Sharing life with Labradors“No one can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned a dog. A dog can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes.”—Gene Hill “Happy birthday you two spoiled BRATS!” I say to the Labradors in mock disgust. “You are pampered babies, but this weekend Laurie will give you extra treats!”
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
“No one can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned a dog. A dog can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes.”—Gene Hill
“Happy birthday you two spoiled BRATS!” I say to the Labradors in mock disgust. “You are pampered babies, but this weekend Laurie will give you extra treats!”
Three-year-old Oscar, alias “The Yellow Fellow,” also commonly known as “Biscuit-Head,” nuzzles my hand and rolls onto his back on the bed, ready for some tummy pats and chest scratches. Black Lab Lucy, alias, “Snuggle Bug” or “Loose Goose,” whose eighth birthday is two days later than Oscar’s, gives me a “half-tail wag” as she watches my hands for possible food treats.
Consider the Labradors’ daily routine — awake Laurie at 6 a.m. by shaking ears and dog tags to go outside and do their “business.” Oscar comes by and does summer saults on me, as if to say, “Time to get up!” Then it is breakfast time — dog food in separate dishes, often enhanced with broth from the “doggie crockpot” where Laurie tosses steak bones, chicken and pheasant bones, vegetables and other leftovers to make certain our little darlings don’t get bored with their food.
Next, they expect a dog “chew” — a small potato-chip-like wafer that Laurie buys in bags at a local grocery store. They won’t let anyone forget their chews either … try to skip it one day, and they will hang around by the kitchen counter and STARE at you, doing their best to look pathetic.
If you’ve had children, you know that in early years you can spell words aloud to avoid detection from the youngsters. It is a same with Labradors. We do it to avoid chaos. “Bern, I am G-O-I-N-G to the S-T-O-R-E. If Laurie doesn’t spell it out, there will be Labrador paws and claws spinning on the entryway tile as they dash to get out the door and into the back end of the old Suburban or Subaru.
They pick up on everything: Bring a cooler in from the garage — even a small one — and Labradors go onto high alert. They know someone is going somewhere, and they want to be included.
Remove a plastic grocery bag from the kitchen drawer for the daily “doo-doo patrol,” and Lucy flies into action, barking and dashing for the door to the backyard. Lucy loves chasing Oscar around the backyard, trying to rough him up. Oscar thinks it is great fun, sprinting around the boat, playing tag with Lucy.
In cold weather, Laurie and I sit in the living room in late afternoon in front of the gas fireplace. This is the Labradors’ signal that it is “play time,” and how Oscar loves to play! Dogs immediately search other rooms for a “dumb sock” — a worn out sock tied into knots. One of them brings it to me. I am expected to toss it, which I do, Lucy retrieves, then Oscar latches onto one end of the sock and begins a tug-of-war.
In warmer weather on the patio, Lucy brings the “chuck-it ball” seconds after I sit in a chair. I throw it against the cedar fence, she fetches, Oscar steals the ball from Lucy, and then she gets it back from him. After a while, the Labradors tire of the play and lie in the grass, monitoring the goings-on in the neighborhood. If someone walks up the alley, Lucy barks, the hair standing up on her back. Oscar sticks his head under the fence gate to see, his butt up in the air, tail wagging.
“Dangerous dogs,” I say facetiously to our Labradors. “You clowns are vicious animals!”
Doggie suppertime is at 4 p.m., and again, they won’t allow you to forget. They’ll surround you, climb onto your lap if necessary to get your attention.
Evening will find Oscar sleeping upside down, curled up in Laurie’s “retirement chair.” Lucy will be stretched out on the loveseat and snoring softly, sometimes yipping in her dreams.
We put them out into the backyard prior to bedtime for a final “business” call. Lucy and Oscar are “well-trained” — they pause at the counter on the way back into the house, expecting their before-bed biscuit.
Fishing trips to Canada and Alaska are approaching, and we have a dog-sitter lined up to live in the house and handle the Labradors. Laurie and I will be concerned about Oscar and Lucy all during our trips, I am sure they will be wondering where we went.
That’s the way things are when you share your lives with Labradors.
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974