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Every Dog Has His Day

October 3rd, 2008

The other day my dog had his day, his birthday in fact.  And I’ll remember it for a long, long time.  It’s hard to believe the big ‘ole yellow lab puppy is 2 years old.  Okay, he’s not a puppy anymore, but he sure acts like one.  Of course he’s my first Labrador, so maybe they act this way all the time.  We pal around everywhere together, especially while I do chores, or while waiting to pick up the boy at the bus stop.   His energy and good nature are unstoppable.  Nearly.  So guess what I did for his birthday?  I ran him over with a golf cart.  “What?!” I hear you thinking.  But it’s true.    

So there I go racing down the gravel drive at full golf cart speed, with the 90 pound labrador running along side as usual.  We’re going to do some retrieving in the field. Except this time he’s out slightly ahead of me, and cuts right in front and stops!  I yell at him and instead of jumping out of the way, he crouches down!  I was going downhill too fast to turn or do anything, and if you’ve driven on gravel you know that stopping quickly just doesn’t work.  So I cringe as the front tire goes “Whump! Bump!’ right over my lovable dog, and he squirts out the side.  I’m on the brakes sliding to a rocky stop in a cloud of dust, horror stricken that I’ve killed my dog.

I jump out and he’s sitting over on the grass looking at me like “What’d I do?!”   I’m more stunned than he is, and I check him over carefully and pet him and… he looks okay.  He really does.  He has a little cut on top of his head, but nothing more.  He starts nosing around and waiting for us to do something.   I’m not sure, so I slowly walk back to the house observing him, deciding whether to call the vet. The lab is sniffing and running around, and wants to play.  Heck, he just escaped death right?  Who wouldn’t be happy?  It’s time for his supper and he runs to the garage waiting.  If you have dogs, you also know they have this amazing, innate sense of time.  But I fix a smaller than usual bowl of food with extra vitamins and all kinds of other healthy stuff thrown in to help in case he’s bruised.  After he finishes I let him rest in the kennel for a few hours. 

 Yellow Labrador Retriever - 2 years old

Later we go out for a walk and he takes off running down the hill to find his usual smelly spots.  The boy and I hike over to the pond with the lab out in front as usual.  I’m thinking about the day’s events. Thankfully the tires on the golf cart are big and soft, relatively speaking.  And they’ve been low on air and I just haven’t got around to filling them up.  And then I wonder, “Maybe I didn’t really run him over… maybe he just got nudged by the side or something?”  He’s no worse for wear and I’m thankful.  

But my thoughts are quickly answered as I catch up to him, and for the first time I see this faint image of a wide, black tire tread going right across his middle.  Damn. I did run over my dog.  On his birthday.

If that’s not enough to make you feel bad I don’t know what is.  But he’s okay, no bruising or any sign of stiffness.  And of course the Lab doesn’t hold it against me.  Which doesn’t make me feel any better. But that’s the thing about dogs, and Labs especially-they always want to please.  Now I have to add another goal to my list:  Don’t run over the dog.

In thinking about the last two years, I couldn’t ask for anything more in a family dog or a friend that what he has become.   And to see the smile on the boy’s face as he plays and wrestles with the dog is another joy I didn’t expect.  If I’ve had any misgivings about him, they revolve more around my knowledge and ability as his owner, much like reflecting on one’s ability as a parent.  At many levels perhaps that’s the greatest testament to the dog he is, and the human I’m still trying to become. 

I was looking for a better way to describe how I feel about this dog, but noted Field & Stream columnist and author Gene Hill describes it perfectly:

“He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.)”

“When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man.  With him, I am all-powerful.  He is loyalty itself.  He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me… whenever… wherever – in case I need him. And I expect I will – as I always have. He is just my dog.”

Flowers, Berries and Bees

September 12th, 2008

The autumn season is just around the corner, and the fall honeyflow for the bees is in full swing.  Many seasonal flowers are blooming and very abundant due to all the rainfall.  I have left the bees alone for the past few weeks, and hopefully they are producing lots of honey for their winter stores. 

Sedum flowers are tiny, but the bees are covering these plants throughout the daylight hours.  Bees are fascinating insectsDid you know it takes over 2 million trips to flowers to make just 1 pound of honey?  Each worker bee lives about 6 weeks, and during that time each worker will make about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey.  Makes me appreciate honey all the more!

Bees love Sedum flowers!

I left a large patch of these “weeds” near the pond dam, and the bees seem to love them.  I don’t know what they are called, but there’s probably a quarter acre of them about 4-5 feet tall with white flower heads.   

 Autumn flowers that bees love

Earlier this summer I didn’t see the bees around our property much, and we didn’t have many flowers blooming that were suitable for bees.  They would zoom off from the hive somewhere, and I thought they were really fast.  But honeybees can only fly about 15 mph and can be challenged on windy days to make it to the hive.  The NOVA article above says a worker bee will visit between 50-100 flowers on each trip outside the hive.  That’s a lot of work!

It’s also time to harvest some more berries.  These are “autumn berries” from the Autumn Olive or Autumnberry tree (Elaeagnus umbellata). 

Autumnberries in late summer

Autumnberry is really a very large shrub, originally from Asia.  Decades ago they were planted around the eastern U.S. to help with soil stability and erosion prevention.  Turns out they are quite invasive however and have taken over many areas. The plant is thick and branchy, with many thorns in the upper branches.  Not easy to remove.  I’ve watched a large thicket grow up in just a few years above the pond.  But the berries are edible, and we’re going to experiment with them to make jam or jelly. 

If all goes well, we may also have a little honey to go with our biscuits before the bees settle in for winter.  We’ll check on them next week!

Bee hive and Labrador Retriever in foreground

Doggy Treats in the Garden

September 9th, 2008

The past couple of years I have worked hard to train my young Labrador Retriever.  He’s a smart and gentle dog, and will do just about anything  you ask.  If he’s not good at something, it’s because his trainer (me!) doesn’t know how to teach him.  This will hopefully be his first real season with ducks, and he turns two years old in a few weeks. 

But he’s also full of surprises.  Last year I threw him a tomato hornworm from the garden, which he happily munched up… yuck! 

Tomato Hornworm, a Labrador treat! 

The other day as I was picking some beans, I looked over to see him sniffing the tomato plants, and then looked again to see him playing with, and then eating something on the ground.  He had found, and picked off his own tomato hornworm!  

Labrador Retriever in the garden

My first thought for how to explain this: “Uh, well, I don’t know how he is on ducks, but man you should see him retrieve tomato hornworms!”   He wanted to sniff out a few more himself, but he has a knack for pulling off entire branches of the tomato plant too.  So I found a few myself and threw them to him.  He seems to have a taste for those little suckers.   Maybe when we go duck hunting, I’ll take a few hornworms with me and rub them on the birds?!

Playing Tag in the Woods

August 6th, 2008

We’re still on the road and seeing the marvels of this great nation first hand.  I don’t have time to write much, but will leave you with this picture of the yellow lab and a curious friend one evening.   See you soon!

Yellow Lab and the Deer

Summer Fun at the Pond

July 23rd, 2008

In many places it’s a rite of passage for kids to go fishing in the summer.   With a nearby pond, fishing can be a simple pleasure on a summer evening.  It doesn’t have to be the normally complex undertaking with boats, tackle boxes and all kinds of other stuff.  Instead, we found a long cane pole, a hook, a bobber and dug up a few worms.   

The boy worked at putting the worm on the hook, but it was kind of small so I tried to help.  Of course I didn’t have my glasses with me so I wasn’t much help, and he did it on his own.  Then with wriggling worm he threw the line and bobber into the water, sitting on a stump to wait.   After a few minutes… “Bloop!” the bobber was pulled under…  “I got one!” he yells excitedly, as he pulls a big bluegill out of the water.  And then again a little later, “I got another one!” this time pulling a bass out of the water.

Boy a Labrador and a Bass

The yellow lab was entranced by these flopping critters the boy pulled out,  We threw the fish back and the dog tried to jump in the water after them!    Now that would be a trick… retrieving fish.   I think somewhere in the history of the Labrador Retriever they used to be fishing dogs, swimming out to bring back fish that had fallen out of nets.   But on this night he was just a companion, watching the boy’s excitement and wonder at catching fish.

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