Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pinot's Pool Competitor

I suspect Pinot isn't the only one interested in pool play. Whadya think?

Hehe. I think she's met her match.

'Til next time,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuc vs. Baxter

Don't pay too much attention to today's entry's title; it's not really Tuc versus Baxter.

It's more like Tuc compared to Baxter, and I must admit their similarities far outweigh their differences (at least so far).

Take a look:

Tuc is a lap dog:

Tuc sometimes likes to lie down to eat:

Tuc loves to be held (Baxter used to snuggle with Dear Oldest Son like this, too -- oh, and the human-type in this photo happens to be Dear Oldest Son):

Tuc is a couch potato (well, when he's sleepy):

The dishwasher fascinates Tuc (truth be told, this wasn't just a Baxter thing; the dishwasher fascinated all the canine kids as pups):

Tuc is awfully cute:

Tuc has claimed the deck furniture as his own (only Baxter did this before):

Tuc waits patiently while we putter in the kitchen (that's Dear Youngest Son making his lunch):

Tuc adores the water:

Tuc sits and watches the world go by:

Tuc devours ice cubes (that's him munching up the leftovers of the ice we just gave him):

Tuc likes the hammock:

Tuc is HIGHLY food motivated (loves to train for treats!):

Tuc does NOT like visiting the veterinarian's office (that's him hiding under the bench in the vet's exam room):

Gosh...the more similarities between Tuc and Baxter I list here, the more it seems we have a Baxter Incarnate!


Not really.

Tuc is his own person, with his own personality and quirks. Physically he's much different than Baxter, too.

We don't want Tuc to replace Baxter (never intended as much): The Boos will always be The Boos. And, besides, we'll still get to see him now and then.

Tuc has his own shoes to fill.

But I must admit I find their similarities heartwarming.

Tuc is our little buddy now (he follows us everywhere). Instead of the Baxter Boos we have Tuc, the Tuckster, Tucker, the Tucmeister, my little Tucker Bud, and whatever other pet names he accumulates in the next few months.

And all the while he's still Tuc -- the Labrador retriever God intended Tuc to be, and no other.

We're richer for it.

Yes, I miss Baxter, but the Tucster has gone a long way toward filling his own place in my heart, right along side the spot filled by Boos (and the spots belonging to Elsie and Ridge and Kenya and Pinot and Stoney and Strider and Penny, my dog from childhood).

There's plenty of room for them all.

Tuc vs. Baxter then? So alike; so different; both celebrated, and both dearly loved.

'Til next time,

Monday, July 28, 2008

See Ya Later, Boos!

Day before yesterday (on Saturday) our just-married human kids, Sarah and Chris, left PA for Maine where Chris will attend grad school (Sarah, too, we hope), and where they'll live for the next couple of years.

And just as we'd planned, Baxter and Snickers made the trek with them to take up permanent residence with the newlyweds. Here are a couple of departing shots (I was good; I didn't cry until after they left):

Baxter, now five years old, has lived with us since he was just shy of seven weeks old. He was our blizzard boy (do you remember? the breeder let me pick him up a few days early because of the nor-easter blowing in). He was the first Lab we risked loving after our previous two lifelong Labs (Stoney and Strider) died in 2002 and 2003. I lasted a whopping six months without a Lab in the house; life just wasn't the same without wet noses and nuzzles.

Enter Baxter.

That wiggly-squiggly-pup-soon-to-become-our- 110-pound-outgrew-the-breed-standard-couch-potato-lap-warmer brought giggles back into our home. It's not that we'd forgotten how to laugh; it's just that life had grown too serious (lots of losses that year). Baxter warmed our hearts and made us smile.

He still does.

Someday soon I'll write a tribute to the Boos. Truth be told (shhhhh....don't tell the rest of the canine crew) Baxter has been my favorite -- my bud -- these last five years. I don't know why. He just has.

I wholeheartedly love the rest of the canine gang. Really, I do. But there's always been something about Baxter.

Perhaps it's because Baxter was our first of this batch of Labs. Or maybe it's because he's such a galoot: big, goofy, tender, faithful, silly, playful, exuberant, lazy, knuckle-headed, smart, people-oriented -- you get the idea. Or maybe it's just that he was the only boy we raised from puppyhood (Ridge came to us as a three-year-old).

Who knows?

What I do know is that I miss him already. It was tough to say goodbye:

Having said that, I know without a shadow of a doubt that this move is good for him.

  • Baxter always preferred 1:1 (one human with one dog), and that's difficult to get enough of in a house of five Labs.
  • He absolutely loves Chris and Sarah.
  • Chris and Sarah absolutely love Baxter.
  • Baxter WANTED to go (you should have seen him -- the guy who hates riding in the car -- leap into the backseat of Sarah's Suburu wiggling and squiggling like a puppy). He knew he was going with them (and NOT to the vet). Somehow he just knew.
  • The Boos is a couch potato, and he's more apt to get couch-potato-time in Maine.
  • Sarah needs her Boos, even more than I do (Sarah was still in high school when we brought Baxter home, so they had loads of time together early on). Boos is every bit Sarah's Bud as he was mine.
  • Baxter will provide constancy -- something unchanging -- for the newlyweds during months of huge transitions for them. He's NEEDED there.
  • And Snickers, the Cat, needs a playmate, too. Snickers and Baxter were Buds long before all the other dogs came to live with us. They still are.
  • Baxter will have the life in Maine he wants and needs: loads of 1:1 people time, lots of walks, loads of snuggle time (without competing for a human lap with five other dogs), and plenty of opportunity to sleep at night with his humans (something he can't do here).
  • He'll receive more individualized attention with Sarah and Chris than he ever could with us, now that we have the other five and now that we're occasionally breeding. They can give him a better home than we can -- one better suited to how he's wired (his needs and wants).
  • And let's not forget snow. Baxter is our Blizzard Boy. He loves to romp in the snow, much more of which is found in Maine for much longer periods of time.
Yup... Maine is good for Baxter. Maine is good for Sarah and Chris. Sarah and Chris are good for Baxter. Baxter is good for them. Snickers is good for Baxter and Sarah, and they for him.

It's all good.

No worries.

It's truly best.

And (I tell myself) when we love someone we want what's best.

I love Baxter, and Sarah, and Chris (and admittedly, sigh, Snickers the Cat), so I want the best for each of the them. Truly.

So why do I miss them so? Why do I have this ache in my heart?

It's part of the sacrifice of parenting, I guess. We raise them to fly.

And when they fly, they take parts of us with them--parts that become theirs forever, no matter what life brings. And I truly wouldn't have it any other way.

That doesn't mean we won't see or talk to them regularly. In this day of texting, chat, and e-mail, I suspect we'll be in touch several times a week.

But it's not the same as Baxter drooling all over me after he's gotten a drink or butting his way between my legs to be the center of attention or barking every time I pet one of the other canines. :o)

We do, however, have Tuc to fill that slot -- he's a slobberer already. And he barks when he wants something (mouthy little guy!). And he's a people dog, just like Boos.

In fact, Tuc demonstrates enough Baxter-like traits (that's another post) that I don't miss Baxter as much as I though I would (though I do miss him). And the Tucster is keeping us busy enough that I'm not reminiscing too much about kids (and dogs) growing up so fast.

That's another benefit of life with Labs: they keep us young. They keep us from becoming old and melancholy.

So, to Baxter, Snickers, Sarah, and Chris: we love you to pieces; we're incredibly proud of you; we miss you whole bunches already (yes, Daddy Don even admitted he misses Snickers, though he doesn't miss the litter box); and we hope your move is going smoothly.

And though this is a bittersweet time for us, we know this move is right and good and wonderful on all accounts. We wish you nothing but joy and giggles and adventure and wonder as you embark on your life together.

Hang in there. And give Baxter and Snicks nuzzles from the gang here. And remember to enjoy them and each other in the months and years to come.

'Til next time,

Joan (aka: Mom, Momma, Momesh, etc.)

P.S. Send pictures!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


The Elsie Girl...

who happens to be a great Mom to all puppies she encounters (she's adopted Tuc)...

will likely be a mommy again in about nine weeks. :o)

She and Ridge, our mature studly,...

successfully tied twice this week -- a planned mating. We suspect she's conceived by how Elsie is acting already. She gets more people needy.

So, we'll have to wait and see. BUT it looks like we might be having puppies in late September. :o)

We'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, we have our hands full with the Tucmeister!

What a busy, sweet, wonderful boy he is!

'Til next time,

Joan (who's still away at the conference but who will also be home soon!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You Guys are Famous! And Many Thanks!

A note from me (Mamma Joan) to you (Regular Reader):

I'm away teaching at at a writers' conference this week, and, for the first time in my speaking career, one of the workshops I'm leading is about blogging (What is it? Why bother?).

Of course, LabTails is my favorite of the blogs I maintain, so I used LabTails for many teaching examples, and that's largely because of you readers. What a warm, enthusiastic, caring bunch you are! I suppose I shouldn't be surprised since Labrador retrievers are warm, enthusiastic, and caring by nature. It only makes sense that their humans would be, too.

But you've taken the time to tell me. :o) And I don't think I've ever said "thank you."

Consider this your official note of appreciation then. I'm indebted to you all. But also know that I've been bragging about you. :o)

The aspiring writers and bloggers here are amazed that my little blog about life with our canine crew draws so many readers from so many parts of the world. And you know what? It encourages them! Good people do exist our there on the Internet, and they aren't always silent. It gives new bloggers hope that they, too, can experience uplifting community on this weird, wacky, and wonderful world-wide web.

So know that your engagement with little 'ol me and our critters at LabTails encourages those who attend my workshops (and those who listen to the workshop tapes).

But, even more, you encourage me (almost as much as my canine crew!).

"Thank you" doesn't do justice to how grateful I am for you. But it will have to do.

'Til next time,

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Transitions and Scary Things

Since we brought Tuc home, I've been thinking a lot about transitions -- those changes we walk through as life plods on.

Let's face it: change is as much a part of life as birth, death, taxes, joy, and sorrow.

And change can be scary.

Look at the changes Tuc's faced this week: leaving the only home and family he'd ever known, being stuffed into a pet carry-on for 7 hours, traveling thousands of miles, exchanging the dry heat of AZ for the ridiculous humidity of southeastern PA (and, yes, we're in another heat wave with heat indices in the 100s again this week), trading the desert for our suburban backyard, meeting a bunch of other big dogs, sleeping in a crate all night, potty-training (housebreaking), eating dry food, and learning to love new humans (and lots of them, no less).

It's been a wild week for him, with loads of losses and gains. But he's taken it in stride with confidence, appropriate hesitation, remarkable buoyancy, resiliency, and what appears to be a sense of humor (yup, believe it or not).

His most timid moments involved meeting Snickers, the Cat (something completely foreign to him, I think) and Baxter (something huge, looming, and dark). Take a look:

I'll bet this stuff intimidated the little guy (at least his body language said it did). But he got through it, adjusted, and moved on with confidence (not to mention a broader experience base upon which he can draw later).

I wish human types were as pliable. It takes us so much longer to accept change and learn to embrace it. Regular Reader knows we've being navigating all kinds of foreign, dark unknowns over the last nine months, and I feel like I'm only just beginning to regain a measure of confidence and resiliency. Frankly, I still want to hide and pretend the uglies aren't there.

Let somebody else deal with them.

But brave little Tuc reminds me that change, even frightening transitions, can be handled well, with confidence, and with an ultimately beneficial-for-us outcome. Tuc is growing because of his transitions.

I suspect I will, too, if I just give it time.

'Til next time,

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tuc's Favorite Chew Items

The Tucmeister is doing just fine acclimating to our gang. I think we're officially "his" already (he's right at home, strutting his stuff, barking when he protests something, playing hard, sleeping just as hard, only whimpering a minute or two when we crate him, nearly housebroken, sleeping 7 hours at night now, etc.). He's even warmed up to Baxter, by whom he was completely intimidated when the Boos returned with Sarah and Chris yesterday. I suspect Baxter's size had something to do with it (poor little guy hid behind Kenya when Boos first came in). ;o)

And being a little Labby, Tuc loves to chew. Here are some of his favorite chew items right now:

Booda ropes, especially if they're in Pinot's or Kenya's mouths:

Nylabones of any kind:

Mom's shoelaces (anywhere, anytime, moving or still):

The camera strap:

The toys Grandma Teese (Theresa of Sundancer Labs in AZ) gave me:

And soft toys, rawhides, the other canine kids' collars and tags, the other kids' tails, and the edges of the water bowl. :o)

So far he's staying out of chewing trouble, sticking mostly with what he's supposed to chew on. And he responds excellently to "ah, ah, ah" and "leave it" if we catch him chewing on a no-no item.

What a pup! He fits right in, and the big kids have really taken to him (especially Kenya and Pinot). I couldn't have asked for a better transition.

So, okay then...when's the other foot going to fall?

'Til next,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tuc Finds His Voice

In this video, Tuc protests the fact that Pinot won't share.

What a little pipsqueak he is!

'Til next time,

Settling In

Tuc is officially Kenya's and Pinot's littermate now.

This morning, he actually snagged the booda rope from the girls (they let him have it) and trotted away with it like he was God's Gift to Creation while the two of them followed making "play" attempts at getting the rope back from him.

Talk about hilarious. And his victory didn't last long (all of about 20 seconds). :o)

Kenya and Pinot are taking him in like he's a little bro.

Since Elsie is in heat (and due to mate with Ridge early next week), she's oblivious to it all. Ridge's attention is, of course, ELSE-where (hehe).

And, get this: Elsie is moving into prime heat over the next few days, and Pinot just started to drip this morning (yup, Pinot is in heat, too).

Pass the Benedryl, please. :o) (Our vet recommends Benedryl as a light sedative for Ridge when the girls are in heat).

Oh...I forgot...I have to be away next week to teach at a conference. Doggone it! Shucks. Too bad. I won't be here for all the excitement (and the all-night howling). ;o) Can you hear how disappointed I am?


Seriously, Don is taking next week off to be here with the kids (of all varieties). I'm away Monday through Thursday, then we help the newlyweds pack and load their trucks/vans/cars Thursday PM and Friday, after which they head off into the sunrise (Maine is east of us) for their new life together. Don is a master packer (one of his college jobs many years ago was working for North American Van Lines), so while he's puppy-sitting (Tuc), mating supervising (Ridge & Elsie), and chastity protecting (Pinot), he'll be helping Sarah and Chris get ready for their move.

And Baxter will be home with them all week, too (Sarah and Chris return from the cottage with Baxter today).

Teaching at the conference, normally exhausting, is starting to sound like a vacation to me.


As I write this, the little Tuc-meister is really into pounce-and-play (early morning and evening seem to be his super active times). :o) I guess that means he's feeling at home.

And that means next week's conference is looking even more like a vacation!

'Til next time,

P.S. Here's a sample romp-story in pictures (aka, Mornings at My House):

Pinot and Tuc tug the rope together:

Pinot decides to trot away with the rope with Tuc in tow:

Tuc lets go -- "Hey Pinot, wait up!"

Pinot stops, turns, and teases Tuc with the rope:

Ah, but the little guy manages to snag the rope, then runs behind the recliner with it. Poor Pinot. "Hey, Tuc...where'd'ya go?"

"Tuc, are you over here on this side?"

"There you are back on the other side! I think I'll just grab the rope and pull you right out over the magazine rack!"

"Let's do it again!"