Lots of changes in my life in the last few years.  Just over four years ago, I retired from competing with my Labradors. Instead, I chose to pursue becoming an American Kennel Club judge of Labrador Retrievers. Since then, I also wrapped up my Labrador breeding program. I donated or sold most of my puppy, obedience/rally and agility equipment. I had waaaaay too much of it all.

I have two dogs now. One is 8 year old Orchid, a champion with obedience/rally titles along with a WC, and the other is 5 year old Bling, only ever shown in the breed ring once as a puppy, but did title in obedience and rally when young. What do I do with them now? I focus on their lives as pets.

The biggest change for me was the sale of my veterinary practice in January. Having the free time to spend with my dogs, horses, cats and friends has been wonderful. One of the things I most look forward to is a daily walk with the dogs. Well, I walk, they run, sniff, swim and otherwise occupy themselves. Pretty much every day, they hop in the car for a drive someplace where they can run off leash and I can enjoy walking and watching them.

I am lucky to live in an area with state game lands, rails to trails walkways, nature trails, and a couple of gun clubs I belong to. My favorite places, or I should say, “our” favorite places are the ones with ponds and streams. Most of the time, I have wet dogs on the way home. I enjoy checking out the turtles and birds. They enjoy rolling in, eating and smelling, well, whatever.

One of the good things I realize about the time I put in training is that my dogs listen to me in pretty much any environment and with distractions. They pay no attention to other dogs or people since as soon as I notice either, I call them to heel and they oblige.  Recalls on both dogs are very good to excellent. Orchid, in all honesty, never strays far from me. Bling will go out of sight frequently, but returns on a simple call of her name. On rare occasion she needs a second call. I do practice recalls on the trails to keep them tuned in to me. I also  practice sits and stays…just in case it is ever needed.

In case one thinks these walks are obedience drills for Bling and Orchid, that is far from the case. The recalls and other exercises are fun based. And I do carry treats with me for the excellent responses.

I thought I would miss the competition that was so much a part of my life. I loved it. But the truth is, I love the dogs more. Soon, I have a weekend trip planned for a quick visit with a friend in western Pennsylvania. Instead of turning around and driving home, I decided to make a hotel reservation and make it a mini vacation with dogs to visit a state park out there. Labradors are wonderful companions for any stage of life.