Ptolemy was my unthinking, instinctive athlete. As a small puppy, in the mornings he would climb over 4' barriers which confined him to the kitchen, and come running upstairs to tell me of his achievement. Still a puppy, he managed vertical jumps to the bathroom basin countertop, and then would call for me to come lift him down. I never discovered how he did it, but it meant a rapid move of everything in or even on top of the medicine cabinet. Constantly active, Ptolemy would have "cabin fever" in bad winter weather worse than any dog I have known. Until very old age, curling up in comfort in the warm and dry was at-best a 5-minute activity; he constantly needed to be up and doing. In his first year, to help curb excess energy, we would go at weekends in the very early mornings for hikes above Issaquah. In those days hiking off leash, Jason would be in the lead about 80' ahead with Ptolemy expected to keep firmly in line behind Jason, and ahead of me (and usually he did). One morning, coming down still early, we all three simultaneously saw deer. One could almost see the wheels of Jason's brain turning. On the one hand he wanted to chase, but on the other he was older and tired from the hike, and knew Ptolemy could run faster than he could. He also knew that I did not want them to give chase. Ptolemy, wild with excitement, waited for a signal. Jason shrugged, and said: "No, real golden retrievers don't chase deer", and Ptolemy obeyed. Ptolemy grew into a superb athlete, tennis-ball fanatic, and enthusiastic swimmer. He was an unfailingly accurate catcher of tennis balls -- in his eyes, catching it on the fly was what the game was about. People at Marymoor off-leash area would compare him to whoever was the current basket-ball star. He was one who never showed when he was in pain. Only increasing apparent clumsiness in ball catching at age 9 led to the determination that he was blind in one eye, due to what must have been very painful glaucoma.
Like Jason he was a well-travelled dog, three times across the US and back. He came to New Jersey as a young dog, with an elderly Jason. He traveled with me as an only dog, for 10 months in 1994-5, to Michigan, New Jersey, and Montreal. Finally in 2002-3, as a much older dog, he came with Cicero and me to North Carolina for 7 months, a trip in late summer heat and return in March snow blizzards, with surgery in between. I was concerned for him, but he was unconcerned. In contrast to Jason who worried about what would happen, and unfailingly remembered what had happened, Ptolemy lived totally in the present. Every time we did something, it was as if this was a new (and fun) occurrence. However, it was not that he did not remember, but that usually remembering was not important to him. Arriving at a friends' home in New Jersey at Christmas 1994, after a long snowy drive from Michigan, he showed he remembered that happy place clearly from 3 years earlier.
Always the happy, cooperative, instinctive, reactive, "can do" and "me too" dog, Ptolemy completed Agility 101 at almost 11 years old with failing eyesight but undiminished energy and enthusiasm. With the warning of one brief advance episode, glaucoma took the vision in his remaining eye at Christmas 2000, soon after his 12 th. birthday, but he continued to do agility until increasing deafness made this too hazardous. Sadly, blindness put an end to tennis-ball enjoyment; we tried balls with sound, and balls on strings, but it was not the same. However, even when blind, he was totally confident at home, and would stride out ahead on leash walks. He even, with a bit of help, continued to enjoy the off leash walk at Magnuson. Many would not believe he was blind: "he must see a bit" they said, even after I had explained his false eyes.
Although totally blind for over three years, and almost totally deaf for over two, he still retained his zest for life, superb sense of smell, and total inability to think before acting. Even in old age, he would still climb on chairs and even tables to reach soft toys and other things placed for safekeeping out of his reach. The Shugart Flats cabin was completed in Fall 2003, and the first winter there was a lot of snow. In spite of my concerns for his safety, Ptolemy would insist on exploring on his own in the enclosed 0.6 acres by the cabin. When he needed to, he would call for me to come and "rescue" him, just as he had called for me to lift him down from the bathroom countertop almost 15 years earlier.
He lived his life with the supreme confidence that nothing bad could happen to him. He celebrated his 15 th birthday by eating half a shoe, and lived long, well and happy to the age of 15-and-a-half.