When I was a baby, my parents got a black labrador retriever that they named Duke. Duke was a feisty little boy, with an ever-moving tail and boundless energy – at least that’s what I’ve been told. I obviously don’t remember.
What I do remember is long walks in the fields surrounding my parent’s house. We were surrounded by farmland, overlooking a quiet bay. Duke and I would spend hours out in the yard, throwing the ball, hunting snakes, swimming and enjoying life.
Having been raised alongside an infant, he was a gentle boy… never growling or biting anyone, greeting the tourists as they rode by on their bikes, offering his ball to them so they could throw it. Everyone enjoyed his diving tricks; throw a small stone in to the water and he’d come out with one so big he could barely lift it.
He was my Dad’s hunting buddy – he trained him for duck hunting, and he was skilled in the art of ‘sit’ and ‘stay’, ‘back’ and ‘release’. My father always said he had a gentle mouth, and would never leave a mark on anything that he retrieved.
His coat was so black, it almost looked blue. I brushed him all. the. time. so it shined like it was wet. He probably would have won conformation classes, as he was the exact dog that you will find on the cover of any Black Labrador book. Not a fleck of white on him, and no kink in his tail. A perfect head and strong bones.
Duke lived unusually long for a Lab – he was 13 when he was attacked by another dog and died from his injuries.
My whole family was at a wedding when we got a phone call that something had happened to Duke. We raced home to find him hiding in the barn, unable to breathe, and knowing there was nothing we could do, we said our goodbyes and he slipped away.
It was the first time I had ever seen my father cry.
The first time I had experienced death close enough to personally affect me.
We buried him in the back yard under a cedar sapling. Every time I see a fine-boned silky-smooth black lab, I think of Duke.
The boys have been bugging us for a dog since we moved here. There are dogs everywhere in our neighbourhood, and an off-leash part just down the road. Because Peanut and Monster have a dog at their father’s, and Speedy has one at his mother’s, they thought it was only fair to have one here.
The consensus was originally ‘absolutely not’ – too much work. We want to travel, we love to golf, we are never home. We don’t have a fenced yard, and I don’t want a dog in the house.
Until we realized that we are ALWAYS home. Yes we love to golf, but we don’t really travel, other than overnight sometimes. A fence isn’t that expensive, and the house is empty when the boys aren’t here… why not bring a furry friend in to love?
And so, the search began. First, it was finding a breed that fit with us. It had to be active, but not crazy; trainable, but not conniving, lovable and affectionate, with an even temperament. Then the debate: puppy or dog? Breeder or shelter?
While I love the thought of “rescuing” a dog, the unknown history would leave me feeling less than confident about having my less than calm children around it.
After much research, emails, phone calls, and a visit – we would like to introduce you to the latest member of the family:
More to come, but have a look at this – Monster had known him for 10 minutes: