As a young boy, Al remembers when a black Lab came home in his dad’s front coat pocket.
She wasn’t bigger than a minute but she was his. He called her Blackie. He was smitten by ’‘puppy love’.
Blackie was a hunter. She was only three months old when she jumped out of the pickup and retrieved a duck shot by another hunter. She dragged it to Al.
Blackie was his best friend. She taught him as a young boy to know loyalty, friendship, responsibility and love. Gene Hill writes for the Gun Dog Magazine, “The Labrador was put on earth to show man what he might aspire to.”
In 1998, word was on the streets of Pagosa Springs that 26 AKC registered dogs had been living in a shed “in a secluded area,” treated badly, picked up and transferred to the Humane Society. There were several labs in the bunch.
As fate would finally have it Al was in the right place at the right time to own another Lab. Immediately he phoned the animal shelter. It was true. Ownership of the animals was in litigation.
They promised to call Al, and as promised, the shelter attendant phoned,
“The ad is out and the phone is buzzing. Call after call is coming into the shelter. You need to get here as soon as possible.”
He was panting like an excited school boy as he explained to me that I had to see the dogs. He was selling me on having another dog. I thought one was enough.
“If I don’t get down there, there won’t be any left.” He said nervously as he was getting ready. He didn’t know what to expect, but he anticipated he would finally get another Lab.
I was not as smitten as Al was by the news. “You know if you go there, you won’t be happy until you get another dog.” I told him.
“Another dog? It isn’t just another dog. Apparently you don’t understand, it is a Labrador!”
After much convincing Al and I were in the car and he promised he was just looking and it wouldn’t hurt. Arriving at the shelter, everything was in total mayhem. The phone continued to ring. One by one each caller received the same explanation. Al didn’t help matters. He had already worried them to death. They instructed us to go back and look for ourselves. Names and identification were still in question.
Al walked into Lab Heaven. Nine of them were waiting. He made his way to them, the chocolate, the black and the yellows. They all seemed to turn away from Al. They were still in shock from their previous ordeal. Then he saw her. Her golden hair glistened, her big brown eyes met his. She was stretching the length of her chain. Her deep husky voice called to Al. Al hurried over to her. She began dancing and performing for him. She chased the ball at his command, retrieved it, wagged her tail and rolled over.
“Where are the puppies?” Al asked. “She looks a little saggy, she must have just had them.”
“No one knows. These are all the dogs that came in.”
“She looks like she’s had pups recently,” he questioned again.
“We don’t know.” The attendant said.
It was surely music from the heavenly choir when Al heard me say, “Okay, I guess she belongs to you, she is begging to go home with us.”
They told Al, “You can sign the papers but she must stay here until she has her shots and is spayed.”
Al agreed with the terms. That night Al couldn’t eat or sleep. When out-of-town company came over the weekend Al insisted that they see her. He explained to them Missy Lynn looked matronly, but she wasn’t as old as she looked. She was only two and half years old.
Taking our friends to show off his new love, Missy was gone, she was at the vet and a new turn of events had just happened. The doctor began to operate and found she was carrying puppies to be born shortly. The doctor had mixed emotions. He couldn’t abort them. The doctor said, “That is what we are supposed to do. Labs are so gentle and such good dogs for children, so I sewed her up. We have to keep her here until the puppies are born.”
Al continued to worry them. Finally they said, “You can pick up Missy anytime at the doctor’s office. Her papers are ready and she is ready. You can keep her until she has the puppies. Do you want to?”
“Of course,” he said.
When Al arrived, Missy’s excitement took over the room. Her big tail swept the doctor’s coffee table clean and yes, you guessed it, she wet on the doctor’s floor. She knew she was coming home.
Missy Lynn didn’t leave his side. Daily conversation was about “the arrival”. Missy grew and grew, her belly dragged the ground and Al helped her in and out of the pickup.
Then it happened. The morning of Oct. 6, 1998, little yellow labs were everywhere. Under her feet, between her legs, over her shoulder, under her tail, twelve little pink mouths were sucking, and squealing for milk. Three girls and nine boys, mother and puppies were doing fine.
We kept them for six weeks until they were ready to be weaned from their mother. We agreed to take the puppies back and if possible we would like to keep one for our grandsons. Al picked a little girl. Many other families in Pagosa found a little Lab under their tree that year too.
Recently this article was prompted by seeing one of Missy’s pups in back of a pickup. It looked like Missy. When our daughter asked the owner where he got his dog, he proceeded to tell her “the story.” She told him they too had one of the pups, named Toby but recently they had to put her to sleep. Most of the pups have passed away, but there are still a few around. This story is for you.
Final brushstroke: This is our grandson’s poem who received one of Missy’s pups.
A Perfect Christmas
The scent of cinnamon tickles my nose.
The warmth of the covers makes me snuggle down under and curl up my toes.
As my mind travels over the events of the day, I don’t want to do anything but lay.
I’m thinking of the gifts awaiting under the Christmas tree.
I still remember the Christmas when I was three.
The big, brown eyes peeking out at me, peeking out of the Christmas tree.
My favorite present with its wet brown nose wouldn’t stop chewing on my big socked toes.
Back to the present my wiser older friend peeks her soft golden head under my covers, to let me know its Christmas morning once again.
Slade Wylie, grade 7.