To Little Jon I for making the space for Little Jon II and opening our eyes to differences
and To Little Jon II so sweet, loving, loveable and gentle.
We are better breeders because of them!
To my husband for reminding me to focus on what is here and now and not just on
what was and is gone!
Life was good. We had just moved to a small ranch in north central Texas,breeding dogs seemed a natural use of the property. On the ranch there are plenty of fields for them to run and play as well as ponds for swimming – one of a Labrador Retriever’s favorite things to do! Labrador Retrievers are my husband’s favorite breed.To this day he dreams of training them to jump into the pond at record distance, toswim after a retrieval toy he threw into the water, return it to him in record time and someday to compete against other labs doing the same thing. I, on the other hand, dream of holding and cuddling a loveable bundle of fur.
Little Jon the 1st came to live with us in April of 2000. Picking him had been quite a challenge! One of approximately 18 puppies between two mommas, we found ourselves surrounded by energetic white balls of fur. Their playful, yipping, nipping and tumbling filled every inch of the floor around us reminding me of the Disney movie 101 Dalmations. Full of the same energy and mischief but without the spots. Ultimately the difficult task of picking one from many adorable seemingly perfect puppies ended and we adopted our Little Jon.
An absolutely beautiful white, male Labrador Retriever puppy, we now had a chocolate and vanilla breeding pair! Naming them became a huge challenge!.How many times have you heard, “I’ll name my puppy when I see it or know its personality?” Knowing them was not inspiring their names! Instead, the song from the Disney movie, Robin Hood reverberated through my head. Little Jon was named after a loveable bear character along with a cute play on our then 15-year-old son Jon’s name. We reluctantly allowed a six-year-old to name the chocolate. Sabrina was a dear family friend and our nail technician. Hunter was particularly enamored with her; hence, our chocolate lab was named Sabrina.
Sabrina, the chocolate puppy loved to be held and cuddled. She would wrap her little paws around my neck, and I was in heaven. Little Jon, on the other hand, would have none of the love and affection, holding and cuddling kind, that is. He was quite content to have his tummy rubbed but wanted no part of being picked up and held; he squirmed, wriggled and bit until we put him down. I fulfilled my cuddling need with Sabrina and reluctantly honored Little Jon’s affection needs. Summer in north Texas can be sweltering hot. One particularly hot July Sunday the puppies lay sprawled on the cool linoleum of our kitchen floor, enjoying the air conditioning. Little Jon snuggled up to the floor vent to catch a little extra air, sprawled out flat, he looked hilarious, more like a flying squirrel than a puppy and less than comfortable. He looked up at me with eyes that seemed to say can’t you do something about this heat?
One typically hot day, my husband put the puppies outside with the big dogs while we went to run errands. We had just settled into the truck when my husband remembered something he forgot and returned to the house to get it. Running late now, he rushed back out, put the pick-up in gear and took off. We felt the bump and heard the yelp at the same time. We both saw our precious white puppy dash up the steps to the deck and breathed a sigh of relief that he must be okay to run like that. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
We both rushed to him and could see immediately he was in extreme distress. Trembling from fear, pain and shock we bundled him up and headed to the vet as fast as we could. I drove faster than I should have, we both prayed and my husband comforted him; then, when Little Jon quit breathing, he gave him CPR. By the time we arrived at the vet’s office 15 miles away, Little Jon was gone. The sounds of the truck tire going over his little body played over and over through my memories as I mentally beat myself up for not acting on my instincts. As I sat in the pick-up those fateful minutes before the accident, anxiously awaiting my husband’s return, it occurred to me that we should check under the truck before leaving. Because we were in a rush, and I was already comfortably seated and seat belted, I did not act on my intuition. Oh how I wish I had! Since that tragic day, I listen and I act on those seemingly insignificant little thoughts that pop in from nowhere – even when it is inconvenient! I tell myself I can prevent but I cannot undo! I wished I could have a do-over for that one! My husband and I were both emotional basket cases with guilt and remorse that we had run over our Little Jon. When we returned home from the vet’s office, we called the breeder from whom we bought him. I relayed our horror story and she was quite sympathetic. “This is your lucky day,” she told me. “We are breeding Little Jon’s parents today! You can have the pick of the litter.” Sabrina and I grieved our Little Jon I together, further deepening our bond. We both moped and it was clear to us that she missed her companion. She appeared to look for him and not understand where he had gone; what wasn’t clear was did she understand he had died and was gone forever? Did she hear his cries and see him hurt? We wondered what exactly dogs know of such things? Of course, we couldn’t know for sure but it seemed she knew more than humans give them credit for!
By the time Sabrina was six months old, she was rapidly outgrowing the holding aspect of our love and affection time. While I give her a lot of credit for understanding our loss; she did not seem to grasp that she no longer fit in my lap and it was more and more of a struggle to lift and carry her. She continued to insist that she being carried and absolutely would not get in or out of the pick-up on her own! A very wise puppy, she continued to wrap her no longer little paws around my neck, and I continued to make the emotional journey to heaven every time she did! I loved her loving!!!
Little Jon II was born on September 26th, the only male in a small litter of three puppies. Savannah, the breeder’s daughter, took an immediate liking to him. He became her baby and companion for the next six weeks. By the time Little Jon II came to live with us he not only enjoyed holding, cuddling and affection; he expected it. Little Jon II filled my need perfectly!
Little Jon II was easy to hold, enjoyed affection and seemed eager to please. My husband had effectively taught Sabrina to sit and retrieve; Little Jon II watched and caught on quickly to the new skills. Soon Sabrina and Little Jon II competed for retrieves. Gentleman that he was, Little Jon kindly acquiesced to Sabrina’s fervor, and she won the stick every time. He could not resist a good game tug-of-war and ultimately that passion would be his downfall in retrieving! My husband’s dreams came true the day that the two of them flew from the side of our small lake to retrieve a stick he threw to the middle. With the stick in both of their mouths they swam to shore, shook the water from their backs and played tug-of-war over who got to keep the stick. What a beautiful sight.
Another beautiful sight attracted a lot of attention and interest as we travelled in our motor home. Our puppies loved to travel. In their lives they’ve been to the Gulf and many lakes; of course, their favorite destinations always included water. Truly it was their pleasure to be with us regardless of where we were going or what we were doing. At home they lay by our feet when we eat, next to the bed where we sleep and when we travel in the RV they would lay on the dash board! The dash board in the motor home was large enough that when we bought it our daughter’s 2-year-old son claimed it as his bed and slept on it in his little dragon sleeping bag – obviously, only when we were parked in a campground. The puppies, on the other hand, were totally in heaven lounging across the dashboard as we traveled! Hunter looked so cute up there but the puppies were our “hood ornaments”. People commented on them everywhere we went! Today I am extremely cautious to not hurt any of our puppies, children or animals. Thanks to Little Jon I, I listen to the little voice that sometimes tells me to do things I might not otherwise do. Thanks to Little Jon I, I wonder if some Higher Power didn’t call him back to the puppy soul pool so that we could have a white Labrador Retriever male with a phenomenal personality. Little Jon II is extraordinarily, phenomenal! Gentle, loyal, loving and loveable – we would never have known him if Little Jon I had lived.