|Sarah with her new puppy.|
Sarah is now a senior in high school.
we did not want to be house training a puppy during a cold, snowy South Dakota winter. But our family dog, Repo, was starting to get up in years so we decided that we could honor her request but it would be closer to her birthday, April 19, rather than Christmas. So she found something else to replace the puppy on her Christmas list and moved the puppy to her birthday "want" list.
So shortly after her birthday, we traveled to a kennel and picked out a puppy. She named her dog "Snickers". Snickers was quite easy to house break - I think that Repo was very helpful in this process. Snickers had a lot of energy. Repo was very tolerant of Snickers.
As she got bigger, Snickers exhibited all the signs of an alpha dog from hell. She teased and tormented Repo and pretty much did whatever she wanted.
About that time, The Dog Whisperer was a popular television show. The host and star, Cesar Millan,, would go into a home with a dog problem and train the master how to train the dog (rather than vice versa!). My wife bought his book and we both read it but it didn't take long to see that Snickers just needed someone to show her who the master was.
So I would take Snickers down and hold her on her back and hold her feet while laying on/next to her. I spoke softly to her trying to sooth her because she did not like the position or having her feet held. I did this as often as I could for about a week or so and soon Snickers behavior came around - especially when I was around. She had come to understand who was boss (if only that would have worked for the rest of the family!).
|Repo and Snickers|
Repo was a good hunter and he had a very strong hunting instinct. He knew when the gun came out that the fun was about to begin. I have a dummy launcher that is powered by a blank .22 shell. When you release the handle, the shell is fired and the dummy is launched up to 100 yards out. Repo would tear up chunks of asphalt trying to get after the dummy as fast as possible.
Snickers, on the other hand, when I shot the dummy launcher would look at me with an expression that said "What is all the noise? - I'm getting the hell outta here!". I had no hope for her to be a hunter. I decided she had been bred for the tri-color (which is more rare for English springer spaniels) rather than for her hunting instincts. I was fine with that because we had gotten Snickers for Sarah and I still had Repo to serve as my hunting partner.
When Opening Day of the pheasant season came around, I had no plans to take Snickers to the field with us. One of my hunting buddies owns champion field trial dogs and he had a pretty new pup as well. When I asked him if he was bringing his pup, he told me he would not bring his pup unless I brought Snickers. I knew he was anxious to get his dog in the field so I relented and agreed to bring Snickers but vowed to leave her in the kennel.
As we prepared to walk the first field that day, my friend convinced me that I needed to give Snickers a chance. So I put the training collar on her and let her out of the kennel.
To my amazement, Snickers was hunting the moment she hit the ground. Her cropped tail was wagging at full speed and her nose was to the ground following the scent of the "wiley ringneck". She needed a little reminder on occasion not to get too far ahead, but she was a hunting fool.
|Repo and Snickers pose after a successful |
day in the field. Sarah with her brother,
Alex, and his friend Joe.
hunt. All four dogs, Repo, Snickers and my friends two pointers, were on the scent but could not find the bird. We continued on along one side of the creek. All four dogs worked well and together.
We hunted all the way up one side of the creek, a couple of small food plots, and a few fence lines. We had a great day in the field. We were wrapping up the hunt walking along the other side of the creek, back toward the pickups. Snickers and I were right up against the creek about 100 yards from the trucks. A couple of guys were already back at the truck and were in the cooler retrieving that eminently refeshing, end-of-the-hunt beer.
It look pretty damn good and so I called Snickers to join me in the walk to the truck. She was predisposed, still hunting along the creek. I wanted her to learn to follow my commands and was getting frustrated because she would not come. I stomped back over to the creek where she was wrestling with something in a patch of heavy cover. As I got closer to her, I realized that she had a rooster pheasant in her mouth. She had found the bird we knocked down four hours earlier when we walked the other side of the creek. That was enough to make a believer out of me - I now had two hunting companions!
We have spent many hours in the field together since then. My measure of a successful pheasant hunt is more directly tied to Snickers' satisfaction than it is to the number of birds in the bag.
She now accompanies me on most of my goose hunts (in my yard) as well. Though the geese are too big for her to retrieve, she has, on more than one occasion, chased a wounded goose down and helped me finish the kill!
I am often asked if she is a hunting dog. I guess she is but she's really more of a companion that hunts. She does a pretty good job but I would not compare her to those dogs who are used exclusively for hunting.
I thought about that for a couple of weeks and finally decided to give it a try. So I brought a bed and Snickers to the dealership with me. I knew that I would have to train her to stay in my office so I brought her training collar too. I put her bed in my office and put the training collar on her. I hit the "vibrate" mode when she tried to leave the office. It didn't take her long to understand that she was supposed to stay in the office.
It has been amazing how many people want to pet the dog. People will see her in my office and will bend down to call her over. I release her to those who call her. We have found so many of our customers love dogs.
Snickers travels with me to my Ford store each Wednesday. She does not come into the store there. It would be difficult for her because there is not a consistent place for her to stay there. Instead, she waits in the front seat of my vehicle for me. She usually get a good nap while waiting. When it is too cold, she stays home. Her short hair doesn't keep her warm for long periods of time in the cold South Dakota winter.
She has learned to watch me pretty closely in the mornings at home. Any deviance for my normal routine signals to her that I might have a meeting in Sioux Falls or Pierre and that she will not be able to join me on that day.
|Snickers with her stuffed pheasant|
At the GM store, Snickers finds her way to the customer lounge regularly for some affection. She makes it to the conference room during lunch hour for more affection. She wanders from office to office seeking the attention of employees and customers. She is very good at plopping her chin on people's lap. Occasionally, she meets with some resistance but usually she gets a warm welcome, some baby talk and a good ear scratching!
Among the many pleasures dog owners derive from their pets, there are some very valuable lessons. Dogs teach us how to mourn. I have lost three dogs in my lifetime and each time one died, I went through a mourning process. It is like losing a member of the family and, in some ways, prepares us for that.
Dogs also teach us about persistence. They will either persistently enforce their will and train us, or we will be persistent in our obedience training and teach them. I have been on both sides of that equation.
|In her bed behind my desk|
Dogs show us how to be loyal. They know who feeds them, who provides them shelter and who cares for them - and they don't forget. A dog knows its masters voice, name and distinguishing characteristics.
Perhaps most importantly though, dogs teach us the true meaning of unconditional love better than anything else I know. It matters not what kind of a day we had, who we offended, how poorly we performed, or how we treat them, the dog is there with a wagging tail and a wet tongue looking only for a scratch on the ear or a stroke on the head in return. We can all benefit from that lesson.
I invite you to stop in and meet our loyal, loving dealership dog, Snickers. She can entertain you while we change your oil!
Update 5/29/2020: We put Snickers down on May 23, 2020. We are grateful for our 14+ years with her. She was a great dog and friend!