It happens all the time. Someone will ask “what’s your dog’s name?” I make sure to enunciate clearly. “Gumbo,” I say. I know in seconds if I have been misunderstood. Their eyebrows peak. “Oh, that’s an interesting name,” they say. I sigh. “GUM-BO. Like the stew, not Dumbo the elephant.” Gumbo is our second red dog. He has a very fancy pedigree name that includes “Cajun VooDoo.” Cajun is his father’s name, another very handsome Red Lab. We couldn’t call him Cajun and he’s just too goofy for a call name like VooDoo. He is definitely a Gumbo. He belonged to his breeder who is a good friend and as a puppy he would come to our house from time to time for a little socialization.
Ben would bring him to the house to play with Ryder. Man, did they play. They would thunder back and forth across the deck for hours. When playtime was over, Gumbo went back to his owner. He was a big soft puppy without a clue as to his size and power. Any recipient of his boundless love would find themselves pinned by an 50 pound (and growing!) lap dog wannabe. I worked to teach him some manners, and eventually fell under the spell of his big brown eyes. After a few months of this in a weak moment I asked Ben if he thought it would be a good idea for Gumbo to stay with us for a while. I made an inquiry about fostering him and before I could blink Gumbo came home with us, as a foster dog. Breeders who keep dogs to develop their line will sometimes place the dog with a trusted family to give them a home experience while they evaluate the dog. It’s a great honor to be trusted in that way. We were even encouraged to take him with us when we traveled.
Gumbo is very different from my other Red Dog Ryder, who is assertive and inquisitive and would rather investigate his surroundings than make up to people he doesn’t know well. Gumbo is a confident, gregarious boy and he is all about the people. The first time we traveled with him we learned to keep a close watch on him because he would wander off with anyone he took a liking to—which is pretty much everyone. When visitors left our campsite, he would dash off after them, heartbroken that his new friends had left him behind. He was so overcome with joy every time he met new people that he would cram his nose directly into the crotch of the closest person. We also worked on changing that. He still does it from time-to-time, so if you meet us consider yourself sufficiently warned.
As is the way with things not all plans come to fruition. Gumbo didn’t make the cut for the glamorous life of the show ring. We had a decision to make: keep Gumbo or return him so he could find a forever home with someone else? Whoa. Two dogs are a lot of dogs. Three dogs are even more of a lot of dogs, especially in an RV and especially when two out of the three dogs approach 90 lbs—each.
Our decision is obvious, since this post isn’t about the dog we gave up, right? With the addition of Gumbo, we’ve become “those people” and “those dogs” in the sense that the people look at us and say “I can’t believe those people travel with all those dogs,” and “those people sure do get their exercise walking all those dogs.” Some days we also wonder how we do it too walking all “those dogs.” I guess we do it for love. On the plus side, I never worry about racking up enough steps on my Fitbit.
Gumbo has grown into a handsome heavy-boned dog with deep soulful eyes and a deep love for all living things. He is the kindest dog I’ve ever known—and the goofiest. Hope he meets you one day, you’ll love him–and guard your crotch!