River Currents

by Free Speech on August 14, 2009

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Lodi, WI
8/14/09
by Gary Engberg
©2009 Gary Engberg Outdoors

A New Companion and Friend

Gary's new friend, Katie.

Gary's new friend, Katie.

Most of you readers have read about or seen photos of the Labrador Retrievers that I’ve raised for over three decades in my articles and stories. Many of you have sent me condolences, emails, and letters when I’ve had Labs pass away or have had to be put down late in their lives and written about the sorrow and grief that one feels. The common bond that dog lovers have seems to transcend breeds. I’ve found that a dog lover is a dog lover whether they own a Lab, a German shepherd, or a mixed breed. There are many differences from breed to breed and dog to dog, but the love and joy that they bring to their owners is something special and very unique. Dogs may be the same breed, but they all have their own personalities and traits.
My last Lab was Bo, who passed away in her sleep last December after 13 wonderful years with me. It was a tough time emotionally and I wasn’t sure if I was up to raising another dog as I get older and fight physical and health problems. The last thing that I wanted was to have a dog outlive me. But, the companionship and pleasure of having a dog exhibit unconditional love is something that only dog owners understand. Bo was and is still in my mind and thoughts. Bo is like my other Labs; Chico, Lucy, Bubba, Tut, and Lulu who will all be remembered as wonderful pets, companions, and friends. They all brought laughter, joy, and sorrow into my life and into lives of all of my friends that they touched over the years.
Recently, a wonderful group of friends surprised me with a “Buy Gary a Lab Fund” and took donations to find and buy me another Labrador which they felt was needed in my life. My friends have never thought of Gary alone, but it was always Gary and Bo since we were inseparable. Since I’ve always been single, my Labs were my surrogate children and my “family.” I had been considering getting another companion, but deep down I was still feeling the loneliness of losing Bo. Then, out of the blue things changed with my addition of another female yellow Labrador who I named Katie.

Katie may have bitten off more than she can chew this time!

Katie may have bitten off more than she can chew this time!

Bob Zownir, Wally and Kate Banfi, and Jim Kelter spearheaded this “secret” project and found a wonderful litter in Bangor, Wisconsin. The breeders, Bill Brewer and Jane Esser raise wonderful Labradors that are from great bloodlines (Candlewood), but more importantly they care about their puppies as if they were going to be theirs and not moving on at seven or eight weeks. The puppies are socialized to people and maintain the traits that make Labs such a wonderful breed for the field, family, or both. One could not ask for better breeders when you hear horror stories of puppies’ mills and dog fighting.
I picked Katie up Sunday after first seeing her a couple of weeks ago when I made the trip to the Bangor farm and met Bill and Jane. I was amazed at how much a puppy can grow in a few weeks! Last night was exciting with Katie spending her first night away from her litter mates and mother, Kniper. There wasn’t much sleep as I regularly took Katie outside to do her business every few hours. She made it through the night and is adjusting well to my Wisconsin River home. This morning, she was introduced to the river and walked along the shoreline with her feet in the water. Imagine what must be going through her mind after spending her first few weeks in familiar surroundings with her mother, brothers, and sisters? I think she realizes that she will have a great life here with someone who cares about her and will give her the best care possible.
After not raising puppies for a few years, I went to the Sauk City Library and took out several books on dog training. I figure that it was time to brush up on my puppy skills and see if there was anything new in retriever training. I found that most of the material I knew, but every dog is different and must be treated that way. It may sound trite, but there are not bad or untrainable dogs. It’s the owners, not the dogs! The most important thing is that I work out of my house, so Katie will not be put in a kennel all day waiting for the owner to return. Katie will be with me most of the time and especially during the early “bonding” period. She is playing with sticks and balls already and her training is just beginning.
I sincerely thank all those who contributed to buying me my new roommate and companion. Katie will have a great life and I hope that many of you get to see this lovable dynamo. I found out this morning that puppies are hard to get to sit still for a photo. I hope you can see what a gem she is and now my companion and “buddy” forever. To those who cared enough about me to bring this joy into my life, all I can say is thank you all so very much! Now, anyone want to help in my housetraining?

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