Open Season: This new dog owner learning right along with pup
The first time we saw the puppy, my wife, Erin, and I knew he was ours.
It was late June, and we were at Top Shelf Kennels in Horace, N.D. - just south and left of the blinking stoplight on Sheyenne. Owner Jeff Jalbert, whom I had corresponded with via e-mail for a week, welcomed us down to check out his remaining four male German wirehaired pointer puppies left from a 12-pup litter.
As Erin and I rounded the side of Jalbert's house, his adult dogs erupted in a chorus of barks and howls. The full-grown wirehairs ranged in size from 40-60 pounds, and were everything from solid liver, to white and liver, to dark gray and liver.
In a 6-foot by 4-foot kennel, all to themselves, were the five-week-old young'ins.
At first, the mess of roly-poly cuties seemed to melt together like some giant, furry amoeba, sticking their noses and paws through the chain link fence and whimpering with excitement. But one by one, Jalbert picked out those already spoken for before letting the remainders loose in the yard.
The first three, each completely liver colored, bolted the instant the gate of their kennel opened. Jalbert, his girlfriend Tammy, and Tammy's young daughter got to work wrangling the rascals as they got busy causing mischief and mayhem.
Erin and I looked back to see the fourth pup sitting at the event horizon. He furrowed his brow and cocked his head to the side in a curious manner, gazing intently at the strange visitors before him.
He had a solid brown head with a slight line of white extending from his nose to between his eyes. Except for a liver spot the size of a coffee lid on his right side and a smaller one near the top of his rump, he was completely grey, and had yet to show any sign of the tangled, wiry hair the breed is known for.
With gentle coaxing, we got the bugger to leave his safe home and wander onto the carpet of green grass. I picked him up, examining him like a concerned buyer checking the tires of a shiny, new sports car. He let us poke and prod, and barely moved when held on his back and cradled like a baby.
But he wasn't completely docile. After the initial contact, he observed his brothers running amuck and trotted out to see what all the fuss was about.
Erin saw a loving companion. I saw a dedicated hunter.
In either case, we were sold, and after a small down payment were told he would be ready in a few weeks.
Erin and I spent the expanse of time researching dog training and getting supplies for our new addition. And we picked a name: Remington, a.k.a. Remy.
When we brought him home July 22, all that learning seemingly went right out the window.
Remy spent his whole first evening crying and peeing. By mistake, we let him wander through the first floor of our home, but quickly realized the large, new space was causing sensory overload.
So I got to work fashioning a doggy barrier out of leftover fence slats and confined him to the kitchen. The smaller quarters seemed to help his anxiety a tad, but his lonesome howls and forlorn gaze told us it wasn't over.
He hardly touched his food, too. The crunching from his few timid bites could scarcely be heard through a deluge of wavering whimpers.
That first night was a sleepless one. Five times, we awoke to high-pitched pleas of woe emanating from his small kennel. Each time, we stumbled from slumber to let him outside.
But Remy gradually got comfortable. Though it felt like forever, his first five days at home saw improvement by leaps and bounds.
Maybe even too much improvement.
The shy, anxious creature we originally brought home has been replaced by an extremely curious, hyper-active bundle of energy intent on chewing anything within a five-yard radius of his mouth.
His biggest nemesis has been the various shrubbery dotting our landscaping. Those tender, flower stalks protruding vertically from the hostas were no match for his vicious, puppy-sized chompers.
Hunting instincts have bloomed full force, too. A dried ruffed grouse tail affixed to a fishing line causes him to freeze up like a cast statue. And he's getting better at retrieving, though he'd rather stop and gnaw on a dummy than return to his master's hands.
Yes, Remy has shown us that we still have much to learn about raising a dog. But for now, we are just happy to have the little guy in our lives.