Those of you who study license plates know that Louisiana bills itself as the “Sportsman’s Paradise.” It’s also a libertine’s paradise, but that’s another story.
When we were in the process of adopting Albie, our yellow Lab-golden retriever mix who came to us from Louisiana, we learned that one reason Louisiana and many other southern states have huge populations of cast-off dogs is because those that prove sub-par for hunting are simply let go. Retrievers, whether of the Labrador or golden variety, are supposed to be, well, retrievers. You blast some innocent waterfowl out of the sky with a high-powered weapon, and the retriever is supposed to jump into the water with enthusiasm and retrieve your trophy.
Hey, it’s not tennis, but then who am I to judge? (For the record, Albie is very good at retrieving tennis balls, which explains why so few retrievers for adoption come from Forest Hills.)
This week, as we continued to puzzle over why anyone would let a dog as sweet as Albie go, we saw evidence that, as they say down south, “that dog won’t hunt.” Oh, he’ll take off after a rabbit, and spend several futile hours trying to catch a housefly in his teeth. (Believe me, it’s much more interesting to watch than beach volleyball.) But into the water? We’re pretty sure he either can’t swim, or doesn’t know that he can swim. It even made me wonder: Is this dog really from Louisiana or is he from New Jersey?
We were walking Albie along the Charles River outside of Boston the other day, to a spot where lots of dogs swim. There was no one around and Albie, as he has on many other trips to the water’s edge, waded in cautiously up to the middle of his forelegs and promptly plopped down. But this time we were determined to see if he could swim. We thought if we waded in we might lure him further out with treats, but all he did was inch forward ever so slightly and stretch his neck as far as he could in hopes of nabbing the doggie biscuit. No stick thrown, no treat offered, no leading by example could coax him beyond the point where he could easily stand with about 80 percent of his body out of the water.
If you wanted a dog happy to pull a dead duck from the muck of a Louisiana swamp, Albie probably wasn’t your dog. On the other hand, if you wanted a dog, as we did, happy to pounce at houseflies when he wasn’t having his belly rubbed, well, then Albie is your guy.
A month in to our new life with Albie and he’s everything we could have wanted in a dog. He’s not a barker. He loves people. And he’s a fast learner. We already have him walking long distances off-leash without fear he’s going to bolt. He appears to know his name, which he clearly didn’t on his arrival. And he knows we’re complete suckers whose hearts melt every time those ears perk up and he looks at us like we’re the best thing since the invention of the tennis ball.