It Takes a Pack to Raise a Puppy

Despite her advancing age, Doll plays with the puppy endlessly

By Rob Breeding

I’m not the sort of guy who lets his bird dogs sleep in the bed, but they’re definitely in the room.

The big dog has long slept on her bed at the foot of mine. For now the puppy is sleeping in her crate, next to the big dog. House training is going well, but she can’t be trusted to wake and have her run of the place while I’m still asleep.

My clothes, which sometimes find a place on the floor instead of the hamper, are considered some sort of alien species by the pup. When she gets her jaws around them, murder is in her heart.

So about midnight she gets a calming belly rub while resting on my lap, then she kennels up, most often on her own, and the whines don’t start until 6 a.m.

Not bad for a three-month-old puppy.

When the whines come, it’s time to get my pack outside to attend to morning business, and then a brisk walk. The goal is to work some of the vinegar out of the pup. That goal is rarely achieved.

The walk is along a strip of recently poured subdivision roadway. There aren’t any homes just yet, which makes it easier to steer the puppy clear of danger. It’s clear Doll, my pack’s big dog, finds our route uninspiring. She’s usually revved up for a run on open ground, even when the odds of finding birds are slim. But the roadway holds no real birds, though killdeer often bob and tweet just beyond the curb.

The big dog found killdeer irresistible when she was young, but these days Doll barely notices their distracting gyrations. The pup, however, lacks such self control.

For now Jade’s primary interest is the big dog. As Doll trots along, the puppy bull rushes her, leaping on to the big dog’s back, where the pup growls menacingly while biting at Doll’s ears. I was checking her for ticks the other day and found many tick-like bumps on her head and neck. On closer inspection I discovered they were small wounds that had recently healed over.

Puppy teeth are sharp.

Bless my big dog for her patience and tolerance. Despite her advancing age, Doll plays with the puppy endlessly. Occasionally she gives the out-of-line pup a growl and nip, which results in an over-the-top howl from the youngster. But it sets her back on her heels for only a moment or two.

She’s soon launching herself at the big dog again.

We headed out for a long walk in bird country the other day, which demonstrated how much the puppy still has to learn. Within moments of being let off her lead, Jade ran straight into a patch of cholla cactus. The cactus was especially thick, so when she felt those first barbs piercing her foot pads and sat down, it was into more cactus.

By the time I got to her she had bits of spine-covered stem in all four feet, on her rump, back and even an ear. She howled just as she does when Doll sets her straight, and then howled some more as I used a hemostat to pluck the spines out of her tender puppy pads.

While I was fussing over the puppy, Doll trotted over to see what the fuss was about. The patch of cholla was a minefield of spines, but she ran through it without putting a foot wrong. Anyone who has ever hunted with experienced dogs in cactus country has seen this bit of canine magic.

The dogs never look down. They must register subconsciously where not to put their feet.

Once set loose, Jade found another cholla patch within minutes. Canine wisdom will come to her with time.

Rob Breeding is the editor of www.mthookandbullet.com.