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Saturday, March 5, 2011

The safe deposit box

Yesterday evening, the Labraduo and I went for our sunset hike.

I always try to start in the sunshine on a south-facing slope where the golden rays cheer our spirits. At one point, I found the Duo on the opposite side of a gargantuan Ponderosa Pine that had fallen. I didn't call them but watched to see what they'd do.

R's approach was predictable. With no hesitation, he leaped the tree.
K's was less predictable. Do you see K in the photo below? She's looking for a way under the log.
Then, rather than run around it (which I was starting to think about directing her to do), she decided to hurdle it. She used a "steeplechase" style leap briefly placing her hind paws on the log. Launch...
Hind paws on log...
... and landing. The landing always scares me the most because I fear that she's going to injure her paw with the jarring impact.
It's hard learning to let our dogs live with verve even when I fear that they'll hurt themselves. My first female chocolate lab, Acadia, had severe elbow problems later in life. After her surgery, I talked with the vet about all my ideas for how to prevent future injury. As I told him about my long list of restrictions, he stopped me. With a sardonic grin, he said "you could rent a safe deposit box and lock her in there - that would certainly prevent injury". His comment stopped me in my tracks. Acadia didn't belong locked up and neither does K now.
Way back then, we talked some more about quality of life versus protectiveness, and that wonderful vet convinced me that, within reason, I should give Acadia the freedom to romp and live fully. I'm so glad that he took the time to help me see that, for dogs just like for humans, life isn't worth living if it's too restricted.

Isn't it funny that I was contemplating this same topic with regard to myself yesterday? It's not really so different for us or our dogs.

In any case, I still find myself wincing when K decides to hurdle a huge tree or leap straight off a towering boulder. But, I remember that wonderful vet's words about the "safe deposit box", and I let K decide what she wants to do.
K doesn't scorch her brother anymore in sprinting races (she did until a year or so ago) but she runs with the joy of a dog.
After the sunshine part our hike yesterday, I steered us toward Hug Hill to see the sunset. An unexpected obstacle stood in our path. A herd of elk...
I immediately called the dogs. I am so proud of how well they do in recalling away from wildlife. Believe me, a huge amount of work has gone into reaching the point that I am confident that they'll come when called even when faced with a hundred elk. The photo below shows R returning to me after seeing the herd.
The herd usually just thunders out of sight, and we continue on our way (with the dogs on leashes). But, yesterday, the elk seemed stymied about which way to go. I watched them run first one way and then another. Then, they stopped and stared at us. During the staring phase, I saw that the bull elk still have their antlers. They keep them until their new velvet antlers start growing and knock off the old ones in the spring.
We never made it to Hug Hill for sunset. We walked to a western-facing slope and peered through the trees at the fiery show so the elk could decide which way to go without our pressure.


  1. I know how you feel (on a much smaller scale) about the whole living life vs. preventing injury in dogs theme. There are those that do not do agility with their dogs because of the threat of injury and sometimes it makes me think to myself, "is it OK that Marge is doing agility?" But I'm careful with her and never overdo it, and it's obvious she enjoys it.. so I can't let her live under a rock. Especially since agility has enriched her life in so many ways.

    I bet K feels the same about getting to go in the mountains with you. She'd want it no other way.

  2. I took our dog that has had 5 orthopedic surgeries to the groomer on Thursday--I'm always so worried that they'll accidentally try to bend his paw that doesn't bend, or he'll try to jump off the grooming table, or....Like you, I've found that there is a time we just have to 'let it go' and try not to worry too much and let them enjoy life--But 'we' always will worry, it's just who we are, isn't it?

  3. You wouldn't believe the Dad Ron went to Acadia University...and my 'next door' vet went there as well...and she told me not to act like a 'circus dog' after I sprained my leg a couple years ago. I guess the chance of really doing a number on my leg was high from her experience so why put yourself in a position to pay a huge vet bill...enjoy life but be reasonable.

  4. I love your vet's comment. It is easy to get overprotective and live in fear at every little thing we do. It is a learning process.

    I think dogs live more free than anyone I know. I wish it could be that simple and easy.

    I have to smile a little though when you say you wince a little everytime she lands. I would be the same way. :)

  5. Can you believe that I even wince a little when I see K leaping over those logs? But it looks like they both really have a great time doing agility in nature.

    So when those antlers fall off, do you find them? Are they safe to give to the dogs? They get big $$$ here for one small piece of antler chew.

  6. geez your outings are total adventures, BOL
    Benny & Lily

  7. Something tells me Mango's Labradork brother Dexter would try to become one with the herd!

    As for the safety deposit box, I bet K thinks the same of YOU!

  8. Such beautiful pics...beautiful dogs. They look so incredibly happy doing their thing. When Gibson, my wooly Sibe, was stricken with seizures and then put on meds when he had 4, going on 5 grand mal seizures in a row, I watched his every move. I even tried to stop him from running & playing with the rest of the "kids," my vet gave me similar advice...she said, "Let him live his life." I, too, stopped and thought, wow...he wants to run or play, what am I doing? He's happy in his element. So I finally let him do what makes him happy. That's not to say I don't worry, I do. All the time. But seeing him happy truly warms my heart. Just as watching your two shows just how happy they are in their element too. Just beautiful.

  9. I'm trying to find that same balance right now with Blueberry. She's supposed to take it easy for the next week or so, and when we went out today, I realized that it will be a little harder for her to get back in shape than I'd expected. But she does know her limits, and when she got tired today, she laid down on the dog bed we had for her (we were at a meet and greet) and waited for the crowds to come to her and pet her. She has been SO unhappy being left out, though, I'm trusting her to let us know when she wants to go and when she's had enough.

    Every time I see R, I can't help smiling! His joie de vivre is contagious!

  10. Nice elk pictures today. They look good in their neutral suits, don't they?

    The duo look like they are having a grand time and if you are thinking doubts, they are gonna shut you down. What a sweet pair.

    Cheers and hugs,
    Stella Bella and Jo

  11. Your photos somehow manage to defy gravity and get better and better. That bull elk is one handsome chap.

  12. Yup, hard to let the dogs be dogs when you know they have had an injury and are sometimes not the most mindful of their own physical well being. But great to see her doing the steeplechase.

    Mango Momma

  13. beautiful....your story reminds me of my golden 6 months of age i noticed her tracks in the snow were very different from Beau's..she kinda dragged her back paws..(this was b4 i was in this field) anyway, had a very expensive PennHip procedure to see how her hips were...the Doctor told me: "these are the worst hips i have ever seen, she should be crated always and never allowed to run!" i of course thought phewy! and let her decide for herself....i figured a short life filled with fun was better than a long life living in a crate!
    she was the most athletic dog i ever had, very much like Tahoe...and lived a pain free life till 15!
    live each day to the fullest!
    how's the house since the incident?! :)

  14. Hi Y'all,

    I wanted to share my stylish blog award with y'all. Please come by when y'all have a chance and pick it up.

    My Human would never let me off lead 'cause I know when I'm running free and stickin' my nose into stuff she's scared stiff I'll get snake bit.

    Sometimes I overhear Momma and Papa havin' a discussion over acceptin' a dinner invite. She just says, we've had our "once a week", we should stay home and eat our beans and rice. Papa says he wants to go out and so they go out...and I get left home with my dog food. :(

    So I guess it's Human nature to be overly protective of the ones we matter the species.

    Hawk aka BrownDog

  15. at some point i'm going to have to e-mail you off-line to ask you about your wildlife recall work. i can't tell by the photos exactly what methods you use, though I'm vaguely familar with how you train, i'm just not clear on exactly how you trained it. just what i'm curious about. i want to ride with both dogs off leash but need to train them to ignore dogs on leash (or off) and wild life and horseback riders. separtely, they are fine, but together their combined drive always wins over my commands. (horse incident for example). when i ride with them separtely, i can off-leash them, but still have to re-leash if they are being too-interested in a dog in the distance. and always re-leash by livestock. would be nice to have more training and confidence to go by any livestock off-leash (or wild life)...

    i ramble. but i'm always super impressed with your training. oh and ya, i agree w/safebox thing. gotta have a life i think!

  16. Very thoughtful words on the "safe deposit box." We are so often tempted to over-protect. All we can say is that your dogs are among the most loved and happiest we have ever seen!

  17. miss KB,

    i promise that deep down, us labradoggies know our limits! besides, miss K is totally genius 'n sensible, so you can trust her to not over do stuff 'n thingies. :)
    i can't believe those elks just hung out and stared at ya'll! i would have loved to have been on your hike, but my mama is sayin' my recalls are not quite so exemplary. hmmmph!

    the booker man

  18. Glad you feel that you can let K romp again. She's having so much doggone fun! Love the elk pics, KB.

  19. Your message and Wilf's are similar today: as the vet said, if a problem develops,, you'll know, and as Wilf himself said, "we'll worry about the things that are worth worrying about and forget the rest." Maybe that was Angus. Anyway, you get the point :-)

  20. my moms worry about me all the time because sometimes I am active as a billy goat. they worry i will hurt my back with all the jumping,,,
    so they try to control me some.. but i outsmart them.... you know,,, living life to the fullest is what i want to do,,,, like you

  21. Great leaping shots!! I know what you mean about the safe deposit box. I know I tend to be overprotective. I just can't bear the thought of my pups in pain, but then I think back to my days working at the animal hospital, and I recall how the resiliency of animals continually amazed me. I try to let them live and soak up all the fun they can. Some days that's easier than others.

  22. I think both you and I have been in safe deposit boxes of our own from time to time, and we don't like it much more than a dog would. Very cool and appropriate analogy.


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