I Love You, What’s To Eat? Living with a Labrador

Several years ago a dumpy, dusty, goofy, middle-aged Labrador Retriever came to live with us. (Picture the dog version of the Pigpen, the character in the Peanuts cartoon.) This goofy, obnoxious little dog came into rescue because his breeder was an irresponsible jerk. No fence. No leash — the little brown dog kept wandering. At the age of 7, after too many “come bail him out” calls from the animal control officer, he was dumped at the shelter. (I can’t imagine having a dog for seven years and giving him away, but that’s a story for another time.) He was quickly adopted by a daycare owner who, almost as quickly, returned him: apparently parents did not appreciate the enthusiastic greetings and beaver-like tail knocking down their kids like so many giggly bowling pins.

[bctt tweet=”Daycare parents did not appreciate his enthusiastic Labrador greetings and beaver-like tail knocking down their kids like so many giggly bowling pins.” username=”AndreaPatten”]

At the time, our favorite boarding facility also housed an all-breed animal rescue. I’m not sure where we were headed, but my husband came home from dropping the others and said, “There’s a dog I want you to meet when we get back.” So, when we returned and I was getting to know him a little, I asked him to “down.” He did — and then he rolled over. And over. I put him in the car and went in to pay his adoption fee.

His adjustment to our family was not quick or easy. It wasn’t disruptive, he just didn’t seem to be “all there.” He seemed content enough but was always in the background. Even after living happily with my husband’s Lab, I felt clueless and wondered if he was happy with us.

[bctt tweet=”To say that I’m not exactly a mellow, laid-back human is an understatement.” username=”AndreaPatten”]

To say that I’m not exactly a mellow, laid-back human is an understatement. Picture me hanging out with a Rottweiler, a Doberman, a German Shepherd or a Malinois. It makes more sense: they’re driven, protective, cuddly, smart, intense, frequently under-estimated and fiercely loyal. I “get” them.

This was my third time around with a Lab and, still, I struggled to connect.  A dear friend and fellow dog lover explained it.

“A German Shepherd brain — actually, any herding dog — is a lot like yours. They’re interested in everything and just a little ‘hair trigger’ with the bark.  Sometimes they hit the sleeve or nip one of the sheep and ‘forget’ to let go.  They’ve got a work ethic that doesn’t quit. You make sense to one another. It’s intuitive and natural.  The Lab’s got you stumped because you’re trying too hard.  He’s really not trying to decide whether to retrieve, herd or guard…. He’s only got two thoughts for you.”

“And those would be….????”

She laughed at me before responding.  “I love you. What’s to eat?”

So I started trying to think of him as everyone’s favorite underachieving stoner cousin.  I started calling him “dude.” Pictured him in a Hawaiian shirt and a recliner chair. He started wagging his tail in his sleep and barking to let me know when he needed middle of the night attention.  Slowly but surely we fell in love.

[bctt tweet=”I started calling him “dude.” Pictured him in a Hawaiian shirt and a recliner chair.” username=”AndreaPatten”]

And I’m so glad.  You see, he has succeeded in accomplishing something nobody else has ever managed.  He’s teaching me to be more Lab-like.

All love, all the time.  And it’s just delicious.



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  • micahward

    That’s hilarious! We have adopted what we think is a German Shepherd/Labrador mix. I call him a German Lepherd. This dog has the Shepherd alertness and a healthy dose of the Lab goofiness. Another reason I drink.

  • Suzie Cheel

    Andrea i love this- you took me back 40 years when I had a Lab called george who came to class with me , their personailities are so special – thanks for sharing xo

  • kelleygrimes

    I love this blog Andrea and the lessons the dude has been teaching you! The last line fills me with so much joy, “All love, all the time. And it just delicious.” So inspiring and clever – you are truly a gift Andrea! Thank you!

  • Debra Reble

    Omg Andrea. This is my life with my precious yellow lab Shiloh. She’s snuggly, lunk-headed, and one big yellow lump of love. I had an older yellow lab Scooter that we rescued many years ago. By eight he had mellowed out quite a bit. But labs steal your heart and wiggle their way into your hearts! thank you for reminding me how fortunate I am to have had these two labs in my life!

  • Crystal Cockerham

    Aren’t pets fun? They all have their own personalities just like our children–their very own unique imprint. I have only ever had labs my entire life-I couldn’t imagine having another kind. Our last lab, Yeller, grew up with our kids and when my nephew was born 10 years ago, he had mellowed in his age. So Ayden, my nephew, would crawl all over him and Yeller would block doorways so Ayden wouldn’t wonder.–so adorable.

  • Rachel Kieffer

    Aww… so adorable!!! And I can relate, my current dog is not my first choice of dog, i also like them bigger and fiercer, but got her because Gavriel, my son, was a baby at the time and I wanted a smaller dog. It took me awhile to fully connect with her and now, I am all in!!! She taught me that a small and timid dog needs more time and attention and i am learning to be more patient and gentle with myself too.