Saturday, July 23, 2005

We're Away Again

Sorry folks, but we'll be away until August 3rd and won't have Internet access while we're gone. We'll get back to regular blogging after our return.

Have a great couple of weeks, and happy Labbing! :o)

'Til next time,

Joan, Don, Baxter, Ridge, Elsie, and Snickers (and the human kids, too!)

Friday, July 15, 2005

Puppy Syndrome

Okay. I'll admit it. After Thursday's post about Sarah and Baxter, and after looking through our puppy pictures of the Boos, I'm ready for another puppy.

Another puppy????? Am I out of my mind?

I suppose. But I think it's just Puppy Syndrome.

Here are its symptoms:
  • an uncontrollable urge to pick up and caress the velvet-soft coat of a puppy, any puppy.
  • a driving need to smell puppy breath and to hear puppy grunts
  • a gentle tug at your heart
  • a complete loss of practical sensibilities (particularly when you already own three dogs)
  • impaired memory when it comes to dog-related finances
  • further impaired memory regarding the work involved in raising and training a pup
  • even further impaired memory about how difficult it is to go away (without dogs) on vacation or to visit out-of-town friends and family
  • complete loss of recall regarding all those friends/family members you like to have over, but who feel uncomfortable around canines (one or two, let alone four)
  • and visual impairment: eyes that refuse to see mounds of existing dog poop already in the back yard.

Ahhh... I guess I have a serious case of Puppy Syndrome, which I suppose will go untreated until Elsie is old enough to breed (and clear her screenings).

There is a rumor around here, however, that we might just get another female pup: this time a black. If we mate Ridge and Elsie, they'll only be able to produce yellow puppies (both are yellow). We may just need a black female to mix it up a bit.

We'll see. Right now puppy pictures will just have to do. Just look at some of these images of Baxter:

Here's Baxter at the door and pulling on the digital cameral strap. In both pictures he's probably only two months old.

Just in case some of you have puppy syndrome, here are some more Elsie and Baxter puppy pics. Ridge, as you regular readers know, came to us as a three-year-old; no puppy pictures of him. :o(

But Baxter and Elsie sure were cute.

Elsie loved to snuggle. And she really loved "nellie-phant"(a stuffed elephant) and her stuffed cow (below). Baxter loved his stuffed ducks, his stuffed hedgehog and a stuffed monkey with squeaky toys in its paws.

We had to discontinue using stuffed toys, especially those that squeaked, when Ridge came to live with us: he'd destroy them and would go wild at their sounds. Oh well; it's a season past. But we'll have that season again someday. :o)

Elsie always was a snuggler. She still is. :o)

But so was Baxter. He still is, too. So now we have an 80-pound lap dog and a 100-pound lap dog.

And, truth be told, I wouldn't have it any other way.

'Til next time,


Thursday, July 14, 2005


Our sweet Sarah girl, who turns 19 years old in a month and is living and working in Ocean City, MD, this summer, came home sick earlier this week. She called Sunday evening in tears because her neck was so sore and her head hurt so badly. Needless to say, I jumped in the car for the 7-hour round trip (hauling my twin sister in tow to keep me awake) to bring her home so we could deal with doctors here in Pennsylvania.

Yes, in case you're wondering, Daddy Don is back in Ireland again, hence the need for me to do the driving and for my sister to come along.

Thankfully, doctors tell us Sarah just has a nasty summer virus (it's not meningitis, which was our fear). I'm glad I went to get her nonetheless; she needed to come home. And I drove her back Tuesday. She's fine now.

But she was sick. Really sick. She felt really lousy. And there's nothing like having those things that bring us comfort nearby when we don't feel well.

One of those things for Sarah is the dogs, especially Baxter.

Since Baxter was 6.5 weeks old, Sarah and he have been buds. And Baxter, ever boisterous and enthusiastic, seems to know when she needs a gentle touch. He even braved the bare wood floors to snuggle with Sarah on the sofa bed (her bedroom doesn't have an air conditioner) (see photos above).

Being with Baxter, and being at home (a "safe" and loving place in our house), did Sarah a world of good. And though I'm sure the prescriptions for muscle relaxants, antibiotics, and hydrocortisone creams helped Sarah immensely, I suspect the comfort Baxter and home bring to Sarah helped her ever bit as much.

I'm thankful our home is what it is: a welcome respite, a safe haven, a place of refuge and comfort. It's what I prayed our home would be, especially for our children.

And I think Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge make it that way much more than it ever would have been without them.

'Til next time,

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Limber (Flaccid) Tail Syndrome

I can't tell you how glad I am for all the sites out there that provide up-to-date information about Labs and their particular difficulties.

Otherwise I would've been extremely concerned about Ridge.

For two days after our return from the cottage, Ridge couldn't do anything with his tail. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. (See photo above left.)

He couldn't wag it; he couldn't lift it; it just hung there like a limp noodle. Even when he chased our cat down the cellar stairs (photo right; notice contrast between Elsie's tail and Ridge's tail), his tail didn't move. He couldn't move it at all.

Poor boy.

And the base of his tail seemed sensitive to touch.

Thankfully, I'd read some articles in Just Labradors E-zine about Limber Tail Syndrome (otherwise known as "Cold Water Tail" or "Dead Tail" or "Flaccid Tail Syndrome" or "Broken Wag"), something about which I'd never heard before. Because their article peaked my interest, I read about the condition at other sites on-line, too (including the AKC's web site for Labrador Retrievers).

Less than a week after I'd done my on-line reading, we ventured to the cottage where the dogs swam in cool, spring-fed waters daily. The day of our return Ridge's tail was limp.

I knew immediately what it was and knew, based on I what I'd previously read, that Ridge might be uncomfortable for a time (anywhere from two days to two weeks) but that his tail function would return.

His tail is fine now, after only four days.

I'm glad for the Internet. None of my Labrador reference books, including veterinary handbooks, make reference to the condition. I would never have known what was wrong with Ridge but for the information I found on-line.

Thanks, then, to all you who maintain blogs and informational web sites. I've learned much from you. And Baxter, Elsie and Ridge are better for it.

'Til next time,

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Anticipating the Best...or Worst?

This weekend reminded me of just how much Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge anticipate good things.

When Don pulled out the leashes, the dogs lined up (tails wagging and barely restraining themselves) in anticipation of the long walk to come. Baxter and Ridge, the more mature of the three, could keep themselves in check enough to sit and wait patiently for Don to clip on their leads (see photo above right), ; Elsie, on the other hand, just couldn't resist standing, wiggling, and wagging her tail.

No matter how obedient or restrained the dogs were, we could still tell they were ready to go and eagerly awaiting the fun in store.

It was the same thing on the lake.

Whenever Don threw a training dummy, all three focused in the direction of his throw, happily and expectantly awaiting the dummy's landing. Then they'd take off galloping at first, then swimming hard in the direction of the dummy's splash.

No second guessing. No hesitation. No doubt or fear. Just pure enthusiasm for their task and for what was to come.

I wish I could be more like my canine kids: happily anticipating the good to come, no matter what; full of enthusiasm and energy and expecting only the best.

Life would be a much more pleasant adventure if I did.

Truth be told, I don't. I'm much more a pessimist than optimist (though I wish I weren't). I'll consider ALL the options, even the worst.

Take Don's returning to Ireland this weekend for example: I'm not thrilled at the prospect of his flying overseas after the bombings in London earlier today. Instead of anticipating a positive outcome for his trip (he's been on dozens of uneventful business trips), my mind floats to the "what ifs." The likelihood of anything terrible happening to my husband while flying overseas is next to nil; but it's still a possibility. So that's what I anticipate.

Silly me. Two thousand years ago Jesus said, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?...Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:27-34, NIV)

Today, Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge remind me of the same.

I think I can learn something from my carefree canines: focus on the moment, anticipate the best, greet life with enthusiasm, and don't worry about tomorrow.

I suspect I'll sleep much better for it. They sure do.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Elsie always wants someone by her side, even when she swims. Posted by Picasa

Baxter prefers to swim alone. Posted by Picasa

Ridge doesn't care who else is around when he swims; he's focused on retrieving. Posted by Picasa

Side by Side

When the dogs went swimming this weekend, each had his own style. I mentioned in yesterday's post that Baxter gracefully glides through water, Ridge muscles his way through, and the Elsie started out flailing her front paws out of the water, but eventually settled down enough to keep her webbed feet beneath the waves.

Their swimming strokes weren't the only ways their styles varied; they showed other differences, too.

Baxter preferred swimming alone. Except for the few times he came along Elsie to "show" her how to swim, he swam independently of the other two.

Ridge didn't care if the other dogs were there or not; all he wanted to do was find the retrieving dummy (and be the first one there to get it). If Baxter and Elsie wanted to join him in the race, that was fine; if not, that was fine, too.

Elsie, unlike the boys, wanted to have someone by her side. She was not a solo swimmer; she prefered the company of either Baxter or Ridge. And when I jumped into the water (in a vain attempt to teach the dogs to jump off the dock), she bee-lined right for me. She loves companionship.

Elsie just likes to be close. Always. No matter what she's doing.

Baxter does, too, but not when he's focused on something else (like a water toy floating twenty yards in front of him). For him, there's a time for companionship and a time for solitude. He's okay either way.

And, yes, Ridge enjoys company, too, and he needs company, especially when he's afraid (as in when he hears thunder or fire crackers). But when he's working (i.e.: retrieving), he's all business; no socializing for him. And when he's not, he's content to hang by himself, unless something frightens him--then he becomes Mr.-I-Want-to-Sit-in-Your-Lap-or-Lie-on-Your-Feet.

Sounds a lot like people, eh? Some people need to be close to others all the time. Others want companionship and solitude only as they need it. Still others are more business-like, but still need connection during times of stress or fear.

I suppose I'm most like Baxter. I love companionship; I enjoy being with my hubby, family, and friends. I can snuggle close with the best of them. But I also need solitude now and then. And when I work, I prefer to work alone.

We're all wired differently, and that's okay. The trouble comes when I expect others to be like me or others expect me to be like them. When Elsie-like people want me to be close 24/7, I feel smothered. When Ridge-like people want me to stay away, I take it too personally and feel rejected (although in recent years that's far less the case than in distant years past). And I suspect the same holds true for them.

When I'm in a Baxter-like solitude mode, Elsie-like people probably feel I've rejected them (I haven't). I just need to be alone sometimes; but that's difficult for the Elsies of this world to grasp. If I'm in Ridge-like productivity mode, I'll ignore people and focus on the task. Baxters and Elsies probably feel like I don't care (I do; I just momentarily focused elsewhere).

Ah, if only we'd learn to tolerate our differences the way the dogs do. Baxter took Elsie and Ridge in stride. Ridge wasn't affected by the other two at all. And Elsie just worked hard to keep up.

I'm finally learning that my need for solitude isn't weird or wrong or a defect. It's part of how I'm wired. I'm not Elise-like and never will be, and that's okay. I'm also learning that others who need more attention that I do aren't defective, either; it's just part of who they are every bit as much as my need for independence and solitude is part of who I am. So I'm trying hard to be patient with those who need more companionship than I, and I'm learning to come alongside them now and then as they have need. It's still a stretch, but I'm learning.

Wouldn't it be nice if we learned to allow others to be who they were designed to be, as the dogs do, and gave ourselves grace to be who we are?

'Til next time,

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Ridge (leading), Baxter (left), and Elsie (right) retrieving a Kong flotation toy (in front of Ridge) during one of their daytime swims. Posted by Picasa

Baxter (left) and Ridge (right) swimming in the lake at sunset. Posted by Picasa

Home from the Cottage

We're back. And the dogs had a ball.

Everyday, they walked the dirt roads with either Don or me for a minumum of three miles, sometimes more. They spent a good 30 minutes daily in the water, retrieving and swimming and having fun. And they all took to water like they'd been raised on it.

This was Elsie's first time swimming. She's been wading before, but never had to swim to support her weight. At the cottage, she has to swim if she wants to retrieve.

At first, she flapped her front paws high in front of her, splashing like crazy as she went along. But Baxter, our experienced and graceful swimmer, swam alongside her gliding effortlessly through the waves. And Elsie seemed to observe him and started keeping her paws beneath the surface. By the end of her second or third swimming session, she learned that keeping her paws beneath the surface of the water helps her to swim more easily, expends less energy, and propels her faster than flailing on the surface. She eventually swam fast enough (and smooth enough) to keep up with the boys.

Baxter is our best swimmer: strong, smooth, confident--he glides through the water barely making a sound. Ridge swims well, too, but his style holds more braun and less finesse. He gets the job done, but not as gracefully as Baxter.

And all three would swim 'til they dropped (or drowned) if we let them. After only about twenty minutes, all three showed signs of fatigue; they were wearing out. So we only swam them 30 minutes a day (twice one day).

And they're sleeping now (which I suspect they'll do much of for the next three days). They had a very active weekend: far more active than the norm here at home.

They love the water, as retrievers do. And they love the outdoors. I thankful we have a place we can take them to where they can enjoy the water as they've been bred to do. I just wish we lived on water year round.

Now, if only we could get them to jump off the dock! I'll give you more on that adventure tomorrow. :o)

'Til next time,

Friday, July 01, 2005

We're Romping at the Lake!

In case you're wondering, we three Labs are away with our humans


at Ely Lake up


Susquehannah Country.

Mom's taking lots of pics, so you'll get to see us in action.

See you on July 5th!

Whoo Hoo!!!