Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our Murphy

Murphy is our pack leader... a huge black lab, of the field variety - which means he's tall and lean and all muscle, and he is one of the loves of my life. He's my protector, bowing up to an unrecognizable size two weeks into our life here when the farmer walked across the back yard with a wrench in his hand. Putting himself between me and anything or anyone he thinks may present a danger to me. But oh so gentle is my Murphy.

Long and lean...and tall for a Lab.

And smart. He's probably the smartest dog we've ever had the joy of living with. And he's wise; as each new pet addition has come into our lives, Murphy has been there to guide them in our ways. Always, they fear him when first they meet...he towers over all of them, looking like a Shetland pony rather than a black lab. But, he knows just what to do to put them at their ease. He turns his back, sits down elegantly, and shows them he means them no harm. If this doesn't work, he lays on his back, all four feet in the air, presenting them throat and belly to show his trust of them. And soon, they trust him in return, following his lead, alert when he's alert and relaxed when he's relaxed.

Murphy towers over our Callie who's on the small side for a bench lab.

I was proud of him today. As David and I mucked out the chicken's play yard and cleared the coop of damp pine shavings (in the pouring rain, I might add), Murphy stood guard just outside the pen. As always he was watching my back...there is no leaving him in the house if I'm outside - he knows his job and he'll bark incessantly until he's let out to do it. But that's not what impressed me this morning - I expect him to guard me diligently through rains and winds and whatever life may throw at us....I was proud for another reason.....I was proud because he gently herded one of the escapees....

Guarding my back as usual - there were about 50 people wandering
around our yard that day and Murphy was never far from me.

Our Aggie, always the bravest of the chicks, escaped. I had neglected to lock the pen gate behind me as I entered and after their first adventure in free ranging, those chicks want out now...badly. There's a whole big world of bugs and worms and flowers and green stuff just begging for their attention don't you know....Aggie waited for me to get involved with David's mucking efforts and snuck her way out that gate. Shortly thereafter, the other four decided to try their luck at scooting out that gate as well, but there was a big black nose that blocked their way and a big black gentle body that moved this way and that way to keep Aggie near that gate on the outside.

Being curious with the other canine.

We haven't allowed the dogs into the pen and during our first free range event they were locked inside the house (Murphy barking his fool head off at the outrage, mind you) because we were not sure if they would consider the chicks prey or chase them to death. We plan on having one dog out on a leash at a time for awhile to control their introduction to chickens frolicking in what has to date been an exclusive large play pen. But, Murphy will now get to escape that leashing exercise...he proved today that those chicks are already just a part of his ever growing pack - another group that he will protect with his own life.

Barking his head off because I'm outside the gate and he's not!

There is some sadness as I type this post - our Murphy is ill. We're not exactly sure what's wrong with him. It could be epilepsy or lymphoma. He's had several seizures and is on meds for that, but he has visible tumors on his long lean body. Blood work has come back okay, an aspiration of one lymph gland came back negative, but we decided that was the extent of the testing we would do. Much as we love him, as much as he means to us, in the end, he is a dog and extreme measures are not something we will take with him. We're hoping for epilepsy and there are signs that this is what it is...labs get tumors...not all of them are malignant. We've been told that he's on the "cusp" for both diseases....age 6 is the time for epilepsy to develop and age 7 increases the risk of lymphoma..... Murphy's 7.

Riding in a golf cart with me and Nikki

Whatever illness our Murph is experiencing, we're not taking him and his special personality for granted....already spoiled, he's being spoiled more than ever....if he asks to go with us on an errand...he gets to go. If he comes up for a cuddle, he gets that cuddle even if it means stopping what we were doing for a moment.... I was proud of our Murphy today.....and he got an extra special hug and a bone of his own to chew on....

Photograph by John Binkley


  1. They both look like sweeties. My family had black labs when I was growing up. I hope Murphy is OK. One of the worst parts with sick pets is not being able to explain it to them what's wrong :-(

  2. We've been lucky so far...2 large seizures and then the meds kicked in. He acts pretty much like he always did....and eats well and still plays....we're praying that its epilepsy and we'll get several more years with him.....

    Love labs....they're the best!

  3. I wish I could find a dog like your Murphy. Everyone I have ever gotten was useless an destructive. I have given up on dogs, but my husband has decided when the youngest is 5, he wants to get a lab and train it himself. Maybe he will be a better dog detector than me. We are still 4.5 years away, but I can see it in his eyes whenever he sees a yellow lab. Haha!! I hope we get as lucky as you did!!! :) I hope, also, that Murphy is ok!! :)

  4. Kelly,

    Labs, once the age of 2 or 3, are the best pets with children. Crate training (treating them like a toddler...time out to potty, play and eat then back in the crate) will get you through the rough patches...they are pirrana puppies and velcro adults, but they are so worth the effort.

    If you get a full grown one, a good trick to see how reasonable they are is to throw something into a corner, of the yard or the room or whatever, and see how they retrieve it...if they bounce into the corner, slam into the wall or fence or whatever, then you might have a hyper dog and one that will require a great deal of patience to train.....if they follow the ball, wait for it to hit the obstruction and then come back to them before grabbing've got a very very trainable animal. The ability to still reason when excited is one of the traits I always look for in a Lab.


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