Posts Tagged ‘Labrador Retriever’

Kobe thinking hard about jumping off the stairs to ambush Brooke. He ambushed me with licks and love when I, new to town and knowing no one, brought him home. Driving to meet him, I thought about how my life felt so upside down. The moment I met Kobe, it all started turning around. THANK YOU Kobe for finding me a place to start in our strange new town. Photo by Adam Sherman

Each day I take a few minutes to offer up thanks for much in my life, sometimes even for the challenges that tag along behind the blessings.  My dogs, cats, chickens, horse and those of friends are always in the top five. Today, Thanksgiving, my husband and I will spend time with friends, friends who have become our away-from-home family; folks who also put animals high on their gratitude list: How thankful we are to have them all in our life.

Brooke, our second Lab, came along about a year after Kobe moved in. Brooke is never still. Even in her sleep her paws are racing, her tail thumping, her body wiggling; and sometimes she sleep barks, too. She and Kobe are like best buds hanging out.

When we moved here the summer of 2007, I was painfully lonely. After I  found my first new friend, Kobe, “lonely” began packing up and moving out. Life soon became full and fun again. I took an obedience class with young Kobe, where he seemed to be sniffing out new friends for me. The class instructor, Sandy, became a close friend. Kobe and Sandy’s Rottweiler, Blitzen, became BFFs, too.

Sandy  introduced me to her neighbor, Stacy, who had nice-looking horses in her roadside pasture. The two of them rekindled my interest in riding, which led to my meeting a horse trainer and several cutting enthusiasts. And to finding my dream horse, Callie. Through Stacy, who raises pigs, I met Katherine, her rescued donkeys and goats, and her red horse, Boone.  Callie now seems smitten with Boone. A little name dropping here as I give thanks for other Oregon friends, including: Russell (He goes with Stacy.), Mark and Diane, Carolyn and Jim, Wanda and Carl, Teresa and Duane, Tish, Carmen and Norm, Sharon, Melda and Charlie, Carol, Annette, Leona, Dede and Tim, Cecily, Susan.

All  because of a dog. A dog I am grateful for everyday. He changed life for me, the way a guardian angel might. Kobe will be the first in our animal clan to be given a large piece of dark meat tonight.

Thank you Kobe, for letting me be yours.

I’d love to hear about the pleasant paths and happy endings animals have brought to your life.

Happy Thanksgiving all.



Televised football games and parades are as much a Thanksgiving Day tradition as the meal. If those aren’t your thing – or you want a respite — here’s a TV option you may want toview instead, the 10th National Dog Show on NBC. It follows the Macy’s Parade, and airs noon to 2 p.m. in all time zones.

If watching canine perfection in motion is more your thing than observing quarter-back passes and lineman tackles, set your kitchen timer to remind you when it’s time to cheer on the dogs. More than 20 million viewers do each year. This is one of the five remaining benched shows where dogs must be on display for the public all day.

Camino's Frida Kahlo is an Xoloitzcuintli, pronounced Show-low-its-queen-tli. The breed is also referred to as Xolo, Mexican Hairless and Tepeizeuintli. Newly recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Xolo will be introduced during the National Dog Show that airs noon-2 p.m. in all time zones, on NBC Thanksgiving Day. The Xolo is one of the world’s oldest breeds. Artifacts depicting the Xolo have been found in the ancient tombs of Colima, Mayan and Aztec Indians. The Xolo of today remains virtually unchanged from those of 3,000 years ago. The Aztecs enjoyed the hairless dogs as pets, but also as faux hot-water bottles. The warmth from their hairless bodies is said to have relieved stomach pains and rheumatic joints. Today, the breed is popular for obedience, agility and therapy dog work. To learn more about Xolos, visit http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/xoloitzcuintle.htm. Photo Courtesy of Camino Xoloitzcuintle via http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/xoloitzcuintle.htm

I always try to be near a screen for the portion of the show when the breeds newly recognized by the  American Kennel Club are introduced. Debuting this year are the: American English Coonhound;  Entlebucher Mountain DogCesky Terrier; Finnish Lapphund; Norwegian Lundehund (they have six toes); and Xoloitzcuintli. In all, 170 breeds will vie for the Best in Show title.

Don’t despair if the turkey needs to be carved or the gravy stirred just when you hoped to watch your favorite group of breeds: Herding, Hounds, Non-sporting, Sporting, Terrier, Toy and Working. When the dishes are done and leftovers stashed, go to www.NationalDogShow.com. There you can see judging of all the breed winners plus features and vignettes about the show.

Or, watch it in the kitchen on your smart phone. You might know, there’s an ap for that. The free download is available from the Android Market and iTunes App Store; http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-national-dog-show/id478027869?mt=8

To learn a little about how to watch a dog show, visit  http://video.nbcsports.msnbc.com/nbc-sports/21887293/

SOURCE: The National Dog Show

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Sad news posted on the message board at the barn where Buffy lived.

Significant events for animals and people seem to occur more often in the autumn of the year. Some we expect: School starts, and pets are left pining for the kids they had to themselves all summer. Others we never see coming: Towers come down in smoke and flames, and the lives of victims, survivors, rescuers — and search dogs — change in ways unimaginable a moment before.

It was a September long ago when my buckskin colt was born. Two years ago, when I got my horse, Callie, it was October. Twice, I’ve lost golden retrievers to cancer in the fall. My godfather and my grandmother passed away. I got married, and so did my sister. My best friend and sibling were born.

So it seems appropriate that a very special dog crossed over the Rainbow Bridge as fall began this year. Buffy, the barn dog where I stable my horse, died Aug. 31. Her people, Duane and Teresa Smith, were  at her side in the home where she slept many a night. Buffy was 13.

She rests now, under a birch  tree between the Smiths’ farmhouse and the barn. That was a path well-traveled by Buffy the 10 years she lived there — though many wondered how she managed it.

The Smiths’ son named the straw-colored puppy after the heroine in the popular 1997-2003 TV series, “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.” Buffy, the Labrador retriever, knew no vampires. But she knew darkness and fought demons of her own. Her eyes turned on her, leaving her blind at age five.

I will always marvel at how Buffy maneuvered around the horses so safely. I think she navigated by the sound and smell of their hooves. I bet she could identify each horse by the rhythm of its hoof beats.

Buffy had her timing down in other ways as well. She knew whenever someone neared the dog-cookie jar kept in the tack room. She’d appear from nowhere, approach with tail high and wagging, and look right at you with her foggy gray-blue eyes. Over the years she got far more treats than were good for her figure.

Buffy seldom let on if she was having a bad day. Even after she fell six feet into a hole dug for a corner column of the arena under construction.  Maybe it was a blessing she couldn’t see that night: She didn’t know to be afraid of the dark while confined in that small space. Duane, Teresa and the neighbors managed to get a harness under Buffy and carefully hoist her out.

While waiting for Buffy to surface, her rescuers worried how many of the old dog’s bones would be broken. Not one broken bone. Not one scratch. She was cold and exhausted. After a night by the fire with Teresa, Buffy awoke stiffer and slower than usual, but eager to start another day. Remarkable I say!

Her passing was reason to share Buffy stories like these, so I’ve tried to capture a few. Always, I will remember Buffy picking up her red rubber bowl in the late afternoon to broadcast to those in the barn –“It’s my dinnertime.”

The barn floor has a few levels, the Smith house a few stairs. Buffy new each one: On approach, she’d high-step up or over, so as not to miss and stumble. She looked like she was marching to a drummer in a parade.

Buffy in one of her favorite spots, the lawn in front of the farmhouse porch where she held court.

She loved a good roll on the lawn and barking fests with the dogs on the other side of the driveway fence. It was part of the daily routine for Buffy to woof and wag whenever someone arrived. Her best buddy, Sam, a blue heeler, continues as greeter in her absence. But the silence left without Buffy is telling.

At first, Buffy mothered the shy blue heeler pup, Sam. In time, their roles switched: Sam grew to be blind Buffy's guard and guide.

Sam joined the Smiths five years ago, young and overly shy. He became Buffy’s self-appointed guardian and, in his new role, grew more self-confident. Teresa describes how Sam would lip-bite and softly tug at Buffy’s floppy ears. “The vet told me that ear-thing is a sign of great affection between dogs.” As Buffy was put to rest, Sam watched, but stayed his distance. It was three days before he ate again.

Long before Sam was on the scene, Teresa had a Schnauzer, named Gabby. She, too, watched over and served as canine guide for Buffy. Together they hid Buffy’s blindness well. It wasn’t until Gabby died that Buffy began to bump into things, then lost the ability to jump into the bed of Duane’s pickup.

A trip to a canine ophthalmologist revealed that Buffy had inherited degenerative retina disease. Noting how happy and content Buffy was, the vet encouraged Duane and Teresa to let her be. He did caution that, for her safety, Buffy would need to be kept away from water.

Buffy had 30 acres of pasture to roam, but she seldom left the barnyard. The barn was her hangout – plus the sandy arena when it was empty of horses. She was content there and on the farmhouse front porch where she held court.

In earlier times, Buffy had traveled hundreds of miles of trail alongside the Smiths’ horses. “She never got in the way,” Teresa remembers. “She even had her own little pack and carried her own water.” Only once did hardy Buffy need an assist to get to the end of the trail. It was when the Smiths and friends were riding at the base of the Three Sisters Mountains in Oregon.

The weather had turned out to be much hotter than forecast. Toward the end of the day, Buffy had maneuvered out ahead of the horses and gone prone across the trail: She would not move. Teresa and company managed to pick Buffy up and position her in front of Duane’s saddle, much like cowboys carry weak or lost calves.

Buffy always was more attached to Duane, says Teresa, describing how the butterscotch- colored dog loved going to town and gathering the horses with him. Teresa also remembers how good Buffy was at defense when the family played impromptu games of soccer in the barn aisle. “She was so fast. She could leap straight up and catch barn swallows in flight. And she practically flew when she jumped over the furniture in our family room.”

Stopping to wipe a tear, Teresa says, “When Buffy was napping, her feet often looked like they were running. We liked to think she could see again in her sleep.” Last week, a friend’s grandson placed a rose near Buffy’s headstone and said to his grandma, “I think it’s good Buffy’s in Heaven. That means she can see again.”

I think we all believe we see Buffy in the shadows, sniffing the hay stacks for Lilly, the cat; offering up her bowl for kibble; giving voice at the sound of a familiar car in the drive; listening for riders to return from a jog around the pasture. I especially miss the little front-foot jig she did as she bounced in rhythm to her barks.

Rest in peace brave girl. We miss you.

THIS WEEK’S ANIMAL LESSON: In 12-step programs there’s a slogan that can make all the difference to sustaining recovery: “Take the world as it is, not as you would have it.” It’s all about acceptance. Buffy was the perfect model.

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Young black Lab Miss Dady and her CCI puppy-raiser, Rachel. CCI, or Canine Companions for Independence, was established in 1975. Founder Bonnie Bergin originated the concept of training Service Dogs to aid people with physical and developmental disabilities other than blindness. Before learning college-level canine skills, such as turning on light switches and pulling wheelchairs, CCI pups are placed in private homes where they are loved and trained by devoted puppy-raisers. Miss Dady is the 10th CCI puppy raised by Rachel. Photo by Laura Allen.

I spent Mother’s Day meeting a very special young black Labrador retriever named Miss Dady and reuniting with Rachel, the very special young woman raising her.

Miss Dady’s father, Baja, lived with us before we moved from California to Oregon. Rachel raised Baja, too. In fact, in the last decade, she’s raised 10 puppies for the Service Dog organization, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). When we first met Rachel, she was in college and said her dream job would be working at CCI or someplace similar.

CCI was the first to train Service Dogs to aid individuals with physical and developmental challenges. These amazing dogs learn how to do things such as: pull wheelchairs; open and close doors and refrigerators; turn light switches off and on; alert hearing-impaired persons to a ringing phone, doorbell or danger; give money to a bank teller or store clerk.

Years ago, I worked for CCI. One of the things that always moved me the most was how, innately, these sensitive dogs knew how to reach into the heart and mind of a child with autism or a developmental disability when no human could.

Before CCI dogs learn these complex tasks, they need to enjoy happy childhoods, learn their manners and experience all kinds of real-life, real-world things. Where better to do so than in the homes of dog lovers? This successful model began in the 1940s when pups intended for training as guides for people with visual impairments were placed in the charge of youngsters as 4-H “projects.” Miss Dady is one of these CCI pups.

Cream-of-the-crop young dogs become part of the CCI breeding colony instead of being placed to work alongside specially-challenged individuals. These dogs, known as breeders, are housed with community members, or breeder caretakers, who live near the main CCI training/breeding site.

The late CCI breeder Baja lived with and loved us before we moved to another state. Baja had to remain behind with another CCI family in order to be close at hand for his "husbandly" duites at the CCI breeding site. Baja died last year at age five from a rare, but not genetic, kidney disease. He sired around 200 puppies with 40 currently working as CCI Assistance Dogs, five active in the CCI breeding program, and more than 100 with CCI puppy raisers. Some have made career changes and are working with Border Patrol and as Therapy Dogs. Photo by Rachel Sutton.

We were Baja’s breeder caretakers for only a few months: That was long enough for his brown-lipped smile, way-so-smart dark eyes, full-body wiggles; and scatter- everywhere yellow Labrador hair to become a part of our bank of treasured memories.

When we moved, our new home was too far away for Baja to remain with us: He had to stay near the CCI breeding facilities to be available for “dates” as needed. Baja went to live with another loving, CCI-approved family. As we bid him farewell at his new home, he and the gi-normous Newfoundlands residing there were doing the sniffing-each-other-and little-tail-wag dance. It was a very hard goodbye.

From time to time, we’d hear through Rachel or the CCI grapevine that Baja’s pups were exceptional: We’d smile and say, “No surprise!” It was Rachel who, last year, gave us the unexpected and sad news that Baja had died from a kidney condition that’s rare, especially in Labrador retrievers. Thankfully, it’s not hereditary, so Baja’s many pups are safe. Baja was only five years old.

Rachel, now living in Oregon, too, wanted us to meet Miss Dady, one of Baja’s last puppies, before she was returned to the California CCI site for her college-level training. What a treat to see a black, smaller, female version of Baja, all smiles and silly wiggles. We took our two Labs, Kobe and Brooke, along, so Rachel and Miss Dady could meet them. After all, Baja brought our dogs to us: He made us love Labs.

It was a delight to see the three Labs tearing around Rachel’s yard — together. Rachel, my husband, Jim, son, Adam, and I watched the 12-legged frolic. We had a good laugh on the dogs’ behalf; then we all grew silent. And thought of Baja.

Canine version of a chocolate Oreo. CCI youngster Miss Dady (on the right) isn't even winded after rough and tumble playtime with our two older Labs. Brooke's on the left, and Kobe's the center.

I’m sure Rachel’s thoughts leaped ahead to the day approaching when she would be saying goodbye to Miss Dady at CCI. Miss Dady’s will be the newest in the collection of  ceramic pawprints Rachel has arranged on a memory wall in her home. The gallery is meant as a reminder of the pups she’s raised. I also see it as the mark of an incredibly selfless person. Think about it: raising, loving, training 10 puppies into model dog “citizens,” knowing none are for you to keep: Intended, instead, to add ease, safety and devotion to the lives of individuals presented with special challenges.

Rachel had another treat in store for us: a personal tour of the nearby Guide Dogs for the Blind training facility. It was a Sunday, and not many people were there. But Rachel had a key: Because she works there now.

I’m partial to chocolate Labs, so I asked Rachel why there didn’t seem to be any represented in the years of Guide Dog photos on display at the center. She explained that Labradors used as Guide Dogs for the Blind are almost always black or a shade of yellow. But, she added with a smile as she reached for a puppy photo on a nearby desk, “Funny you should ask, because these two chocolates showed up in a litter just recently!" You can follow this link http://guidedogs.blogspot.com/2010/07/theres-chocolate-in-kennels.html to Guide Dogs for the Blind and read about the Hershey-kiss-colored surprises in an article titled, “There’s Chocolate in the Kennels!” Photo courtesy of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

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