AKC Gazette
AKC Gazette

She's Looking for Someone
by Carol Heidl

Our guest columnist is Carol Heidl, who has been breeding dogs for 35 years and is a member of The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. In addition to Carol's accomplishments as a top breeder, she is also active in rescue work.

She stood at the end of her four-foot lead, searching the faces of the many people who walked by. Her advancing age was clearly evident from the white muzzle and eyebrows, the white feet, and a generous sprinkling of gray throughout her glistening black coat. Her expression was one of profound gentleness, kindness, and patience. Her participation in the rescue parade, hosted by Lab Rescue of the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac at their annual specialty show, was the sole reason for her being there.

I first noticed her when I was hurrying by with my own entry in the next class. As we pressed through the throng of spectators and exhibitors from around the world, I stopped to give her a gentle scratch under the chin, a little something that I reserve exclusively for the aged. Her response wasn't the typical Labrador reaction: She didn't drape herself against my leg, or shower me with loving licks. Instead, she simply looked up into my face through slightly cloudy eyes, acknowledged my attention with a sweep of her tail, and moved stiffly on. I gave her a pat and hurried toward the ring. But because of her rather strange reaction, I went back to her. Again those beautiful eyes searched mine. And once again, with a gentle wag of her tail, she stepped past me. Wordlessly, I looked to her companion. She smiled and said, "She's looking for someone."

From my center-ring vantage point, I kept tabs on the team. Her handler made no demands at all on the old dog, allowing her to do just as she pleased. I watched as she approached other people. If they didn't notice her, she'd nudge their hand and look inquisitively up into their faces, and then, with a sweep of her tail, move on. She showed no interest whatsoever in any of the other dogs, and was obviously a dog on a mission.

I thought of some of the questions I might ask about her: Was she there because of the death of her owner? Or had her owner been moved to a retirement home that excluded dogs? Was she abandoned because of her age, or the extra work and expense involved in caring for an aging animal? It was frustrating not to know the answer, but with rescues the reason is often not known.

I admired the pair as they made their way through the crowd, cheered loudly as they took part in the rescue parade, and welcomed the handler's graciousness in allowing the old dog to carry out her personal search while maintaining her dignity. The thought of that lovely old Lab and her quiet devotion has haunted me over the years. I wanted her search to be successful. I feel shame that a dog of her advanced years would have to be searching for her "special someone" - but while looking, she could not have been in better hands.

The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., is the single organization officially recognized by the American Kennel Club as the national parent club of the Labrador Retriever. The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., was incorporated in October 1931, in the state of New York, and is not affiliated with any other association titled or claiming to be the National Labrador Retriever Club.