Leila of the Lake
Man’s Best Friends
Dogs have always been a part of my life. They’re great buddies–always glad to see you, no matter what. We’ve had a Labrador Retriever as a family pet since shortly after my wife and I moved into our first home. Retrieving – whether through the air, on the ground or in the water – it’s just bred into them. This is the story of when “Leila of the Lake” joined our family.
A few years ago we adopted a black lab that had been abused. First of all, we didn’t know a lot about what happened before she became part of our family. I guess you rarely do when adopting a pet. Probably the most significant thing we knew was she’d had 12 pups within days of being abandoned by her original owners. The puppies were weaned about 12 weeks later and all adopted. Mom and all of her puppies came on the same truck to their new homes. We named her Leila, from the Arabic for night, dark beauty. With her beautiful soft coat, it seemed to fit.
For almost two weeks, she refused to come out of the crate we had set up for her. Leila growled at my wife, Linda. The poor thing didn’t want to eat or go outside. She continued to act very shy and withdrawn and we were worried. But amazingly, Leila never made a mess in the house.
Finally, my daughter Becky was able to coax her out to play with a ball. Leila liked it, and gradually went outside to play. There she fell in love with playing frisbee. I’d never had a dog that could catch a frisbee. None of the others even wanted to try. Leila ate it up–not literally. Labs often do like to eat up toys, but not her.
There is a state park with a wonderful lake not far from our home. It seems like there are alway lots of dogs playing and retrieving in the water. We took Leila for an outing to see how should would do. It quickly became pretty clear she had never been swimming before. She didn’t seem to like the water at all and had probably never been in it before. I went in with her and she followed cautiously, slapping the water with her paws as she went.
Nearby there was a Golden Retriever diving in off the cement piers to retrieve a ball. Leila watched very intently and was fascinated. I’ve never seen a dog watch another so deliberately. She was soaking it all in. Since the other dog loved it, she decided this looked like fun.
As a result of watching the other dog, she figured it out. By the end of that first trip to the lake, she went from hesitant toe-dipper into a full on diver. She has been ever since. These are a few pictures from that first summer with her on the lake. The video clip is from that first season too.
About ten years have gone by since that first summer together, and Leila still enjoys an adventure. Her “job” is retrieving. No matter what, she is ready to get up and retrieve something… a ball, a frisbee, a water dummy.
When we walk at the school grounds nearby our house she enjoys searching for balls in the woods. There are several baseball, softball, soccer and football fields on the property. She will find a lost baseball, softball, or lacrosse ball every time. Yesterday she found 3 softballs and a hardball. Her best is a total nine balls of different kinds in one day’s hike.