Our nest had been empty for over two years. After our Golden Retriever, Wendy, relocated to the Rainbow Bridge, the hole in my heart was impossible to fill. Our son, Jeff, suggested it was time to introduce a new member to our family. My husband, Bill, finally agreed and we began to research breeds of dogs. We had always had medium to large dogs and after debate and discussion, our choice – a lab.
Next came the phone calls to breeders and follow up trips to find the right one. We settled on a sweet female black lab. As I picked up this tiny black bundle of fur, she nestled against my neck and sighed. It was difficult to give her back to the breeder and await her nine week release date. I knew she was ours and she did too.
The breeder had a litter of ten puppies. All but one of the puppies had been promised to her clients. This should have been our first clue.
As we drove off with our new puppy, Bailey, the breeder cautioned us, “She has a strong will. Get her into puppy training ASAP.” Then she handed us a picture album of Bailey’s parents and an assessment form on Bailey’s behavior. Bailey scored high marks- a potential show dog. We puffed up our chests and drove off.
After her first day at puppy class, the instructor pulled us aside and suggested, “This girl is a handful. She has a mind of her own. You need a training caller. Bring it to class next week.”
The pinch training color was a cross between a chain link fence and metal claws. We discovered that Bailey was brilliant. She took one look at the pinch and suddenly knew all the dog commends. She sat, stayed, came, and walked off lead with perfection. We had a winner. However, at test time, the pinch collar had to be removed. Our sweet, well behaved Bailey marched out of the ring and ran through the open door outside.
She repeated the class the next session and repeated the same behavior. With a pinch collar on, she was perfect. Without the pinch-well we had been warned.
We reviewed her original puppy assessment from the breeder. Only to find many of her behavior categories over stated. With an honest look at the scores, she was pet quality. Well, we only wanted a pet, right? So this was not a big problem. Besides, she was so loving and cuddly.
Bail required daily walks to control her high energy, constant barking, and uncontrollable need to crash around the house. We introduced her to a large plastic ball that held dry dog food for her to roll around the kitchen floor. As the ball rolled, small bits of food came out. The idea was to entertain this high energy lady. However, she soon discovered that if she used her paw to slam the plastic ball against the wall, more food came out. She loved to eat. The damage to our kitchen wood baseboards was impressive. But having a friend whose lab ate the linoleum, flooring, and another whose lab ate the fabric off the couch, we got off with less costly repair.
The back yard was another story. Bailey discovered two doggies lived next door. She decided they were a threat. So every second she was outside, she ran up and down the fence barking like a madwoman. Her frantic pace and repeated trips along the fence soon destroyed the grass. Once the grass disappeared, she trenched the area. With pack dirt in her paws, she tracked mud inside onto the off-white carpet. After replacing the sod three times, we hired a mason and installed a large stone patio and walkway. Our expenses continued to grow as we modified the flower beds and landscape. Where she preferred to nap and dig.
Bailey, like all labs, loved water. We had a small fish pond in the backyard. She loved to get into the pond, put her face under the water and watch the fish. She circled the pond for hours, chasing the Koi. A lab has a very soft mouth, when she caught one of the fish, she’d release it unharmed and start the game again. We laughed as we watched her antics. Labs create games to entertain themselves no matter where they are.
Growing concerned, we researched this high energy behavior. The promise of the perfect dog continued to come. “Labs are puppies until they are three or four years old. Give her time. She will be the perfect pet.”
Be sure to come back next week as Bailey progresses towards her teen years.
I am developing my first novel for children featuring Bailey (the Black Lab), Barklean
(the Toy Fox Terrier), Carlos (the Maine Coon cat), and Gracie Mariem (tje Afrocam Gray parriot). They are all amazing and have taught us how to embrace life.
Do you have a pet story you want to share. Please add your comments. I’d love to hear your adventure.
A special tanks to Kristin Nador for her recent post about blogging. I am now off and running. Be sure to see her post at :