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
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