Our Outdoors: Live Like a Lab

By Nick Simonson

The neat thing about labs is they never want to quit. Whether it’s in the field or on a summertime swim, it most often comes down to their owners to know when to say when.  On about the twenty-seventh stick thrown from the end of the dock yesterday morning, the mounting blue clouds on the far side of the lake signaled the end of the sunrise swimming session for both Ole and me. One last time in the hazy light of the rising sun behind us, he jumped in after the stick which had been chewed on and chomped on and reduced to about half its original size during his morning workout.  For good measure, I jumped in behind him, unable to cover the distance he made as he launched his 105-pound self in a gravity-defying effort after the chunk of wood.

After my morning run – a stride lengthening jaunt that regained a pace I had left untouched for most of the spring and summer due to a general inconsistency which resulted from a mix of part weather and part motivation – the water felt good.  The lake was at that perfect temperature, a combination of sunlight-warmed bathwater, with the slight infusion of the cooler flow from the creek down the beach which was angled through the sands toward our metal dock.   Legs kicking my way into shore behind Ole, I felt like all my distance goals were once again attainable for the races at the end of the season, and at the very least, my lower half would be ready once those finish lines were crossed for the start of an autumn of hiking in the hills.  There in the newly regenerated grasses with growth brought on by that same daily dose of rain which has thwarted some of my outdoor runs this season, I hope to find a restored population of ringneck pheasants and sharptailed grouse sent skyward in part by Ole’s inexhaustible energy supply. 

As he shook the last soaking of lake water from his coat, I grabbed the mostly wet towel from the dock post and dried my hair and face, which was the last bit of water the fabric could handle.  While it took some convincing as he stood over his stick in anticipation of one more throw, Ole eventually followed me up the brick path to the deck and into the cabin, not wanting to give up on a series of jumps that appeared to be just as fun as the very first one he made a half hour earlier.  As we’d see a few minutes later, however, with the lightning, rain and wind that would follow in the morning squall, it often comes down to the owner to know when to say when, and despite Ole’s objections and continued stare-out-the-door anticipation of another swim, it was the right choice.  But to tap that reservoir of energy, enthusiasm and effort that seemingly never ends would be the answer to most of my training problems and likely many of society’s as well.  At the very least, it would certainly destroy the very definition of procrastination in Webster’s dictionary when it comes to the rest of life’s little challenges.

Whether it would be workouts, or projects, or even just mowing the yard, that well of unyielding spiritual fuel that swells within the soul of a Labrador retriever serves as not only the hallmark of the breed, but also as inspiration for the rest of us.  So happy to plow into whatever the activity might be – swimming, running, ball-chasing, stick-chomping or following a scent trail through the uplands – the exhilaration a dog apparently receives from those simple actions, be they the serious business of hunting, or those required to get ready for the season, is communicable. 

Through the slightly curled smile on his snout during, or the deep, satisfied panting and slurping of a bucket of water afterward, Ole shares the excitement of each activity and inspires me to do just a bit more, whether that’s an extra loop around a favorite hunting area, an added push to drop a couple seconds-per-mile on a run, or even another jump off the dock into the summer waters…of our outdoors.

Featured Photo: Shake It Off.  The resilience and passion of a lab for any activity is something that, if possible, should be bottled and sold. Simonson Photo.

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