Friday, September 29, 2006

How Will They Respond?

Will Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge welcome Kenya as well as Baxter (black) and Ridge (fox red) welcomed little Elsie (light yellow) when we brought her home?

I sure hope so! These are pictures from Elsie's first few days with us.

Ridge, in particular, was fabulous. :o)

We'll find out tomorrow. :o) :o) :o) Posted by Picasa

Updated Photo of Our New Puppy

This is the breeder's most recent photo of our soon-to-be-with-us "Kenya."

We pick her up tomorrow (10-hour round trip), and will post brand new, current pictures on Sunday! Posted by Picasa

Tomorrow is the BIG DAY!!!

Well, tomorrow's the big day.

We travel to Goldvein, VA (225 miles away) where we'll meet and pick up our new, eight-week-old, black Lab, wiggly female addition to our lively pack . Her breeder is expecting us and will be waiting to greet us at noon.

Wow. I can hardly believe the day is here. Kenya (at least we think that's her name for now but we''ll have to see her first to decide) comes home with us tomorrow to stay. Her litter was born August 5th, so she'll be exactly 8 weeks old and ready for her new family.

It may sound silly, but I've got what seems like a thousand questions running through my head:
  • What's her temperment like?
  • Is she intelligent and trainable?
  • How strong are her field instincts?
  • Will she stay healthy (as all our other Labs have)?
  • Will she adjust well to us?
  • How will Baxter, Ridge, and Elsie respond to this new little bundle of joy? Will they welcome her? Will they be jealous? Will they be too rough or dominant?
  • What will training and working with the dogs be like now, especially these first few weeks when Kenya is too small to safely keep up with the bigger dogs?
  • Is she as gorgeous as she looks in her photos?
  • How expensive will she become (financial responsibility for each dog varies -- they have their own sets of medical and veterinary needs).
  • Am I (since I'm the one who is here most of the time working from home) going to be able to handle this?
  • Can I give Kenya what she needs?
  • Will we get any sleep the first few nights?
  • Are the house and yard puppy-proof enough (it's amazing how quickly we forget)?
  • Will we raise her well?
  • How will she respond to crate training and basic obedience drills?
  • For what kind of work is she best suited (hunting? therapy? companionship? breeding)?
  • Are we crazy to have FOUR dogs at one time (a first for us)?
  • Are we ready? Am I?
Yikes! You get the idea.

Even sillier yet, I have this excited-but-nervous-scared-but-expectant-hopeful-but-cautious knot growing in my stomach. How absurd! Kenya will be the seventh dog I've had the privilege to raise; there's nothing new or unknown here.

But I'm still nervous (in a good, positive way).

So think of us tomorrow while we're traveling (nearly 10-hours round trip) and over the next few days while we adjust to our new addition (and she to us).

You can bet I'll post boatloads of pictures, probably starting Sunday. Enjoy!

'Til next time,

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

On A Lighter Note: Great Mug!

I've written here before about how Dear Hubby and I don't collect all the typical Lab (or dog-lover) trinkets. Much of the stuff out there isn't made well, we don't have room for it anyway, and more often than not it doesn't depict anything that looks even remotely like our Labs.

The exception is this GREAT mug that my dear friend Kathy gave me last year for my birthday.

It's a FunnyFace mug, and the image really looks like Elsie when's she's being a nudge (Ridge has rubbed off on her).

And I love the saying on the back of the mug: "Oh Happy Day!"

Now isn't that just like Labs?

Over a year later, my "Oh Happy Day!" mug is still going strong. And it makes me smile every time I use it. Thanks, Kath! :o)

Labs: you gotta luv 'em.

'Til next time,
Joan Posted by Picasa

Trust and Faithfulness

As we're preparing to recieve our new little "girl" on Saturday, I'm realizing again just how great a responsibility it is to commit to raising a pup in health and safety.

And I'm reminded of just how much they trust us to do so.

Here's Elsie (photo on left) sleeping soundly next to Don. She's completely vulnerable in this position, compeltely exposed and unprotected. For her to slumber so, she needs to feel secure. Because she trusts us to keep her safe, she rests peacefully, fully assured that no harm will come to her while she sleeps.

From the look of things, she must be thoroughly convinced of our faithfulness and adequacy. I took six or eight pictures of her in this position from various angles, the camera flashing each time, and Elsie didn't move a muscle. She didn't even twitch. We tried moving her, too (she looked sooooo uncomfortable with her neck tilted that way), but she didn't rouse at all.

She slept undisturbed by all that happened around her.

I wish I could say the same. I often find my surroundings (i.e.: my circumstances) disturbing. Events poke at me and make me uncomfortable; my emotions flash. But instead of resting soundly, fully assured of my Owner's loving, faithful care and ability to provide for me, I growl and grumble and fret. Oh me of little faith! If only I'd learn to trust in the Object of my faith the way my Labs trust me.

For better or worse, Elsie, Baxter, and Ridge have put their faith in us. They've entrusted themselves to our care. And I'm glad.

The least we can do is try to make ourselves worthy. And we do.

They, in turn reward our efforts with their own faithfulness and trust. They shower us with companionship, love, and affection. They offer obedience, help, work, and sacrifice. They look to us for guidance and welcome it when we offer it to them.

I wish I could say the same.

I suppose trust is a learned behavior, as is how we respond to those who prove themselves faithful. And I'm still learning. I suppose I will be for the rest of this life.

In the meantime, our Labs continue to teach me. And I suspect our new little Kenya will, too.

May she find us worthy of her trust, as Elsie, Ridge, and Baxter have so far. And may God make and find us faithful.

'Til next time,

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Our Next Little "Girl"

Well, here she is (the black Lab on the right). This is the little girl pup we'll be adding to our pack in about a week (if she's ready). We're scheduled to pick her up on next Saturday, Sept 30th.

She comes from the same FABULOUS breeders where we found Elsie (different genetic lines, though): Deep Run Farm Hunting Retrievers in Goldvein, Virginia (225 miles from here, or about a five-hour drive one way). If we could, we'd take a hundred more like Elsie; these guys are the one of the best Lab breeders out there.

We think we'll name her "Kenya" in fond memory of our teaching trip to Kenya in 2001, and because she's nearly pure black like a fully roasted Kenyan coffee bean (my husband roasts his own coffee here, and Kenyan coffee is our favorite). Besides, we both like the name, and it sounds different enough from our other Labs' names for her to recognize it as hers.

So, are we nuts? We do, afterall, have Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge to love us, keep us company, work for us, keep us smiling, and to nuzzle against us on cold winter evenings. And they do require loads of attention and work, there's no doubt about that.

So here's the deal. This is why we're getting one more Lab.

All along we've hoped to begin breeding Labs as a small, home-based kennel that would raise and train Labs for folks here in southeastern PA. It's been difficult to find Labs in this area--quality, well-socialized, hunting-oriented Labs raised in a home environment, but also with exposure to the sounds and activities of hunting. Our plan is to breed Elsie this winter, once her hip and eye test results come back clean (we're assuming this of course, but will find out shortly). Ridge is our stud investment (gorgeous color, incredible agility, and very strong hunting background).

The catch is that Ridge and Elsie, because both are yellow Labs (Ridge is fox-red, Elsie is near white--both of which fall within the breed standard color range for yellows), they will only ever be able produce yellow pups.

We know from his previous owner (another terrific Lab breeder five hours away) that Ridge is capable of throwing (siring) black and chocolate pups (he did for them). But genetically, it's only possible for Ridge to do so if he mates with a chocolote or black female. [For you geneticists, black is dominant; yellow is recessive). So we need a black Lab female if we ever want to produce black or chocolate Lab pups.

It just so happens that our little "Kenya" (that's her name, unless she doesn't fit it when we see her) has a chocolate mom and a black dad. She should carry both color genes.

So in two years, as long as Kenya thrives and as long as her hip and eye tests come back fine, we'll try mating her with Ridge and see what happens.

In the meantime we'll have bred Elsie once, or maybe at the most twice, so we'll know better what to expect.

We did deliver one litter of Lab pups from our previous black Lab female, Stoney, then had her spayed, so we do have an idea of what we're getting into. But we're not ambitious; and we want to protect our dogs: we won't attempt more than one litter per year.

We just so want others (who you can be sure will be interviewed and cleared before we place any pups with them) to experience the joy of Lab ownership, especially with pups coming from a dam of Elsie's temperment and sire of Ridge's talent.

Labs are a GREAT breed; we simply want to perpetuate the best qualities of the breed.

So... that's our story. What do you think? Are we crazy?

Maybe we are; but it's a good kind of crazy.

'Til next time.

Friday, September 08, 2006

My Office Buddies

The canine kids really enjoy being my office buddies these days. If I leave my office door open I can count on the three of them vying for prime office real estate. As far as they're concerned, the closer to "mom" the better.

Now that's all well and good, except that I only have room in my tiny-dining-room-converted-to-an-office for one dog bed. And 100-pound Baxter takes up the whole bed himself.

We have three dogs. You do the math.

Oh, but they're intelligent Labs: they've figured it out.

Ridge and Elsie just wait for Baxter to get restless and mosey on back to the family room, then then happily squeeze together on the bed and share. Good kids. Smart kids. :o)

Sneaky kids.

I have to admit that I enjoy sharing office space with them. They still make me smile and help me take life (and work) less seriously. My blood pressure is far better for their presence.

But what am I going to do when the next little girl Lab arrives?

Too bad: I guess I'm just going to have to hold her on my lap. Such sacrifice!

'Til next time,
Joan Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Quiet Reading Time (ha!)

Okay, now that the human kiddos are all happily settled into their respective college situations, we can enjoy reading quietly in the evenings without TV or computers or cell phones or steroes blaring in the background.

That's not to say we don't run into distractions, namely the four-footed kind.

It would be one thing if Elsie (or Baxter or Ridge) nuzzled up to us and promptly fell asleep.

It takes, however, them sniffing and shifting and yawning and stretching and licking us and getting comfy before any of the canine kids will finally settle in.

Here's Elsie snuggling with Don while he valiently attempts to concentrate on his woodworking magazine (good luck, Hon!). :o)

Ain't it grand?!

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

'Til next time,
Joan Posted by Picasa

Empty Nesting?



If you're really quiet you might hear it.


Well, human silence. ;o)

Yup, we're in the first full week of our empty-nesting experience. The human children departed for their respective colleges just before Labor Day (we have...count 'em...three kids in college this year). And because we do, this is the first we've had the house to ourselves in 22 years!

I could REALLY get used to this.

Seriously, Don (Dear Hubby) and I are having a ball. We can set our own hours; we don't have to listen half the night for the kids to get home safely; we can keep only healthy food in the house without complaint; we can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner without self-consciousness; we can play and romp and read and watch TV and listen to OUR music and take the phone off the hook and set our own schedules and...well, you figure it out...without having to consult with or consider our three progeny. :o)

Did I mention I could REALLY get used to this?

You see, Don and I are still best friends even after nearly 25 years of marriage (our 25th anniversary is coming up in January). We enjoy each other; we enjoy similar music and books and outdoors pursuits; we like talking and debating and wrestling through tough concepts together (we're both thinkers). We love sitting in front of the wood stove (not yet this season, but soon) reading quietly with our Labs at our feet. We have similar senses of humor and like tastes in movies, and we enjoy the same TV programs. We even like the same foods (for the most part; he likes things spicier than I do).

So having the house, our schedules, and much of our discretionary time to ourselves is a treat. :o) I like this empty-nest thing.

Oh, and did I say I could REALLY get used to this?

The canine kids, however, haven't been quite as happy. The Boos in particular (Baxter) was sorely depressed, but he's rebounding. He's traded kid time with more "mom" time.

You see, now that we've reclaimed the house from kid-land (and our techy sons and their various computers and components), I can hang out in the kitchen or family room or living room with my laptop to work (thereby making my feet accessible as a canine headrest for any one of the three Labs). And since the kids have been gone, I've been able to move some of my office storage into their bedrooms freeing up space for a dog bed in the office once again (thereby providing for the much needed human-contact-factor Elsie and Baxter so desperately need).

So now I have office buddies -- it's take-your-pet-to-work-day every day at my house now. And I'm again working everyday (my injured hand has finally healed sufficiently to work and blog regularly thanks to Tim the OTR who's been providing occupational therapy for my hand for the last two months), so I get quite a bit of canine-fix while I work.

Did I tell you I could REALLY, REALLY get used to this?

As can Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge, now that they can be with me throughout the day.

Yes, of course, we all miss Dan, Sarah, and Jon (hi, guys; we love you), but it sure is nice to be "us" once again. I've missed the "us" of just Don and me for a long time, as has he. We feel younger somehow. Go figure.

I think we're entering a good season, one we'll enjoy as long as it lasts (knowing full well that other less-enjoyable seasons will come). I think even the canine kids would agree with me that life is good now that they get to go to work with me everyday.

Yes, empty nesting is a good thing. At least for us. I could REALLY REALLY REALLY get used to this (did I mention that already?).

So, tell me this: if empty nesting is so fun, why in the world are we getting a FOURTH Lab (a black Lab pup we'll pick up on September 30th)? Yes, you read that correctly: Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge will be welcoming a new little girl Lab to the pack in a few weeks... (to be continued).

'Til next time,