Man’s best friendseeks his owner’sapproval above all

Eric Steinkopff - Managing Editor

There is something universal about watching a dog with it’s master.

The interaction seems to be a winner with children, teens and adults alike. Maybe it’s the obvious fact that man’s best friend is so eager to please. Just watching an owner with a good dog as the canine keeps looking up to seek approval is a marvel and can melt the coldest of hearts.

Some Native Americans believe man is at one end of the living spectrum and wild animals such as deer and buffalo are at the other. But the domesticated dog seems to fall somewhere in the middle, as the native tradition says, somehow bridging the gap that man himself cannot quite cross.

I’ve had a few dogs in my life. My favorite breed is the Labrador retriever and I’ve owned only “black Labs” — except for the little “foo-foo” rat dog with an attitude my daughter got for Christmas one year. But that’s another story.

These black Labs are just about the right size — large enough to scare away intruders or fetch a duck downed by a hunter, but still not too big to be cumbersome as a sidekick running errands in a vehicle.

They have webbed feet and love to swim, seeming to be in heaven playing in icy winter waters at a local creek or lake.

There are some very strong instincts they all seem to share. Obviously, the retrievers especially love to fetch, but it’s the individual personality that makes each dog so unique.

I had a pure-bred black Lab named Thor, after the god of thunder. His bark was deep and loud. He scared away intruders, cats, squirrels and other dogs. I just wish he have had different barks for “burglar, burglar, burglar” and “cat, cat, cat.” I was awoken out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night way too many times only to learn that the family emergency was only the neighbor’s feline prowling the neighborhood for mice.

I was devastated when he died and immediately got two more mixed-breed black Labs who looked almost like purebreds to the untrained eye.

They were litter mates — brothers at the same birth — one smaller who kept picking on the larger one. We called them David and Goliath.

They both would fetch a ball or stick, but after a few times, Goliath preferred to come back and rest. He had a big, deep bark and even a decent growl to warn visitors that our home was his territory. He had the kind of personality you’d want for home defense.

But not David.

He wanted the ball or stick you were throwing. He didn’t care what it was or how far you could throw it. He was going to get it. That was his mission in life. He would keep fetching until your arm gave out and you couldn’t throw anymore. He would always beat other dogs to the ball.

If you held him and let other dogs go first, he would run up and tackle them until they dropped the ball and then he would grab it in his mouth and bring it back proudly.

Often I wished I had enough time back then to go hunting and train him as a bird dog. He probably also would have brought back game from other hunters to me.

I mention this tenacity of David’s, because I saw a little bit of the same sense of purpose from Sammy, one of the Altus Police Department’s K-9 working dogs.

When she was on a roll, there was no stopping her — a consummate professional.

Her handler Sgt. Don Wood told us that they are chosen from a litter for service based on their personalities.

If you toss a ball into a group of puppies, some will want to chase it, while others will be disinterested. But as they grow older, they tend to bond with people — whoever feeds them, I guess. Then they show such pure excitement when the owner returns.

They don’t care how long you’ve been gone, they’re just glad you’re back and don’t even mind if you’ve been out seeing other dogs while you were away.

They’re just so thrilled you’re back and only want to know if you’re ready to play and, maybe, if you brought something to eat or can just accommodate a good scratch.

Eric Steinkopff

Managing Editor

Reach Eric Steinkopff at [email protected] or 580-482-1221, ext 2072.

Reach Eric Steinkopff at [email protected] or 580-482-1221, ext 2072.

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