Among the emails I received while I was in PNG was one asking about Pasta. In part, it read:
(We have) have fallen in love with Pasta. I know it may sound weird, but do you have any puppy pictures of Pasta you can share? She is so cute and we enjoy reading about her. Your breakdown of her "language" abilities was particularly amusing and her love of pizza. My fiancé and I are looking into in getting a golden.
This isn't the first email I've gotten asking about Pasta. Actually, I get a quite a few, perhaps more than the number of emails asking about diving or underwater photography. Pasta has no idea how popular she is.
Since the sender of this email is thinking about getting a golden retriever, I decided to trawl through my archives to find a few photographs to convey a bit of what it's like to raise a golden pup.
The first photo is from when Pasta was just a couple of months old. She was basically a tiny fluff ball with four legs, a tail and a nose. For some reason, when she was a baby, Pasta was a homebody.
Try as I might to take her for walks, she wouldn't leave my side, and didn't want to go more than a few metres from the front door. Inside the house, she was a frantic furball, running around in circles chasing her tail, bouncing off of walls, chewing on everything I owned, poking her nose into whatever I was working on, jumping all over me...but outside, she was quiet, shy and reserved.
Of course, with time, that changed. Pasta gradually gained more confidence, and nothing could keep her inside. She particularly loved going for drives to the beach, where she made it her mission to get as wet and dirty as possible in as brief a time as possible. She was exceptionally talented in this regard.
At the beach, we often played a unique variation of the game fetch. I bought a float-toy for her, which I threw into the water. The idea was for Pasta to swim out, grab the float, and bring it back. She is a retriever, after all.
As it turned out, more often than not, I'd throw the float out into the water and Pasta would wait patiently on the beach, looking first at the float, then at me, then back to the float...until finally, I swam out and brought the float back to her. On a number of occasions, a substantial audience gathered to watch Pasta teach me to fetch. Once, we even earned a round of applause, which made Pasta very proud of me.
Once Pasta grew up, we reached a mutual understanding and stopped trying to get one another to fetch things. Instead, we settled on running...a lot, whether at the beach, at a park, just in the neighborhood, wherever. Pasta ran.
She ran after cats (she's actually quite scared of cats, but that's another story altogether), after squirrels (she tried unsuccessfully a couple of times to climb trees after the squirrels), geckos (she could never quite figure out how those tricky little critters manage to walk upside-down), frisbees (she never learned how to catch one though, she just chased them), swans (which are bigger than she is and actually ended up chasing her around in circles), and most of all, anyone with food.
These days, Pasta still likes to play and she still chases things, but she's mature now, and she's learned to take things in stride and enjoy the simple pleasures in life, like classical music on her red-edition iPod nano.
Clearly, there's a lot more to bringing up a golden retriever than what I've described here, but I hope this helps to get across the general idea.