Saving Sailor

A year ago, while talking with my friend, Jill, at Saturday Night Golden Retrievers, I found out she was placing a male dog named Sailor.

Sailor was 17 months old and had a bit of a rough history. His first home was not prepared for his level of energy and their life circumstances prevented Sailor from receiving the most basic of training. When the breeder found out that Sailor’s home was not turning out as planned, she worked diligently to have the dog returned.

Sailor's early days with his littermates at Saturday Night Goldens. Images courtesy Jill Flament.

Sailor’s early days with his littermates at Saturday Night Goldens. Images courtesy Jill Flament.

In his first home, when he had typical naughty puppy behavior, he was isolated in a crate. He wasn’t taught. He was just locked up. Sailor spent a lot of his time with everyone mad at him. They didn’t know what to do with him. When Sailor returned to the breeder at 10 months old, he didn’t know his name, didn’t know how to walk on a leash, wasn’t connecting to people and was a bit of a mess.

After his return, the breeders, Jill and Doug, took time to evaluate him and begin repairing and rebuilding his life as a dog. He received a new name, learned to walk on a leash and began gaining social skills with their pack of dogs.

Sailor was always a gentle soul. He never struck out with a growl or nip; rather, when it all was too much to handle, he ran away. This aversion to stress made it difficult for Sailor to learn the skills he needed as a family dog, much less a working retriever. Jill and Doug had their work cut out for them.

When winter came to Montana, Sailor was spending a lot of time in the kennel. That’s the way it is when it’s really cold out. The indoor facility was safe and warm, outside it was -29° F. Needless to say, outdoor time was very limited. Jill noticed that Sailor’s disconnect from people was growing, save for the time he spent with Doug during the limited training opportunities in winter. Sailor was already at risk due to the isolation he experienced in his first home.

Even though he was not completely up to their standard for rehoming, she knew it was in his best interest to complete his training in a different living situation. Finding the right home at the right time was crucial for Sailor. Jill knew Tim and I had done rehabilitation work with hunting retrievers. She was very honest with us about his skill level and his history. She provided us a link to his pedigree on K9Data.

When she first made us aware of Sailor’s availability, we were still reeling over our own news that our Blitz was dying. The next week when I talked to Jill, Sailor came up again. Tim and I decided that night we would buy Sailor.

Our first meeting.

Our first meeting.

The next day after work on Feb. 14, we headed for Montana. Doug kindly met us in Dillon on the 15th saving us six hours on our total drive. We turned right around and headed for home, hoping to beat the incoming winter snowstorm. That night we stayed in a motel in Twin Falls, ID.

Sailor’s first move in the hotel room was to jump on the bed, grab a pillow, and play catch with himself. Okay, playful boy!

I awoke at 4:30 a.m. needing a bathroom break. Not wanting to wake everyone at such an early hour, I quietly placed the lid down and didn’t flush. As I washed my hands, I heard a spray of water…
not water.

Sailor surprises us with his skill to "go"

Sailor surprises us with his skill to “go”

Sailor was peeing between the toilet seat and lowered lid. Yelling ensued. So much for not waking anyone.

With that start to our day, we headed home in the snowstorm that had arrived early.

As we got well into Nevada the snow let up, and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way home. Once here, Sailor began to familiarize himself with the house. He surprised us again by peeing in the toilet, this time with remarkable aim.

Thus began our lives with Sailor, one year ago today.

In his time here we have built on what Jill and Doug started. Sailor has learned to trust and learned to train. He has learned he can make mistakes and he won’t be locked up. He doesn’t run away when the going gets tough. He even returns when retrieving, something much harder to teach an older dog compared to a puppy. He has learned hand signals for running blinds, and does multiple retrieves.

He’s had success bird hunting and will run some AKC Hunting Tests this year.

His biggest milestone by far… he pees outside.

Happy anniversary, Sailor, we are blessed to have you in our home.  To see highlights of Sailor’s first year, see gallery below.

NOTE:  When the breeders I know place a puppy in a home, they do so based on the information and references provided by the puppy buyer. Sometimes information isn’t communicated well, other times life circumstances change; in either case the pup winds up in a home that’s not a match.
The breeders I know (myself included) have a provision in their puppy contract that the pup is to return to the breeder and not be placed in a shelter should life circumstances require the pup be re-homed.
In these cases, after the breeder has spent time to evaluate the adult dog, they will place the dog in a new home.
We are happy to be Sailor’s forever home.

Click to enlarge and enjoy Sailor’s first year with us in his forever home.

28 thoughts on “Saving Sailor

  1. Enjoyed this story so very much. Highlights the importance of placing a pup in the proper home in the first place, but thankfully, you came to Sailor’s rescue and he to yours afterwards. Wonderful words with pictures to enjoy. Thanks for sharing.


    • You are so right,it is so important for proper placement. But sometimes new owners don’t understand the level of energy a working dog has, and they can communicate to a breeder or rescue organization that they are a good match, when really they aren’t. It’s not intentional, but miscommunication can happen. I think the important thing to know is that if you know someone who’s realized they are in over their head with a dog, they need to re-home the dog asap.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful story – so glad that Sailor is not a part of your loving family. Loved reading about his adventures and those pictures are priceless. What a skill he has, never seen a dog pee in the toilet before LOL!


  3. As an owner of two dogs, one which our middle child bought well in university instead of buying groceries (he now lives with us while she attends graduate school), she saved him from what would have been a horrible life. He in turn has brought life back into our beagle, who has had a couple strokes, but with dog companionship runs wildly again.


  4. “Sailor’s first move in the hotel room was to jump on the bed, grab a pillow, and play catch with himself. Okay, playful boy!”

    Ahah! That’s where his son, My Tommy, gets it! When I’m not looking Tommy runs up the stairs and grabs a pillow off my bed and drags it downstairs. I don’t even get mad anymore. He’s having fun ! And now I know it’s in his genes!


  5. This story still makes me smile; our boy won the lottery when he went home with you guys. And now I have a new piece of Sailor back here in MT with his daughter, Holly. It kind of completes the circle.


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