December 17, 2012
14 years ago I was made aware of a litter of Black Labs as a place to find a mate for our Jessie, a Golder Retriever mix. After an hour in that back yard, there was no doubt which one was going home with me. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. He was beautiful, with fat paws and personality galore. He bonded with Jessie and fell in love. He protected her every day of her life once he arrived. Any threat to her, and that dog was on his back with a gentle jaw around his throat. Never a mark or any blood. He enjoyed his morning walks like no other pup I have had, so much so that he memorized every move I made during the hour before we left. Whatever the last thing I did before saying let's go, he had 2-3 moves before that in his mind as well. During a rainy year (2003) in Greensboro, I refused to get wet for the second day in a row and cancelled the walk. Knowing that the last thing that happened before we left was taking off the slippers and putting on the sneekers, I could not find the slippers on the third morning. Later finding them at the back of the back yard (doggie door). When I came home from work on the third day, I had a present in the living room floor. I was getting the message. The next morning had harder rain than the others and instead of setting my coffee cup down on the coffee table and saying let's go, I went to work. The coffee cup was the trigger. I came home on that 4th night and smelled another present. Jake had backed up to the coffee table, where I set my coffee cup down and blocked the area with his present. I had to smile. In Tampa he once witnessed a giant blue heron killing baby ducks outside my guest bedroom window, with just a screen to stop him, and the report from the kids who saw what happened, was that he saved 6 baby ducks by breaking through the screen and chasing "angry bird" away. Another night when I brought a Maserati that I was selling, home, and had gone to bed early, he came to my bed, barking and poking me in the arm with his nose. I got up and followed him to the window to find the neighbors looking into the window of the Maserati, trying to see the interior. I had to go outside and say something to them to let him know he did good! When I moved to Pinehurst, I had a friend visiting from Tampa and I lived at the corner of 211 and Gun Club. My friend went to workout and left the front door ajar. Jessie was at the groomers and I was at work. When I arrived home after work, my next door neighbor met me at the car. He said he was visiting his sister that lived next door and had gotten up that morning to find a Black Lab sitting at the end of my driveway. His sister told him that she thought he was mine but never saw him out without me. As you know terrible traffic there. So the brother got a cup of coffee and went to the Florida room on the back of the house to read the paper. He heard a scratch at the back door and when he opened it, he found Jake barking and backing up toward my house. He said I just had to let you know how smart your dog was. He led me to your carport door to let him back in the house. He was quite impressed. After moving to a dead end circle, mostly for Jake and Jessie's sake, I would let Jake out alone around 10-10:30PM, to mark his area and it helped keep the coyotes away. Jessie would motion when he was back at the door. One night after letting him out, I fell asleep in the chair and did not see Jessie's signal to let him back in. So he went to the next door neighbor's house, scratched on the door and led them to his house to let him back in. They did not wake me, but I found out about it at the next little circle beer party when my neighbors asked if Jake told me about their party? They then told me what happened. There are more stories but I'll stop here. He is easily the smartest dog I've ever had and I've had many. I have buried 2 mates of his and after 14 years, it's just he and I now. He can't hear and he can't see very far, but his big black nose still works fine. Our walks are slower and shorter now, and do include a trip to his new love interest's yard for marking. I tell this story for two reasons. One is to share how special my Lab has been to me. The other is to let you know just how important taking your dogs for walks is to them. I never had any doubt how much they meant to Jake. Merry Christmas to all!