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Dan Goldes: Dog Dad

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Dan Goldes has found that the ups and downs of parenthood can also come in a four-legged form.

At age 60, I became a parent for the first time. Well, a dog dad, but the comparison to human parenting is more apt than I’d realized. I hadn’t lived with a dog since I was a pre-teen, and then, it was the family pet – which meant most of the responsibility fell on my mother. Now, though, it’s just me and River.

Like any new parent, I’m frequently exhausted. Though River, blessedly, sleeps through the night, she wakes me every morning at 5:30, eager for company. I stumble into yesterday’s clothes for the day’s first walk, wondering when – or even if – she’ll outgrow this phase.

On our walk, I talk to River constantly, even knowing she can’t understand me. I try to guide her behavior, ponder life’s deep questions, and wonder aloud if we’ll see a coyote – all the things I’d probably do with a human child. And like a human child, River mostly ignores my musings and does whatever she can to earn another treat.

I spend more time than I’d expected to with my finger in River’s mouth, trying to fish out the Flaming Hot Cheetos or the moldy bread she’s found on the sidewalk. And when we get home, I scan the counter tops to make sure I didn’t leave any food too close to the edge. In the last few months, she’s eaten a pound of granola, a stick of butter, three raw eggs, and block of cheese that was still in its plastic wrapping. (She didn’t eat the plastic, thank goodness.)


River’s health and safety are always on my mind. A trip to urgent care last month when she inhaled a foxtail reminded me that every parent’s day can be shot to hell when there’s a family emergency.

It’s often said that we love dogs because they love us unconditionally. I don’t believe this. As with a child, dogs love us if we hold up our end of the bargain – if we feed them, treat them well, and show our affection. Their love comes with strings – apron strings, if you will – and this dog dad is happily attached for the duration.

With a Perspective, I’m Dan Goldes.

Dan Goldes is a documentary filmmaker and retired nonprofit consultant in San Francisco.

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