Yellow Labs and Brown-Headed Cowbirds

March 18th, 2009

The young pup is almost two and half years old now- a big, strong yellow labrador with a heart of gold.  I know everyone thinks their dogs and pets are pretty special, but I swear this furry guy is unlike any animal I’ve ever known.  I’m thinking about having a round of tests performed on him to consider breeding.  He’s not a show dog or champion field trialer, but he has good lineage and beautiful form.  His personality is amazing in so many ways, and if he could contribute to the breed I think that would be a good thing.   Have you hugged your dog today?  More importantly, how about your kids?!  For some folks they’re the same…

Yellow Labrador Retriever in a field of Bluestem

Interesting that you can actually clone your dog these days for the princely sum of $150,000 dollars.  Can you imagine?   Perhaps if money was no object someone could consider that, but it seems, well… ethically selfish to me I guess, among other things.  It’s a free country, but you can help an awful lot of people with that kind of money.  I do understand loving an animal that much, but it’s hard to rationalize spending so much money for that purpose.  Of course I  say that, but based on how I feel about my own lab-  if it didn’t cost very much I might consider getting another pup just like him too.  Heck, twenty or thirty years from now who knows what we’ll be able to do.   For now I just appreciate that he gets to be part of our family. 

Don’t you just want to give him a big hug?!



Maybe I should’ve titled this ‘The Dogs We Love and the Birds We Don’t” or “Cute Dogs and Ugly Birds.”  On a different note it’s about time to take the bird feeders down, and as if on cue the Brown-headed Cowbirds showed up for a party to pick through what was left.  Okay, maybe they’re not ugly, but they sure act that way.  Research has shown that they can impact songbird populations negatively through brood parasitism.  They’re the only species in our region that sneaks into other birds’ nests and lays their own eggs.  So a hapless goldfinch or flycatcher ends up feeding and raising a cowbird usually instead of their own young since the cowbird is bigger and has a voracious appetite.  

Well over a hundred species of birds end up raising cowbirds in this manner and there’s quite a debate regarding how destructive or natural this is.    We typically see them grouped up in spring while they migrate through in flocks.  Soon they disperse to look for a host nest, and we only see or hear them as solitary birds.  What a strange critter and survival mechanism- kind of looks like an unruly mob!


Yellow Labrador at 18 Months

April 13th, 2008

The pup is a year and a half old now.  Full of youthful energy with such strength and spirit that it makes me smile to see him.  He asks for nothing more than a chance to run, swim, chase a ball or bring something back to us, and is completely at ease with himself and his surroundings.  I’m no judge of the qualities of a Labrador Retriever, but he strikes me as a beautiful example of the breed. He is still intact, and comes from quality bloodlines.  In some ways I feel an obligation to explore if he can contribute to the breed. Perhaps I’ll seek an experienced opinion. But more than anything, he is simply a joyful part of the family and a good friend.  And that’s really all I can ask for I think.

Yellow Labrador Retriever at 18 months

A Dog and His Boy

February 11th, 2008

I was working on the computer and some paperwork the other night, with the tv on in the background and my Labrador Retriever laying quietly asleep on the floor. The boy was taking his bath before bedtime and from down the hallway I heard, “Daddy! Daddy! Mommy! Mommy!” So using my holler-through-the-house voice I call back… “What is it…?” And then from the hallway again, the boy’s Mom calls, “Um, I think you need to come here… this is yours to handle!” And I yell back, “Okay, I’m coming…” as I get up wondering what all the fuss is about. And then I notice that the Yellow Lab is not where he was supposed to be. And with growing awareness I realize the Lab had snuck away to play with the boy (and that he loves water).

So guess who was very proud of the fact that he was sharing his bath with the dog? So proud in fact that he didn’t say a word (and closed the bathroom door!) until he was ready for us to see?! Arrgh!

Yellow Lab in bathtub

Well, they both needed a bath I suppose. The pup’s expression was like “Oh, you found me. It’s really nice in here, can’t I stay?! Pleeease?!” By the way, he really likes the “green turtle squirty thing”.


Snowy Fun in Winter

February 1st, 2008

We awoke to a snowy landscape, and one of those quiet days when it’s nice to enjoy being at home.  After a big breakfast, I spent a couple hours outside clearing the driveway with the tractor.   With enough wind, we have drifts at various places in the driveway, and I’m thankful the tractor really clears the snow.  As the sun came out came out, we bundled up to enjoy some fun in the snow.

The Yellow Lab had some fun of his own… he loves the snow and ran around in circles as fast as he could, and then ran again for hundreds of yards kicking up the snow.  He was smiling the whole time!

Yellow lab running in the snow

“Look at me!” the boy says, enjoying the powdery snow. We pulled a sled around the property trying out the hills.

Fun in the snow for a young boy

But fresh snow is always good for a snow angel!

Snow Angel

Our Labrador Retriever “pup” is so goofy… and look at him jump!  He leaps into the air and goes crazy chasing snowballs.  Now when you throw a snowball and it lands, well… in the snow, it’s kind of hard to find!  But the dog doesn’t know that- he tries to catch it, then runs in circles looking for it after it squishes into powder!  It’s so funny…

Yellow Lab jumps after snowball in winter

The Basset Hound and Shiba Inu watched the Labrador jumping after snowballs, wondering “What is he doing?!  Do they really taste that good?!”

Basset Hound and Shiba Inu watch the crazy Labrador

There’s something about sunlight and shadows on the snow.  It was a fun day and the landscape was beautiful.

Winter afternoon

Yellow Lab at 15 Months

January 23rd, 2008

     It’s hard to believe the yellow Labrador Retriever is 15 months old now.  Actually, it seems like he’s been part of the family for a very long time.  He and the young boy are best friends, and just love to romp and play together. 

We don’t get out as much right now when it’s incredibly cold.  Well, perhaps the dog does, but we don’t train as much as when it’s warmer.  The cold doesn’t bother him a bit however, and last week we even did some retrieves in the cold water of the pond.  He didn’t mind and was ready for more.   

But while we’ve been spending more time indoors perhaps, I’ve found that I need a ready supply of “chewy toys” on hand.  Now a lot of dogs like to chew, no question. 

I’ve met few dogs that have the single-mindedness of this Labrador when he sets to work on chewing something.  And it doesn’t last long!  I bought one of those indestructible chew toys at a pet store the other day… it’s already in pieces.  I don’t know what the best thing is, but we’ve found that thick rawhide chews last the longest.  Maybe 2-3 days each, but that’s better than most of the other items.

Do you have a favorite item that your dog, or your Labrador can chew… and that lasts?   I’d love to know.   Oh, I bought him a nice thick real bone to chew on… about 18 inches long.  He doesn’t chew that much, but likes to carry it around a lot- and he has a penchant for dropping things from the top of the stairs so he can run down to chase it.   Well, he did that the other day with the big hard bone… Crash!  That got my attention… I heard the bone hit the wall across the bottom of the stairs… he just looked at me as if to say, “Wow! That was cool!”

As much as he loves to run and play, he’s also a gentle, good-natured dog.  No pretense… just an honest dog that loves to follow you around.  Oh, and eat whatever you do… he’d be a regular garbage disposal if I let him. 

He’s a loving, goofy animal that seems to fit in pretty well around here.  Doesn’t say much for me perhaps!

Yellow Labrador Retriever at 15 months.

Labradors and Woodstoves

January 3rd, 2008

Another cold morning, but sunny too. We’ve brought the dogs into the garage at night, with a small space heater blowing. They don’t mind the cold when it’s “only” down to about 20-25 degrees F at night. They have small igloo doghouses in their outdoor kennel to cuddle up inside. But when the tempature drops to about 9 degrees F, it’s just too cold for them. If we had a barn with hay and such, they could sleep out of the wind and cold, but for now the garage will have to do! It’s kind of funny… this morning at about 5:00 am I let them out of the garage (so they don’t piddle on the car tires!), and they can’t wait to get out and run around.  But they also know it’s cold out there. After about 10 minutes, they both run up to the kitchen door, and I hear a little “woof!” as if to ask if they can come back in. I open the door and they run in, give a good shake, and run through the laundry room to the garage.

Ah, but one confession… the young Labrador gets to sleep inside the house in his own kennel. Yes… I’m biased. But the other dogs have lived outdoors all their lives, and they can’t stand to be couped up inside.   And the Labrador is a special dog, a family dog, a people dog… an expensive dog! :)  And he’s the dog I waited for most of my adult life… his personality is amazing, and his penetrating gaze is the most genuine, honest measure of trust that I’ve ever known in an animal.  And I just think Labradors are really people dogs.  It’s something I had read about, but not really understood until we’ve had him.  He lives to be around people, and play with people… more importantly, he’s the young boys best friend and playmate. They wrestle, tussle, chase each other… and no matter what the young one does- the Lab just wags his tail and endures the ear pulling, tail pulling, hugging and good ‘ole fashioned romping around the house.  Heck, the boy is seven years old, and in dog years- the Lab is seven years old too!

 Yellow Labrador around the woodstove in winter

Speaking of the cold, I am so thankful for the heat our woodstove provides.  Well, it’s really a wood-burning insert (I was more thankful last year perhaps with the power outage!).  But I think I’ve cut and stacked enough wood for several winters of wood-burning now.  On the coldest days and nights, there are few things to rival a cast iron stove and a few logs of Oak.  We’ve had several Oak trees die over the past few seasons.  I like to leave some standing as snags to provide biodiversity among the landscape, for woodpeckers, insects, etc, but sometimes it’s better to take them down if they’re too close the house or areas of traffic.  And then they provide a couple seasons of warmth for the home.  Of course it’s only supplemental heat to the electric and propane we also use, but every little bit helps! It just looks warm doesn’t it?

Curling fire within the wood stove

‘Tis the Season

December 20th, 2007

     “… to be soggy… fa, la, la, la, la… ”  After all the drought we’ve had through most of the year, I had forgotten what it was like to be really wet and soggy!  We ended up with around 8 inches of snow, and it’s mostly melted everywhere.  But today we get rain!  So everywhere you walk it’s wintery, mushy, soggy, muddy and downright messy.   I really love the Yellow Lab’s coat color, at times almost as white as the snow… but I never thought what it would look like after he really  gets dirty!  He loves to get messy of course… and after playing outside for a while, he is covered in muddy streaks everywhere.  I think I need to incorporate that same sense of abandon in my life.   I forgot to get a muddy picture of him though.  Otherwise, it’s time for last-minute shopping, cleaning and getting ready for Christmas.    We probably won’t have snow on Christmas day this year, but maybe sunny and a little warmer.  That sounds just fine.

The Yellow Lab just loves the snow…  we brought him home as an 8-week old puppy last year just before winter, so he “grew up” playing in the snow.  He’ll run and run, burying his nose in it, and chasing snowballs forever.  Sometimes he even finds one!

The Yellow Labrador loves the snow!

Thankful Days in Autumn

November 22nd, 2007

     What is Autumn if not for playing in the leaves!  Remember leaf piles, and jumping in them?  The other day we raked a pile and jumped and played… the dogs too.  It wasn’t our “Official Annual Leaf Pile Party” but rather siezing the day!  It was such a warm and beautiful afternoon…. just perfect for playing outside.

The young one rakes leaves in a pile with help from the yellow lab.

 Young boy raking leaves - November in Missouri

Running and jumping in leaf piles is my favorite… or hiding in them.  And of course grabbing a big armful and throwing them in the air is always fun!

 Making leaf piles is great fun!

The dogs would not be left out of the fun… the Lab and Basset Hound chased each other around the grass and leaves.  They were cute to watch… a grumpy ‘ole Basset and a year-old Lab.  You can guess who was doing most of the running!

Labrador and Basset Hound playing - Dogs love to play in leaves too!

We also got in a full afternoon of retriever work with the lab.  He did very well this day, and finally settled in the grass for a break.  I think he’s happiest when he can run and run… the signature tongue-hanging-out-the-side-of-the-mouth says it all.

The Yellow Labrador is happy!

     And today of course is a day to be thankful for so many things…  Some of us will spend time with family and friends, and others in quiet reflection.  However you spend the day,  I hope it finds you well.  

Yellow Lab is Growing Up

November 17th, 2007

      The Yellow Lab is now 13 months…. He’s a grown up pup!  Time to stop counting the months.  What a cool dog though- I think everybody should have a some Lab inside… that drooly smile, roll on the ground, tongue hanging out of your month kind of thing?   I like to wrestle with him, but at 90 pounds of pure muscle he’s built like a tank.  He’s been really feeling his “oats” lately as he grows into doggy puberty.  Sneaking around, eating anything that remotely looks edible.  The other day he snuck into the other dogs kennel and ate two bowls of dog food.  I caught him just as he was finishing… he looked at me, licking his lips with a sheepish grin, then laid down on his back with his best “Wanna pet my tummy?!”  routine.  But he loves retrieving…doesn’t matter what or where, he’ll get it.  Soon he’ll have a chance to bring back some real ducks! 

 Yellow Labrador Retriever at 13 months

Don’t you love those mornings when you’re “in the clouds”?  The sun rose through the trees, sending rays of light everywhere.

Morningn sun through the trees

Roses, Peppers and a Wet Labrador

October 22nd, 2007

     Okay, somebody bring back the sun!  The day started out balmy, but the temperatures have been dropping steadily as the clouds and rain rolled in.  We can’t complain though, it was such a beautiful weekend.   This morning I saw several flocks of White-fronted Geese flying far overhead, tootling as they went by, heading south of course.  In March a small flock landed on the pond on their northward journey and I wrote about them here.  They are so different from the Canada Geese.

The roses are still blooming!  Here’s a pink beauty looking toward the sky.

Beautiful pink rose in the morning

I can hardly believe how the pepper plants have grown this year.  I took another 25 peppers off them this morning, and there’s at least that many still growing. 

Jalapeno pepper growing in October

We also did a little retriever training today, and the Yellow Lab swam his heart out bringing the fake duck back.  He loves retrieving, and as the duck landed in the water he was straining to leap towards the pond.  I finally gave him the “back!” command, and off he went, going “Woof! woof!” and grunting with delight.  We’re going to do this 2-3 times a week as the weather gets cooler.  I’m curious to see if the he shows any hesitation with the cold… I know I would!

 The Yellow Labrador completing a water retrieve

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