Until I ran across a magazine called "Just Labs" (subtitle: "A Celebration of the Labrador Retriever") I never realized that Labs "have the capacity to do wondrous things."
Maybe it's because I have three of them, and while they do a lot of "things," I would not consider any of them very special, let alone wondrous.
Maybe it's because my Labs all came from the Payson Humane Society, and are not purebred: T-Rex is part rottweiler, Shiloh is part pit bull, and The Babe is part hound.
Maybe it's because my Labs have never gone to obedience school or received any special training.
Maybe it's because I have never put my Labs in a position to achieve greatness, or even to have greatness thrust upon them.
I decided to do further research to discover exactly what acts of greatness other people's Labs rise to that mine don't. Here's what I found, and how, in each case, my crew measures up:
- "They'll stand between you and a stranger at the door, rumbling a warning only a fool would ignore." -- "Just Labs" magazine
(In the case of my Labs, the rumbling is the constant sound of their stomachs reminding their owner that they are always hungry. And if a stranger were foolish enough to ignore this rumbling, he would be promptly and summarily licked to an untimely death by T. Rex.)
- They have faces so intelligent, it seems they "might speak at any moment." -- Dog Owner's Guide (www.canismajor.com).
(With my Labs, substitute "belch" for "speak.")
- They joyously "greet you at the door each evening after work..." -- "Just Labs" magazine
(Absolutely true, but when my Labs greet me they manage to clog up the laundry room so that nobody can move until I say, "Let's go get some biscuits," at which time the clog miraculously dissolves.)
- "The original Labrador Retriever was a versatile working dog, able to rescue drifting nets, bring back shot waterfowl, and haul the catch to market in jog carts." -- Dog Owner's Guide (www.canismajor.com).
(Work? Drifting nets? Waterfowl? Jog Carts? Might as well be Chinese as far as my Labs are concerned, although T. Rex once snagged a whole chicken from a neighbor's barbecue grill. It was when he tried to retrieve the chicken that my neighbor heard a rumbling "only a fool would ignore." But T. Rex absolutely detests water, and none of my labs are especially fond of retrieving.)
- "They tend to be stable, not easily upset by strange things or occurrences. They will take many things in stride." -- Labrador Retriever FAQ (www.faqs.org)
(My Labs recently went absolutely berserk over an elk hanging out in the forest on the other side of a six-foot fence. In fact, my Labs go berserk over almost all "strange things or occurrences.")
- They're "a canine radar installation who will patrol the house, count noses, and sleep lightly against the perils of darkness." -- "Just Labs" magazine
(While my Labs will bark at another dog if he comes within a half mile of their territory, they frequently "sleep ‘heavily' against the perils of darkness," allowing a visitor to get inside the gate and knock on the door before offering a belated but always enthusiastic response.)
So T. Rex, Shiloh and The Babe do not perform "wondrous" acts. In fact, the acts they perform on those few occasions when they are not napping, are so far below "wondrous" that words like "ordinary" and "ho-hum" come most immediately to mind.
But in the process of extolling the virtues of America's "favorite dog" (according to American Kennel Club registrations), "Just Labs" magazine also captures some very real, if less than "wondrous" Lab traits, such as:
- "Yapping at the neighbor kids, trying to worm their way into a touch football game."
- Sleeping on the "good furniture" when you aren't looking.
- Following you from room to room, always close, "in case you need a friendly ear to scratch."
- Making eye contact with you, "reading you, trying to determine what it is that will please you."
- Doing the "Labrador lean" against your leg.
I propose that it's traits like these rather than "wondrous" feats that make Labs the very best among man's best friends, that allow them to "steal your heart for all time," in the words of "Just Labs" editor Steve Smith. I selected T. Rex at the shelter quite by chance, but when I went back to get my second and third dogs, I went looking specifically for black Labs.
As Smith puts it, "Very few things in life are as certain as the fact that if your present dog is your first Lab, it won't be your last."