Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Life with the Labrador

A fine specimen (note the dirt on her nose from digging in the yard)

Demolition Dog

Dixie, our year-old Labrador Retriever, has turned out to be one obsessed chewing machine. Yes, we'd been warned. We'd heard stories from Labrador-owing friends. We knew that we could not leave her unattended until she matured somewhat and that she would require watching pretty much 24/7 if not in her crate or tied out. We thought we could take precautionary measures to prevent a lot of the chewing damage and also outsmart her. Well, a big Ha! Ha! to that. Of course, she rarely tears up anything when we are watching. The havoc begins whenever we go inside for some necessary reason.

So far, some of the things she has chewed (make that destroyed) include:

--a heavy duty outdoor extension cord for the power tools used while we were dismantling the old outbuilding on our property. She did this while on her tie-out. Thankfully, it was not plugged in.

--the padding that covers the springs around the edge of the trampoline

--fishing rods, reels, and associated fishing accessories. It does not matter where these things are; she finds them, anyway. Admittedly, she was off the tie-out and got into the garage when these fishing items were destroyed. I worry about her ingesting fish hooks that could have been left on the lines, but she seems fine.

--a garden hose. Saturday she managed to get her mouth on the garden hose. It is in pieces. Looks like it has been nicely sliced into small sections of varying sizes. Part of what is left can be used as a soaker hose due to the little perforations made by her teeth.

Some Dixie damage

More damage

I do not know how she managed to reach those things. I even moved the trampoline several feet away from its usual location in anticipation of her doing something ridiculous to it. Because we obviously cannot trust her to run loose in the backyard unattended (or attended for that matter--more on this later), she is on a 20-foot tie-out which I have personally checked for things within her reach. Moving things that could potentially be inside the 20-foot radius and adding on extra distance for dog body length and dog arm reach, I felt that she could not possibly reach things that she has since managed to chew, mangle, shred, eat, or otherwise destroy. On several occasions I have also asked John to check the reach of Dog-on-Tie-out. He, too, has failed.

The list goes on.

--a tree. Monday she demolished a little pot-grown maple tree that we've been petting for two years and strew the potting soil all over the back patio while she was on her tie-out. We planned to planted it somewhere in the front yard this year, but hadn't decided where to put it. Well, no need to worry about it now. In addition to the tree, she has also managed to wreck...

--several large plastic flower pots that I usually grow tomatoes in (none planted this year, thank goodness)

What's left of the tree

Tree parts and potting soil

Flower pot remains and other Dixie damage

--a lawn chair. Several years ago, our daughter found those molded plastic lawn chairs in lime green--a color she was fond of at the time--so we bought some for the back yard. With the passage of time, they have gone to Chair Heaven for various reasons, except for one particularly hardy one which has seen better days. Now, thanks to Dixie, it is just about on its last leg and probably knocking on the Pearly Gates. She has managed to chew several of the back supports. I have not found the pieces. Hmm.

The old, wounded, lime green lawn chair

This makes me wonder about her digestive system. She shows no signs of any internal problems. The vet told me that she has rather cast-iron innards, but I wonder what is lurking in those intestines. Which reminds me--the blankets...

--several old blankets that we put in her crate for warmth and comfort back during the winter. Her crate is in the garage because she does not have house privileges. Wonder why? One blanket covered the exterior of the crate and two others were inside to make her a nice comfy bed. She didn't bother them at all for quite some time, then I noticed she was chewing them a bit. Then I found them in pieces and large sections of binding were missing. I won't go into any details of how we found the bindings; just know that they were recycled into pieces up to a foot or so in length and deposited in her favorite potty spots in the yard.

Photo not available

--a tire swing. For years we had ("had" being the key word) one of those plastic tire-shaped swings for the kids hanging on the sycamore tree. I noticed today that it was on the ground. She did not chew it up, but I cannot figure out what fun she must have been having to have broken the 3/4 inch nylon rope it was hanging from. I guess the rope was old and rotten and would not take much stress, but what was she doing with the swing? Whatever it was, she must have done it Saturday when she was chewing up the hose and tearing up the trampoline padding.

The swing

The rope

Guilty dog trying to get away

This is just the short list of her accomplishments. Here she is looking guilty.

I really wanted to thrash her when I found the little tree had been destroyed. I had to fight the urge to beat her with it. And then there are the times when she is just the sweetest, most well-behaved puppy. All 75 pounds of her. Obedience class did worlds of good for her, except when something distracts her. Which is about every 30 seconds. Did I mention that we have squirrels who visit the yard because of the two pecan trees? They are perpetual Dixie attention getters.

Chewing on one of her favorite toys

She has some sort of allergy that caused her to develop seborrhea. Steroid shots; two weeks of two huge pills twice a day that she initially took willingly in peanut butter, then got smart and devised various ways to make it difficult for us to medicate her; and twice weekly baths with special shampoo from the vet. You'd think being a retriever, she'd love the water. Not so. Once I have finished bathing her, I feel as though I am the one having the therapeutic shampoo treatment. Ah, so much for the Labrador Water Dog.

Later: When she is off her tie-out, one of her favorite games to play is take-a-flying-leap-and-hit-Melissa-broadside-in-mid-air. What a wonderful feeling to look up and see 75 pounds of Labrador hurling itself obliquely at you. You get a sort of glancing blow to the chest. She thinks this is great fun, regardless of how much scolding ensues. Most of the time I see her coming. Most of the time. Thankfully, she does not think to do this often.

And more later:
One day I was sitting in a lawn chair (a white version of the molded plastic kind) and she decided to run and jump into my lap, knocking me over backwards. John managed to catch the back of the chair so that he could let me, dog, and chair down gently so that I would not crack my skull on the concrete, but she gave me a thorough face licking in the process. A few weeks later, after having finished some lawn mower repairs, John was letting her run about the yard and he thought to have a few relaxing moments in the hammock while she played. Dixie was being good and amusing herself by snooping around the yard. She decided to amuse herself to a greater degree by joining John in the hammock....It is not dull with the Dixie Dog around.

Off to demolish something else

We would never carry on like that, would we?


  1. Too funny. Sounds like you have your own version of Marley and Me. I soon expect to see your tome of Dixie and Me in the book stores. She does look sweet.

  2. Yes, she really is. How can you not love that face. However, I'm thinking of subtitling the post "Demolition Dog."

  3. Poor you Melissa and poor Dixie (I think). I didn't know about labs prediliction for chewing but your doggy seems to have it in spades. She sounds like a canine version of Houdini who gets off her leash, creates chaos and then gets back on her leash so that you think she has been there all the time. Your post has really made my day though.

  4. Ha ha, Cathy! The Houdini comment is priceless--and maybe that's how she's doing it. Lol! The vet says she should grow out of it by the time she is two...or three...or six...then she will suddenly get very lazy and just lie around and sleep and get fat.

  5. You have your hands full! Is there no way to interest her in "constructive" chewing (silly word choice, I know) with chew toys or rawhide, etc? It must be challenging to bond with an animal that could not be trusted even in eyesight. (Love the kitty kats chatting pic.)

  6. Chew toys last about as long as this sentence. It amazes me how she can go through rawhides so quickly, too. It sort of reminds me of Taz, the Tasmanian Devil. We've never seen her in action, just the results. When we have her off the tie-out when we're out in the yard, she just putters about and mostly stays out of things--then we have to go inside for a moment...