Life off the leash

Published 1:33 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2023

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The chilly, cloudy weather this past weekend seemed perfect for a walk in the woods. We took a trip to southwest Virginia and it has become a tradition to walk around the property during the cool winter mornings with the family. I didn’t have to look far for company as my three dogs (and an extra) are always up for an adventure off-leash. 

After a short ride in the truck, the dogs paced with excitement in the bed waiting for the command to be released. I release them by saying “OK,” which roughly translates to “run like you stole something” in dog. 

Just as kids have different responses to freedom, these four dogs all choose something different to do when released. 

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Moose, the stocky black lab belonging to my father-in-law, has a knack for finding the closest mud puddle. There seems to be an instinct for Moose to immediately travel downhill toward a water source. I think Moose could have a part-time job finding well sites on undeveloped property with his proficiency in finding mud puddles big or small. 

Junior, the youngest dog in the bunch, is a yellow lab that has two speeds: asleep and drag race. Whenever he is released, a yellow blur zig zags the surrounding area. My kids keep an eye on him as there is a history of Labrador collisions when he is running around like a Looney Tunes Roadrunner. After he tires from sprinting, he likes to find Moose, because he will be in a nice puddle to cool off. 

Sage, the old Golden Retriever, is the distance runner of the group. He may not run as fast as Junior, but for the entire time of the off-leash adventure, he explores at a steady lope. Sage is a lot like Chevy Chase’s dog in the movie “Funny Farm.” Throughout the movie, you can see a red dog running in the distance at random times. The most common game we play is “Which way will Sage come from if we call him?” It’s always a surprise where he shows up. 

Hank, the oldest dog of the bunch, is a twelve-year-old yellow Lab who has started to concentrate on his legacy when given freedom. As a male dog, he tends to mark his territory. Most of his energy on an off-leash adventure is making sure he has laid claim to every tree, bush, stick, rock, piece of gravel, and blade of grass on the property. 

While Moose, Junior, Sage, and Hank take advantage of their freedom differently, they always wind up together at Moose’s puddle. Moose always chooses the best puddles to get muddy, cool off from running, or replenish depleted fluids. The four dogs with muddy paws and big pink tongues in the puddle all agree that life is better off-leash. 


Moose is on his way to a mud puddle.