With the Great Zebra Debate now settled, let’s talk about Labradors. (FYI-Zebra are apparently quite mean to Labradors-really dogs of all kinds, thus my plans for the Christmas Card this year have been thrown ALL ASUNDER.) (Pretend for me that we could have gotten The Boys in their bowtie collars, sitting side by side, not eating each other’s ears or sniffing each other in inappropriate places, in front of some serenely grazing zebra, who were oblivious to the presence of 160 pounds of fur and slobber, until the magic moment when the photographer said, “Boys!”, at which time all critters would simultaneously raise their heads and look placidly in the direction of the camera. Because frankly, that photo would totally have dethroned Martha and coronated me Supreme Domestic Goddess. And I’m not even married or a parent.)
This was attempt #1 at getting a Christmas card photo with the boys their first Christmas. Note the serenity present in the subjects. And the presence of the photographer’s foot in the shot. That’s a mark of true quality that you just can’t get if you use a professional photographer, people.
And this was attempt number approximately 3,793 at a Christmas card photo that same year. As you can see, Cooper has decided he DOES NOT CARE FOR the jingle bell collar, and he is DONE with the photography process. This is Cooper’s “Lady, I’m obeying your command, but I don’t have to like it, and I’m certainly not going to go the extra mile and look handsome while doing it” face. And you can still see the photographer’s foot in the shot.
We do not have a great history of Christmas card shots with The Boys. Last year? I regard as a miracle.
Now, to this weekend. I headed out to the ranch to celebrate my daddy’s 65th birthday. By now you are used to my brief asides, and so here’s another one. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY! It wasn’t easy getting you to 65. You have tried many times to do an end run around the “more birthdays” routine, but you married well, and your wife isn’t done with you yet. Neither is your daughter. We’ll let you know when that happens. In the meantime, keep having birthdays.
And to our donor family, wherever you are, know I carry you in my heart every place I go. In every time I hug my daddy. In every time you can’t hug your daddy. A very deep, primal part of my soul hurts for you, knowing that you can’t hug your daddy or hold his hand, or have him make everything better for you. I can’t pretend to know the mysteries of this life, all I can do is be beyond humbled and simply grateful for your gift. I think that’s a part of Grace. The ability to receive a gift you don’t deserve, have no right to even hope for, and can NEVER repay, and be quietly and prayerfully grateful for it. I still have to work on this. But know that being a good steward of your gift is at the foundation of every decision I make. Know I love you and respect your decision for privacy.
On to the lighter topic at hand.
So this weekend, celebrating Daddy’s birthday early since I had to be back at the office today. Apparently, the cat needed more cat food. (WE ARE LABRADOR PEOPLE. NOT CAT PEOPLE.) I was instructed to pick some up in The Big City, as apparently Hooterville was out of the right kind of cat food. (WE ARE LABRADOR PEOPLE. NOT CAT PEOPLE.) Since the request was sent to me in a text message, and not an email or better yet a post it note placed in the “really important post it note pile” on my desk (I have a system people, don’t judge.), I forgot. So part of Dad’s birthday celebration included getting to ride to Tyler with his daughter to purchase more cat food (WE ARE LABRADOR PEOPLE. NOT CAT PEOPLE. And just to prove it, I also picked up some food for The Boys and a couple of bags of rawhides in addition to the ridiculously tiny cans of cat food. So there.).
While in the Petsmart, (no-Petsmart did not sponsor this story and knows nothing about me or my silly blog. So, take that FCC.) I had the privilege to meet Barney, a 3 month old yellow lab. So while he was being a labrador and climbing all over me and chewing on anything that looked or smelled remotely interesting, his person looked at me, and I told her “We have two brothers at home.” And she got what I have come to term the “First time Labrador Owner Look” on her face. I smiled. And she said, “When…”, and she didn’t even have to finish the question. Because every first time labrador owner ever in the history of labradors has asked the same question of every single other labrador owner they meet. “When do they stop chewing/eating drywall/dismantling my furniture/running through screen doors/eating my down comforter/bringing me dead things/never sleeping/eating their weight in kibble/WHEN DO I GET TO GO BACK TO MY REGULAR LIFE?????” (For the first three weeks after Cooper finally woke up, I didn’t do a single load of laundry, because he was awake ALL THE TIME, and needed supervision ALL THE TIME, and when he slept, I took advantage of the opportunity to sleep, too.)
And I said, painfully, what every other veteran labrador owner tells every other newbie lab owner. “You’ll see a slight downshift at 1, a bigger downshift at 2, and by 3, they have entered The Golden Age of Lab.” And I watched the look of “OH MY STARS WHAT HAVE I DONE?” look cross her face. I was still sitting on the floor of the Petsmart (I’m pretty sure that was a safe idea…eek.), so as to better allow Barney to labrador himself all over me, and I assured her that first of all, he was about to hit the REALLY ENTERTAINING PHASE of lab puppyhood. The phase I like to call “The Legs Phase”. It’s when their legs go from short, fat puppy legs to longer, leaner big boy legs. But the rest of the body stays puppy-chubby and perfectly edible. (And their paws still stay yummy and kissable.) And they have no idea what to do with this. The legs seem to operate on a different neurological system than the rest of them, and tend to go in the opposite direction than the body is trying to get them to go. It is hilarious, and even though I told The Boys I was laughing with them and not at them, really, I was laughing at them. This seemed to relax her a little.
And I told her that when he hit the Legs Phase, he would also hit the adolescent phase. And that really, God made those two coincidental so that the species would continue to survive. Because the adolescent phase is when they take their destructive power and crank it up about ten notches. Literally every morning you had to make up your mind to love them despite themselves. (Much like a human adolescent.) The fact that they forget which leg is where and which direction they want to go in and subsequently trip over the air? Is funny enough to repair some of the damage done when they eat the cash out of your wallet. (It was going to get spent on rawhides at Sam’s anyway, so at least The Boy cut out the middle man.) Cooper, in this phase, went through about three rawhides a day (Sam’s. Thank you God, for Sam’s.) He would wedge them at the very back of his mouth, right by the joint in his jaw, bite down, and shatter them. And then, because I valued the ability to focus on something other than what The Boy was eating at the moment, I could leave him alone to chew on the rawhide shrapnel while I ran the dishwasher, did a load of laundry, or brushed my teeth. It took me a couple of nights of stepping on rawhide shrapnel in the dark before I learned to teach him the “clean” command (I’d point to the forgotten piece of shrapnel, and say, “clean!”, and Cooper, the World’s Stubbornest Dog, would actually usually obey that command. He is food motivated, but I like to pretend that he was obeying out of a sense of loyalty to me, the person who raised him.). After that, we pretty well had our evenings set. Play, eat, clean up from the eating, go outside, wait, come back inside, clean up what should have happened outside, go back outside, get stared at by a labrador who no longer needed to do anything outside, go back inside, get a rawhide, shatter, chew, do laundry. Repeat as necessary until bedtime.
Eventually, it was determined that if we ever wanted to have a life again (ie, houseguests who weren’t fellow lab owners, the use of our china and crystal, and coffee tables with stuff on them) we would have to send The Boys to some intense training. We were beyond Petsmart at this point.
But this post is long, and so I’ll share the story of the boys’ stay at The School For Wayward Labradors tomorrow. Apparently, this week has become “Labrador Week” over at the ole blog. Maybe I can get this licensed, like Discovery Channel does.