Sunday, August 28, 2011

raiders of the lost bark

Once upon a time 2 cute Lab puppies came to live with us.  We named the first one Gabriel, because my sister Vix brought him to me on a plane from California.  I thought he was an angel.  He pooped in his dog carrier on the way home from the airport.  That should have given me a clue. But I fell in love with his puppy cuteness.  Never knowing that Gabriel the Angel would grow up to be Satan in a brown fur coat.

Gabe was chocolate, and his tail curled like a candy cane.  Lab #2 came to live with us from a friend of Wretch's in Tennessee.  She named him Caesar for no particular reason.  Of course, we live in the south where everyone gets a nickname, so these two guys quickly became Gabe and Suzie.  And Gabe was further warped to Goob.  (It's a redneck thing.)  Gabe and Suz were about 8 and 10 weeks old when they arrived.  Gabe arrived first, Suz about a month or so later.

And the fun began.  We didn't know anything about the Labrador Retriever breed.  We had been around the mother of Gabe briefly.  She had been found by my sister and brother-in-law, and after many failed attempts to find her owner, they decided to keep her.  Maggie arrived with her toenails painted and was a mature dog.  Calm.  Loving.  A family oriented dog.  Perfect.

So I decided I wanted a Lab.  My decision.  So I take most of the responsibility for what happened after the chocolate Labs arrived.  Don't ask me why I decided to keep two.  I think it was because they both became available about the same time, and I hated to tell my sister or Wretch's friend I didn't want one of them.

So they became part of our family.  The next two years are a blur.  Of destruction.  Of thievery.  Of cunning, strength, and determination that could only be compared to Sherman's March through Georgia.  We couldn't keep up.  No one could have.  Those two dogs were amazing.  Among the things we discovered about Labs:

They will chew anything.  Gabe is the one I remember being the worst.  Among the things I learned:
1  Corners.  The house, the hearth, the bedroom dresser.  If it had a turn in it, it had teethmarks.  If there was anything left after he chewed.
2  Cables and wires.  I heard a rubbing, snapping sort of sound while I was on the computer one day.  Gabe was outside (epic mistake...never leave a chewer alone for more than 5 seconds) and I heard a weird sound.  Steve and I went to investigate.  Gabe had stripped the television and phone cables off the side of the house.
3  Don't get them chew toys.  This just encourages the addiction.  They can finish a rawhide chewy the size of a dinosaur bone in about 2 minutes...even if the package did promise you it would last your dog for weeks.

They are raiders.  It is in their nature to steal.  Labs are obsessive about finding stuff and bringing it home.  Among the things Gabe and Suz brought home to litter the front yard:
1  Shoes.  Every size and shape.  Sometimes even a pair.
2  Clothing.  Women's pants, underwear of different sizes and sexes.  Socks.  Millions of those.
3  Rain gutter off the side of a house.  We never figured out which house.  It was brown and even though Steve searched for a house with brown rain gutter, he never found it.
4  PVC pipe.  I shudder at this one.  I just know someone somewhere within our dogs' running distance lost their water one day.  Or their toilets stopped flushing.
5  Buckets, toys, tools, mop handles (the mop was probably chewed off) and anything that doesn't fall into the above category.

Our solution to the chewing was to repair as fast as we could.  And keep an eagle eye on the dogs.

Finding a fix for the raiding was a bit harder.  Steve finally took everything they had stolen out to the main road at the end of the road we live on, and made a huge pile of stuff.  He said maybe the owners would find it.  Not the best solution, but the only way we could get all that stuff out of our yard.

And by then we figured out that we needed to pen these raiders up to stop their thieving ways.  And that is when we discovered the good thing about Labs.  They can't jump over fences.  So that saved us an investment in Constantine wire.  But Gabe has jaws of steel, and there have been times he literally ripped the gate open.  That's right.  He grabbed the chain link in his jaws and yanked until he could escape.

So now our lives have taken on a routine.  The dogs outgrew their chewing at about 2 years of age.  They stopped thieving about that time too.  Our routine since then has been:

1  Let the dogs out of the pen.  But only after the garbage truck has run and there is a slim chance any strangers might show up.
2  Go fetch the dogs home after about 30 minutes.  A run or romp for a full grown Lab can cover about 5 miles.  With stops to visit neighbors along the way.  That includes taking a swim in the neighbor's pool at the end of our road.  (Having their own pool hasn't stopped that behavior.)
3  Listen to Steve say "BAD DOGS BAD DOGS...GOING OUT THE ROAD!  BAD DOGS!"  Which hasn't fazed them or stopped them from going out the road.

And so it goes.  Almost nine years.  Nine long years.  Of loving these stubborn, smart, happy creatures.  These raiders of our hearts. 

~cath xo
Twitter @jonesbabie


  1. lol Pets are great but they should come with warning labels lol...I had dogs most of my life and love them but they can require 8 pair of eyes and about 12 arms!!!!

  2. Lovely post Cath. We had a Labrador cross that turned up on our doorstep 12 years ago and wouldn't leave. I know exactly the frustrations and the love they bring. It has been a sad summer as she fell and broke her leg. She had bad arthritis and was at risk of doing herself even more damage.. She had to be put down, and also our cat, 15 years old died this week. A tough summer.

  3. Aww - labs are the best, and ours really is an angel. He's 130 pounds of angel.

    More seriously, about chew toys. They are a no-no because they do teach that chewing is okay. It's much easier to teach a dog not to chew anything than it is to teach him just what to chew.

  4. Love your story Cath! Anything involving the word "retriever" in it usually means trouble! LOL Our last dog, which was a husky-lab mix, once chewed an entire louvered door off the hinges to get to the cat food! But no matter what we still love them!

  5. I am a cat person.. :( Now you guys will hate me!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Just Labs being labs. I knew a chocolate lab named Jack who could open and empty any cupboard he could reach. Dog food had to be stored at least 15ft off the ground. He even managed to get a large cable reel through a dog flap in a door. His owners never got it out through the same gap. He wasn't known as the Brown Bomber for nothing.

  8. Labs will be labs, I suppose. Living in London, we can't have dogs (I think that it would be unfair on them). If only we had a big country house!

  9. Labs are so cute but they can be very naughty! Love your post Cathy! Such a treat to read it and see all the photos :)

  10. Shared your 2 dog travails with you. But 2 dogs never again for us.
    Our lone mutt we have trained well and she's my constant companion at work, greeting the customers.
    BTW wandering dogs in our country will have them impounded and a hefty fine for the owner. And since that legislation came in, wildfowl has increased markedly in our area as there are no marauding dogs to molest them nesting.

  11. I love labs. They are happy souls. I have had several mixes, none that were pure bred, But I do know they are busy and happy, always happy. Loved your tale of tails.

  12. @JIM Brandano: yes there are not enough arms legs and eyes to deal with these dogs...we were outnumbered from the start!

    @hocam: I am so sorry to hear of your losses Mary. We have had many pets over the years, and the loss of each one of them was always painful and sad. xo

    @Thom Brown: Yes we learned the hard way after watching them chew MORE when we gave them chews...Gabe still loves to gnaw on stuff but isn't nearly as destructive...well, unless he is taking down the fence.

    @dgili84: I can believe it Denise, and we love these even though they are terminators.

    @Hajra: we are dog and cat people in our family Hajra, so you are safe! :D

    @Bob Scotney: I am laughing at your comment and read it to the husband, who was laughing too. Labs are clowns in fur, and some of the stunts they pull are amazing...someone told us one time their Lab chewed a hole in their drywall when they tried to corral it in a small room while they went to work. :D

    @MuMuGB: How sad and you don't know what you are missing Muriel! :D

    @Nelieta: So glad you enjoyed the post Nelieta...I had to work hard to make those photos presentable...they were made way before I ever took a more serious interest in photography! :D

    @Jim: We are lucky enough to live in the country and have no leash law...we never let them go far, and still have a plethora of rabbits, birds, squirrels and deer who make their way to our property and eat our pecans and garden up. :D

    @Jan: Labs are such loving clowns. Any dog who has even a drop of Lab blood will be even tempered and a true family dog. Glad you enjoyed my tale. :D

  13. AWWW!! =) Cath, I LOVE THIS POST and thank you especially for those beautiful black & white shots of your puppies! I just included a black lab on the first vision board I put together because I've wanted one since I was a child. I used to spend hours reading about labs, but it sounds like nothing can prepare me for the real deal. =) Points well taken on your experiences! I still can't wait for this dream to come true and thank you for letting me live it out through you! =)

  14. How could you ever stay mad at those beauties?! Look at those sweet faces. OMG so gorgeous.

  15. @Samantha Bangayan You hang onto that dream! I wouldn't change one second of the past almost nine years. It's been an adventure. :D Glad I could share some of my memories with you. xo

  16. @Lalia. I could never stay mad at them. When I fuss at them for tearing something up, and they grin at me, it all goes away. And they shove each other out of the way to get to us to be petted. Gotta love 'em. :D xo

  17. Cath,

    I know I liked you.. Great post.... those pups are to cute :)




  18. Sometimes wonder why we kept Gabes 115 pound sister Molly lol. Truth be told my Maggie and Molly are the best! When I work in the front yard Maggie will get up and move a hundred times to keep herself between me and the sidewalk to protect me. Mags raises her head as people pass by and down it goes once I talk to them or they pass. I wouldn't trade them for anything!

  19. One lab can be bad enough, but two??? What on earth were you thinking girl? You need a medal for making it through 9 years! I have a friend that has one chocolate lab and I'm always lmao at her stories, which of course, she doesn't find so amusing. It takes me back to another lifetime when I raised Dobermans. All of them in the house, and sort of the same situation. I swore, never again :)

  20. @Vix I think Maggie came from another planet, so calm and cool. Not like her nutcase son. :D

  21. @MaryI think I was deluded Mary. I have loved having these two, and Steve always said "no more labs after these two are gone" but after seeing the photos I was posting, especially the puppy photos, he's talking about fencing in more area so we can get another puppy. I looked at him like HE was deluded. Good thing he didn't feel that way years ago when looking at the kids' baby photos, or we'd have a bigger house and ten kids! :D

  22. cute post. I had a dog, mixed breed, and his chewing on things never stopped. Sigh.

  23. @BornStoryteller Unlucky you, Stu. Ours just lick now. Everything. :D

  24. Springer Spaniels are my favourites (Have to say that as Tobes is staring over my shoulder as I type!) but I do have a sweet spot for labs...and love the title! ;-)

  25. I'll always have a weakness for the chocolate lab. I still miss our Cleveland. He was more than a handful, but he was also the sweetest dog in the world when he wasn't into mischief.
    (and yes, husband is a born Buck-eye straight from ... brown dog... Cleveland, Brown.. get it? And yes, he thinks our expected grandson should be named Colt or Peyton... sigh)

  26. @Lucylastica2 If you look to the right side Lucy, you will see my mother in law's Springer sitting there. We inherited her when my MIL passed. We are at four dogs and holding now, and they are a wonderful, motley crew.

  27. @Beckey I have to say, after having Gabe and Caesar, I have a softness for chocolate Labs too. They are such smart, goofy, sweet dogs. Thanks for the comments Beckey. xo