September 2018, Vol. 245, No. 9

Editor's Notebook

Editor's Notebook

By Joe Hollier, Editor

As a kid growing up most of my friends had dogs. They ranged from pure-breeds to mutts, but they were all regular house pets. My older siblings each had their own dog. Spartacus, a large black-and-tan coonhound, was my brothers, and my sister had a beautiful collie named Shawnee. So, my parents should not have been too surprised when I wanted a dog of my own.

Following a prolonged period of begging for a German shepherd, my parents relented and finally got me a dog. A toy poodle!  A far cry from the pet companion I had envisioned. Nonetheless, Josette ended up being a good pet, although we were never seen out in public together. 

My penchant for Labrador retrievers started back in the early 80s.  A coworker at a petroleum equipment company in Houston asked me to help him train his black Lab, Gunner. I grew up hunting dove and quail in South Texas but had never hunted with a dog before, so I was curious to see one work. 

Hidden in high grass a hundred yards from Gunner and his owner, my role was to throw a training dummy into the air when signaled. Gunner was being trained to retrieve ducks, and the thrown dummy would simulate a duck flying and then falling after its been shot. Gunner remained motionless as I flung the dummy high into the air even as the shot sounded. The black Lab's handler drew an imaginary line in the direction the dummy had landed, and the command “back” was given. 

This sent Gunner tearing off through the thick brush, disappearing periodically in between leaps. As Gunner began to veer off course, a sharp whistle blast stopped him in his tracks. Gunner turned, sat and looked back toward his handler for directions. He was now 20 yards away from where the training dummy had landed. A hand signal was given along with the verbal command “over,” and Gunner was off again in the direction his handler had pointed. When he was within a few feet of the dummy, Gunner slowed and began using his greatest asset, his nose! A second later, the dummy was on its way to the handler. Upon arrival, Gunner heeled and delivered the dummy to hand. It was an Ah-ha moment for me. 

Later, another handler arrived but this time a young chocolate Labrador bounded from the truck, and I knew immediately this was the dog I had been searching for. I wanted a dog with Gunner's skillset but in the chocolate color.

That dog turned out to be Tank, a stubby chocolate male with a white spot on his chest. He was overlooked for his minor breed blemishes and sold to me at a lesser price than his litter mates. I could not have been happier.  

To this day he is the greatest dog I have ever owned. He was athletic, smart, driven to please and the dog by which I would measure all that followed against. I was blessed to have him in my life for 16 years. While I have owned many great retrievers since, I have not owned another chocolate lab until this year. A span of 21 years. Living with working retrievers for almost 40 years has been very rewarding. Don’t misunderstand, I have non-working pets too and care for them just as much, but there is something special about working with trained dogs, no matter their profession.  

So, I was excited when I crossed paths with a large German shepherd at the PPIM conference in Houston earlier this year. My colleague, Mike Reed, and I figured it was probably a security dog on patrol. But later we found the him sitting at Direct Integrity Service’s (DI) booth. Direct Integrity is a hydrostatic testing and pipeline leak detection company located in Lumberton, Texas. It is a full-service, hydrostatic-testing company that provides a wide variety of testing capabilities. 

The company not only offers SF6 leak detection but also offer K-9 leak detection. I traveled to Lumberton, Texas and met with the owners to learn more about their four-legged employees and how they help pipeline companies locate leaks. You can read the full article in this issue, entitled “Leak Detection- Going to The Dogs (page 66).”

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