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Wed, Oct. 16

Williams: Our dogs are retired

This column will be the first of a two-part series on black Lab behavior, but only if I can remember what the second column in the series was going to be.

In our household there are two black Labs by the names of Maggie and Lucy. Maggie is around 14½ and Lucy is pushing 16 years of age. These are advanced ages for black Labs, but then, I don’t remember either dog doing anything over the years that would wear out their bodies (or their minds) prematurely.

Since we adopted them as rescues, I’ve encouraged “our girls” to apply themselves productively or at least to offer their services to someone who could benefit from their ministrations. All to no avail. They, evidently, have felt that the tasks of sleeping, eating, snacking, eliminating and going on hikes/walks were a full-enough daily plate for them.

I will admit that Maggie served three years as a therapy dog, visiting folks in a nursing home in Phoenix on a weekly basis. But that really wasn’t work – all she did was smile and wag her tail a lot and receive treats from the various patients we met. Her heart was in the right place, as was her stomach for anyone who wished to donate an edible.

Despite the fact that our career counseling sessions suffered consistent yawnings and scratchings, I resolutely referred to plenty of canine role models who made it big in Hollywood. Lassie was, perhaps, the most famous. She became a star rescuing Timmy from the well every once in a while. Old Yeller was a yellow hound cross who fought off a mountain lion to protect his human family to gain a solid reputation and a fine income. Rin Tin Tin had his own TV series from 1954 to 1959. And how about that little irritant, Eddie, who was a family member in the “Frasier” TV program? None of these success stories lit the flame of ambition in either of our girls. Over the years while my wife was teaching and I was embroiled in the advertising trade, Maggie, Lucy and our third dog, Lizzie, were content just to hold down the home carpet.

I will reveal that they did participate in one avocation in the early years. They were avid Deconstruction Engineers. We went through a succession of spa covers while living in Phoenix that didn’t wear out on their own. We know this since we found pieces of the $150 (each) covers festooning the backyard on several occasions when we returned home from work.

We also had to change out plumbing fixtures at the end of the house more than a couple of times until I erected a fence around the evaporative cooler piping. We concluded after much introspection that the girls failed to understand the difference between a CONSTRUCTIVE and DESTRUCTIVE perspective.

If they didn’t want to go to Hollywood, they could have become guide dogs to assist visually-impaired and blind folks. Or they could have alerted hearing-impaired people to alarms, doorbells or crying babies. Labs and retrievers are alleged to be particularly well-suited to these activities.

The potential employment list grows longer with opportunities for mobility assistance dogs, diabetic alert dogs and seizure alert dogs. There are also seizure response, psychiatric service, autism support, allergy alert, and drug or bomb detector dog specialists. I know for a fact that there are dogs in Chino who would love to have any of these jobs.

It’s clear that while our girls didn’t mind missing gainful employment opportunities, they were spectacularly well-prepared, however, to be the best they could be … Leisure Labs.

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