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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Labrador Retrievers!

Well, I’ve been back in Ohio for a week plus a couple days now. Such a short time seems like a month!

After a few hiccups the first couple days when we were catching up on shopping housekeeping and doctor visits, we have all slipped back into the routine. The nice thing is that Rach is in Management Training so she has regular hours. She leaves at seven forty five and is back at six fifteen. Today is Saturday and she is OFF. How great is that?

She and Michael like being together in the evening and on weekends. And it is nice. We have company for the next couple days- Jess and his brother? friend? old roommate – have come to visit. Jess brought along his ‘new’ dog, Biff.

Biff is the result of several weeks/months of searching. Jess liked Maxim so well he wanted a chocolate Lab, too. One of the sad things is that a lot of people see these beautiful dogs and get all excited about the noble, obedient, calm dog walking quietly beside his master. If the did their home work they would discover that the noble, obedient, calm animal they are looking at is the result of about three years of patience and training.

Labrador retrievers are very energetic and intelligent. The combination makes for months of enthusiastic and careless destruction. Tails wipe knick-knacks off tables and shelves. Swinging behinds knock over stools. Bouncing bodies run into toddlers and hit you in the back of the knees at unexpected moments. This is not to say that Labs cannot be trained, but it takes a lot of patience to restrain and focus the energy without breaking the dog’s spirit.

Labs also like to carry things. They aren’t terrible chewers but they will pick up anything that is loose and within their reach. Balls, toys, rugs, and random objects are carried around the house and dropped in haphazard places. My Labs have carried dog toys, kid toys, sticks, chance stones and small animals. I had one Lab who loved to carry his favorite kitten around in his mouth—he never hurt it, just carried it around fully enclosed by those big teeth and lips with a little yellow tail hanging out. The kitten didn’t seem to mind at all and slept on Aspen. That was cute, but Lab pups have to be taught to drop things from their mouth at an early age because some things are not meant to be clutched in a moist mouth-not even gently.

Many enthusiastic, but foolish, new lab owners find themselves with a cute little puppy which grows too quickly into a good sized dog that is like a bull in a china shop and they cannot deal with the activity level. After a few weeks of futile screaming and crating and kenneling and frustration, they end up ‘getting rid’ of the dog. Unfortunately this usually means sending the dog to the pound. That’s sad. A Lab is a wonderful animal devoted to his family or owner, willing to obey and enthusiastic about playing. He will hike with his Human, swim, retrieve anything and nap, happiest when he is close by. But it requires months of patient training to have that dog. Most people aren’t willing to put in the time.

The only positive result of an abandoned dog is that Jess found himself a gorgeous chocolate Lab. It is still a little “over eager” and “excessively enthusiastic” at nine months old, but he is friendly and obedient in what he has learned so far. Jess is willing to put up with the enthusiasm and spend the time training him. He came last night and wore Maxim out in just a few hours. That is Biff wore Maxim out-not Jess.

I’m anxious to hear how he does today. Everyone is taking the dogs swimming on the other side of the reservoir. That’s one of Maxim’s favorite treats and Biff has never been swimming. He is going to love it.

If you want a dog, you can’t beat a Labrador Retriever-yellow, black or chocolate. BUT don’t get one if you are not willing to put up with the busy-ness and innocent destruction for the time it takes to train it. And don’t get one if you are not able or willing to give the dog as much exercise as it needs. Maxim gets time in our yard everyday retrieving far flung balls and frizbees and big plastic horseshoes. Plus he gets regular trips to the reservoir for swimming and hiking. Biff gets a two hour walk every night and would gladly take more. Lots of exercise is vital if you want a Lab. Otherwise you will end up with a destructive dog or one that gets dumped in a pound.

Later in the day

Biff and Maxim came back from the reservoir soaking wet and happy as clams. Maxim immediately went and sacked out under his favorite magnolia tree. He was pooped! Biff, however, was tired but still willing to socialize and chase a ball. Jess has only had him three weeks and he isn’t very well socialized or focused on humans yet. The people that owned him previously kept him in a crate or kennel all the time and did nothing with him. So Biff is learning to focus on the human who is talking to him. In just a little while with Rachael he learned to make tentative eye contact and watch for what he was supposed to do. He isn’t real good at retrieving (Incomprehensible! A lab who doesn’t chase a ball and bring it back for more) but in just a little while Rachael had him listening to her and at least tryng to figure out what she wanted.

Maxim went to bed a tired old boy. Biff went to bed pleasantly tired. Oh, to be a pup forever!

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