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It’s that time of year again, friends! The AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin is happening December 12-13, and we can’t wait. Since our pre-marriage days, this has been a family tradition for my husband and me. (And now our kids are really into it, too!)

The AKC National Championship is the largest dog show in North America, with over 5,000 entries of 191 AKC recognized breeds from 49 states and 21 countries competing for more than $150,000 in prize money. The Schaffers can proudly say that we’re on #TeamLab, and in honor of our favorite holiday tradition, I’d love to share our story about Mabel with you.

The 2020 event will showcase the top canine athletes and will also include popular attractions such as the Best Bred-by-Exhibitor competition, the AKC National Owner-Handled Series Finals, the AKC Royal Canin National All-Breed Puppy and Junior Stakes, and the NADD/AKC Dock Diving.

man with dogLabrador and babyboy and dog

Meet Mabel, Our Silver Labrador Retriever

I’ve always loved the spirit of these dogs, and our Silver Labrador Retriever, Mabel, is no exception. From her goofy stride to her calm and cool disposition, she fits in perfectly with our family. Many labs are always boisterous and bouncing off the walls, but not Mabel.

And thank goodness for that! With the noise and chaos that four kids (and a New York Italian Mama) can generate, it’s safe to say that we got pretty lucky with her. In fact, she’s so mellow, that we sometimes go out for a kid/dog-friendly dinner, and are proud to report that she’s better behaved than a certain five-year-old that we know.

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woman feeding dog man and his doggirl and her dog

Our Families of Dogs

Like our four kids who range from five to 14, our three dogs have a significant gap in age as well. We just brought our newest puppy, Lucy, home last year. Shelby, our sweet and skittish Weimaraner, is 12 years old, and we got Mabel as a puppy five years ago after our rescue dog Sam passed.

At the same time, we were also blessed with our fourth child, Boss Baby Brody. And while people thought we were crazy for bringing a puppy into the mix, we assumed that as a labrador, she’d be a good fit for our family. What we didn’t realize was how perfect of a match she’d turn out to be.

Labs started out as duck retrievers. After they were brought back to England in the 1800s, the British bred them as game-hunting companions.

Labrador puppy and babyCute puppy and babypuppy and baby

Best Friend to the Family

Brody and Mabel quickly became besties, even sharing the same cobalt blue eyes. Watching the two of them grow together has been the best! Now, five years later, she’s grown out of her puppy phase. Mabel has a more mature character, and she couldn’t be better as Shelby enters her golden years.

While many dogs Mabel’s age might take advantage of their aging elder’s fleeting appetite, we’ve seen her care and compassion. (Especially during mealtimes when Mabel waits patiently for Shelby to finish eating, instead of gobbling up her food as some dogs would do.) Then once we brought our third pup home last year, Mabel became a big sister! She quickly taught our yellow labrador Lucy how to behave, making caring for our new puppy even easier.

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The Perfect Family Dog

Shelby and Lucy are not the only ones who benefit from Mabel’s affection. Loyal, empathetic, and a pillar of positivity, Mabel has been a great source of comfort and protection for the entire family over the years. In the midst of grief, we saw a new side of Mabel. And we could sense that she 100 percent felt that we were hurting. During one of the most difficult times in our lives, she made sure we knew she was there by sleeping just outside of the bedroom door, instead of in her own bed downstairs. Her presence alone can make even the toughest days a bit brighter.

As the prominent twentieth-century philosopher Martin Buber proclaimed, “An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” In Mabel’s case, that language is unconditional love. To know her is to love her, and when I tell you she loves us right back, it’s more than a statement. It’s a feeling. Watching her and Brody interact is such a treat. In their short lives, they’ve grown together, and share an unbreakable bond. They also share the biggest and most beautiful eyes of cobalt blue that, guaranteed, speak a language of their own.

Labradors are among the most popular choices for service dog work, as well as search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, and therapy dog work.

boy and his dog baby with two dogs family and dog in the back of a truckroger caras quote

The Perfect Family Dog

Active and outdoorsy, our kids always keep Mabel on her toes. And she’s definitely proven that she can hang with the best of ‘em. Mabel’s love of play and calm demeanor makes her a perfect match for our kids. From our backyard to the nearby hiking trails and dog-friendly beaches of San Diego, they are all pretty much living their best lives! And now that’s she’s a bit older and more mature, she’s great at taking on new adventures with the family.

Mabel has been the perfect addition to our family in all aspects. If you’re a dog family, too, comment below and tell us what team you’re on! And don’t forget to tune in on December 12-13 for the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin. Make it a holiday tradition!

labrador puppyLabrador and babyboys and their dog


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