Pamwla Wetterman

Monday, January 23, 2012

Beware:  Home of Guard-Lab

We happily survived Bailey’s teen years. Our expenses to replace sod, clean carpets, and restore plants in the garden beds, became manageable. After all, she was worth every penny of expense.

She settled into lab adulthood around the age of three. With two brisk walks daily, fresh water provided with every meal, and all meals served promptly (labs love to eat), she approved of our care. In return, we were the focus of her love and companionship.

With her strong desire to please, comfort, and be part of our pack, she spent her waking hours monitoring our activities. Her primary job each day was to know where we were in the house, and join us there. You could almost feel her frustration, when Bill and I settled into different parts of the house.

How would she be able to be with both of us?

Her process to be close required some level of intelligence. She determined the equal-distance between us, and settled on the floor at the center point.  She slept with one eye open in case either of us relocated.

When we left for work, church, or errands, it was imperative for her to have us explain our reason for leaving. If we told her we were going to work, she sighed deeply, and lay on her doggies bed to nap. After all, she knew work meant we’d be gone a long time.

If we communicated the word church, she wagged her tail, and strode into the dining room. There she’d lay her head on the window sill to watch for our car, and to listen for the garage door to open. Church meant she could expect a more timely return.

Bill and I often laughed about her ability to love every stranger she met.

“You know,” said Bill, “If burglars arrived wearing masks, and waiving guns, she’d greet them with her wagging tail and happily take them to the family valuables.”

“Yes,” I responded. “And if they delayed their exit, she would bring them a toy and insist on a game of tug.”

One day we found that assessment invalid. Bill received an unexpected call at work.

“Mr. Wetterman, your dog has our workman cornered, and he’s in fear for his life.”

The local cable company had entered our backyard to replace and bury their cable.

With surprise and the conviction that they’d called the wrong customer, Bill drove home to find a nervous stranger, dressed in the cable company’s uniform, trapped in our yard. Bailey, with her loudest and most threatening bark, jumped up in down in front of the intruder. 

Bill stepped into action. “Bailey, come.” He smiled as she pranced to him with her tail flagged high.

As he retold the story at dinner that night, Bill remarked, “She seemed to be saying, See, I did my job. Your home’s safe.”

About a year later, we moved into a new home. Our builder stopped by the house while we were at work. He brought the electrician with him for some minor punch list corrections. Bailey, of course, was in the house. Although she knew the builder, she refused to let him in with the electrician at his side.

“I’ve never seen her like this. She knows me but when she bared her teeth, I became a believer,” the builder said. “She’s scary- big and black. In the future, I’ll come by appointment only.”

Although we know she has a heart if gold, now we also know she would protect us to the death. She is eighty-five pounds of dynamite.

Next time, come by and hear about Bailey’s adventures in her new wooded backyard. 

If you are considering a new family pet, please adopt a rescue. They are wonderful dogs and seem to know you did something special for them.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Labs Are Wonderful Companions

Last week we discussed the fun challenge of puppy time with a labbie. As much as I learned about her behavior, nothing prepared me for the excitement of her teen years. Yep. I said teen years. Did you know our pets try to establish their dominance around their second birthday? Bailey was no exception.

We’ve all heard that one year equals seven people years in a dog. So as Bailey reached the ripe age of two, she was a teenager emotionally. She developed her own opinions- to obey or not to obey. Being an intelligent girl, she understood my requests, but after sitting and staring at me for seconds, she most often elected to do what she wanted.

We noticed this adolescent behavior whenever someone arrived at the front door. She’d jumped and barked as if the doorbell announced Jack the Ripper. Her desire to please us and sit quietly as the door opened did not exist. Once the door opened, she studied the person on the porch and investigated the opportunity to escape the house and survey the neighborhood.

The first time she took to the streets, I ran after her at full speed. Calling and waving my arms. The neighbors, entertained by my futile efforts, had many good chuckles. Naturally, she refused to come. Her ears perked, her tail raised like a victory flag, and her tongue hanging out of her mouth. I swear she was smiling.

Although I admit the exercise was probably good for me, my frustration level was not. But like many dog owners, I soon realized that our Miss Bailey would respond to the SIT command. She loved the run and catch me game. But once I stopped playing, and used my head, she responded well to “Bailey, sit.” How novel. I guess she had learned some things in puppy class after all.

Once returned to her home. She lavished me with sweet kisses and a desire for her water bowl. I excused my failure to maintain control by justifying her disobedience to her need for more exercise.

We bathed Bailey by garden hose. She loved the water and knew it must be a game created for her fun. She jumped at the water stream and tried to bite the water flow. She jumped and ran in the yard, always returning for one more bite of water. Problem was, she associated the garden hose with her jump game. So, if I tried to water flower pots or garden areas in the backyard with the hose, she attacked the hose, gulping water, and barking like crazy woman. Be careful what games you start. Labs never tire of play. Never!

If you are looking for a lifetime friend, please consider rescuing a lab.

Tune in next time for a peak at our sweet girl as she reached her next milestone- Guard Dog. .

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

All Dog Lovers Welcome

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 :