Saturday, March 07, 2009

Life Lessons from Labs - Volume 3

Five days ago brought nearly a foot of snow, polar winds, and single-digit temps; today brought 60+-degree weather, sunny skies, and plentiful mud. Winter is gone. Enter spring.

Since we're changing seasons here, I thought it apropos to observe a few more life lessons I've learned from our canines. Here's what Ridge, Elsie, Kenya, Pinot, Tuc, and Rudy (and Baxter, too) are teaching me these days. Some fun; some sad, some helpful, some poignant. In any case, I hope you'll find them worthwhile.

1. Into every life a little rain (or a lot) must fall.
As someone once said, however, life isn't about waiting for the rain to stop; it's about learning to dance in the rain.

Labs are excellent dancers. Here's Tuc waiting. :o)

Care to dance? (Sorry, no rain pictures for the season, yet).

2. Change can be good. Think of Baxter now living in Maine.

His life with DSD and her DH is better than he could've dreamed: enjoying loads of 1:1 with his humans; never having to compete with pack-mates; going for walks everyday; romping on the beach now and then; lounging on sofas big enough for him to completely stretch out on; being able to watch people and traffic out his front window with his head resting on the back of the couch; getting to sleep all night in the master bedroom with his beloved humans; getting to play with and hang out with his old buddy Snickers (the cat).

Little did Bax know how good the change would be for him. To be happy, he had to adjust to the change. He had to accept it. He had to stop longing for the past and embrace the new graces of the day.

Me thinketh I need to be more like him.

3. Hard work pays off. Just ask Pinot after her Kong-finding adventure earlier this week.

Cold face and snow up her nose, and she still got her Kong. If only we were as determined.

4. Life isn't fair, but we don't have to play the victim. Look at Rudy (no worries; I took the wood slat from Tuc as soon as I took this picture):

Is it fair that all the other dogs help themselves to Rudy's toys?

Was it fair that, even with all our precautions, his litter still got Parvo? Was is fair that after rebounding so well, doing great, and going to live with his new owners, Rudy ate something and got sick two weeks into new life? Was it fair that he was misdiagnosed, and because of the misdiagnosis, was returned to us (certainly his first family lost out)? I'm thankful we were here to take him, but the poor little guy must've felt like a yo-yo.

You'd never know how unfairly life has treated Rudy by watching him. He is the
happiest-go-luckiest little Lab I've known (and that's saying something). Nothing riles him or makes him pout. He loves life and loves people and loves new opportunities. He's calm resilient, optimistic, and the epitome of a "pollyanna" if I've ever seen one. He never responds like a victim. He never reacts with fear or self-pity or panic or pouting.

And you know what?
He's happier for it. And we're better for it, too.

6. Lack of exercise has its consequences.

Here are a few views from
my lap taken earlier this week:

Restless boredom. Cabin fever. Lab lunacy. Call it whatever you like, but if the gang doesn't get enough exercise, look out! They get fat, distractable, lazy about commands, rammie, bouncy, needy for attention, forgetful, and impish.

When they get the exercise they need, however (and Labs
need exercise - it's a non-negotiable), they're happier, calmer, more focused, more obedient, more content, healthier, and even more fit.

Hmmmm... sound familiar? I think I hear the treadmill calling.

7. Responsibility comes with sacrifice, but it's worth it.

We took a huge financial hit on our last litter (remember the Parvo experience from last fall when the vet's ICU became a second home for us and our nine, then 7-week-old, pupppies?). But if we're going to bring pups into this world, it's our responsibility to care for them, provide for them, and do our best for them no matter what. Did our fight for the pups' lives cost us? You bet... big time... in time, stress, tears, and finances (we're still recovering). But we came out with eight healthy pups who are now enriching the lives their owners and families in ways I can't even begin to imagine. Sacrificial? Yes. Costly? Majorly so. Worth it? Without a doubt. Just ask the surviving pups' families.

Here are a few of those pups now (many thanks to the owners for sending me the pics!):

The former Mr. Black (now Remi):

The former Miss Sky (now Snoopi):

The former Mr. Lime (now Zeke):

I have absolutely no regrets about the sacrifices we made for this litter. It's been more than worth every treasure and every tear.

I'll have to remember that the next time being responsible means sacrifice.

8. Love can mean letting go.

Truth be told, I have a new favorite canine. RR knows that Baxter (who now lives in Maine) used to be the Lab of our gang closest to my heart. He was my Baxter Boos, my Bud, my Big Galoot. Then he went to live with the newlyweds (DSD and her hubby) last summer, where he is treasured, loved, and needed. His heart belongs to them now (and I'm glad).

RR also knows I love the rest of the gang -- each one in different ways, appreciating each one's individuality and the unique way each enriches our lives. But I have to admit, the little Rudy squirt has carved a place in my heart even more dear than the one once held by Baxter.

He's my guy, my little snuggle bug, my always-warms-my-heart-and-makes-me-smile companion. He's a special pup: unflappable, incredibly calm for a 5.5-month-old, strongly people-oriented, warm, affectionate, smart, happy, optimistic, sweet, gentle-souled. There's something intangible about him. I've bonded with him like I've never done with any of our Labs, including Baxter. I love him, heart and soul.

Love, however, sometimes means letting go. As we're watching Rudy grow up, though he loves the gang and does extremely well with them, we're beginning to see that he'd more fully reach his potential in a family where he could have more 1:1 with his humans -- where he could live life with them 24/7 as the sole focus of their pet affection.

I give Rudy all I can, and I love giving it to him (he's all joy for me), and he really is quite attached to me (even more to me than to DH). And he's doing just fine here.

But I have five other canine critters here to love, train, care for, and give attention to. And I have humans to be there for, too: a sister in the middle of an unwanted divorce; a mother in rehab for a broken hip; a BFF going through a difficult circumstance; a husband and grown human kids with their own issues and bumps in the road, and who, even when life is smooth, still need me, too.

And there's only one of me.

All that is to say, we're recognizing that it would be in Rudy's best interest to place him where he can reach his full human-interaction potential.

Though it breaks my heart to admit it, Rudy may have a better, more fulfilling life with another family - one where he can have his humans all to himself (he's
so people-oriented).

It will have to be the right family, of course. Even with the right family I'll be a basket case when he goes (he's my little buddy). But I'm realizing that if I really love Rudy and want what's best for him, I'm going to have to let him go -- just as I did Baxter; just as I did my grown human children; just as I am a friend dying from cancer; just as I am the person my DTS used to be.

Sometimes doing the right thing just doesn't feel good. Sometimes it goes against my grain. Sometimes I hate it. But letting go, in certain instances, really is best in the long run.

And in this case, it will be best for Rudy when the time comes.

I suppose that's enough for now. I have a few more, much shorter in nature, but I'll save them for another day.

'Til next time,


Kristi said...

Don't you just hate when the hard thing and the right thing are the same? Best to you and ALL your babies!

Charlie said...

Good lessons! (And, truth be told, I have a jones for Rudy as well!)
- Anne & Charlie

southern quebec said...

Labs with cabin fever. A true test of the owner. :)

Mary said...

If only I could convince my husband that we needed another lab. If I could, I would totally take Rudy because he would be a perfect companion for Hope. He would have a very good home here and he would write you every day. But I know God has a very special place for him with a family that needs him. Trust in this and you'll find a place for him where you can feel at peace. In the mean time, give him lots and lots of love. : )