Thursday, April 26, 2007


"Ohboyohboyohboy. Look, Mom! I have a bone!"

"Mom! Come on, Mom. Look! I have a bone!"

"No, really, LOOOOOK! I have a bone!"

"Dad...Mom won't look close enough. See I have a BONE!"

"Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad! LOOK!"

"Daaaa-aaaaad, Look closer!!!!"

"You gotta look even closer, Dad... here I'll show ya!"

Ahhhh... the Sweet Kenya bean. What a model of persistence she is.

I suppose I could learn something from her.

'Til next time,

Joan (who tends to give up on things WAY too easily).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More Signs of Spring

I know the weather's getting warmer when I can no longer sneak some ice from the ice dispenser without eight pleading eyes asking for ice cubes, too. (Yes, that's an ice cube in my hand below--well, actually four ice cubes: one in my right hand, three in my left.)

My poor, cold, ice-cube-holding hands tell me it really must be spring after all.

Labs: ya gotta luv 'em.

'Til next time,

Monday, April 23, 2007

It Must be Spring!


The forsythia bushes are in full bloom:

The daffodils have blossomed:

The pussy-willow buds are long past seed:

My Grecian windflowers welcome the sun each morning:

And Baxter has rediscovered the cushioned deck sofa:

Yup, it must be springtime, after all. :o)

'Til next time,


Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Need for Soft Mouths

One trait Labs are famous for (among many) is their soft retrieving mouths.

Oh, yes, we Lab owners know all-too-well how destructive those very same mouths can be, especially during the need-to-chew-everything-in-sight-years of puppydom. But when Labradors retrieve game, they return the catch softly to us, almost tenderly, so that no injury comes to the carcasses they carry.

Their releases at our "drop" commands are just as soft.

Apparently, Labs aren't the only mammal with soft mouths.

While hiking back on an in-and-out trail above Laurel Falls in Great Smoky Mountain National Park on our vacation two weeks ago, we found ourselves within twenty yards of a mother black bear and her brand new cub. The pair dallied about the base of an old growth tulip tree abutting our only path down the mountain. We couldn't go farther without posing a threat to the young family and, with the unpredictable nature and behavior of black bears in the wild, it wasn't a risk we wanted to take.

[FYI, dear hubby or I took all of the pictures you see in this post (zoomed, of course). You can see, Mamma Bear wasn't anyone to mess with.]

Mamma made herself at home, lounging beneath the tree or strolling a few yards up and down the trail when she felt inclined to do so (the cub always within a few feet of her; note cub hanging on her back leg in photo above), but otherwise napping, nursing, and giving the cub tree-climbing lessons.

We waited her out (the only thing we could do). And we watched the interplay between mother and offspring.


The cub behaved like a toddler: tumbling here and there, testing his limits, showing no fear until he found himself stuck, became hungry, needed help, or couldn't see Mom.

The little tyke must've tried to climb that same tree at least five times in the two hours (yes, two hours) we waited for the bears to move far enough away from the trail for us to safely pass.

And every time, without fail, he'd get part way up the towering tree, freeze, and start screaming for Mamma Bear. I've never heard a bear cub scream before; it's incredibly like a blend of human infant howls and screeching birds of prey.

Ever the faithful nurturer, Mamma Bear would climb the tree, gently take the cub in her mouth, and carry her progeny in those powerful jaws tenderly down the trunk again.
Baby Bear couldn't have weighed more than seven or eight pounds (if that); Mamma Bear had to top 300 pounds. But watching her nudge and prod Baby Bear off that tree and into her mouth, you would've thought she was handling hand-blown glass.
She, of necessity, used a soft mouth to retrieve her cub.
A Lab's soft mouth is essential for safely and cleanly retrieving game.
I suspect we human mammals, too, face circumstances necessitating soft mouths, particularly when our target, like a baby bear or downed fowl, is fragile or easily broken.
  • Perhaps we want to reach a wayward child
  • Maybe we're "rescuing" a crisis-entrenched friend.
  • Maybe the target of our soft retrieve is fellow-worker or peer who finds himself lost or in trouble.
  • It could even be that we need to reach ourselves--talking ourselves through issues or our responses to things.
Whatever our targets, though there is a time for tough love and strong accountability, even the toughest of us could afford to be soft-mouthed now and then.
It may be the only approach that works without injury.
'Til next time,

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tagged (and my tags) for The Thinking Blogger Award


I'm finally catching up on my blogging after being away, and I just discovered that Laura, Willow, and Stella over at Dog's Eye View (one of my favorite working Lab sites) have tagged us here at LabTails for a Thinking Blogger Award.

Double Wow! I feel privileged.

The Thinking Blogger Award seems to be an effective way to get the word out about blogs that make us think. I'm tickled that Laura has read something here that prompted her to reflect or ponder or whatever it is that made her consider LabTails when selecting her candidates for the award.

And you can only receive the award if someone else tags you (there's no self-promotion with this recognition!).

So here are my top five tags for the Thinking Blogger Award. Though I read, appreciate, and enjoy many dog blogs, only one of the following is specifically dog- or Lab-related. It seems most of the dog blogs I read are more diary-like or informational, but not intended necessarily to be thought-provoking, philosophical, or inspirational (except Dog's Eye View, of course, which I can't tag because she tagged me).

This is my "Five Blogs that Make Me Think" list. The only dog-related blog on this list is Karen Shanley's (#3 on my list):

1. The Hero's Journey (formerly known as LostinScotland): Honest, very well written, poignant, with fabulous photography, this blog is written by a fabulous writer with tender insight and thought-provoking observations. I hope you enjoy her as much as I have (and do).

2. Sacred Journey (by foolishsage): Though Mark (this blog's author) doesn't know I read him regularly, I find his posts to be real and honest, yet faith-based, and written from a point-of-view dear to my heart. My husband graduated over twenty years ago from Westminster Theological Seminary, where this blogger is currently a student, and it's refreshing to see a WTS student actively engaging the world with humor, grace, and humility, but without pretense. I appreciate his writings and perspective.

3. Karen Shanley's Blog: Filled with musings about life with her daughter, her Australian Shepherd, her Border Collie, and her Maine Coon Cat, this blog is sometimes humorous and sometimes tender, but always insightful. I appreciate Karen's (who also happens to be a published author) insight.

4. Common Grounds: I just like this blog: the way it's written; the observations its writers make; the challenges they make to my thinking. Again, a faith-based blog, this site is filled with honest, warm, sometimes humorous obersvations about life and faith.

5. The Purple Cellar: This blog offers solid, challenging insight on what it means to live a life of faith, but it's never arogant, preachy, or condescending.

I hope you find these blogs as engaging as I have!

'Til next time,

We're BAAAAACK (after being in Tennessee!)

We're back from our delightful second-honeymoon-25th-anniversary-celebration-trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, and what a wonderful trip it was!

Nine days (count 'em -- NINE) whole days of just hubby and me doing what we wanted, when we wanted with no real agenda other than to hike the trails of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. No extended family with us. No human kids. No canines. No one else's itinerary.

Just Don and I. Wow. Way cool.

(Yes, I took this picture from the top of Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the national park.)

It's difficult to capture in words just how beautiful and majestic the Smokies are. All I can say is that you folks who live in Tennessee and North Caroline are truly blessed to have this national treasure at your doorsteps. Enjoy it!

This is the first time we've left all four dogs in a kennel at one time, and the first time we've ever left any of the them for this long.

The canine kiddos did fine while we were away. But BOY were they happy to see us. Even Ridge (who normally loves the kennel), was super affectionate when we got home.

They were so excited, I had to transport them only two at a time (couldn't handle all four dogs all wound up in the car at one time -- not safe for any of us).

Poor Ridge, who the kennel owners raved about the last time we left him there for two days eight months ago, was apparently really nervous for the first four or five days we were away (they told us he had diarrhea, wouldn't eat, and paced all the time). The kennel folks finally got him calmed down and he was fine for the rest of his stay.

But he seemed like a little lost soul when they brought him out to me.

And he's the one who's been most secure going to the kennel for a weekend (which we've only done once or twice a year since we've had him).

Usually the dogs go with us when we go away for a weekend (to the lake, mostly), or one of the human kids hangs here with them. They aren't apart from us much or for very long, nor we from them.

But this was out 25th anniversary, and we really wanted a vacation: a real vacation with no daily responsibilities.

We missed them, believe it or not. All of them (canine kids and human kids alike). I didn't think we would. But what I learned is that Don and I can truly celebrate being "us" and still miss our other loved ones. They are a part of "us" now, too.

Love always has room for more.

It's so nice, now, to sit by the fire of our family room with Baxter or Elsie snuggled in our laps and Kenya or Ridge nestled at our feet. We enjoyed the wood-burning fireplace in our Smoky Mountain suite, but it wasn't the same. The canines complete the experience somehow, bringing a warmth and security all their own.

And it's sweet to eat lunch at the kitchen table with our four four-legged critters nearby.

Yes, we had a delightful time away; it's the best vacation I've ever had.

But it's good to be home.

'Til next time,

Dad's Home! Ohboyohboyohboy! :o)

I'm a happy girl!!!!!