… on a letter to lab experts… who weren’t.


Fred in August’s Sunlight; Southport, Maine

Dear Lab Expert,

Oh, you know who you are.

One of countless people who told us, with great certainty, that our newly acquired hyperkinetic Labrador Retriever would ‘calm down’ by the time he was three years old…

Ya, you.

You’re a moron.

And a liar.

And, yes, that is the reason why you have not received a Christmas card from me since 2003.

Oh sure, you would have received a Christmas card in, say, 2006… when Fred turned THREE, and we could, from then on, count on a life where we could sleep in, leave food on a table, countertop, or maybe the roof of our house and not worry that he would get it.  But that hasn’t happened.

If you recall, when you asked us about Fred, we said that he came with his name (which we liked and kept, because he is totally a ‘Fred’). We also told you that he was given to us by a suspiciously normal looking gentleman who paraded his seemingly perfect puppy around the soccer field one fine day, sidled up to me (clearly reading the, “I might be talked into taking your dog” sign, that must have been scrawled in Sharpie on my forehead).

This man, who told me to call him ‘Jim’, allowed me to snuggle the happy, yellow puppy and, you know, fall in love.

And then…

And then he lamented that he had to find the puppy a new home.

That his entire family loved the puppy.

That his little girl was allergic.

And then my kids came over.

And they loved on the puppy.

And then ‘Jim’ (if that was his real name) laid it on thick.

This puppy never even barked.

This puppy did not counter surf at all. As a matter of fact, Jim once left a cow’s worth of steak on the coffee table, went out for 4 hours, came back and Fred was just whittling hypoallergenic toys for the kiddos.

Okay, I lied about the steak part.

Also, he was the calmest puppy on the planet.

Just loved to hang with his peeps.


And the day he dropped Fred off, it seemed all of Jim’s salesmanship was true.

Fred wandered in, greeted the other dogs, and before ‘Jim’ left, little Freddy was asleep near the kitchen window.

And he has barely freakin’ slept since.

My guess?

That morning, just before he dropped Fred off at our house, ‘Jim’ and his family hiked to Yellowstone and back.

Because I am pretty sure that Fred didn’t even do one little ‘tippy tap’ in all the time I saw him with ‘Jim’.

But by that night?

In addition to his very first ever ‘bark’ (must have been his very first, because ‘Jim’ said he never barked (like, ever))… anyway, that night Fred started tippy tapping.

Click click click click click, pant-pant-pant, click-click-click-click.

And he wasn’t even walking around.

He just tippy tapped when he was standing there.

Fred tippy taps to this very day.

We wake up to it.

We go to sleep to it.

It is not lulling, like the pitter patter of rain on the roof.

It is a fray-er of nerves, like Chinese water torture.

And plus he did eat off the counter that very first night – a whole loaf of bread.

And the next day?

A bag full of Hershey’s kisses.

And since then?

A remote control, multiple entire pans of chocolate brownies in one sitting, and dead chipmunks/mice/baby rabbits that the cat left at the back door as either gifts or threats.

He has also eaten copious amounts of mud, poop, sticks, Easter baskets full of candy, Chobani containers, dismembered limbs of stuffed dog toys, entire baguettes, a block of cheddar cheese, and 100+ pieces of Double Bubble Bubble Gum from a container that my (very disappointed) son got for his birthday.

And I can assure you that most of the things he has eaten off of a table, counter top, or has gotten to inside a closed cabinet or locker, he has indeed consumed in the years after he turned three years old.

Also, chocolate is not deadly to a Fred (as you have so expertly warned us about time and time again).

At least not milk chocolate and brownie chocolate.

As I have said before, Fred is the Tiger Shark of dogs.

We really do expect him to poop out a license plate from a southern state one day.

I will frame it and send it to you, but I am not washing it.

Because, dear Lab Expert, today I sit here on my porch in Maine, looking at my nearly eleven year old Fred.

He is dozing.

Looking peaceful.

Looking… calm.

My young, whippersnapper of a Yellow Dog is moving into his Old Yeller years.

But he is not fooling me with his stealthy, make-believe calm today.

I know him better.

He is going to sail into his golden years with the same exuberance he has shown us for the last 10 and a half years.

He is going to eat dead things, and chocolate.

He is going to bark like a banshee every time he sees his own reflection in the window (or a tree frog, or the dark, or the world).

He is going to look all sweet and innocent when we put that plate of steak on the counter top just out of his reach.

He is going to pretend he is too frail and feeble to lift himself high enough to snag it when we aren’t looking…

And the entire time, just like you did to us long ago, you dang Lab Expert…

He is going to be lying his tippy-tapping Old Yeller ass off.

Most sincerely,

Lisa Dingle


Who, me?

Thanks for readin’.

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