I did something stupid this winter: I have a new puppy. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I figured Habersham was middle aged and would still be able to help train the new pup, and that pup would last to 85 or more, so he would be my last dog. So, I arranged to buy a Labrador puppy from a reputable breeder.
I’ve had a long love affair with Labs, starting with my first in 1983 and ending when my last passed away in 2017. It’s been many years and a lot of hunting, fishing, canoeing and trips – west as far as Arizona, north to Montana and east to Virginia. Each of them was a good traveler, a reliable guard dog and a good retriever. They had gentle dispositions, loved children, and were loyal confidants with whom I could share all my tears and laughter.
We brought Pete home on December 16th. I named it after LaPiere Cavender, an interesting gentleman with a long history in aviation who I had worked with at the Nashville Flying Service in the 1970s.
I should have named him after the little boy in Mark Twain’s story, “The Ransom of Red Chief.”
Pete immediately showed an independent spirit and a thirst for adventure. He had to explore everything and usually tried new things by biting them, to see if they were edible and tasted good. Her sharp little baby teeth soon made Habersham’s ears look like computer punch cards, and every hand in the family had a few deep cuts and nicks. It also excels at removing paint from table legs and other wooden surfaces. Of course, being a puppy, his mouth was itchy when he cut his permanent teeth.
I remember when my son was teething, a lady at church told me to use green mint cream. I told him that I rubbed it on his gums and he was still crying. She said, “You’re not using it right. After rubbing it on his gums, drink the rest. This way you won’t worry about him crying. I didn’t at the time and didn’t think it would be an appropriate treatment for a puppy. Luckily, he’s almost done teething, and we expect his chewing will soon be much less.
Then there is the small matter of home training. Pete was much slower to learn the right place for a potty break. It was a great boon to people who make and sell paper towels and detergents. Thank goodness for the tiled floors. However, we found it less than ideal. Luckily, he’s learned that “that” isn’t done in the house, and has chosen a place away from the door to do his business.
We also started teaching him basic obedience. He has learned what it means to sit down and begins to understand “Lie down”. For a very long time, he thought “Come” was a request for cat play, but he’s beginning to realize that it’s an order, not a request. He always wants to stop and sniff the flowers when he’s walking on a leash, but he thinks his chain collar is a good thing because it means we’re leaving the yard and he’ll be able to see more of the big world. We try to expose it to more and more people. He gets really excited and wants to rush and jump when he meets new people. I’m glad he likes people and wants to be their friend, but I try to make him less rambunctious to show his affection.
He started trying to get out of the yard to greet people and mingle with neighborhood dogs who are allowed to roam freely. I don’t want it out for several reasons, including that it might get lost. This led to the realization of a project that I have been putting off since we moved here: to build a good, solid and attractive door. I had assembled one from fence panels when I put up the fence, and at the time said we needed a decent gate. It was never big enough to do that, until now. So today I went to Lowe’s and found a wrought iron gate and fence panel that matched it, took them home and replaced the rickety old contraption with a proper gate.
I’m sure there will be many more plans and many misadventures before Pete is a full grown dog and able to take his place in our hunts, but the last three months have been plenty for a big bald guy!
Don Jackson, husband, father, veteran and lifelong outdoor enthusiast, writes Outdoor Ramblings from his home in Greene County.