Thursday, 18 July 2013

Lab management

I was sitting on the couch talking to Nick last night, when it happened.
Finnigan was all excited about seeing the Baby Skylar and had been barking incessantly. I told him to stop and he started toward me, not with the happy Lab swagger but charging me like a bull after a cowboy who was stupid enough to get in the ring with it.
He lept over two chairs and the ottman, approximately three feet in the air, sailing straight toward me.
It's hard to describe the feeling when 100 pounds of taut black muscle is about to crush you.
Perhaps only wrestlers know this feeling.
My body certainly knows the imprint.  
Finnigan has body slammed me before. He nearly knocked out my front teeth twice at the dog park once when I was trying to pick up Sophie the pug, another time when I was putting a leash on her.

That was bad and it hurt, but this time, this time could have been a whole lot worse.
Miraculously, he managed to land in the tiny square of leather sofa between me and the armrest.
It was a near impossible landing.
Then he casually leaned into me, tongue hanging two feet down, as if he had merely "hopped up".
Being the mother of a Lab is not for the faint of heart.
It requires agility and keen Spidey senses to simply get out of the way.
It involves patience on the level of sainthood.
Mostly, it requires anger management.
I've had three Labs in my life.
The first one, Mandy, died at the hands of a babysitter who had left out a dozen chocolate chip oatmeal muffins without kenneling the beast. After eating them all, then puking and pooping as much as she could, my beloved two-year-old dropped to the floor, dead at my feet.
I don't know if you've known the trauma of instant dog death -- especially in a young one -- but it stays for a long time. Still can't get the image out of my head. 
My second Lab, Maggie, proved to be too much for me to handle. Even with obedience classes, we weren't able to achieve the loving relationship required for effective lab management.  
The last straw was plucked when I was practising putting Maggie down with a lead, as taught to me by the trainer. She ended up putting me down on the grass instead, right in front of the neighbor kids.
She stood over me, bearing her teeth and gnashing. The next day, Maggie went to live with Derik the outdoorsman who whipped her into shape, as men seem to be able to do effortlessly with Labs.
With Maggie, I learned the hard way that Labs are like chocolates.
They may all look the same, but you never know what you're going to get.
Finnigan came to us after the lovely and gentle Hannah, our Golden Retriever died of cancer a year and a half ago. Finnigan and Hannah could not have been more different.
Hannah was genteel, a lady with manners and soft kisses.
Finnigan is a hooligan.
I suppose you could put it down to youthful exhuberance.
Often he is a delight.
Scott says it's because he's just so darned happy to be alive.
He's not mean or evil.
He's just reckless and high spirited.
Sure. That's when Scott's around.
When I'm here along, Finn is a menace.
He doesn't like to go out alone, so he grabs Sophie by the neck and drags her down the stairs.
When I'm in the bathroom for any length of time, he terrorizes the elder pug Gordie, rolling him on his side and chomping on his back legs. This usually results in Gordie pooping himself.
Needless to say, I wait to take my shower until there is a witness.
The neighbors are not fond of Finnigan either.
We live in a neighborhood of elderly ladies -- I'm talking women in their 90s -- who walk by our house every day to get their scratch off cards from the convenience store.
Imagine their shock when they see a big black head bobbing up and down just above the fence.
Oh, well, he keeps the drug dealers off our property.
Finnigan's behavior is truly puzzling.
If he goes to the dog park, he is the sweet man who has captured many hearts, the guy who playfully wrestles with French bulldogs and poodles then dutifully returns to his Master's voice and accepts the lead.
When he's in his back yard, he is Cujo.
I've heard that it takes Labs three years to mature.
I'm hoping I don't die of a heart attack or blunt force head trauma first.

Blog EXTRA! Training videos from Finnigan's puppyhood.

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