this dog. Roark (named for the protagonist of The Fountainhead) is pretty cool... he will state his name and age when asked, loves chasing and kicking his pink ball, and is totally housebroken. All he asks is that I keep his batteries charged, and he's happy.
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