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The care and feeding of labs

Bernie Kuntz, For the Sun

One of my favorite Charlie Brown comic strips shows the beagle, Snoopy, carrying his dog dish up to Charlie brown and expectantly sitting with the dish still in his mouth. Charlie Brown then goes on a lengthy tirade about it being “too early” for feeding, and that if he feeds Snoopy at this time it will involve the beagle getting an extra meal every “X” number of days. The final scene is that of Snoopy walking away with the dish still in his mouth, and thinking, “He is smarter than he looks.”

I think about that every time Laurie says, “It’s too early!” to Labradors Lucy and Oscar. See, our Labs have clocks in their heads, and they start “winding up” about 3:30 p.m. (Evening feeding time is 4 p.m.) They will wrestle with one another, and slowly corner Laurie, who usually is watching news at that time from her TV room chair.

 “Are you HUNGRY animals?” she finally asks at 4 p.m. That is their cue — they dash up the stairs to the kitchen for supper.

Often as not, they get a little “dog juice” cooled and poured onto their food from the “doggie crock pot.” I am not kidding — Laurie has a small crockpot especially designated for Labradors, and into it goes leftover vegetables, steak and chicken bones — anything to create a tasty broth. Lucy and Oscar love it!

Laurie takes care of most of the dog duties in our household, booting them out into the backyard to do their “business” at 6 a.m. Half an hour later she gives them a small leather dog “chew,” which they relish, and a couple tablespoons of dog food. Their main feeding takes place at 7:30 a.m.

We have seven or eight grocery stores within two miles of our house, and every day Laurie visits one or more of them, along with other errands. And the Labradors know it. They shadow her, watching her every move, and fully expect to go for a ride in the back of her car. If they don’t they get mad.

Here’s the routine: Laurie quickly exits the front door, walks into the garage and opens the hatch on her Subaru. Meanwhile, Lucy leans up again the front door, moaning and whimpering piteously; Oscar climbs onto the love seat, looks out the front window and barks sharply. Laurie comes back in and there is a mad scramble by dogs to get into the Subaru.

I read recently that dogs can have an understanding of some 220 words. I believe it! “Treat, biscuit, food, ride, walk” … the list goes on.

Every morning Laurie picks up Labrador droppings in the backyard, announcing, “Let’s do the doo!” That is a signal for both dogs to dash to the back door for the “exciting adventure” at hand.

Now that it is dark by 5 p.m. Laurie and I like to sit in the living room at that time with the gas fireplace going, and the Labradors absolutely relish it. Oscar finds the “Chuck-it-ball” — an indestructible orange rubber ball we buy at Pet Smart — and he teases Lucy with it. She frowns and stares at him while he puts his head between his paws and pokes the ball eight inches from his nose … just like mean kids teasing one another.

There will be a tug-of-war session with the “dumb sock” — a clean, worn out sock that is probably the best dog toy we’ve ever discovered. Then Oscar will leap onto the love seat and lay his big head across Laurie’s face.

 “You guys are spoiled brats,” I say to them. “You have no idea how lucky you are, being adopted into this household.”

Earlier this fall Oscar had his teeth cleaned at the veterinarian, who discovered he had a cracked molar. Eight hundred-plus dollars later for cleaning and an extraction, Oscar is doing just fine.

Spoiled brats indeed, but our house would be a far less interesting place without them!

Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been                                             an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974