Afield with Friends

Fifteen years ago, I could see that my good friend, Randy, in Buffalo, Wyo., was having problems forgetting about the horrors of his duty in the Vietnam mess.

His combat experience still was fresh in his mind and a nasty divorce added fuel to the fire.

“Randy,” I said, “what you need is a nice, even-tempered Labrador retriever.”

It was not long until he had a 49-day-old puppy from the best retriever I ever followed in the field – Smack Water Jackson – curling up on the tanned bear rug by the open fireplace in his new lodgepole pine log home.

Randy’s new addition, named Pete. was not an ordinary lab, for he attracted attention with his smooth, white coat and superb muscular body. He was pleased to just sit next to his trusted master during long rides in the front seat of his pickup truck.

Life is not always pleasant during the lengthy, below-freezing temperatures in Wyoming and Pete soon learned that his home in the prairie was special. Sub-zero weather implied that he apparently would be invited into the new log home, where he could curl up in front of the wood stove after an exciting run on the morning trap line.

When warmer spring days arrived, bringing rising temperatures, Pete enjoyed his outside box, filled with the scent of freshly cut hay or wheat baled the summer before. Small strips of carpet on the box entrance helped guard against the cooler bone-biting Montana winds.

Mating Pete to a prize-winning female soon followed, and a litter with all the characteristics of proven bloodlines and strong parental ties was a clue that good decisions were made.

As most breeders know, it is difficult to part with offspring sired from the best dog you ever owned.

However, with this litter of 10 beautiful pups, there were some strict rules to follow for ownership. If you bought a puppy from the litter. you had to sign an agreement that “if you chain the dog to a short pole in freezing temperatures, house it in dirty, cramped pens, fail to exercise it daily or to keep it in good health, I will come and take the dog from you.”

There were some long faces in Wyoming belong to people who could not understand what happened to their prized yellow lab.

Over the years, I have found that many breeds of dogs love their outdoor kennels. Their boxes were stuffed with straw and insulated on all sides, and the roof would shed water and snow.

As they became older, they were moved inside where temperatures were to their liking.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure shelters are warm in the frigid and cooler seasons and cool in the hot weather. Also, be sure to provide plenty of water to prevent dehydration, because that can kill big dogs like labs.