Monday, July 31, 2006

Bones and Belongings

When the Gracie girl came to stay with us (while my sister and her family vacationed in Germany), I wondered if the dogs would get along okay. I didn't question Gracie's compatibility with Elsie since they've romped together since they were pups, but I did have doubts about Baxter (maybe too boisterous) and Ridge (maybe too territorial).

I needn't have worried.

All three--Elsie, Baxter, and Ridge welcomed Gracie to the pack as if she were one of the their own.

And, believe it or not, they shared their prized possessions.

In ONE clean-up session I picked up forty-two bones and chew toys the dogs had scattered throughout the family room and laundry room (a sampling of which is recorded in these photographs). That number accounts for nearly the toy basket's entire contents. And, mind you, I do several clean-ups each day. :o)

Labs like to chew. I know that. But I didn't know they'd gladly share their toys.

If Elsie chomped away on a nylabone, Gracie would sniff it, then go pick something else out of the toy bin. Or she'd take the nylabone from Elsie, who would let her have it and would then go and pick out a new item on which to chew. This toy-selecting-toy-exchange process repeated itself over and over again, even with Baxter and Ridge. For the most part, none of the dogs complained or became possessive.

My herd here shared far better than most humans.

Hmmmmm...I wonder if there's a lesson in their my-bone-is-your-bone attitudes. Their freedom to share created enjoyment and pleasure for all four dogs: no pouting or jealousy; no rivalry or territorialism to create conflict.

Maybe their freedom comes from their confidence in our (my husband's and my) care and provision. We provide for them; they won't go without, and they know that. They won't go hungry. They won't lack for needed resources. They know they're loved and secure in their home. They trust us, so sharing with others poses no threat.

Do we share as well as they (or do we feel threatened)? Do we, like Baxter, Elsie, Ridge, and Gracie, hold our possessions (or territories or responsibilities or job descriptions...) loosely enough to surrender them? Do we have enough confidence to let go?

"But confidence in what?" you might rightly ask. Do we have enough confidence in the object of our faith (whatever our faiths may be); or in our families; or in our friends, spouses, employers, or abilities; or in our value, worth, and dignity--wherever our confidence rests? Security comes from many sources. What's yours? What's mine? And does that source provide enough security for me to hold loosely those things I hold most dear?

The canine kids seem secure enough to share their best bones and choicest chew toys.

Are you? Am I?

'Til next time,

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Heat Warning! Keep your canines cool!

Yup, the National Weather Service issued a genuine "heat warning" for our area today. And get this: it's for the next five days!

Yuk, yuk, and double yuk!

So here are some tips for keeping your canines cool and hydrated during heat waves:

1. Provide plenty of fresh water to drink.

2. If outdoors, make sure they have shade, and lots of of it. We have few trees, so we use a table umbrella for the dogs to rest beneath as well as a picnic table that sits under a shade-providing tarp.

3. Use ice cubes for treats. Our dogs
love them, and consumed ice is consumed water (you're keeping your canine companions hydrated). In this photo, Elsie, Baxter, and Ridge await their frozen treats!

4. Provide a rigid, plastic, kiddie pool ($4.99 at Walmart) or sprinkler or other source of fresh cold water for them to cool off in.

5. Invest in a cooling mat or bed for you dogs. Many on-line retailers and discounters carry Canine Cooler products.

6. Keep your dog indoors in air conditioning. Dog houses baking in the sun can quickly overheat and dehydrate their residents. Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge love it indoors; they rarely venture outdoors in extreme heat. I suspect it's because we have a cool, brick floor on which they can rest.

7. NEVER, EVER leave your dog in the car on a sunny, hot day, even for a quick errand. Temperatures can reach the mid-100s in only five minutes.

8. Don't work your dogs hard on hot days. The Labrador is one of many working breeds; they're designed to retrieve for hunters. But even hiking with your dog or walking with him for long distances on hotter-than-usual days can result in heat exhaustion. Leave your running or walking companion behind on the hottest days. Better yet, if you're planning to exercise, do it VERY early in the morning or in late evening, and take it slow. Then you can enjoy your pet's company safely. Even better yet. Don't exercise in extreme heat. You'll protect you and your pet.

9. Let them swim or wade as you have opportunity!

10. But protect your Labs from over-playing. They'll run and retrieve and swim until they drop. They trust you and look to you for training, guidance, and protection. Yes, let them swim and play, but don't let them overdo.

Especially in the heat.

'Til next time,

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

AHHHHHH....A Way to Cool Off!

Elsie and Gracie sharing the hose spray!

Ridge waiting his turn. :o) Posted by Picasa

It's HOT

Yup. A heat wave. Temps approaching triple digits (Farenheit) and heat indices between 105 and 115. Our digital thermometer read 117.5 (F) in the sun on the back deck yesterday. It was almost 90 degrees already at 10:00 this morning.

If you've read Lab Tails for any length of time, you already know how I feel about heat, let alone heat + humidity. And the swelling in my hands and fingers from the heat isn't helping my broken finger's recovery any.

Should I serve you some cheese with my whine? :o)

Okay. I've complained enough. It's only a few days, and we've had a fabulously cool spring and early summer. And we've had plenty of rain. And I have an air-conditioned office, and air-conditioned bedroom, and an air-conditioned car. I truly have nothing to complain about.

But the kids...the canine kids...that's another story. My office may have an air conditioner, but the rest of our house's first floor does not. Elsie, Baxter, Ridge, and Gracie (our visiting Golden) have to hang out in the heat. Yet, they don't complain.

They just sleep. Or pant. Or lounge on the cool brick floor in the family room. Or scramble for ice when I use the ice-maker on the fridge door (yes, our guys LOVE ice's a great way to keep them hydrated when they don't seem to be drinking enough).

Nobody, and I mean nobody, ventures outside.

At least not until I hose the decking down with cold water and refill the kiddie pool with the same. THEN they'll consider going outside. And once there, they'll swirl their faces in the pool, dunk their paws, then go lie down in the shade. They stay out of the sun (Baxter especially with his black coat) and take it easy.

Smart dogs. They know instinctively when to limit their activity. They seem to understand that it's hot and their bodies need rest.

Contrast that with the middle-aged guy I saw at noon today (high noon, in the heat of the day) riding his bike as if he were in the Tour de France: pedaling furiously, wearing long sleeves, a full helmet, and gloves. There was no shade where he was biking, and I didn't see a water bottle on his bike or back. Talk about risking heatstroke. I hope he made it home okay.

We humans are silly sometimes--especially when we think we have no limitations. I'm still learning as much from my canine kids. It's okay, I'm learning, to listen to my body. It's okay to pay attention to my physical needs. So if I need to nap, I do. If I need exercise, I find a way. If I need to watch what I eat; I'm careful. Yes, this stuff takes time, but it's wise stewardship of that time; it's not wasted time.

So today I'll take it easier than I do most days. I'll drink tons of water and stay out of the heat of the sun. I'll work, but maybe not as intensively as I normally do. And I'll put my feet up, turn on a fan, and hang out with the kids (human and canine).

Sounds like a plan! Maybe summer heat isn't so bad after all.

'Til next time,

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Yup, that's right: you see FOUR dogs in the picture on the left.

We've added my sister's Golden Retriever, Gracie, to our pack for the two weeks Gracie's family is in Germany this summer. Gracie and Elsie have played together regularly since they were both pups, so this is home-away-from-home for her (or as close at it gets, I guess).

Left-to-right in the picture above it's Elsie, Gracie (getting her head rubbed), Baxter, and Ridge.

Oh, and the mayhem at the gate while we're trying to get in is normal. This is our daily return-from-getting-the-mail routine (notice the packages under hubby Don's left arm).

Why all the commotion?

We have a fabulous postal delivery gal who everyday, without fail, leaves three small dog treats in the mailbox with our letters and packages. And now that Gracie is here, our postwoman is leaving four.

It's a kind, thoughtful gesture, one she doesn't need to do and one she probably doesn't realize brings so much joy to our home. It's a simple thing she's added to her daily work routine, but it makes a huge difference in the lives of her dog-owning postal customers--every day. :o)

I wish more people were as thoughtful as she.

And, of course, the canine kids know the sound of her mail truck a half-mile away.

Here are Baxter's and Ridge's reactions to the mail truck pulling into our driveway (the white truck with the small red and blue stripes immediately behind the van). I can almost hear them...

"'s the mail lady...ohboyohboyohboy...more treats!"

Poor Gracie doesn't know what to think. Elsie's just along for the ride. She enjoys her treats; she's just much calmer about it than the boys.

It's a sad day at our house when our regular postwoman goes on vacation, treats. :o( Poor depressed kids. But I usually find a way to slip our own treats into the mail pile I carry in from the box. It's amazing what we do for our kids, even the canine ones. :o)

Pavlov certainly knew what he was talking about. The drool factor at mail time increases exponentially. So does the panting.

But I sure hope we don't get a new mail person any time soon. She's the best.

'Til next time,

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Enjoying the New Room

The dogs sure love the new room. Even Baxter (our normally afraid-of-slick-floors guy) prefers hanging in the cool of our recently finished utility room. Posted by Picasa


Well, it's been a while. I'm truly (honest) hoping it won't be so long between posts now.

It's been a wild six weeks since my return from Zambia where I broke my pinky finger and injured my ring finger, both on my left hand. I've only been out of my arm/hand splint for a week now (fingers still taped), and I still have very limited movement of both fingers, despite daily physical therapy (PT). Keyboarding is still painfully slow (literally), so I haven't been on the computer much.

But I'm going through blog withdrawel and have missed my interactions with all of you, so I hope I'm back to stay now.

Here's the short list of the happenings here during the last six weeks:

  • returned from Zambia
  • did the back-from-a-missions-trip follow-up stuff
  • had weekly appointments with the orthopaedist for my hand
  • started 3x per day physical therapy exercises with my fingers
  • put in extra hours for work to complete projects before my boss went out of town
  • watched youngest son graduate from high school
  • held a graduation party here and an overnight party for said son
  • cleaned house for said party (major understaking)
  • moved daughter from her dorm to her new apartment in DE
  • moved oldest son home from college
  • started driving oldest son to and from work each day again
  • caught up on three weeks worth of paperwork (accumulated while I was away)
  • finished home renovations (by hubby and hired contractor)
  • reclaimed house after said renovations (again, major undertaking)
  • traveled with youngest son to his mandatory college orientation at the school he'll attend in the fall (a five-hour-drive away)...gone three days
  • researched, found, and bought used car for youngest son (to replace his that was totaled in an accident back in April)
  • researched, found, and purchased youngest son's necessary laptop for college
  • moved doggies into their new room!
  • had MAJOR rain and flooding in PA (record-breaking), but stayed dry
  • entered REAL summer here (hazy, hot, humid)... blech

That's about all I can remember right now. It's been busy, and my work efforts seem to take twice as long with my injured hand. So it's frustrating.

The saddest part of my hand injury is how protective I have to be around the dogs for now. All I need is one good head-shake-bump or collar-yank on the finger and it will displace again. So I'm one-handed with the dogs.

Poor kids.

But they're enjoying the new room. It stays nice and cool.

So we've had some changes: some good (like the new room), some bad (like my hand).

But all is well; the kids (human and canine) are happy; hubby and I are great; and I'm glad to be back and blogging again!

'Til next time,