Picking Laser up at PAWS
What a sweet face!
Laser came to us via the PAWS With a Cause organization. We volunteered to be foster puppy raisers with the hopes of raising a puppy for about a year and then turning him over to PAWS to help someone with a physical disability. Laser had other plans. Laser was a "difficult" puppy. My poor husband who was new to dog raising told me that I seriously undersold the difficulty level. I told him that not all dogs are like Laser. We had to walk Laser twice a day for VERY long walks to try to tire him out. When that didn't work, we got special permission from PAWS to run with him in an attempt to wear him down enough to be manageable. At this point in our lives, both Dave and I were running marathons, so Laser built up to some serious mileage. He just became a very fit high-energy dog with greater stamina. Laser was smart enough to learn everything - he was just so smart that he tried to figure a way around the rules. If you've read the book or seen the movie Marley and Me, they must be cousins because pretty much if you take away the fear of lightning, Laser was a whole lot of Marley.
Laser was donated to PAWS from a private breeder, likely because his tail was accidentally docked as a puppy and thus "non-standard" for the breed. I've since learned there are two main lines of labradors - Show and Trial Bred. Show are the stocky, blocky CALM and affable labs bred to amble around conformation shows and look pretty. Trial Bred labradors are leaner and longer with a tighter coat and thinner tails. According to Wikipedia, they are "commonly higher energy and more high-strung" and "as a consequence may be more suited to working relationships than being a "family" pet." Any guesses which line Laser is?
LASER stands for Light Amplification through Stimulation of Emission of Radiation. My husband Dave is a physicist who works with lasers and Laser was on the list of PAWS approved names we got to choose from. He could also have been called Quark or Kafka, so I think he got the best of the lot. (Dave's other pets have been named after physicists and mathemeticians, which is how Otto and Erwin got their names and I eventually played along by suggesting Sophie. Bonus points if you know the last names without Googling.)
One of the neat things about being a foster puppy raiser is that you're encouraged to take the puppy with you everywhere you go. Laser wore his little PAWS cape and went with me almost every week to the grocery store. We took him to festivals and races. I took him to the library, and to Toronto when I ran the marathon there (he refused to pee outside for nearly the entire weekend because it's such a dog-intense city and the smell overwhelmed him). We flew with him to San Diego - yes, he got to be in the cabin with us, go NWA for their policy for dogs in training to be service animals. While in San Diego we took him to Sea World along with countless coffee shops.
San Diego Sea World
Needless to say after lots of encouragement and coaching from Ellen, our wonderful PAWS field representative, Laser was officially career changed after trying to drag his caregiver at doggie daycare across the street. Career changed is really just PAWS speak for "He's too much of a spazz for our program and we would never trust him to be left alone with a person using a wheelchair".
Sadly, the t-shirt tells the truth
Through contacts with PAWS, we tried to find another career for Laser because man, he needed a job. He was too big for arson since the investigators might need to carry the dog up a ladder. He was ironically not insane enough for bomb or drug detection. They use balls as the reward for those dogs and while Laser is a retrieving fool, he didn't try to dismantle a dresser when the trainer put a ball in one of the drawers. Laser was just like "Uh, the ball's in here - where's my treat?".
PAWS would have placed Laser with a family - apparently there's quite a market for highly-trained purebreeds who are past the puppy phase. But, masochists that we apparently are, we decided to keep Laser as our "forever" dog.
Laser has mellowed with age. A little. PAWS dogs aren't allowed to go swimming since they don't want a dog pulling a wheelchair to be attracted to the water. Once Laser was released from service, we found that he LOVED the water. He would retrieve until he could hardly haul himself out of the water. He also shows a pretty good aptitude for agility, and placed several times in his first competition. He loves to go to the dog park and will retrieve endlessly. We even discovered that he would fetch in the dark. He waits until he hears the ball hit the ground and then runs in that general direction.
I love to swim!
He still has his faults. He's a champion counter surfer and will get into anything that he can reach. I have poison control on speed dial specifically for him. He's eaten muscle relaxers, an entire bag of Halls, organic weed preventer, and ant traps. So far he's still with us. Poison control seemed to get a kick out of the Halls call - after telling us there should be no ill effects the operator said "his breath will smell good". He still tries to drag me where he wants to go and has caused me to fall a couple of times.
The main thing about him now is that he does amazingly well with Arden. Now that she's more mobile, he's had to become even more tolerant of her. She loves to "ride" him - straddling him and bouncing up and down when he's laying on the ground. His docked tail is actually a nice feature, as he doesn't whack into stuff or Ardens head like Sophie's does. Arden likes to dress him up and he just sits there nicely looking up with big sad eyes as if to say "what did I do to deserve this?". See above buddy. See above.
So, that's the story of our loveable but frequently infuriating dog Laser. Next time I don't have any fun projects to post, I'll introduce you to Sophie.