chocolate lab

Nutmeg and Boy on Wordless Wednesday

Chocolate lab and her boy



Who Needs National Dog Day?


On any day, Nutmeg gets the best seat in the living room. That’s the natural order; it’s how the world works. She doesn’t need National Dog Day or anything else to tell her what’s so.

Best seat in the living room

That’s Nutmeg’s boy Callum fluffing the sofa cushions.



After the Dog Park

Chocolate Lab with focus

A stick in hand demands a heck of a lot of focus if you’re a Chocolate Lab.

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania has an amazing dog park and recreation area. The dog park is a large, fenced yard where dogs can run and chase each other. Or cower. Or run and chase toys. The area around the dog park is a network of well-maintained paths through a large meadow well on its way to becoming forest.

A ten minute walk gets you to the far end of the recreation area where there’s a bridge crossing a stream. If you walk to that bridge, you’ll likely arrive with wet feet except on the driest days of summer. Nutmeg never walks to the bridge. She sprints.

Actually, Nutmeg sprints a few hundred feet, stops to sniff, sprints back, sprints ahead, sniffs, sprints back, and so on. She seeks the wet spots and mud on the paths, and when she reaches the stream, she charges in.

I love watching her play, and I always find a stick to throw into the water. Retrieving the stick is, apparently, the most important task she’ll ever have and she’ll keep at it as long as I’m willing to make the throw.

I love watching her play, and I also love her expression of appreciation for having been to the dog park. That’s it in the photo below. After a trip to the dog park, Nutmeg goes comatose – a sure sign she had a good day.

Chocolate Lab after the dog park

Nutmeg expresses appreciation for a visit to the dog park by going comatose on the sofa.



Wordless Wednesday Garden Helper

Chocolate lab puppy Nutmeg helps with my planters



Wordless Wednesday: Chocolate Lab Puppy on Porch Sofa

Chocolate lab puppy Nutmeg on the porch



Daughter and Dog

An early photo of daughter and dog cute from the Nutmeg era

It’s hard to argue the happiness a warm puppy brings. This is daughter and dog just days after Nutmeg moved in.

Except for a week here or a month there, my daughter has always had a dog in her life. When she was born, Olive was the dog in residence. Only a week after Olive died, there was Midnight, and as Midnight slowed in middle age, we added Cocoa.

Through these three dogs, my daughter showed great enthusiasm for the cute of it. That is, she’d often hug or cuddle a dog and demand that I or my wife admire how cute they were together. We’d look and look away, and she’d insist we look again. Apparently, we couldn’t see the cuteness enough.

Lab puppy Nutmeg enjoys long hair

One truth of cute that involves a puppy: It can hurt!

What’s more, our daughter would often pose with a dog and yell, “Take a picture!” Thank goodness for digital photography; we’d have gone broke using film for all the daughter and dog photos.

Our daughter hadn’t outgrown the whole “look how cute” thing by the time Nutmeg joined the family. A squirmy puppy in low light isn’t easy to catch cute. So, despite finding dozens of daughter and dog shots in my collection, only a few are share-worthy. Sadly, one of my favorite poses has no photographic merit, but I had to include it for the grin it puts on my face.

My daughter is spending a year in Turkey and, while I miss her, through the magic of Skype I get to see here once or twice a month. Because she isn’t getting cute time with Nutmeg, I thought this post might fill just a bit of that void. In any case, while writing the post I had fun selecting photos and reviewing the daughter and dog cute that Nutmeg has brought to our household.

Chocolate Lab puppy Nutmeg misbehaving

A puppy must learn early: Never put your teeth on a person. Nutmeg repeatedly demonstrated her grasp of the rule.


Chocolate Lab puppy Nutmeg bored with hugging

For many months, Nutmeg resisted the clichéd “cute for the sake of cute” pose. She often complained about hugging and tried to slip out of my daughter’s grasp.


Chocolate Lab puppy Nutmeg hug-avoidance posture

Resisting the cute pose can unintentionally lead to a cute pose.


Chocolate Lab puppy Nutmeg misbehaving

A puppy must learn eventually: Never put your teeth on a person. This was two-and-a-half months after the earlier teething photo. It took another six-to-ten months for Nutmeg to catch on. I need software that corrects doggie red-eye (which is green).


Chocolate Lab puppy Nutmeg snuggle

Persistence paid off as Nutmeg eventually decided she likes to snuggle with my daughter.


Chocolate Lab Nutmeg snuggles

Sometimes daughter and dog share space on the sofa and cute happens.


Chocolate Lab Nutmeg incubates daughter's head

Sometimes daughter and dog can’t agree on who sleeps where and cute happens better.



Puppy Won’t Leave


Nutmeg was the cutest puppy ever to grace the planet (as are so many puppies). Now she’s a 60 pound dog. As dogs go, she’s cute. But she’s no puppy.

Chocolate lab puppy with oral fixation

It’s no surprise that Nutmeg loved to chew from the day she came to live with us. We refer to her toy as her binky; when she gets excited, she finds her binky and holds it in her mouth to help calm herself down.

Unfortunately, no one in my family is passionate about dog-training, so we haven’t convinced Nutmeg to abandon puppy-like behavior. Her whimpering and excited greetings are endearing, and she cuddles now as well as ever. Where we could do with a bit less puppiness is in the play department.

Nutmeg plays with her toys as though she’s angry with them. She has always played that way. Her enthusiasm is inspiring, but we’ve had too many moments where her teeth or claws deflected off of my body parts. I’ve had to grow more skin in my 30 months with Nutmeg than I’d grown in any preceding three-year period. Despite these “misunderstandings,” I love our play sessions and I eagerly anticipate the day she outgrows them.



Missing Nutmeg

Nutmeg owns my easy chair

Nutmeg tore the upholstery on my easy chair when she grabbed her binky and accidentally snagged the cloth with her teeth. The hole has grown for about a year and I finally decided to fix it though I’ve never before upholstered anything. I suspect Nutmeg would like me to hurry the project along.

I’ve been spending about two days of every three at my dad’s house in Ithaca, New York. My dad moved out. He decided the house was overwhelming and he’d be happier at a progressive care facility. Of course, I spent a month explaining how we could adapt his house and his lifestyle so he’d be happy at home, but he refused to budge.

I’m in Ithaca a lot, organizing the stuff so we can sell some, distribute some to the siblings, and trash the rest. At the same time, I’m fixing up the house with the hope of putting it up for rent later this year.

For all the time away, I’m not getting enough Nutmeg. Worse: Nutmeg spends a big part of each day alone in her kennel or, as she calls it, her box.

I like to think of Nutmeg’s antics while I’m away. It’s not nearly as fun as experiencing them in person, but it can still make me smile. The photo in this post shows one of my favorites: Nutmeg barely fits in the seat of an easy chair, but she happily takes command when I leave my chair or my wife leaves hers.

You might think Nutmeg gets plenty of time in my easy chair while I’m away, but in order to reupholster it, I’ve taken it apart. I haven’t made much progress on the upholstering since I started hanging out in Ithaca so Nutmeg either needs to beat my wife to her chair, or settle for space on the sofa. I wish I were home so I could participate in the argument about who sits where. I miss Nutmeg.



Our First Labrador Retriever

Nutmeg in the dishwashwer

Did (or does) your puppy climb into your dishwasher to lick the dirty dishes? Nutmeg got away with this until she was obviously heavy enough to strain the hinges on the dishwasher door. While this photo features Nutmeg as a puppy, the accompanying article is about one of her predecessors.

Stacy, Spooner, and I had good lives in our two-family house in Boston. We lived on the second floor and reserved access to the basement where we had a washer, dryer, deep freeze, and a growing collection of woodworking tools. Our small yard came with a fence, so Spooner could be out by herself, but she usually insisted on coming inside as soon as she noticed we’d gone inside.

Happy as she was, I felt guilty leaving Spooner alone for long work days. She fed the guilt by chewing stuff we wish she hadn’t. For example, she once reached through a baby gate to snag a nearly unused cold-weather Qualofill sleeping bag. Stacy and I were at work, so I don’t know how long it took Spooner to spread the Qualofill all over the living room. This kind of behavior, we understood, is a measure of a dog’s boredom; if Spooner wasn’t bored, she wouldn’t chew our stuff.

Chocolate Surprise

A friend at work told me of her friend’s Chocolate Lab. The Lab spent the entire workday in a basement room, so naturally, when the family got home and brought the dog upstairs, it went dog-happy crazy. This had become dangerous as the family included a toddler; the dog’s antics were simply too rough for the child… so the poor puppy ended up back in the basement each evening where it languished until an adult could give it a few minutes of attention.

My friend mentioned the dog often and suggested that I should offer to adopt it; she insisted that the owners would happily give it up if I wanted it.

Wet and muddy Olive

Early in our relationship, Olive demonstrated Labrador Retriever love for wet and muddy. She was cute, but it was more than a year before she felt to me as my dog.

Perfect, I thought! A companion for Spooner! Still, the idea of having two dogs at once was strange and a bit scary. I mentioned it half-heartedly to Stacy, and over the course of many weeks the topic arose, faded out, and arose again. I had no conviction to adopt this neglected dog, and was kind of teasing the limits of Stacy’s tolerance. Had she expressed concern and desire to rescue the Chocolate Lab, I’d have committed, but Stacy didn’t seem enthusiastic either.

Stacy took me to dinner in Chinatown to celebrate my 30th birthday. There I discovered she had brilliantly engineered a surprise party and Chinese banquet with about 30 guests—including family and friends who had traveled hundreds of miles for the event. The super-surprise gift beyond the party was an OK to bring home that neglected Chocolate Lab. Now, whether or not I wanted the dog, she was going to be ours.

Friend for a Friend

Our new Chocolate Lab, Olive, was just over a year old—a few years younger than Spooner. I wasn’t smitten. In fact, I didn’t particularly like Olive. She seemed kind of stupid; to borrow from a newspaper article I read about that time, she was as smart as a two-by-four.

An early warning flag came a day or two after we took Olive home: We returned from work with some trepidation. How had the two dogs fared on this second day together? As we climbed the stairs the question changed to “Where had the two dogs fared?” Spooner greeted us alone and there was no sign of Olive!

Spooner and Olive played well together

No way these two played like this when we were away at work, but for an hour or so after we got home, Spooner and Olive became crazed maniacs. We rarely played human/dog games with them because they kept each other entertained.

We checked and double-checked the accessible spaces, we opened the bedroom doors, we looked under furniture; we didn’t find Olive. We speculated about someone breaking in to steal our purebred dog, or about some amazing talent the dog must have, and finally I went back down the stairs where the entryway coat closet’s door was closed tight.

I pushed the door inward, and there was our new dog sitting quietly in the dark. How long had it been since she’d trapped herself? Clearly, she had waited patiently. Perhaps she thought this was her place having lived so long with a small basement room as her world.

Duo Dog Dynamics

Fortunately, to challenge my lack of enthusiasm for her, Olive was a dog. She craved attention which meant she worked pretty hard to win me over.

She and Spooner got along charmingly, but we quickly learned an incredible truth that no one tells you when you muse about getting a second dog to keep your first dog company: For the most part, dogs don’t play together unless you’re watching them. This is important, so I’m repeating it: Except in rare cases, your two dogs WILL NOT play together unless they think you’re watching them.

Spooner and Olive nap on the sofa

I’ve no doubt our doggies spent the day doing this stuff while my wife and I were at work. Fortunately, they did some of it as well while we were home or they would have driven us nuts. I love the complete abandon Spooner and Olive shared both when they played and when they rested.

What this meant was that Spooner and Olive slept from when we left to work in the morning until we walked in the door in the evening. They might have snuggled, keeping each other company, but they didn’t romp … except that one time. That time they chose not to sleep in the black, furry bean-bag chair I’d bought in college, but rather to gut it, spreading thousands of tiny Styrofoam beads everywhere. (I think Spooner gutted the chair figuring we’d blame the new dog, but neither ever confessed.)

Did I mention that our two dogs never played together unless they thought we were watching? As soon as we sat down in the living room, Spooner and Olive went nuts. They’d snarl and bite and snarl and pounce and snarl and run and snarl. We’d lift our legs clear as the dogs tumbled through, and the dogs were happy NOT to have us throw toys or play tug-of-war (are there other dog/human games? Does it matter?)

When our darling dingoes tired, they’d lounge on the sofa, usually pressed together or draped over each other. At night, they’d sleep on the foot of the bed which wasn’t a great arrangement, but it satisfied my lifelong desire to rebel against my parents’ rule: No dogs on the beds. Stacy, very clearly, did not approve but she indulged me (and the dogs). She can be a patient person.

It was more than a year before I felt toward Olive that she was our dog and it took even longer for her to win me to the wiles of Labradors. Given the topic of this blog, you’ve probably surmised that Olive did sell me on Labradors. Her sales methods deserve a post of their own.



My Lap Dog Nutmeg

Nutmeg is a true lap dog

At 60 pounds, Nutmeg uses up a lot of lap, but It’s hard to express how happy I am finally to have a lap dog.

I’ve always wanted to have a lap dog, but none before Nutmeg have fit the bill. Apparently, for many dogs it’s simply too emotionally unsettling to hang out on the lap of the boss dog. (Weird, too if the boss dog is actually a dog. I’m pretty sure dogs don’t have laps.)

In any case, Nutmeg has broken out from the whole “too wimpy to stay in my lap” thing of her predecessors. In fact, on most mornings, when I sit down in my easy chair to read the newspaper, Nutmeg leaps onto my lap. Thankfully, she lands lightly. Then she almost immediately curls up and sleeps.

Nutmeg will stay in my lap in the morning as long as I let her – or until something better comes along. Better? Try noises in the kitchen, the sound of a car in the driveway, the noise of the coat closet opening, someone carrying food, or anyone saying her name within earshot.

It doesn’t matter. Having waited for 46 years to have a real lap dog, I feel terrible when I have to ask Nutmeg to get off my lap. It’s often a relief when she leaps off to examine other distractions.