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Bernie Kuntz: A destruction of Labradors

Some dog owners choose to buy a "started dog" about six months in age to spare the loss of

$1,500 worth of personal belongings destroyed during a puppy's teething stage, which often lasts many months beyond the teething.

Me, I've always gone the difficult route, buying a puppy at age seven weeks, and then trying to keep the doors on the house, the carpeting on the floor, the walls still standing.

It has not always been easy, weaning five different Labradors over three decades. One can still see deep scratches on the back of the door leading to our TV/gun room where many years ago we placed our first Labrador, Bruno, and went out for a pizza. Not only did he almost claw through the door, he ripped carpeting off the top three stairs.

Ah, and time son Ben and I pulled into a motel in Glasgow on our way back from a

Canadian fishing trip. Josie had been very quiet in the back of the 1984 diesel Suburban. When I peeked over my shoulder, I noticed that Josie had shredded an entire roll of paper towels, and while she was at it, demolished my Resistol felt hat.

A couple months later in Dubois, Wyo. we left Josie in the same vehicle, confident that everything was secure. However, Josie managed to fish the middle section of a bamboo flyrod out of its case, and splintered the section beyond repair. (I had two tip sections, but unfortunately, she chose the middle section.) My brother-in- law has almost 250,000 miles on that old Suburban, and it still bears the scars from Josie's puppy teeth after she gnawed the driver's side armrest.

Otis, bless his Labrador soul, was our champion "destroyer." He ate one quarter of a Pendleton wool scarf, chewed the corner off a $400 Pendleton blanket, and one time reached into the bottom of a guncase and brought out a Hunter cartridge pouch (worth about ten bucks in those days) and chewed it to pieces. Mercifully, he chose that pouch rather than the handmade Galco pouch sitting right next to the Hunter. The Galco sells for about $75.

One time we went out to dinner and left Labradors at home alone. When we returned, we found that Otis had knocked over a hat rack and chewed a ten-dollar ball cap to pieces. My $350 Rocky Mountain Hat Co. 50% beaver felt hat lay on the floor untouched! We moved the hat rack to the basement where it remains to this day.

Laurie one time gave Otis a worn out shoe...big mistake as that seemed to give him license to pursue any shoe he could find. Over the course of his lifetime, the Otis-dawg chewed up several times his worth in Laurie's high heels, athletic shoes, and one time, a pair of my C. W. Russell walking moccasins that were on their second soles.

Lucy's greatest moment was when she stole a Kraft Easy-Cheese container out of the travel bag Laurie and her mother had taken to Yellowstone National Park. She brought it up onto the bed, and Laurie, who was working in the office across the hall, heard a loud "pop." Lucy's puppy teeth had punctured the can. Laurie took the can away from Lucy. It wasn't until we lay down for bed that we saw a four-foot "V" of cheese stuck to the ceiling! I had to wait three days for the cheese to dry before meticulously peeling the dried cheese off the dreadful "popcorn" ceiling. Of course, it left an orange stain so I had to paint the ceiling. (Two coats covered it.)

I have to say that Oscar, the "yellow fellow", as we call him, has done the least amount of deviltry compared to our other Labradors. One of my buckskin gloves made from white-tailed deer hides by Uber Glove Co., Owatonna, Minn. is missing a three-inch section in the wrist area of the right glove, neatly eaten out. That was Oscar's handiwork.

A gang of crows, a covey of quail, a herd of about a "destruction" of Labradors?