I wrote this in 2009 as a personal essay model for my 4th grade students. Not sure why I never put it to my blog post but it is time.
On the PETA website, I noted an outrageous generalized statement that reminded me of this piece and so prompted me to find it and post it now, 14 years later. Seems like a lifetime ago but clearly still relevant. The dogs that I wrote about in this piece are now gone except for Glory, who was only 2 at the time. She is now only 3 months shy of 16 years and although she doesn't jump for apples, forage for tomatoes and find a stuffed toy for her mouth, she does search for berries from the Bradford Pear and follows me about up and down the hill in the yard.
Not Just Labs
By Cheryl Mousseau
As a breeder, potential owners often contact me
Potential owners should definitely do their homework, ask questions, and make smart choices in the breed that fits their family and lifestyle. Even after they have made that decision, what many people don’t realize is that the puppy they bring home will never be exactly like their neighbor’s Lab, even when that puppy is an adult. This reminds me of a couple that had seemed to be the perfect choice for one of my puppies. After weeks of interviews, their names continued to be on my list. Still, something did not seem right to me, so I asked to make a home visit to see where my puppy was going to live. They told me that they loved the Lab down the street and hoped their puppy would grow up to be just like that. The wife showed me her white carpet and furniture and said that the dog would stay in the kitchen area and learn not to go beyond the threshold leading to the living room. My eyebrows went up. We walked outdoors to the perfectly landscaped yard. “Oh, a great pool!”, I commented. “My Labs love a swim in our pool.” However, I learned that the dog would not be allowed in the pool. They proceeded to show me an area under the hemlocks where they expected their puppy to go to the bathroom and then wondered if they should put up more fencing to protect the begonias planted along the borders of the shrubs.
Perhaps, I said politely, this is not the dog for you. I had already decided that this was not where my puppy would be living. How, I thought, would that pup ever be able to develop his unique personality. The people were upset with me, they were disappointed, they were angry because they really thought they would be good owners, and I am sure they would have tried. But what they wanted was the dog down the street. They were not ready to accept a unique little bundle of energy into their home and accept it for who it was.
furry bodies crowd down the stairs. Lisle hangs back, Alex and Bounty have
raced ahead to be down first but turn to make sure that everyone is following.
Caroline, Glory and Meadow, scramble together, three wide all clamoring to hold
onto the fluffy pink pig toy. That leaves James to walk with me, glued to my
side, trying to keep my pace and share the step with me. Reaching the bottom,
all six plus me, I turn back and coax Lisle to hurry along. As each one of my
Labs repeats the daily routines, it makes me realize how uniquely different
each one is. They are all dogs. They are all
the door, the cold chill of winter hits my sleepy body. I pry Brad’s socks out
of Meadow’s mouth, cleverly hidden in her
Predictably, I know who will be in first and who will still be out poking around. Bounty and Alex are the first at the door, so worried that they might miss out on their breakfast. Simultaneously, James, Caroline and Glory(carrying her toy) follow. I holler for Meadow and Lisle. I know what they are doing. Lisle is the oldest, at 12, she is slowing down. Her eyesight is not so sharp anymore and she hesitates on the shadowy garage stairs, but this is not why she and Meadow are the last ones in. They are both searching the yard for whatever they can pick up before I can get to it later. A disgusting habit which I have tried to break them of, I have finally resigned to a measure of prevention which means me getting out in the yard to pick up before they can do it. Not always possible at 5am in the dark of winter.
Finally they are all in again. Meadow and Bounty begin their frantic whine yowl cry as though they have never been fed. Their whole bodies dance, feet barely touching the floor. Their frenzied behavior gets everyone else excited and the bowls cannot be placed quickly enough. Alex sloshes some of his food out of his bowl, predictably, every time, then cleans up when he is done. James leaves his vitamin pill in the bottom of his bowl, everyone else eats theirs. Meadow has moved her bowl 5 feet across the room in her frantic attempts to finish before the rest. The young girls, Glory and Caroline eat in their crates. Clang, clang, clang! Glory bangs her dish against the crate but not because she is bumping it while she eats. She is done but she pushes it purposefully, over and over, perhaps hoping that she will get my attention to let her out or give her more.
“How can you tell them apart?” friends often ask. It is true that the black Labs look very similar. The two yellows are easy, since Meadow is a girl and Alex is a boy. Of course they really do look different. But I can tell them apart more by their behaviors and personalities rather than looks. Alex is the only one who will lay next to my husband on the couch and continually paw him to be petted. If my husband stops, Alex hits him with his paw again. The only dog that ever lies under the coffee table is Caroline, although if Alex abandons his spot on the couch she will often curl up until she gets too hot, then returning to her favorite spot again. James can be found lying on the dog bed on the opposite side of the room, sucking on his fox’s nose. He is very particular and only chooses the fox, however none of the other Labs suck on their toys. Glory makes sure that she chooses the larger couch and spreads completely out so even I have to squeeze into a small spot to sit down. Bounty and Lisle head upstairs to their beds early. It is as though they understand that they cannot compete for the prime spots. But maybe it is because they are happy to have the solitude of the bedroom before the rest join and crowd in later. Meadow heaves a big sigh, as if trying to decide if the quest for the space next to Glory is worth it. Most often she chooses the rug but watches for her opportunity to take Glory’s coveted space.
When they are outdoors, it is Glory who pulls up large clumps of grass and shakes them like they are living beings. It is Glory who hops into the vegetable garden to steal the tomatoes and Glory who nibbles the blueberries and jumps to reach the apples. Caroline kicks up her back legs like a rabbit and pounces like a cat. In the winter, it is Alex who pushes his head down into the snow, rolls to his back and slides downhill like a seal. We say it must be his father’s Canadian blood. James can always be spotted, waiting patiently, with his favorite blue ball hanging by the handle from his mouth. As the rest roam the yard, or romp and play, he sits and watches. Bounty will only retrieve a tennis ball. She loves tennis balls. Meadow loves to retrieve too but is not so picky. She will chase whatever she sees others are interested in, always trying to grab it away from them.
The examples that prove my dogs’ unique personalities would
fill volumes. Samuel D. Gosling, an assistant professor of psychology at the
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