∴ Bodhi-Boy at Four Months

Sleeping Labrador Retriever pup

Two of this week’s photos show my pal Bodhi zonked. We’re tiring him out with longer walks, and something new. He’s reached an age when his inquisitive mind needs more occupation.
Obedience training has begun.
I took both Zele and Stella to Warrenton Kennel Club’s training sessions when they were pups, but the next scheduled classes don’t begin until January. Bodhi is ready now.
One thing I learned from working with Z, and then again with Stella years ago is that success comes from repetition.
I’d take each to an hour-long class one evening, then work with the dog for ten- to thirty-minutes each evening for the rest of the week. We began on the shorter end, and gradually increased time as attention spans lengthened.
The hour-long class was as much for training me as it was for training the dog. It communicated methods for teaching obedience while disposing of practices that don’t help her learn.
We learned to use positive reinforcement, and above all make it fun for the dog and simple enough for her to gain praise. Use single-word commands consistently. Speak the command in a firm tone of voice. Reward with praise and a training treat if she obeys on the first try. Reward with only praise if it takes two tries. Form the correct behavior with hands on her body while voicing the command if it goes to three. Gradually wean her from treats to praise-only. Mind the dog’s nose; where it points is where she goes. Her attention should be on me. Use minor corrections with a training collar to bring attention back to what we’re doing. Use significant corrections only when the dog has gone completely off the hook. Sometimes it takes one or two significant corrections at the outset of the first session to establish who’s alpha in the relationship.
Another shot of the same sleeping Labrador Retriever
We’d both take one evening off to make the seven-week stretch tolerable, but never the evening before the next class.
We had a well-behaved dog on the road to being a calm, happy member of our family by the end of the course. Another seven-week course was available for gaining Canine Good Citizenship certification, but by then I was satisfied with both dogs’ behavior, and frankly ready to cease training.
Bodhi and I began training this week in our garage. Absent our cars the space makes a comfortable training ring for a single dog. We’re doing maybe ten minutes of walking at heel, stopping randomly to sit. He does pretty well with this, parking himself at my side when I stop walking without being told.
He already has the “sit” command down pat.
I drop the lead, put him in a stay, and walk to the other side of the garage. He does well here, too, but he fooled me a few times responding to a “Bodhi, come!” right away. Eventually I realized he was coming not on command, but to the sound of my voice. Counting up to ten out loud with varying emphasis keeps him listening until he hears the right command. “Stay” is a work in progress.
There’s always much praise that goes with being a good boy.
It’s not all work for Mr. Bodhi. He spends three days a week at our shop, taking a few walks out to the Warrenton Greenway and up and down Main Street. He meets everyone who comes into the shop. The only thing I’ve seen him consistently shy from is an aggressively barking dog.
Labrador retriever sitting looking out the door
The new Warrenton dog park opens a month from now. There will be a ceremony, and the mayor’s “first dog” will take the inaugural romp. Bodhi will be close behind, and perhaps complicit in a covert inaugural romp of his own.
He still fits under my living room chair for a nap, though the end for that is almost upon us. It’s already a tight squeeze. We’re guessing he’ll clock in at forty-six or 47-pounds at his next vet appointment, a week from now.
I love this not-so-little guy, but more importantly, I like his personality. He’s a smart, happy dog, inquisitive, and above all he’s by our side always. Nothing makes him happier than to see one of us coming, not even food. Not. Even. Food. That’s quite a thing for a Lab.
He’s made a Bodhi-shaped place in my heart.
#Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever

∴ Let Sleeping Dogs …

A white Labrador Retriever asleep on his bed

Bodhi is sixteen weeks old this Friday. In fits and starts, and then all at once he’s the size of a Spaniel, with about thirty or so pounds to go. We think.

We’re told he’s going to be big, but big is a relative term. Both his mama and his pop were in the seventy-pound range. His bloodline does include at least one bigger boy. We’re familiar with Retrievers, in any event. Big, for us, is a Burmese Mountain Dog, or a Great Dane.

One thing evident now is his sweet personality. He very much likes being around us, and wants a snuggle after waking or just walking through the room. He loves a scratch on the ears and belly, just don’t pet him on the crown of his head.

He’s still a shark-toothed fiend much of the time, so we’re redirecting his mouth to chew toys whenever he gets on a tear with Stella, or a piece of furniture, or a hand. He’s learned the word “no” pretty well, and has mastered the art of the side-eye as he’s about to engage his mouth with the forbidden.

We’re gradually increasing the length of his walks. Now that summer temperatures have broken he’s more amenable to completing one without sitting down for a break. We’ll head out today for a local stroll and some practice walking at my heel, and I’ll stretch him out on the Warrenton Greenway this weekend.

One minor tragedy of his growing so quickly is the near loss of his favorite nap spot, under my chair while I’m sitting in it. I give him another couple of weeks before he’s unable to fit. I’ll miss that, too.

#Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever

∴ Mr. Bodhi is Sprung

Cream yellow Labrador Retriever walking on a lead

Bodhi enjoyed his first days of relative freedom from our home this past week, traveling to work with Kelly for the day Friday and again with both of us for a Saturday adventure. Our veterinarian, Dr. Betty Myers, told us we’d be surprised by how quickly this Labrador Retriever learns. She was right.

I took Bodhi for his first walk on the Warrenton Branch Greenway in the morning. Not wanting to excessively tire him on his first outing, we walked only as far from our shop as the defunct locomotive turntable. Right off the bat he took to the grass shoulders, rather than walk the pavement warming in the morning sun.

Particularly interesting for him were the heavy equipment filling and grading the forthcoming Warrenton dog park next to the turntable. No doubt he was feeling the rumble of earth as the fence line was completed.

He’s going to have so much fun off the lead once that park is completed. A good run around the grass will complete his constitutional.

We had some water and took a little rest before heading back to Kelly Ann’s Quilting.

Wort Hog Brewing, just up the street, tapped their Hogtoberfest (Oktoberfest) Lager Saturday. After a long, quiet walk alone on the Greenway I spent an hour or so sampling it and a couple other of their beers. What so many American brewers get wrong about Märzenbier, brewmaster Jeremy Hunt got right. It was full of malty goodness, with a mild buzz of hops. There’s even a second wave of malt that hits the palate several seconds after a mouthful. Quite nice.

I returned to KAQ with a growler filled with Hogtoberfest for the coming week, and turned right around for another walk with Bodhi. We repeated the morning stroll down Fifth Street to the Greenway and out to the turntable. He knew the way, finding every spot that needed sniffing and settling in for a rest on the grass once we reached our turn-around point.

He was a happy little guy out for a walk. Gone were his earlier grabs at the lead. He led the way this time, which is something we’ll begin working on in a few months. Puppy dogs get to wander and explore, bigger dogs learn to heel. For now he’s a joy just to walk with.

As Dr. Betty said, I’m surprised at how quickly Bodhi learned. He’s a smart little guy.

Cream yellow Labrador Retriever sitting in the grass, resting

#Bodhi #pup #Warrenton #Greenway #walking #Wort #Hog #Brewing #Hogtoberfest #Oktoberfest #Märzenbier

∴ Our Sweet Prince

White Labrador Retriever puppy asleep

Bodhi has settled into our home and routines – this week he’s made it through the night without a spot on the training pads, and (usually) lets us know when he needs to go out.

He’s learned “kennel,” “sit,” “inside,” and the crucial “kisses.” We’re making the move from mouthing to licks, and with a Lab puppy, that’s a good thing. Once his adult teeth are in, though, we’ll let him address us as he pleases. A soft mouth on the hand is as good as a lick to me, and without the shark teeth feels much more friendly.

He’s very fond of his pal, Stella, but at twelve-years old Stella isn’t so much a fan of his barking in her face. The kennel comes in handy here.

Our old girl has gotten permanent dispensation to sleep with us upstairs in compensation, as long as she can make it up and down the stairs.

I spent a four-night stay with friends in Montana this past weekend and swear Bodhi’s behavior matured while I was away. He’s less scattered of mind, has a wag of tail for all of us all the time, and today he spent my work-from-home day mostly out of the kennel. He’s sleeping (somewhat) on the big dog bed next to Kelly’s chair in the photo because he was behaving himself and, after a chew on a toy, wandered there and laid down for a nap.

I love this little dog.

#Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever

∴ A Week: Now, I Remember

Bodhi came to live with us a week ago today. All the memories of puppies past came back in a rush, as well. Funny how a puppy sitting up, watching you come down the stairs answering his barks, makes a 3am potty break not so bad. Especially when he makes it out the door and into the grass!

Bodhi (left) reminded me of that little girl on the right so much …

Cream yellow Labrador Retriever BodhiCream yellow Labrador Retriever Zele

… I had to find a photo of Zele’s first day with us to see why.

Their behaviors subtly differ, but the experiences of their joining our pack are very similar. Falling in love with both snuck up on us fast.

Stella, our senior Golden Retriever, has come into her own as a playmate for Bodhi. It took her a few days to warm up to him, but now they’re rolling around, tugging chew toys and sampling each others’ meals.

All-in-all it’s been a welcome week  of renewal around our home. Bodhi is going to become a very sweet boy, and a beautiful male Lab. Life with this guy is good.

#Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever

∴ How Quickly They Learn

Bodhi among the greenery

I’d forgotten how rapidly puppies learn. Problems quickly find solutions with a little coaching. It’s not so much training, yet, as it is herding and directing attention.

Coaching Bodhi through the basics of our home and routines has been a joy so far.

Two days in, Bodhi knows us well enough to scamper after, or search us out when we’re not in sight. We’ve become his people. Or: he’s adopted us. He’s learned his name, and, like Zele before him, the word “no.”

He’s also learned the two most important words for a puppy: poop and potty.

He can unknowingly be a mischievous little guy. We’ve managed to head off chewed furniture and plants with an abundance of hard and soft chew toys, and long memories of past disasters. My next task is to find and evenly distribute all of the toys between his kennel, the back deck, and the rest of the house. And keep them that way.

Zele’s bucket of tennis balls, both those intact and her beloved mower-slashed variety have also come in handy. Bodhi loves running after them and chewing the deflated ones. While they’re still a bit large for his mouth, he’s inherited a nickname from the old girl: bigmouth. He can wrap his jaws around that ball, just barely.

Bodhi’s not fond of his kennel, yet. I learned the best way to get him quieted and asleep within it is to lay outside and speak to him soothingly, while giving his ears and chest a scratch. He shortly follows my lay-down lead, and then nods off. That was today’s lesson, after a solid half-hour of barking and yelping while I worked on our cabinets. Bodhi’s not the only one in for training.

One thing has surprised me about this Labrador. He’s nowhere near as food-crazy as Zele was at his age. I think the reason might lie in how Jane fed Bodhi’s litter vs. how Zele’s litter ate. Jane put down four large bowls for the ten pups, providing plenty of food for all in measured quantity. Each pup ate, ranged to another bowl, and ate some more until its meal was finished. In that way they all got their allotment and no pup had to compete.

Similarly, the pups had no trouble getting access to their mama’s milk the first three weeks of their lives.

As a result, Bodhi knows his meal times and eats calmly. He even takes a break, walks around the kitchen, and comes back for the rest.

Zele probably had to compete for space – her breeder was an amateur, and likely didn’t spend the effort on the pups to make meals a calm event. Nor did she pay attention to nutrition on the level Jane did.

Zele was a maniac at her food bowl for the first year in our home, despite having a bowl all to herself. I’m not sure any more than 25% of her intake was actually chewed during that period. She eventually calmed when she realized that Maggie, our first Golden Retriever, wasn’t going to take her food. We actually had to make sure Zele didn’t glom Maggie’s meal.

I loved my Zele-girl, and despite our pre-occupation with our new family member I still miss her. None of this is to say she’s any less in my eyes or in my heart. I’m simply humbled by Jane’s wealth of knowledge and her love for these dogs. I can already see the difference it made having her work with our pup before he came home with us.

#Blackbirds #Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever #Jane #Kelso #Blackbird #Fly

∴ Blackbird’s Bodhi

Bodhi first hour home

We brought home a new friend today.

There’s so much to say about this little guy. There are so many adventures ahead. As I’m fond of telling our dogs, I’ll always have him, for the rest of his life. So there will be many more posts of his story.

His mama’s name is Blackbird Fly, a beautiful, four-year old black Labrador Retriever bred by Jane Kelso. Our time spent with Jane, Chris, Fly and Jane’s other three Labs, our chats, and the general shape of my universe right now led me to name our new friend, a seven-week old yellow Lab the shade of parchment, Blackbird’s Bodhi after his mama. We’ll call him Bodhi for short.

Bodhi (bo-dee) is an old word, sometimes translated as “enlightenment,” but more accurately as “awakening,” from the Pali. It refers, for me, to the unconditional, in-the-moment love and affection I’ve awakened to with our dogs. And, in a couple of more personal ways, a cessation of suffering.

Bodhi’s middle name is, of course, Tiberius (the starship captain or the emperor? Yes.). He’s already earned one long nickname from Kelly: Bodhi T. Bodenheimer. Or Bodhi T. Odenheimer. Thor and the Allfather enter into this, too.

Bodhi laying inside

Tonight and for the next week we’ll just let him explore his new home without much interference, talking to him when he’s near, repeating his name, and generally making sure he stays out of trouble. We have a couple of kennels set up for him for when we’re not watching and he’s not snoozing. For the next three nights we’ll transition him from his pack of siblings to ours with a towel rubbed over his mama’s coat and laid upon our bed.

There will be photos, probably more than you want to see, posted here and elsewhere.

There are two dogs in our home again. There is a “white” Lab in our home again. There is a puppy in our home, an innocent little mind growing every day. There is happiness in my mind, and an abundance in my life. There is good fortune shining upon us today.


My world

Kelly, Stella, and Bodhi

#Labrador #Retreiver #Bodhi #Jane #Kelso #Blackbird #Fly

∴ Almost There

Yellow Lab puppy tugging a towel

We paid another visit to Jane today. This was my fourth trip to her tucked-away home and the litter of puppies her Lab, Fly, whelped five-and-a-half weeks ago. One of those pups will come home with us a little over a week from now.

The puppies were spending their second full day in a picket-fenced play area outside. They’d grown in size and personality since my last visit.

The females were particularly interested in nibbling on my shoelaces, pockets, toes, fingers, wrists, elbows, wristwatch, and mala beads, while the boys were more reserved, loafing along the fence in the shade.

It didn’t matter. All ten were picked up, rolled over, scratched, talked-to, and generally handled by Kelly and me. We enjoyed lavishing attention, too on Jane’s older Labs Jack, Rudy, Lola, and Fly, the mama of these pups, and her very cool cat, Lester.

Afterward we enjoyed a couple of hours of Jane’s hospitality, talking the particulars of caring for a Lab pup. We’ve been down this road before with Zele, but Jane’s expert knowledge has become a welcome addition to what we know and think we know about raising a pup.

Yellow Lab puppy gnawing on my shoe

There’s been more to our talks than dog adoption. Enjoying conversation, learning her experiences training and showing field trial Labs, and particularly hearing about her younger years in the 1960s American South have made an indelible impression on me. I feel richer for having met Jane, and for the referral by our friend and veterinarian, Betty Myers.

Anyway, to the pups. Of the ten, four are females previously spoken-for, and one is a male previously spoken-for. The remaining five, all near-white yellow-coated males, are available. They were arrayed together when we arrived. While I haven’t chosen one, there were a couple that I had my eye on. One in particular. He’s among these photos.

Yellow Lab puppy looking at me

We’re preparing for our new friend. In the next week we’ll purchase a collar and have a name tag made. His kennel is already in place in our living room, and a penned bed set up on our back deck where we spend our summer evenings. The goal is to have him with us whenever we’re home, either playing, eating, out in the yard, or kenneled.

Up in the air are the first few nights of his life with us. Jane advises keeping him physically close, as he’s never known being alone. Having been raised in a house where pets weren’t permitted above the first floor, the idea of a pup on my bed is both intriguing and questionable. I suspect my heart will win out. This dog will grow into our home comforted by us day and night.

Yellow Lab puppy in Kelly's arms

My next post about these pups will be about just one of them, the one we’ve brought home, the one we’ll spend the rest of his life with. He’ll spend days in our quilt shop, “vacations” with Auntie Pam and Uncle Charlie (your dog should be so lucky), care by Dr. Betty (ditto), and many years with us, our Golden Retriever, Stella, our next dog or two or three, and whoever visits our home.

Some events in life carry more meaning than others. The experience of meeting and talking with Jane, seeing this pup and his siblings at just a week old, and watching them grow carries great meaning for me. I learned how much from the life and loss of Zele. You could call the experience of that life, the loss of it and the transition to where I am now an awakening.

There’s a clue in that.

#Labrador #Retriever #puppies

∴ Anticipation

Yellow Labrador Retriever puppies

We spent last weekend visiting family and friends, returning in time for me to pay another visit to the litter of Labrador pups from which ours will emerge.

This time around they were more active, their eyes open and their minds curious. They’ve been moved from the kiddie pool upstairs to a penned area in the basement, adjacent to the four adult dogs’ kennels.

As I sat down in the pen I was swarmed by ten energetic young dogs. I was in heaven. Along with laying on the floor with my own dogs, this is one of my favorite places in life.

The litter was fed while I sat among them. They’ve moved mainly to solid food and milk by now, their mom fairly pooped after three weeks of nursing. Afterward I had ten messy puppies back on me, nibbling at my fingers, crawling on my lap and sniffing all around.

They’re growing quickly, noticeably bigger than during our last visit.

Yellow Lab puppy sleeping

Black Lab puppy

Though we don’t know which it’ll be I know for sure I’ve had our pup in my hands, scratching its belly and whispering in its ear more than once. I think of all the experiences we’ll have after that one joins our home. The years of companionship and enjoyment, the challenges of training and the reward of a well behaved, loyal dog. All that potential is bottled up inside one of these pups and within my mind, about to unfold.

The anticipation of that next stretch of life is all-consuming at times. I need to remind myself to breathe and get back to my daily life for just a while longer.

Three weeks from today, these pups will be ready for adoption. One will come home with Kelly and me. Can’t wait.

Labrador Retriever litter

#Labrador #Retriever #puppies