Pippin and I

Pippin as a puppy.

If you own a Labrador retriever and watched the movie Marley & Me, you probably caught yourself nodding and uttering, “Been there, done that.”
The premise of the film is that the lab Marley is a one-dog wrecking crew while his owners and others that come in contact with Marley are pulled along in the wake of his destruction like a bunch of bumbling Keystone cops.
Not having watched the movie, I had no idea what I was getting into when we brought Pippin, a black Labrador, into our family.
I now realize the movie, billed as a comedy, is actually a documentary.
Labradors are best described as four-legged eating and chewing machines, a fact verified soon after Pippin entered our lives.
Food began to disappear from the counters.
Like a block of old cheddar cheese, a loaf of bread, a frozen chicken and a salmon fillet.
The breed is also fond of chewing.
Shoes, slippers, books, remote controls, iPods, makeup, toilet paper rolls, towels, sheets, pillows—really linen of any kind—electrical wires, leashes, plants, anything made of wood, hoses, sprinklers, emergency brake handles, car seats, tin cans, hand weights, cardboard boxes, socks and sides of houses have all fallen victims to the sharp and shredding teeth of Pippin.
To combat a Labrador’s beaver-like qualities, dog obedience books for the breed (more like survival guides) recommend having them chew on toys.
But what they don’t disclose is that supplying dog toys for your lab is a major household budgetary item. They destroy toys quickly and in great numbers.
The first time meeting our puppy, a relative gave Pippin a squeaking rubber chicken.
It appeared tough and durable.
Within five minutes it no longer squeaked.
And days later the head and claws had been ripped off.
It now lies shredded, unrecognizable as a toy, in the backyard.
Scattered elsewhere on the lawn, resembling a battlefield aftermath, are other toys that have suffered similar fates.
Much of a lab’s behaviour can be attributed to ancestry.
They were first bred more than 100 years ago and were used as a working dog for East Coast fishermen. A strong swimmer, it would help bring in the nets.
As a result, they have incredible pulling power. If not properly trained, walking them on a leash is tantamount to a tug of war.

Pippin on a hike.

But despite the arm-jerking walks, the breed’s fondness for destroying toys, chewing everything, food thievery and innate ability to get into trouble, a lab’s greatest quality is its yearning to please its owners.
So this morning when I woke to find my morning newspaper in a thousands pieces on the kitchen floor, I looked into Pippin’s earnest brown eyes and thought, ‘I can always read the newspaper online.’
Assuming he hasn’t found the computer’s mouse, or keyboard.
Or destroyed the chair, or the desk…


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