I was a junior in college when I purchased my first dog. I say first — we always had dogs growing up, and I even purchased a bird dog at one point who wasn’t much of a hunter. She was nowhere close to as good as my brother’s German shorthaired pointer, Kate. But Cali, a golden retriever who I bought when I was 21 years old, was mine, my responsibility and my first very own dog. Man, has she seen a lot in her years. At one point, my wife and I counted up the homes that she’s lived in with me, and the number was somewhere around 10 — less than the years she’s been alive, but not by a very wide margin.
Moves, roommates, not always having the highest quality dog food when I could only afford the cheapest option, then a better quality of life once I hit the age of being a young professional, a litter of pups (intentionally bred and pups sold), and a lot of companionship.
I feel extremely fortunate that she’s led a pretty good life and enjoyed good health for the most part. There were occasional bouts with skin allergies and hot spots, but nothing major. That dog saw me through my leanest years, and I will always be grateful for that.
Last year, along came Lou, our Boykin spaniel. Lou is full of affection, and without a doubt will be an awesome family dog as we raise our two boys. He’s gentle, but seems to know when it’s OK to be rough and tumble. He thinks he’s tough most of the time, but when there are aggressive dogs around, he likes to look over his shoulder and make sure Cali is close by, in case push comes to shove. He’s not nearly as tough as he acts. And at least so far, he’s proven to be a decent little gun dog, doing well with flushing pheasant and quail, and I think he’ll be a pretty good duck dog if I can keep him out of the water long enough for any birds to get within range.
Lou has just enough discipline when it matters to make me proud of everything we’ve worked on, and so far he doesn’t have the hardheadedness that Cali had at the same age — although there is no denying he has the advantage of a more structured life and more regular training.
I hope to always have a dog or two. For whatever pain in the butt they can be, and even the headache of figuring out who to have care for them when we need to be away from home for a few days, there’s nothing like the companionship that they offer. Regular Grit contributor Callene Rapp wrote a great little piece on country canines, “A Farm’s Best Friend,” that you can find on Page 44. And I’m sure you’ve already seen the reader photos of beloved pups on the opposite page, Page 5. It’s a pretty cool package.
What about you? Send us a favorite story, with photos if you have them, about your country companions, and we’ll put our favorites in a future issue. For me, my critters keep me company, and life sure wouldn’t be the same without them.
Until next time,