Sunday, January 30, 2005


"Ridge" is our four-year-old yellow Lab with a gorgeous fox-red coat. He also happens to be quite neurotic (for a Lab, anyway). I suppose he has reason to be so.

Ridge didn't come to live with us until he was three years old. He came from the same breeder from whom we acquired our black Lab, Baxter, at seven weeks of age. The breeder decided to transition from field lines to show lines in the kind of Lab they wanted to produce, so Ridge, a strong field line sire, no longer fit their bill. After living with his previous owners since he was was a young pup, the three-year-old was up for grabs.

His sweet temperment and coloring captured our hearts. And he fit our lifestyle, dreams, and plans quite nicely. We'd already had Baxter neutered because of a significant malocclusion (overbite), but we still hoped to start a responsible, small-scale breeding endeavor one day. With strong hunting lines and his own field work started, Ridge was our sire investment. The day we met him, we fell in love with him and brought Ridge to his new home.

Ridge transitioned nicely overall, but we had some concerns. It naturally took him a while to feel secure here and to stop waiting for his former owners, who clearly loved him and treated him well. And it took time for him to love us, his new family. We were, after all, complete strangers. We spent hours and hours and hours trying to help him acclimate: one-on-one time; training time; snuggle time on the couch; taking him for rides in the car; giving him time with Baxter; giving him crate time to help him feel at home. What he needed more than anything else, it seemed, was affection.

Our eighteen-year-old daughter captured it this way: "I've never seen a dog more needy!" she observed after spending the day alone with the dogs. "Needy" described Ridge's behavior almost perfectly. Despite his regal bearing, athleticism, and dominance over the other Labs in our home, he needed to be stroked and touched and hugged. Talking wouldn't do; it had to be physical contact.

Ridge moans and grunts. (I've never heard a dog moan like Ridge does). His vocalizations testify to his utter delight at being touched. He rolls on his back and squiggles under our caress. If we're sitting on the couch or in the lounge chair he jumps into our laps and tries to bury himself beneath us. We joke about Ridge needing to literally get beneath our skin.

I had my reservations during the first weeks of Ridge's adjustment; I wondered if he'd ever warm up to us. Today, nearly a year later, Ridge's affection for us has swung to the opposite end of the spectrum: he's so affectionate now that he's become "needy." ;o)

I'll take "needy" over aloof or standoffish any day. Ridge's affection (and need of it) warms our hearts and reminds us of the importance of touch.

Have you petted, scratched, or stroked your animals recently? Do your humans know your gentle touch? After all, we humans need physical contact, too. A gentle touch helps us feel wanted and secure. Affection helps us know we're valued. Just like Labs, we need to know we're loved!

Have you hugged a loved one today? Have you shown affection? Your significant others (people and pets) are waiting, as are mine.

A funny things happens, though, when we give affection, especially to our four-footed friends. We find affection in return. What a payoff for so little investment!

Hmmm. Sounds good to me. I think I'll go give Ridge a belly rub. :o)

'Til next time,

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