I did a very foolish thing this winter: I got a new puppy. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I figured that Habersham has hit middle age, and would still be able to help train the new pup, and this puppy would last until I am 85 or older, so he would be my last dog. So, I arranged to buy a Labrador puppy from a reputable breeder.
I have had a long love affair with Labs, starting with my first one in 1983 and ending when my last one died in 2017. That is a lot of years and a lot of hunting, fishing trips, canoe rides and traveling – west as far as Arizona, north as far as Montana and east as far as Virginia. Every one of them was a good traveler, a dependable guard dog and a good retriever. They had sweet dispositions, loved children and were trusty confidants that I could share all my tears and laughter with.
We brought Pete home on Dec. 16. I named him after LaPiere Cavender, an interesting gentleman who had a long history in and who I had worked with at Nashville Flying Service back in the 1970s.
I should have named him after the little boy in Mark Twain’s story, “The Ransom of Red Chief.”
Right away, Pete started showing 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 if they tasted good. His sharp little milk teeth soon had Habersham’s ears looking like computer punch cards, and every hand in the family had a few deep cuts and gashes from them. He also excels at removing the paint from table legs and other wooden surfaces. Of course, being a puppy, his mouth was itching as he cut his permanent teeth.
I remember when my son was cutting his teeth, a lady at church told me to use green crème de menthe. I told her that I had rubbed it on his gums and he still cried. She said: “You’re not using it right. After you rub it on his gums, drink the rest. That way, you will not care about him crying.” I didn’t do that at the time, and I did not think that it would be a suitable treatment for a puppy. Fortunately, he is almost through cutting teeth and we anticipate that his chewing will soon be much diminished.
Then there is the little matter of house training. Pete was much slower to learn the proper place for a potty break. This was a great boon for the people who make and sell paper towels and detergent. Thank goodness for tile floors. However, we found it less than ideal. Fortunately, he has learned that one does not do “that” in the house, and has selected a spot far away from the door to do his business.
We have also started teaching him basic obedience. He has learned what sit means, and is getting the hang of “Lie down.” For the longest time he thought that “Come” was a request for a game of tag but he is starting to get the idea that it is a command, not a request. He still wants to stop and sniff the flowers when he is walking on the leash, but he thinks that his chain collar is a good thing because that means we are leaving the yard and he will get to see more of the big wide world. We are trying to expose him to more and more people. He gets really excited and wants to rush up and jump up when he meets new people. I am happy that he loves people and wants to be their friend, but am trying to get him to be less exuberant about showing his affection.
He has started to try to get out of the yard to greet people and to mingle with the neighborhood dogs that are allowed to roam free. I do not want him getting out for several reasons, not the least that he might get lost. This has led to the completion of a project that I have been putting off ever since we moved here: building a good, solid and attractive gate. I had put one together out of fence panels when I put up the fence, and at the time I said that we needed a decent gate. It was never important enough to do, until now. So today I went to Lowe’s and found a wrought iron gate and a fence panel that matched it, brought them home and replaced the rickety old contraption with a proper gate.
I am sure that there will be many more grown projects and many misadventures before Pete is a dog and able to take his place on our hunts, but the last three months have been quite enough for a bald-headed fat man!
Don Jackson, a husband, father, veteran and lifelong outdoorsman, writes Outdoor Ramblings from his home in Greene County.