When you hear “Duke” it invokes images of British Nobility or, much more central to the It’s About Men project, an actor by the name of Marion Mitchell Morrison…AKA…John Wayne. The latter image portrays toughness, integrity, and true grit. I hope the last sentence has memories of movies that had you grasping for your six gun loaded with red paper caps and headed outside to protect your homestead (sandbox) from the evil Cattle Baron (little girl next door) trying to steal your water (plastic swimming pool). Now that you have these images firmly in place, I am about to ruin it for you…enter “Duke”, the larger than average, four year old, Chocolate Lab.
When you first meet Duke he will give you the traditional dog handshake (nose to your crotch), followed by the “pet me” lean that will almost tip you over, all the while the wagging tail clears plants, lamps, and whatever off the end table.
Duke has been a member of our family from the time he was weaned from his momma. His first year was rough and he had several close brushes with death. The first time was when he ripped the irrigation drip line from around the hedges. The second time involved a pair of my wife’s new shoes that she had never even had the chance to slip her delicate toes in. The third time was ripping out a newly repaired drip line…I think you get the picture. Time has passed and each year he has improved as the family has responded well to the way Duke is training us. He is a fierce protector of his best buddy, who you might know from one of our gardening podcasts as Gman. I watched Gman on a slide in the backyard and Duke barking and biting under the slide. “Weird dog,” I thought. When they went out he was a Lab, he came back in a Shar Pei. Investigating what happened, I found the shrapnel from a wasp nest under the slide! A call to the vet and a Benadryl in a hot dog fixed him right up. Okay, maybe some toughness and grit here?!?
I have concluded he does not think he is a dog. I have walked into my bedroom several times to see him lying next to my wife with his head on MY pillow. If I try to lay between them he will nose his way in between us until the entire length of his dog body is between us; then to add insult to injury, he will push me off the bed with all four of his legs.
Duke has made me say things I never thought I would say to a dog, and say it like he understands me. He has figured out how to open the sliding glass door to let himself in and I say, “Why don’t you close the door?” If I’m relaxed in my easy chair he will put his front legs on my chest and put his nose two inches away from mine and tilt his head…this means I see a bird or a cat and even though it will be gone as soon as you open the door, I need to chase it. I then ask, “Why do you wait until I have my feet up?” Then he pushes off my chest and air involuntarily leaves my body. When locked outside he will repeatedly lick the glass door, I ask him, “Does that taste good?”
In true Lab style he retrieves naturally. When you get home he will pick up whatever is nearby and bring it to you. In the back yard he brings me five gallon buckets we use when weeding the garden…visibility becomes very limited and he will crash into the swing set, trampoline or whatever else is in his way and then shows me the bucket as if to say, “Been carrying this around since you left”.
At the end of the day, all the dog lovers will agree there is nothing like sitting on the couch, watching a John Wayne movie and eating popcorn with your dog cuddled beside you and your wife sitting, drooling on your feet hoping you will share a piece of popcorn…reverse that last part.
Who’s your four legged best friend? What’s your favorite breed? Why?
Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway. — John Wayne
Hone your edge.