Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Chocolate Lab Thinks She's Marley the Dog

For those of you not familiar with Marley, I encourage you to check out either the book or the movie - or better yet both. For those of you considering a Labrador, that advice goes double. Please get familiar with the story, and realize it could be you. Seriously!

We loved the Marley story. And we once had a yellow lab that we loved dearly. After four years, she lost her battle with cancer at the too-young age of eight. We were devastated. She was a great dog. Her death affected us so deeply that we actually steered away from labs for quite awhile. It was as if we just couldn't bear to have one, our last tribute to our beloved Peaches.

As the years passed, though, it became harder and harder to resist the inevitable onslaught of ads and pictures of adorable round bellied lab puppies. So we compromised - we got a chocolate lab. Her name is Ripley.

Now it it important to note here that we did our homework. I had fallen in love over the years with many high-maintenance, high energy, intense breeds. I knew they'd be too much for the family to handle, and I responsibly passed them up. Dalmatians, border collies, Belgian malinois...all became just a daydream when the realities of what owning one of these A-type personality dogs would be like for the next ten to fifteen years. So instead, we got Ripley the chocolate lab.

Because we were being responsible.

Because we thought we knew what we were doing.

For about a month or two, it seemed we were right. Ripley was the sweetest thing. She came home and fell asleep under the baby saucer and we took pictures and oohed and aahhed. Little did we know it may have been the last time, ever, we would actually witness her sleeping!

She quickly grew into a ball of energy. She knocked over kitchen chairs and sliced open feet as she ran by us with force. She was the demise of many a screen, and she had her way with many a pool cover.

She always came when called but was the ultimate escape artist. There was no fence high enough nor any chains or collars strong enough to hold her in one place. I think some of them just unlatched themselves in exhaustion from her frantic pacing, simply surrendering to her energy.

She terrorized the neighbors' dogs in passive aggressive ways - she'd sneak over under the cover of dark and retrieve every dog toy within a half mile radius. She brought back things I was embarrassed to return - such as one half of a pair of $100+ running shoes or the neighbors sprinkler well cap.

She created games to tease the kids, like hunting for one particular stuffed animal in silence behind my son's back while he was lost in a video game...only to bark at him once she had it safely in her mouth and take off running like the bandit she was while he gave chase.

We do love her though - and we're finding out, we can handle her.

She has a lust for life and an energy that is contagious, and is the main reason for my recent path of pursuing a healthier, more active lifestyle. She is two years old now, and after an hour or so of strenuous exercise can contain her excitement for up to a half hour inside the house. This is great progress!!

We are very proud. (And we are still on speaking terms with all the neighbors, another plus.)

I have often said she could host her own blog, the incredible psychotic Ripley. If I had the time, I would write it for her, but she keeps me so busy entertaining her I don't think that will happen any time soon!

Instead, I will be posting about her travels and excitement in blurbs here and there, to keep you entertained but also to keep me sane. Mostly for the latter...

The Dog Effect

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about "The Butterfly Effect." The popular metaphor follows the theory that every single action in the world, no matter how small, has a profound effect on the rest of the world if given a long enough time frame. If a butterfly flaps its wings in New York, it may rain in San Francisco.

In 2004, a movie named "The Butterfly Effect" was released starring Ashton Kutcher, Melora Walters, and Amy Smart. The movie gave examples, sometimes to the point of redundancy, of how a slight change of events would change the course of history dramatically for the characters lives.

If a tiny butterfly flapping its wings has captured the imagination and curiosity of theorists, physicists, and philosophisers the world over, imagine the effect of a dog. According to the 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey carried out by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, residents of the U.S. owned approximately 77.5 million dogs.

77.5 million! 39% of all U.S. households own at least one dog. This means that almost four out of every ten houses has the potential of a "Dog Effect." A dog's actions are at any given time affecting at least a third of the United States.

"A dog doing what?" you may ask.

Doing anything!

Sniffing the air, snuggling on your couch, tearing up your neighbor's lawn. Imagine!

Think of all the times your life has changed because of a dog. There are obvious changes, such as bringing home a new puppy or saying goodbye to an old friend. There are dramatic impacts too, such as the sudden loss of a dog too young or the heartbreaking decision to end the life of a dog too sick or too old or in too much pain.

But think of all the little, tiny, inconsequential (supposedly) "dog effects" on your life. Maybe you crossed the street one night on a walk to avoid a close encounter with a strange or aggressive dog. Maybe you chose a different hotel on vacation due to their pet policy. Maybe you are never in your yard except to clean up after the dog.

Maybe its even more removed. Its possible that your laundry room door doesn't close properly because the previous owner's dog used to lay against it every night for ten years, forever throwing the hinges off balance. A minor annoyance for the rest of the door's existence, caused by some unknown dog.

Or maybe its a more positive impact.

Maybe your boss woke up in an awful mood, but then was surprised by the friendly wagging tail of his neighbor's poodle when he went outside to get the paper. Maybe when he went over to the neighbor's house to return the dog, she answered the door in a tiny nightgown and they made love on the foyer floor. And maybe because of this, his entire mood changed and instead of firing the secretary that day, he went in and gave everybody raises!

Before you scoff too loudly, remember that if a butterfly's wing flap can affect the weather across an entire nation, anything is possible by a dog.