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Chapter 19


As a newspaper reporter, I am often called upon to cover a wide range of events. Most often, they are sports, but sometimes I get a news assignment. Every May, I am asked to cover at least one local high school graduation in Rutherford County, North Carolina.

My favorite part of the graduation ceremony is the student speeches. While some are funny and others strike a more serious tone, they all have the common thread of reflecting on what the student has learned over the past four years in high school and how they will apply those lessons to the next stage of their life.

Those speeches have made me wonder if my Chesapeake Bay Retriever Gabe will ever “Graduate” from puppyhood. He is 18 months old and looks like a fully-grown Chessie on the outside, but trust me, he is still a puppy. Appearances can certainly be deceiving.


I am a member of a Chessie “support group” on Facebook and the consensus is that Chessies normally grow out of the puppy stage at about three years old. Some take a little longer. If fact, one owner posted that she is still waiting for her Chessie to graduate from the puppy stage. He is 15. I have a feeling Gabe will follow a similar path.

While high school students reflect on lessons learned, it’s hard to teach and train a Chessie. When I brought home my original Chessie-Lab mix Molly nearly 20 years ago, my cousins also got a puppy from the same litter named Rocket. Well, Rocket failed obedience school and he is far from the only Chessie to do so. The Facebook group is full of similar stories. Traditional training methods do not work with this breed. The saying, “You can train a lab, but you have to negotiate with a Chessie”, is so true.

Gabe’s seemingly perpetual puppyhood manifests itself in many ways each day. He loves to play with and chew on anything, but nothing seems to keep him occupied for more than five minutes. Then he sees a squirrel or my cat Peaches and off he goes chasing them at top speed. Gabe knows the basic commands like sit, stay and wait, but sometimes he ignores them and does his own thing. For example, if Gabe makes up his mind he wants to run in and see me on a rainy day when I can’t go out, he is going to run in and jump on my bed, mud and all. There is no stopping him. Gabe has to be around his person (me) at all times. If I have an Arin’s Good Girl Dog Treat, he will sit and stay until you give him the treat and then he will come in the house when your back is turned.

Those same Chessie qualities of high energy and not letting anything hold him back from what he wants to do, can also be positive traits. Gabe is my self-appointed guardian and protector. Every time I go outside he is always by my side or trying to sit in my lap. If he thinks I am too close to the electric fence on the farm, Gabe will bark until he is satisfied that I have moved a safe distance away. Gabe even has a special warning bark if he spots a snake on one of our adventures together.

So, while Gabe has many more lessons to learn before he “graduates”, he has made great progress.  Arin’s Good Girl Dog Treats are a great motivational tool, and Gabe reminds me of a highly motivated student. He is involved in everything, eager, curious and he is driven. Gabe will not quit when the going gets tough.

Gabe will not likely receive top marks in obedience class, but that’s ok. He is the Top Dog and Valedictorian in my book as the BEST BOY EVER!!!

We would like to congratulate all of our high schools that have worked hard to complete their graduation requirements: Kyra and Heydan!  
We are so proud of you!!

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