Labradoodle Love

Our homes speak volumes. They speak to who we are and who we surround ourselves with. And regardless of how many kids and pets our homes contain, it’s more than possible to achieve a design that’s equally inviting, refined, and just plain homey — even for a home of Labradooble breeders.

Photography by Tina Sargeant

I love my youngest son, Scout. I think of him as my easy child. He never talks back, rarely has an opinion that he expresses with anything other than the wag of a tail or an occasional bark, is always absolutely and unequivocally glad to see me, and thinks the perfect evening consists of lying in my lap watching his favorite show on TV as I quietly work or read.

Scout is my one-year-old, 55-pound, chocolate Australian labradoodle. He has become the center of my life and my constant companion. He insists on going to work with me almost every day. He entertains the people I do business with, showing off his spectacular tricks (his specialties — running, stopping, and occasionally laying down) as I search for that perfect rug, wallpaper, piece of furniture, or fabric sample. He’s always busy but never really needs anything other than a kind word. He likes everyone. But he loves me.

Scout’s mom belongs to Brenda and Joe Attaway, owners of Lakewood Labradoodles in Winter Haven. They breed Australian labradoodles and have recently moved to a large, traditional home located on a quiet, one-acre lot. They have plenty of room for family and friends and love the space their new home provides. “With four kids that are the cornerstone of our lifestyle, we needed lots of bedrooms,” Brenda says. “We want to always have a home that is welcoming to have our kids, grandkids, and guests come stay at the drop of a hat. So space was important.

“And,” she adds with a smile, “we also needed space for all the puppy areas.”

Joe and Brenda are die-hard Winter Haven residents. They both grew up in Winter Haven and, except for time away at college, have always lived in the area. They had a meet cute. They were walking into the Winter Haven Eye Clinic building at the same time. After running into each other a few more times, Dr. Attaway asked the future Mrs. Attaway out, and after the first date they were inseparable.

After selling their previous home located in a more traditional subdivision, they began looking for a house with more land and more privacy. Finding just the right house in just the right place was a blessing. “I just didn’t want to move out of town,” Brenda says when thinking back on the house-hunting process. “We love that Winter Haven has access to two major cities within an hour, so we can virtually get to anything we ever want, but we don’t have big-city traffic. We have a gorgeous, relaxing view of a lake almost anywhere we drive here, and we get the sunshine year round and breezes that come from living around so much water.” You don’t have to spend much time with the Attaways to discover that both are completely sold on the area. “We live where others come as often as possible to vacation. It’s absolutely wonderful,” says Brenda.

Joe, following family tradition, graduated from Duke University and went through optometry school at the University of Houston. He is an optometrist with the Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida. Brenda graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree and has home schooled their four children. She loves to learn, loves especially to teach, and has always been an active home-school teacher. Their daughter Julia graduated from the University of Florida in May, daughter Peyton is in her second year at UF, son Ward graduated from West Point in 2015 and serves our country in the military, and daughter Layne is starting eighth grade. They all raise puppies. Or, at least, sometimes find themselves involved in one way or another with the puppies. (Yikes, I get worn out thinking about it.)

Australian labradoodles are loving, kind, gentle, very sociable, quick learners, essentially non-shedding and non-allergenic, and great with kids. Often used as therapy dogs, they are a mix of standard poodle and Labrador retriever, with an infusion of Irish water spaniel or American and English cocker spaniel. Joe and Brenda began breeding them after they discovered this extraordinary breed of snuggly, intuitive dogs. They just had to share the good news. As Brenda puts it, “We purchased a labradoodle and fell in love with the breed. I was convinced that everyone should have one.”

With its long driveway, ample parking, and one acre of land, the Attaways’ new home has room enough for kids, friends, relatives, and lots of puppies: they particularly sought out a place for the puppies to run and play. A sweeping front lawn finds the brick and wood two-story home comfortably nestled among mossy oaks and beautiful, natural Florida landscape. Tall white columns shelter a front porch extending the entire height and length of the house. Adirondack chairs on the porch provide a place for the family to gather, visit, welcome guests, and enjoy the Florida weather. “I adore front porches,” Brenda says. But, she adds, “We mostly love that it’s peaceful.”

An aqua blue front door is framed by white molding and is “peacefully” guarded by a life-size statue of a seated greyhound. The blue door works beautifully with the pale grey brick exterior and white shutters. Upon entering the spacious, recently remodeled home, you immediately appreciate Brenda’s eye for style and tasteful design. Weathered, driftwood-colored, wide-plank porcelain tile flooring throughout seamlessly connects the rooms and public spaces, interrupted only by the same material in an accentuating herringbone pattern. The floors have all the warmth of wood without the wear and tear issues associated with a lot of little paws. Windows, rooms, and door openings are framed with white moldings presenting an attractive contrast to the neutral walls. The family room has an understated multicolor stone double fireplace and contains a mixture of leather and fabric furniture, lending it a comfortable, family-oriented feeling. A large green and tan-accented ottoman fronts the rolled arm sofa and extends the living space toward the wood mantled fireplaces. Two supple, tufted, coffee-colored leather armchairs are on each side of the fireplace.   

The family room is open at one end to the kitchen, separated by a floating kitchen island and four tall, industrial design iron and wood bar stools. Stainless steel appliances blend wonderfully with the floors, subtle ceilings, and lightly marbled countertops. They all highlight and counterbalance the walnut-colored wood cabinetry.

The living room connects to the kitchen through a dining area with built-in cabinets, a round white table and matching chairs. It has a casually chic aesthetic, a French provincial touch with understated colors, light textured fabrics, and antique blues and greys. The room is anchored by a Chesterfield-influenced sofa with nailhead trim accents. A vintage door is used as a focal point behind an ultra-comfortable classic accent chair and ottoman. A pop of color is introduced by way of pillows and rugs.

The Attaways have found the perfect place to blend family, convenience, home, and a very active and sociable group of puppies into an already busy lifestyle. And through it all they are somehow able to maintain a beautifully refined and inviting home. It is always a pleasure to visit the Attaway family and see the love and care their littlest family members enjoy while waiting for their new moms and dads to appear.

During a recent visit, I ask Brenda about the hectic life of an Australian labraoodle breeder. “I am excited for the puppies to arrive, and I look forward to each new stage, each new litter,” she replies. “The craziness doesn’t bother me.” And when I ask what the best part of living in Winter Haven is, she says the people. “I am surrounded by friends and giving, generous people. You can’t beat that!” And you know what? She’s right. You just can’t beat it. And Scout? Well, Scout just can’t beat it either.