I’ve mentioned many times, in previous blogs, our two yellow Labrador retrievers, Russell and Fern.
Litter mates, Russell and Fern have been companions since their birth in May, 2010. Until recently, I was under the mistaken impression that the breed originated in Labrador. Actually, the breed descended from St. John’s Water Dog, an English breed taken to Newfoundland by English fishermen in the eighteenth century. It had a short, oily coat, was as comfortable in water as on land, was unaffected by the icy waters off the coast of Newfoundland, and was eager to please the fishermen for whom they worked.
Sound familiar? Everyone who owns one of these wonderful dogs is nodding right now. If you would like to read more about the origin of this breed, you can check out the website Where Do Labradors Come From. My only guess as to the origin of their name is that Newfoundland is relatively close to Labrador, and the name “Newfoundland” for a dog breed had already been taken.
As our dogs have aged, I have noticed that they tolerate the heat of a typical Kansas summer less and less. When they were younger, they would romp and play until about noon, and then ask to be let into our house, where they slept all afternoon in a totally-enclosed, temperature-moderated porch.
Nowadays, they will want to go outside around 7:00 a.m. on a summer morning, do their business, sniff around a bit, then come back panting and wanting inside by 7:15. They spend virtually the entire summer day inside the porch, although, as Fern can attest, it’s not exactly a huge sacrifice.
Winter (understandably, considering their ancestry) has always been the dogs’ favorite time of year. Contrast the previous photo of lethargic Fern in summer with this photo of ecstatic Fern rolling in the snow.
Then this past week, it happened! Fall arrived in Kansas! And with it came brisk, cool, dewy mornings just perfect for long walks with Fern and Russell.
I have not taught my dogs any tricks. It’s not that they are not intelligent enough to learn them, it’s just that I’ve always felt that balancing a treat on your nose was overrated and, well, quite frankly, more than just a little demeaning.
I do, however, talk to my dogs. And they know a number of words, with their favorite being, without a doubt, the word “walk”.
So, on that brisk, cool, dewy morning I asked our dogs, “Do you want to go for a walk?”
Fern leaped, literally leaped, into the air. Russell, instantly infected by Fern’s enthusiasm, began chasing her around our yard. While they playfully dodged and darted, hither and yon, I stood back and smiled.
I got my dogs back!
On our walk, they immediately reverted to a familiar, tag-team hunting routine: Russell, with his better nose, sniffed the tall grass for the scent of a hiding or burrowing rabbit.
Meanwhile, Fern, with her better athleticism, watched and waited for Russell to flush out the prey. At first glimpse of the rabbit, she took off, racing towards it at full speed. Russell also took up the chase, heading it towards his sister.
In the old days, they would sometimes actually catch the rabbit. These days, they rarely return with any bounty. For them, the joy is now strictly in the chase.
I know that there are many out there who are lamenting the return of Old Man Winter with its bitter temperatures and biting winds. Not me.
Because I got my dogs back!
(Before Russell and Fern, there was Wilson. You can read all about it in the May and June chapters of The Return to the Family Farm.)
Next Week: Searching for Zip