Acquired: Breeder (hobby breeder)
Posted August 26, 2013
My parents surprised us with a labrador puppy when I was a teenager. There were seven of us in the family, the youngest my eight-year-old brother. When we saw the (relatively) tiny black fluffball we were instantly in love.
Nancy was with us for about 12 years. Like most labradors she was ready and willing to learn, and we trained her very easily. She learned quickly to sit and wait at road crossings before we told her to cross, so she never ran out into traffic. Because we were a camping family we taught her that she could only start eating if one of us said the magic word (in our case it was "Spinach"). If you plan to take your dog in forested or farmed areas it's a really sensible idea to train your dog to eat on command. It's possible that someone has laid poison to eradicate pests (like rabbits for example) and if your dog comes across a poisoned, poisonous rabbit...well, that smell is irresistible. It really is wise to train your outdoorsy dog to keep them safe.
When Nancy was about five our cat had kittens. Nancy was such a sweetheart she would carry the kittens around in her mouth, then rest them on her forepaws and lick them clean. She was gentle with everyone from my elderly grandmother to my six-week-old baby. She was so sensible and amenable to training that we never needed to walk her on a leash. She was a wonderful family dog that would try to sleep on my pillow as a full-grown adult, always ready for cuddles or petting, or to chase a ball or shred a stuffed toy.
A couple of things I learned about labs:
* They can shred a cheap toy in five seconds flat. We used to go to yard sales and come home with a sack of stuffed animals and let Nancy go nuts ripping them to bits outside.
* Nancy was prone to ear mites. This seems to be a fairly common issue because labrador ears are folded, and because they spend so much time outdoors and in the water. She ended up quite deaf in her old age because of scarring deep in her ears.
* One of the best starts you can give your puppy, regardless of breed, is with puppy porridge. No, really! Rolled oats, milk or water, and an egg not unlike people porridge is really good for them as they grow and it shows in their glossy coat and bright eyes.