Tail of Two Labs

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Nikki (top) and Bella

Now that I’ve married Beth Almost Coombs, and the middle name has disappeared, I officially have a couple of new stepdogs. And it’s important to avoid playing favorites. But it is a challenge.

All Chocolate Labs were definitely not created equal. We have constant proof with the two in our house. Nikki taught herself how to open the handles on the french doors to let herself back into the house from the patio. Bella couldn’t figure out that puzzle, even if the doors were wide open.

Nikki’s not only smarter, she’s also more coordinated. Drop a piece of food from your hand, Nikki will snatch it out of the air like a pro. With Bella, the lobbed morsel just bounces off her nose and onto the floor, where Nikki promptly hoovers it up before her dumb sister even realizes it’s sitting right at her paws.

Bella has to be the only Lab who eats her food agonizingly slowly. As if she’s actually enjoying it. Or she’s a poodle.

Of course Bella does everything slowly. She is the sultry mistress of the slow lick. Nikki, on the other hand, is a normal Lab when it comes to licking. Once she gets close to a piece of your skin, it’s an all-out Labradorian tongue-lashing, full of slurping noises and love and messy abandon. Bella licks your hand like she’s testing it for traces of Anthrax.

Or like she’s asking for your approval. May I continue with this tender, timeless love I am lavishing on you? And do you like the way my tongue slowly caresses each individual hair on the back of each of your knuckles? Getting licked by Bella is like having a slug crawl across your skin. It must stem from her intellectual challenges. Maybe she ate paste in kindergarten before we adopted her.

Bella also has limited confidence. Probably an inferiority complex, forced to measure up all the time to her more glamorous and popular sister. Like those poor dogs at the Wisconsin bar in Love Actually, always playing second fiddle to “the sexy one.”

Beth theorizes that Bella merely has a language deficiency. That possibly she actually speaks Spanish and doesn’t understand a freaking word we’re saying. Which would explain a lot!

Us: Come on Bella, it’s time to go outside now and poop.

Bella (already squatting over the carpet): No habla ingles, mes humanos.

The whole thing’s really not fair, because Nikki got all the looks, too. So, Nikki’s more beautiful, more athletic, more confident, and she’s smarter. And there’s no hope for Bella. She’s doomed, just like her wan namesake in the Twilight series. But that might also mean Bella the Lab will live eternally like Bella Swan. And what does Judge Judy say? Beauty fades, but dumb is forever.

Dave Coombs is a morning radio host and has owned nothing but Labs his entire dog-loving life.

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