Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Many Sides of Baxter

Baxter, the lap dog. Baxter, the lookout. Baxter, the tease. Baxter, the eager-to-please imp. Baxter, the ______(you name it)--I could fill in a dozen other words here, and they'd all be true.

Part of the reason we love Labrador retrievers so much is the blend of loyalty, gentleness, friendliness, faithfulness, intelligence, work ethic, and impishness that typifies the breed. Baxter illustrates this mix well.

First we have Baxter the lap dog. Despite the fact that "the Boos" (as we affectionately nicknamed Baxter) long ago outgrew his breed standard and even longer ago outgrew the size of our laps, he still insists on being a lap dog. He considers anyone sitting on the loveseat in the family room fair game. If you sit on the loveseat, expect to have your lap warmed by Baxter's boxy head and flared front paws. Sometimes his chest cavity wiggles in there, too, and by then you're pinned. Don't expect to be able to move for an hour or two--the typical length of a Baxter nap.

Next we have Baxter, the lookout. The Boos is ever faithful to stand guard. He seems to think his main job in life is to alert us when his new best friends arrive (see "Of Fences and Freedom," posted previously for an explanation of Baxter's best friends). He waits and watches, ever faithful to protect and alert us, his humans.

Then we have Baxter, the tease. Baxter prances and struts when he holds a prized possesion in his mouth, whether it's his "red bone," his "rope," his "ball," or any one of a dozen other toys we provide for him. And he knows them by name. If we say, "where's your red bone?" he'll rummage in the toy basket (yes, the dogs have their own toy basket), until he comes up with the red bone. If we say, "go get your rope," he'll find the rope and bring it back to play tug-o-war. We call him "the tease," however, not because he prances and struts or because his finds his toys on command, but because flaunts them. He really does. Just like a flaunting human. He dangles his toy-of-the-moment in front of the other two dogs, nudging their noses with his, as if to say, "nah, nah, nyah-nah, nah; I've got it, and you don't!" And his flaunting is merciless. He won't leave Elsie and Ridge alone until he snares them into playing with or at least paying attention to him.

Then we have Baxter, the eager-to-please imp. Yes, an imp he is; but a loveable one whose heart's desire is to please us. Sometimes his size gets him into trouble (e.g.: he used to fit under the deck chairs outside with room to spare; now he overturns them if he tries to squeeze underneath). Sometimes he just wants attention (e.g.: when he puts down his toy-of-the-moment and picks up my husband's running shoe--he knows that will grab our immediate attention). And then there are the moments when he'll try to sneak something by us, like a sock pulled out of the laundry basket. But he's not really trying to hide his misdeed. He wants to be caught so we'll pay attention to him. Connection to people is all-important to this gentle giant; he'll get his connection however he can (sounds a bit like children, eh?).

And then there's Baxter, the loving companion, who seems to read our moods and to know just what to do when we're sad or worried or disappointed or weary. He gently nuzzles us or rests his head on our knees or just sits quietly leaning against us--no impishness or teasing or pressure to get into our laps. He seems to want to communicate comfort; nothing more or less. And he knows just when to offer himself to us in this way. I can't explain it. I doubt I'll ever be able to, but I know it's true.

So we love Labradors, for all of the above and more. I haven't even touched on the working aspects of the breed (their hunting instincts, agility, retrieving capabilities, etc.). They're a wonderful breed.

And we love our three in particular: whether lap dog, lookout, tease, imp, friend, or hunting companion, we couldn't ask for better. They keep us smiling; they make us giggle; they keep our blood pressures down; and they let us know we're needed and loved.

'Til next time,

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