Durango author finds ‘Pure Gold’ in retrievers

Pure Gold: Adventures with Six Rescued Golden Retrievers
ISBN-10: 0983645108

ISBN-13: 978-0983645108
List Price $45.95
Available at:
– Amazon and Maria’s Book Shop, 960 Main Ave., Durango, Colo.
– Glad Dog Press LCC 10 Town Plaza PMB 171 Durango 83101 – puregoldbook.com

One morning Durango dog lover Holli Pfau started to let her golden retrievers, Daisy and Chatter out the front door, but after spotting wild turkeys in the yard, diverted the dogs to the kitchen for breakfast.


When they finished eating, she opened the door — only to discover the birds had congregated in back of the house.

Pfau could only stand and roar with laughter as the chase began. “It was a rodeo,” she says.

One by one, the birds lumbered over her fence or scrambled into trees. Daisy cornered the last of them. The turkey took off “like a giant 747.” Leaping “four or five feet into the air,” Daisy missed catching it by inches.

Pfau describes that incident in her book “Pure Gold Adventures with Six Rescued Golden Retrievers,” a memoir published by Glad Dog Press.

She wrote it for two reasons. First, she took a course in creative nonfiction at Fort Lewis College, and needing a piece with energy, described Daisy, one of her dogs. The class liked it. Pfau thought she might develop a book out of the essay.

Then she attended the Golden Retriever National Specialty Show, where she joined a parade of rescue dogs and realized that without rescue, many of the beautiful animals would be dead. She decided to write “Pure Gold” and donate the proceeds to animal shelters and humane societies around the country.

Her experience with golden retrievers began with Nickie, rescued from a California shelter at three months. One by one, other goldens entered her life. “Each led me on an adventure that I never would have found without them.”

Pfau watched Nickie charge into the world with confidence. Everyone she met, young and old, wanted to pet her. Nickie adjusted to her admirers with grace.

Pfau trained her to be a therapy dog, and though she held a degree in English, returned to college to study animal-assisted therapy.

In “Pure Gold,” Pfau calls the experience of working with Nickie “joyful.” With unerring instinct, the dog showed her how to tune in to the needs of individual patients. Some wanted social interaction; some told stories about their pets. Others expressed their deepest hopes and fears to Nickie.

“The dogs are safe,” says Pfau. “And then they make anyone connected with them safe. It was always quite a gift to be in that space where a patient would be sharing something like that thanks to Nickie’s presence.”

Pfau believes dogs tune in to emotions. They have instincts that people never developed, or have lost. From them, Pfau has learned to live in the moment. She also believes that if given a chance, dogs pick their people, not the other way around. She loves working with rescue golden retrievers, finding them both a joy and a challenge. People give up goldens because they don’t realize the big dogs require lots of love, a job, and room to roam. Given the right owner, they bring gratitude for the gift of life. Once they realize they have come to a safe place, they become wonderful animals.

But they can arrive with problems. One of Pfau’s dogs, Tucker, needed both hips replaced. Bodie came with a congenital eye condition. His first owner rejected him, saying, “He’s not perfect. We don’t want him.”

Pfau and her husband paid for eye surgery for Bodie. “From that time on he was perfect,” she says.

Bodie loved to hike and swim, and drew Pfau into the wilderness as he raced down the trail. Like Nickie, he became a therapy dog.

“Because of his hail-fellow-well-met attitude and his huge flag of a tail, he was a real hit in pediatrics.”

Daisy exploded into the Pfau household, careening off walls and furniture; and racing off to the next adventure

“She was the most energetic golden retriever we ever had,” says Pfau.

Pfau enrolled Daisy in obedience classes, but the dog still had energy to spare. So she began agility training. Two or three years later, she was winning ribbons on the course.

Pfau loves agility as much as Daisy does. Guiding a dog over jumps and through tunnels demands all of Pfau’s energy and concentration. Both she and the dog stay active.

“It’s good Alzheimer’s prevention,” Pfau laughs.

Then there’s Chatter, a sensitive animal whose first owner might have abused her. She did not enjoy agility and became a therapy dog.

“That is absolutely her place in life. It’s like children You can’t mold each one into a job. You have to see what their strengths are,” says Pfau.

She describes the process of writing “Pure Gold Adventures with Six Rescued Golden Retrievers” as “wonderful.” The order of the chapters fell into place on the first draft. However, glitches arose when she described dogs that had passed on. Still, writing about them helped her deal with the grief that lingered in her heart.

In the epilogue to “Pure Gold,” entitled, “Looking in the Rear View Mirror,” she recalls the time she saw an old truck driven by a man in late middle age. A golden retriever snuggled against him on the seat. Another pressed its nose against the windshield, drinking in the adventure of driving.

As she thinks about life with her dogs, Pfau realizes that the truck image captures the joy that makes the pain of loss and the frustration of dealing with rescue-dog baggage worth the trouble to face.

From January 2012.