Monday, May 26, 2008

Ten More Things Labs CANNOT Do!

In addition to the ten things I listed in my first post about Ten Things a Lab CANNOT Do you, dear readers, revealed several additional impossibilities for Labs (submitted in the comments section).

Here's a summary of your additions to my original list. Labs can't...
  • remain resting in a room if you leave the room
  • refrain from a full-out-barrel-race to the door if they think you're going out
  • resist the call of the ice maker (or freezer door or ice cubes being rummaged out of the ice cube box)
  • NOT be the center of attention, especially when a baby comes to visit
  • ignore any stuffed toy, anywhere, anytime
  • wag their tails slowly, softly, and gently
  • forget people they like
  • ignore a human lap or un-shoed human feet, particularly in winter
  • drink in a tidy, genteel, dainty manner (think Elizabeth Post here)
  • keep their tongues in their mouths (Elizabeth would be mortified!)

Yup, yup, and yup again.

Yes, indeed-ee, Labs do have their limitations. So in keeping with the last list (and the additional cannot-dos from your comments there), here are ten more things Labs CANNOT do:

1. Be mean. Even to cats. They just don't have a mean bone in their collective bodies.

2. Reject human touch. They thrive on it.

3. Pay no attention to arriving guests or strangers, particularly if there's a gate or door through which said persons must pass.

4. Hold on to their hair (we're in shed mode here again). As Larry the Cucumber (Veggie Tales) would say (adapted, of course):

Oh wh-e-r-e is the dogbrush?
Oh wh-e-r-e is the dogbrush?
Oh where oh where oh where oh where oh wh-e-r-e...
is the dog brush?

(For an answer to this imponderable, look at Pinot's Puppy Antics from a few days ago.)

5. Stay trim if they don't exercise (gee, sound familiar?).

6. Wait for a treat without drooling (Baxter is our King of Drool).

7. Refuse a walk or the opportunity to train. Again, anytime, anywhere, in any circumstance.

8. Keep their own ears clean.

9. Resist our stinky socks, shoes, or dirty underwear (I'll spare you the photo illustrations!). ;o)

10. Miss the crumbs we leave on laps, sweaters, floors, and facial hair.

Yes, our Labs do have their limitations. But theirs are limitations I can live with.

How about you? Any more?

Comment away!

'Til next time,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Another Antic

Guess who likes birdseed?

Check out the picnic table top below. See any tell-tale signs of Pinot's presence -- ahem -- paw prints perhaps?

Then notice where the prints lead: to an EMPTY birdfeeder (notice, flower boxes are in tact -- good girl!).

Mind you, the rest of the birdfeeders are full.

Hmmmm...where has all the birdseed gone?

What you can't see in the photo is the pile of birdseed on the ground below this feeder. Pinot is a nudge like her dad (Ridge). She nudges the feeder and the seed falls out. But she doesn't eat it. She just likes nudging it out and watching (or listening to?) it fall.

Go figure.

'Til next time,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pinot's Puppy Antics

Okay. I'll admit it.

I succumbed to a bit of grandmotherly bragging about Pinot in my last post.

To be fair and balanced, however, I feel obligated to inform you of a few of Pinot's many less-than-desirable puppy antics.

Remember, at nine months old, she is still a puppy.

AND Labs tend to stay in puppy-hood a bit longer than other breeds (ahem...), often pulling puppy stunts until they're at least two years old, sometimes even well into adulthood. Baxter, Elsie, and Kenya have all grown through this phase and had their own sets of impish puppy behaviors. And we survived. We'll survive Pinot's, too.

So, again in the interests of fairness and equality, here's a brief photo record of Pinot's latest puppy precocities:

1. Inability to keep her butt on the ground when excited: oh, she sits on command very well. And she even short-stays. But when I tell her to sit and stay to capture a photo, she just HAS to leap up and sniff the camera. Notice the smudge in this picture? That's a Pinot-nose-print on the lens.

2. The need to chew, chew, and chew some more. This photo captures the non-skid mat beneath our treadmill in the utility/laundry/kennel room ("TRUE" is the side of where the treadmill). Nice little bite marks in the mat, eh? Lest Pinot carry all the blame, Kenya helped in this adventure (remember, Kenya at 21 months is still a puppy by Lab time-lines, too). :o)

3. The tendency to mimic (and well-surpass) the misbehaviors of her canine forebears. Two or three years ago, I posted a picture of Baxter atop the picnic table peering in the window to see what we were up to inside (he just loves his people so much!). Ridge picked that up from Baxter and added an occasional scratch to the screen to let us know he was there (he just loves his people so so much!). Here's Pinot's version of peering in the window from the picnic table (she must love her people very very much!):

4. The drive to dig. She's the first of our gang (her mom and dad included) to be a genuine digger. Elsie and Ridge never did, at least not to any damaging extent. Thankfully, this is a behavior that CAN be corrected. The trick is catching them doing it. :o)

5. Oh, and did I mention that insatiable chewing instinct (see #2 above)? It deserves re-mentioning. They are Labrador retrievers after all (they do work with their mouths). Anything will do...

...the corner of a Scrabble box:

... a grooming comb (it smells SO good):

...the carpet edge ("my humans were talking about getting a new rug anyway"):

...even a Just Labs magazine (how dare she?????)!

6. And then there's the carry-things-outside antic. Elsie and Kenya both did this. Kenya still does. And Pinot has become her eager partner in crime. The following contains the items I found in the yard just 36 hours after Don had cut the grass (and cleaned up all the doggie toys in preparation for mowing). My count is eight Booda ropes, seven Nylabones, one Kong, twenty-two bones, and one collar (yes, Pinot got out of her collar, too; God only knows how):

That's 39 items in 36 hours (from Sunday PM to Tuesday AM). Figure two 8-hour nights' sleeps during which Kenya and Pinot are crated and evenings spent indoors with us, say four hours, and one 2-hour afternoon nap, and that leaves 14 waking hours in which to deliver 39 items to the yard. Also remember, when I work with the dogs outside, I use bumpers and dummies, so the loot you see above is not leftovers from our work times.

I don't even remember them carrying all that stuff outside.

Now all we have to do is train them to bring them back in so we don't have to do the yard sweep every time the grass needs cutting.

Ah...the Pinot Squirt. She's developing so well, but she has so far to go. Puppyhood can seem like forever, eh? But it goes so fast.

I may as well enjoy the ride. Who needs tidy-edged carpets anyway?

'Til next time,

Monday, May 19, 2008

Some Retrieving Shots - Just for Fun

Pinot: I got it! I got it! I got the bone first!

Pinot: Baxter move out of the way! Can't you see I'm trying to take this to Mom?!

Elsie: Okay, Little Squirt. I AM still the Mom here!
Kenya: Come on, Guys, do you really have to run so fast ALL the time?!

Kenya: Look, Mom, I still get to the bone before Pinot does sometimes! And I'm still a GREAT retriever!
Baxter: Retrieve? Who? Me? You must be kidding! Let the girls do it.

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Look Who's Becoming a Retriever!

Yup, that's the Pinot Squirt. :o)

Wow is she FAST: notice who's in the lead below, and she's not even running hard compared to Kenya and Elsie! She's actually teasing them (nah, nah, na-nah, na, I have the bo-one!). :o)

And, boy, is she driven.

She's the first one (by a mile) to get to whatever we throw. Her instinct to retrieve is just so strong (even stronger than Elsie's and Kenya's, which I didn't think possible).

Today the object of retrieval happened to be a bone because it was handy (Pinot doesn't care; she'll retrieve anything). FYI a bone is definitely not the best choice for throwing because of how hard bones are (can chip teeth); we usually use a tennis ball, bumper, or retrieving dummy.

But she retrieved nonetheless.

And she completely outran the other girls (that's Kenya behind her below and Elsie by her side).

She even brings whatever it is right back to me (in a bee-line, unless one of the other dogs gets in the way-- then she'll take the circular, winding route). ;o)

What a wonderful girl she is! Except for that long whip tail of hers (which is finally densing up some, but is still really long), we couldn't be more pleased with how she developing.

She's every bit as sweet as Elsie and as happy as Kenya -- almost like she's a blend of the two girls. And, boy, does she have her dad's speed and athleticism. I'm astounded watching her sometimes.


I sure hope the other pups from her litter are shaping up as nicely. I haven't heard from their owners in a while (I hope no news is good news, but you never know).

In any case, I'm glad Pinot had her temporary heart murmur as a young pup (which has completely disappeared since -- she's in terrific health). We didn't want to place her with anyone until we knew she was fine, and while we were waiting to see about the murmur, we fell in love with her. So she's ours forever now.

And what a sweetie she is. I can't wait to see what she develops into; I think she'll be gorgeous (her head is finally broadening a bit, too, catching up to that long nose of hers!).

See: "bad" things can work out okay in the long run! A heart murmur, which could have be devastating, ended up benign and gave us our Pinot Squirt for life.

Silver linings: I just have to remember to look for them.

'Til next time.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

The Couch Potato

Baxter Boos. Gotta luv 'im.

We've had a chilly spring here in southeastern PA (I'm loving every minute of it), so we only just pulled out the deck furniture and cushions and such. There I was Sunday afternoon (Mother's Day) scurrying around washing table tops and fluffing porch furniture cushions preparing the deck for our first relaxing evening outside of the season.

So how long after I set up the couch cushions do you think it took Baxter to reclaim the deck couch?

I wasn't timing, but it was definitely less than seven minutes.

Look, Mom! I got the couch! :o) Ohboyohboyohboyohboy!

And look, I even have a pillow for my head!

That's the Boos: our Couch Potato. Indoors and out.

Just what am I going to do in July when Baxter moves to Maine with my daughter and her new husband?

Did I tell you all that? Sarah and Chris will marry at the end of next month (June 28), and when they move to Maine in July (for Chris to start med school), they'll be taking Snickers the Cat and Baxter Boos with them.

Baxter and Sarah are buds (well, Baxter is buds with all our human kids). And Chris and Baxter have bonded incredibly well since Chris started to get to know our family. They're buds, too.

And with the hours that will be required of Chris in med school, we all felt better about Sarah having a dog around so she wouldn't be quite so alone. A puppy was out of the question: neither Chris nor Sarah will have the time or availability to train a pup.

And since Baxter is such a good egg,
AND since Baxter is SO jealous of the attention the other dogs receive (he LOVES 1:1),
AND since Baxter is perfectly fine with being a house dog (as opposed to a working retriever or outdoor dog),
AND since Baxter can be an imposing presence (safety for Sarah)
AND since Baxter loves Sarah and Chris (and they love him to pieces),
AND since Baxter is already neutered (meaning he can go to dog parks and such),...

the decision for Baxter to move to Maine with the newlyweds seemed (and seems) like the right choice.

He'll be a constant for the young couple during a time of high stress and change.

That's a good thing.

But he's my Baxter Boos.

We'll still get to see him (whenever Sarah and Chris come home to visit). And he'll stay with us when they go on vacation or travel or do what young couples do to get away.

But I won't have my couch potato here watching my every move throughout the day or hogging the sofas indoors and out.

Somehow I think the sofas are going to seem pretty empty come July.

I guess that means we'll just have to find another little black Lab boy to fill the void (grin).

But no one will ever be able to replace my Baxter.


'Til next time,

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Difference Recognition Makes

Just the other day, while Elsie brayed at whatever caught her attention on the back hill, I snuck out the front door and walked quietly to the back to try to capture a few candid shots of the girls.

By this time, Kenya and Pinot had joined Elsie at the fence line.

What's incredible to me is the difference recognition makes on their faces.

This first shot of Pinot captures her trotting up to investigate the new shape on the other side of the yard (when she first notices me, though she doesn't know it's me yet). She's curious, but that's about all.

This next shot captures her recognition when she realizes who I am (I remained silent and stood down-wind of them so they couldn't hear or smell me).

She looks like a completely different dog, but I guarantee you, the first Pinot shot really is of Pinot, and it's really taken just seconds before the second shot.

Her face just lit up when she realized it was me.

The joy on her face warmed my heart.

That's the cool thing about Labs. They let you know how they feel about you (no aloofness games). And Labs can't help but love.

'Til next time,
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Vet Check - GIRL Version

Like I mentioned last week, the GIRLS got to go the vet this week for their regular check-ups and shots and such. That's Elsie, Pinot, and Kenya, left-to-right in the photo above.

All are doing very well. Here's the scoop:

  • Elsie has recovered nicely from last fall's litter, and the vet cleared her to breed again. So we'll breed her with her next heat cycle, which should be any time. We'll let you know!
  • Kenya is developing FABULOUSLY by breed standard and seems to be in solid health. She turns 2yo in August so we'll have her hips, elbows, and eyes screened then. Then we'll hold off to breed her for the first time until probably the winter (provided her tests come back with positive outcomes) so we'd be looking at spring puppies with her.
  • Pinot, at 8.5 months old, is still all puppy, but developing nicely. Her only obvious breed-standard fault so far is that long tail (it falls about an inch below her hock, when it should only just come to the hock), but we're hoping she'll grow into it. She IS growing in to her long nose--her head is broadening, and she's looking more like her mom every day. It's really too soon to tell what her final outcome will be by breed standard. But her temperament, intelligence, people-orientation, train-ability, desire-to-please, retrieving instinct, athleticism (boy is she fast!), and color more than make up for a long tail any day of the week (in our minds). We'll see how it goes, though. Only time will tell.

Now for the weight check:

  • The Pinot Squirt is a whopping 65 pounds. Not bad for 8.5 months old. And she's still looking really leggy. But when I compare her legs to Elsie's and Kenya's (from shoulder joint to foot and hip joint to foot) her legs are no longer than the other girls'. (Yes, it's true, honest -- her legginess seems to be an optical illusion -- check out the photo above). When she matures and fills out, my guess is she'll fall around 75 pounds. That would be a really nice size.
  • The Kenya Bean, our little tank, but built like the breed standard calls for, weighs in at 77 pounds. She actually looks good (vet doesn't think she's overweight). Like Baxter, she still has the tummy rise and the slight hour-glass when you look at her from above. I think 75 pounds is probably ideal for her, but 77 isn't bad.
  • Now for the Elsie Bear. A BEAR she is -- at 95 pounds! WOW! I'm so glad she's made such a fine recovery from her litter (she was really underweight when she weaned her pups last fall). And she, too, still has definable hips when viewed from above. But we need to get her more exercise. Ninety-five pounds is huge for Elsie (IHMO). The vet would be happy if she were between 85 and 90.
So the girls are 65, 77, and 95 pounds. Ridge is 86 pounds, and Baxter is 111 pounds. That means we have 434 pounds of Lab here. :o)

And we love every ounce of them. :o)

'Til next time,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Must Warn Family! Must Warn Family!

Boy oh boy.

Something must have gotten into the yard last night, or at least been prowling around the fence.

Elsie wouldn't even come in for breakfast!

Something out there caught her nose and attention, and that's been it.

Nonstop, deep-chested, growl-preceded barking

ALL morning.

Funny thing is Elsie has a much deeper, more resonant, stronger bark than Ridge; Pinot does, too, taking after her mom.

And it echoes (just what the neighbors want to hear at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning).

Maybe the danger is still out there. Elsie thinks it is.

But I sure can't see it.

And I've been out now.


Walking the fence line.


Telling Elsie it's okay. SHOWING Elsie it's okay.

But she's not quitting.

This is Elsie's view through the fence (do you see anything?):

Elsie, bless her heart, sounded the alarm the whole time I took these pictures. And this from our usually quieter one.

Ridge is our barker. But not today. He couldn't care less. Whatever is out there hasn't phased him one bit.

Pinot and Kenya, of course, had to join in the fun (ohboyohboyohboywegettobark!), though I'm not sure they knew what the fuss was all about.

They seemed to just follow Elsie's lead.

Such a ferocious girl -- sweet, gentle, attention-needy Elsie Bear. The Leaner. Snuggler Extrodinaire.

Yet there she is, hackles raised, alerting to whatever it is that's threatening her loved ones.

So what if it seems like she's barking at the wind? She's doing her job. She's doing all she knows to do to warn and protect those that matter most to her.

It may look a bit like tiny Elsie against the great big world...

But she's not the least bit intimidated.

In her mind, her family's well-being is at stake.

She's doing what comes naturally.

Keep it up, Girl.

'Til next time,
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Friday, May 09, 2008

Vet Check - Guy Version

The boys, that is Baxter and Ridge, completed their annual check-ups last night.

Despite Baxter's complete vet-visit neurosis (though he absolutely loves Dr. Wagner, he hates the office sounds and smells), they both checked out fine.

Ridge weighed in at a just-right-for-him 86 pounds (we like him to be right around 85 pounds). Oh, and because he's in tact, he got to have the 'ol rubber-gloved finger test. Yee haw. I'm sure the over-40 guys out there are wincing about now. It was the only time during the entire visit Ridge stood absolutely still and stopped panting.

Poor guy. (hehe)


But, get this,...Baxter, the Big Galoot, weighed in at 111 pounds (yes, one-hundred-eleven). Yikes!

And he doesn't even look overweight!

He still has a tummy rise, and you can still see the slight hour-glass when you look at him from above. He's no tank like Elsie or Kenya. He's just tall and long.

But I'll admit it; he's our couch potato. And when it comes to retrieving, if he's with the gang, he lets them do the work (lazy boy).

But 111 pounds? Geesh. The most he's weighed before was maybe 103 or 104. No wonder I feel squished when he wants to be my lap dog!

I guess we'll have to start more exercise and less food.

See! Regular vet visits really are good. By looking at Boos, I never would've noticed his weight gain (if only I could say the same for myself). But numbers don't lie. And 111 pounds is too much for him. He could lose a good five.

So it's back to work.

That'll be good for Baxter.

And it will be good for me, too. I need my Labs. I need them more than ever.

I've been out of the Lab loop for the last few weeks because I've been focused elsewhere:

  • planning DD's June wedding
  • planning DD’s bridal shower (happening next weekend)
  • getting Mom home from AZ (finally, last week)
  • getting DFS home from college (two weeks ago)
  • AND (the big thing) supporting my dear sweet identical-twin sister whose husband of 24 years asked her for a divorce, with no explanation and with complete unwillingness to see a marriage counselor with her

Silly me! I've been so buried in human-family-land that I forgot my Lab family! How could I?

  • They're my giggle factor!
  • My gazillion-smiles-a-day gang!
  • My life-is-always-good encouragers!
  • My noogie-nudge nuzzlers!
  • My heart-warming-perspective givers!
  • My eyes of eternal hope and optimism!

Yup...I need my Labs.

I love my Labs -- all five of them.

Oh, and lest you think we're neglecting the girls by taking just the boys to the vet, the girls (Elsie, Kenya, and Pinot) get to visit Dr. Wagner next week. It's just a bit much to take all five at once, no matter how much we love them, so we split the visits up by gender.

I suppose I'd better wrap this up; I should get Baxter off the couch.

It's time for exercise (for him) and heart warming (for me).


'Til next time,

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Big Kids Need Labs, Too

Dear Firstborn Son (DFS) has had a rough spring.

So much so, in fact, that he ended up dropping out of college and moving home just one month shy of the semester's end. And he's probably only a few semesters short of a degree.

Bless his heart. He's 24 years old and has done course work at two different schools over nine or ten semesters. But still doesn't have a degree to show for it (school #1's courses didn't transfer to school #2). To boot, he's unemployed.

It's been tough.

But I have to say that since he's been home, DFS's outlook and demeanor seem much improved. He seems happier, more alert, less depressed, far less stressed, and generally more like himself than he's been in a long time.

I think it's the "Lab Factor."

Just look:

There's nothing like regular nuzzles and snuggles from our canine comrades -- something DFS doesn't get when he's away at school. And when he's at school, DFS might even forget he's loved.

Not so here! Baxter, Elsie, Ridge, Kenya, and little Pinot (who's not so little anymore) regularly and exuberantly remind DFS of just how treasured he really is.

Actions really DO speak louder than words.

'Til next time,
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