Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cots Keep Them Cool!

I'm really not ready for this: 90s (F) and high humidity for the next four days. It's only May 31st. And we don't have central air. Yuk.

The canine kids don't like it either, although (as you read in the last post) they do love their slice of the good life on the deck (kiddie pool, raised cots, plenty of water, and a shade umbrella).

Which raises the question, where in the world did I find cots for the Labs so inexpensively?

Answer: Walmart - end of season clearance rack two years ago. They were normally $22.00 and I got them $11 each (50% off). That's a price we could afford. Yee haw!

Alas, I checked our local store and the Walmart web site; they don't carry these cots anymore. I also checked lots of other places on line, and to get anything similar to what I found so inexpensively for our gang would cost $80 or more per cot (slightly ridiculous in my book, particularly if you can find something that's well-made, safe, and functional for less).

Ahhh...and I did. I found our exact cots (or nearly) at Plow and Hearth (we have the "large" size shown) for $24.95 full price. That's not bad, considering Walmart's cost for these a couple of seasons ago. Plow and Hearth also offers a medium size for $19.95 and a small size for $17.95.

From what I can tell in the pictures at Plow and Hearth, this is the cot (or "raised pet bed") we use. They look identical.

Our cots have held up well (look nearly brand new after two years of hard use), are sturdy and stable (coated steel frames), have hammocks made of nylon mesh which dry quickly and allow for plenty of air circulation (cools the dogs), and are stackable (important for storage if you have more than one). They can also be easily assembled and disassembled for travel or camping and such.

We love our cots -- all of us: canines and humans alike. They're lightweight to carry, easy to hose down, and can take a beating (we use ours year round -- indoors, too). They also provide an elevated place for the dogs to lie down where they're off the ground and can have air circulating around them.

So, if you're looking for a reasonably priced raised dog bed (or cot, as we call them), check these out at Plow and Hearth. No, they're not $11, but $24.95 isn't bad.

And who knows? Maybe they'll go on sale later in the season.

'Til next time,

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hot, Happy Labs

  • One beach umbrella and a filled, plastic, kiddie pool = $40.00
  • Two canine hammocks = $22.00 (on sale)
  • Three bowls brimming with cool water and ice cubes ($6.00)
  • Four frolicking Labrador retrievers ...

  • ... = priceless!

(not to mention one, big, sloppy, wiggling, delightful mess)!

'Til next time,

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Differences in Dealing with Heat

It's funny how we're all different. Even our Labs.

Take summer heat, for example. After a delightfully cool spring, it's starting to feel like summer here in SE Pennsylvania. We're hitting temps in the 80s most every day now, coupled with full sun and little cloud cover. It's glorious, but feels hot compared to our below-average-temperature spring.

Each of the dogs is responding to our recent heat wave differently.

Baxter curls up on the couch or stretches out on the brick floor and looks at me as if to say, "What? Go outside? You've got to be kidding!" Baxter just avoids heat all together.

Ridge will brave the heat, but searches out cool places in the shade where he can find reprieve. Smart boy.

Then there are Elsie and Kenya, both of whom seem to love the heat.

Elsie soaks it up, lying in the sun every chance she gets, even on the hottest days of the year. She can nap in (and through) blazing temperatures with just a hint of panting. It doesn't seem to stress her at all.

Kenya plows through life oblivious to its challenges. Who cares about heat? It's just another opportunity to frolic.

And when the girls need cold-water-refreshment, Elsie gently tastes and sips what she needs.

Kenya plunges right in, soaking her face and everything near her in the process.

I've never understood "beach" people: the ones who thrive on heat, humidity, salt water, and icky sticky sand. I've also never understood people who thrive in the "heat" of life--you know the kind, those rare individuals who soak up and blossom during times of stress.

I'm more like Baxter. Go out in the heat? Voluntarily? You've got to be kidding! Just let me curl up here on the couch and maybe it will all go away.

Sometimes it doesn't just go away, however, and I have to brave hotter-than-average circumstances. And when I do enter these heat-filled times, I tend to stay in the sun too long, get burned, and then need a good Kenya-like soaking to refresh my soul.

I wish I were more like Ridge (who opts for shady places, even though he's out in the summer weather) or Elsie (who sips of refreshment as she needs to, but still thrives in heat).

But, nooooooo...I have to be like Kenya and Baxter, my all-or-nothing kids.

I suppose there's something to be said for that, too, though.

Heck, if I'm going to get wet anyway, I may as well get soaked. Eh?

'Til next time,

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

It's SO Hard!

In my previous post, I observed how delighted our Labs seem when called upon to "work." They're eager and energetic and enthusiastic in the jobs they're called upon to perform.

And that's wonderful; it's part of what's so endearing about the breed.

But that enthusiasm has its down side. Sometimes they're so eager (thinking they know what's coming next), they miss commands or jump in too soon.

Remember those pictures I posted last time of how nicely the "kids" were sitting and waiting for Don ? Hehe...well, here's what I didn't show you:

Here's Ridge breaking his sit in anticipation of Don's command to retrieve (Don has not yet thrown the dummy or given Ridge the okay to run.):

He's just so eager, he can hardly contain himself. Just look at his haunches (if you saw this up close, you'd see his muscles twitching with excitement). Look at his intensity watching Don. He knows Don's command is coming; it's just so hard to wait for the right time.

Here's Elsie doing the same thing, only in her quiet, gentle way:

She, too, quivers in anticipation. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to please push her almost (and only almost) beyond her ability to hear Don's instruction.

And then there's the Kenya bean. She broke as soon as Don moved to throw the dummy:

Silly girl. She's eager, too, but her eagerness hasn't yet been tempered by maturity and training.

She just wants to run.

Our canine kids are sometimes so bent on doing what they think we're going to ask them to do, they fail to wait until we actually give the commands. And when they're this eager, they sometimes miss the commands all together. Then they get it wrong.

So what do we do with that kind of eagerness?

We value it and direct it, but never quash it. The solution to our Labs' early breaks is patience, time, and training. As Don works with them, they begin to hold their "sit," "stay," and "wait" positions better; they learn to wait for Don's directional commands so they know which way to run instead of running aimlessly.

As so it goes for our eager-to-meet-the-world adult kids. They sometimes "break" before they know what direction they're running. And our response to their eagerness to embrace adult life needs to be every bit as patient, well-timed, and guided as our response is to our Labs.

Youngest Male Child is leaving this week, at nineteen, for a summer job at Cedar Point in Ohio. He just completed his freshman year in college and is ready to fly. But his eagerness is tempered; he's not quite sure about being that far from home for three straight months. And that's okay. A little tempering is a good thing.

He'll be just fine (so I keep telling myself). He's sought our counsel and continues to do so; he's developed solid life skills (knows how to do laundry, maintain a bank account, deal with car repairs, etc...); he knows how to communicate in healthy, effective ways and can advocate for himself; he's got a good head on his shoulders; and he knows what's expected in most work environments (he has a terrific work ethic).

He also knows we're here for him to look back to for direction.

We've already given him all the "training" we can; he has a solid foundation on which he can build the rest of his unfolding life. Our job now is to be patient, to let him run, and be there to guide him.

And we are and will be.

So how come this is so much harder with human kids than with canines????

'Til next time,

Monday, May 07, 2007

Spring Training: What Joy to Work!

Well it's that time again -- that time when Don gets back into a regular training routine with the canine kids.

After just a reminder or two, Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge jumped right in and seemed to recall Don's commands and expectations. The knew exactly what to do and how to do, and they enjoyed it!

It's amazing to me how much they remember after taking the winter off (yes, we're lazy about training in the winter, especially since it's usually dark outside by the time DH gets home from work, leaving no time for daily training with him).

Elsie, of course is the calmest of the lot, and the most focused.

The little Kenya bean, however, (remember, at 8 months old, this is her first spring training) picked up on training commands very quickly.

Look how well she sits and stays for him:

And check out her enthusiasm on the way out to train with "Dad":

That's my girl, the Kenya-Jumping-Bean! :o)

You know, Labs love to work. Whether it's training or retrieving or mine-detecting (there's a great article about this in this month's Just Labs magazine) or doing police work or performing aid tasks for people--it doesn't matter what the work is--they plow into their work with gusto.

Maybe it's because they only do work for which they're designed.

I wonder how many humans can say the same. How many of us settle for joyless jobs that may pay our bills, but don't come close to being work for which we have a natural bent or aptitude? No wonder so many of us are miserable in our jobs.

I finally discovered the right job for me when I hit middle age, and it's made all the difference. I can jump into my work now with enthusiasm.

I'll admit it isn't quite the boundless, joy-filled enthusiasm Kenya and the gang demonstrate when it's time for them to work, but at least it's not tail-between-my-legs dread.

Maybe it was the freedom I felt entering my forties to no longer have to prove myself. Maybe it was realizing there's more to life than acquiring material things and an impressive resume. Maybe it was just weariness with doing a job I didn't like and felt unsatisfied in. I don't know what it was, but whatever it was, it finally gave me the liberty to pursue something I enjoyed for a living.

And I (and my loved ones) have been far better for it.

No, I don't make that much now freelance writing, but that's okay. We simply don't drive new cars, buy expensive toys, or splurge more often than we can afford. And we're content to stay in a moderate-sized home.

I'd much rather have fewer things and greet my work each day with joy and gratitude, than earn a big paycheck and live a miserable life.

Thanks, Lab kids, for the life lesson. I hope I continue to pay attention to your wisdom.

'Til next time,