A picture of dogs exploring a dog park. Saturdays usually meant a trip to the dog park. We'd load the dogs up into the back of the pickup and make the twenty-minute drive to a large preserve where training dogs was allowed. Few people used it for formally training their best friends, but everyone used it for exercising, socializing and informally teaching their dogs. As long as you kept your dogs under control, no one complained. It was a good place and it was not unusual to find twenty to thirty people with as many as sixty or seventy dogs on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

The parking lot adjoined a large, grassy area that was about five acres in size. This was surrounded by natural prairie, bogs, forests and marshes that totaled more than 1300 acres. Several streams criss-crossed the preserve and there were miles of trails to walk on.

 

A picture of Willy, our black lab.Willy joined the family in November at the ripe old age of ten weeks. A bit old for a puppy you planned to teach many, many things and especially old for a male. Advice is given to take a dog from the litter at exactly seven weeks. Forty-nine days. There are reasons for this and they seem to make sense, but I'm not sure I agree with them.

First of all, and both Willy and JD were living proof of this, dogs are individuals just like people. Each has their own specific personality. What applies to one person, does not necessarily apply to another. And so it is with dogs.

 

Image of Willy with JD sleeping between his front legs. Every dog is special. Special talents, special qualities, an interesting personality or... JD rescued.

Meeting JD was no accident because Willy found him for us. We were playing fetch in the yard at my parents, a game Willy loved to play endlessly until your arm was sore and you were unable to throw anymore and then he'd go find someone else to play with. Suddenly, nose in the air, Willy went off at a run and I followed. Marg saw me running after him and came to see. I went around the corner and there was Willy, nose to nose with JD's father and there was JD's mother, his sisters and brother, and JD himself.

Fortunately, all the dogs quickly made friends with each other through copious sniffing, tail wagging and nose licking.

Image of Willy sleeping under my coat in my boat.It was the first Friday after the first of November, 1996. That morning, I picked up a newspaper on my way to work and quickly turned to Pets in the classified section. I scanned down the list of ads. There were free kittens by the dozen. The usual mixed breeds of dogs. A rabbit or two. There! Black Lab Puppies for Sale. The phone number was someplace close. That day at work, the minutes were like days.

I didn't say a word to anyone—they might go buy MY puppy.

That night after dinner, I casually said to my wife, "So there's some black lab puppies in the paper, wanna go take a look?"

Now, she knew I wanted a dog, but I don't think she really knew what kind of dog I had in mind. I wanted a water dog.