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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?!

yellow-labrador-retriever

 

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!

cowbird-party

Running Through Bluestem

January 17th, 2009

Well the blast of colder weather is giving way to normal winter temps.  I love being outside and training with a little snowfall on the ground.  There was a couple hours of flurries, just enough to brighten the landscape.  It looked like a big snowstorm was coming, but after a while the snow dwindled to tiny flakes again.  The Little Bluestem around the field really brightens the view. 

Falling snow across field of Little Bluestem

The Bluestem also makes for great hiding places.  Yesterday I went out for some training with the yellow lab- it was a cold, breezy 11 degrees F, but he had a grand time, and I did too. He’s been cooped up inside (with the rest of us!) for too long,  and was getting antsy.   They’re such strong, muscular animals that they really need exercise, and he loves running in the field. 

Yellow Labrador Retriever training in winter field

 The orange colored “dummies” I throw for him are difficult to find sometimes, but he has an amazing ability to figure out where they are even if I don’t help direct him.  Sometimes I’ll have him sit at the edge of the field while I meander through it, dropping training dummies in various places so that he doesn’t see.  Then I’ll come back and send him off in one direction to look for them- he’ll start a search pattern like he’s running in the above picture, and use his nose to find them.  We are not at the point where he will follow my hand signals, but he will come back towards me with a certain whistle, and then head out again on command. Eventually he finds them all.  The big pup runs back with such enthusiasm! 

 2-year old Yellow Lab retrieving

Today is bright and sunny, and my younger brother is in town.  He came back from the middle east last month, and has taken time to see the family members- he looks really good! 

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.

Training the Lab

October 13th, 2007

Few thoughts for today as we all catch up with things put off until the weekend.  But who am I kidding… among all the things to do we still must find time to relax and enjoy each day.  :) 

The Yellow Lab is eager to make a retrieve.   In the field I put a couple of pheasant wings in different places.  I’m marking the path for a blind retrieve…. which doesn’t mean a whole lot to him at this point.  He races towards the mark I give him, but then tails off in one direction or another before he quite gets there.  Instead of being as “direct” as he was last month, I think he’s feeling his oats lately… he loves to choose his own path.   I’ve got to work on that- although he does make the retrieve, it takes him longer now, he runs from one side the other, sometimes back, and wastes energy.  Sometimes I struggle to understand “how” to get him to do things… it’s part of his education, and most certainly it’s part of mine!

Marking the direction of the blind retrieve

He has grown to muscled youth with a vigor I can only look back upon.  The pheasant wing is in his mouth on the way back from finding its hiding place.

Yellow Labrador Retriever returning from retrieve

 

The pond was foggy on several days this week- I love the mist on the waters, and it makes me wonder what lurks in the deep?

Morning fog at the corner of the pond

Happy Birthday Pup! Yellow Lab is 12 Months

October 1st, 2007

     A big Happy Birthday to the Yellow Labrador today!  He was born on this day last year, and is leaving his puppy days behind.  He doesn’t mind however and is getting to be a big dog- I don’t even know his weight.  I took him to the field yesterday with some other Labs for dove hunting.  He has never met another Lab until yesterday… or a female dog.  Suffice it to say he was very excited!   He did okay though,  he found the birds before I did, but wasn’t really sure what to do with it the first time.  After that he made a decent retrieve, but is still a little mystified about the whole process.  I didn’t have a chance to work with him with real birds yet this year, but hopefully he’ll pick it up quickly as the season goes on.  But he’s just a great friend and fun to be around.

The Yellow Labrador Retriever at 12 months. Happy Birthday!

 

  It was time to turn the garden under, clean it up, and prepare it for next year.  We cut down all the stringy vines, and pulled up the old vegetation.  After trimming everything back (except for one lonely tomato plant), I carted all of it off to a pile that I can burn in the months ahead.  So then it was time to lay compost on top of the garden.  The tractor was really helpful, especially since the fence encloses the entire garden.  We could lower the bucket over the fence for filling it up, and dumping in the compost!  Newspapers do the trick over top of weeds and such.  We put them down and I used the tractor to scoop our compost and dump right on top.  The compost is really just leaf litter and grass clippings that have been in a pile for the last 3-6 months.  Hopefully it will help keep the weeds down, and we’ll add more leaf litter as top dressing over the fall and winter months.

The tractor helps with dumping, hauling and just about everything else!

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