Junior’s lesson

Published 11:24 am Tuesday, July 18, 2023

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It is a common saying among retriever owners that you will only get one really good dog in your lifetime. Others may be a great pet and decent retriever, but one dog seems to be the standard for the rest of your canines in the future. This seems to fit with a common theme in media today: “The best days are behind us.” So when we got our youngest Labrador, Junior two years ago, I assumed that he would always be living up to our older retrievers. 

Having hunted with my Golden Retriever (Sage) and yellow Lab (Hank) for a decade, I had gotten spoiled. I knew their quirks and trained them daily when they were pups. With only one newborn in the house, they got plenty of attention. I had a child carrier backpack that I used on walks everyday. 

When Junior showed up, our lives were much busier with kid’s extracurriculars. It was a lot easier to train a dog with a small child who was easily entertained by the dogs running back and forth while in a swing attached to a door frame. 

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Now, two years into Junior’s training, I had started to accept the fact that he may be more of a house dog than a hunting dog. That all changed recently on one of our morning walks. 

Walking two twelve-year-old dogs and one 2-year-old is a good way to break a leg. The old ones saunter along, checking their favorite bushes for “pee mail” and writing back. Junior was getting frustrated with the lazy pace Hank and Sage chose. 

To vent this frustration I started bringing a bumper for Junior to retrieve while the old guys sniffed. To my surprise, Junior looked like a pro. Most of his training has been with tennis balls in our living room. 

I had to see if he really was as good as he was acting though. I threw the bumper twenty yards into some brush. Junior sat facing me ready for the command. I slowly walked away from him with Hank and Sage. Junior sat motionless, his eyes locked in on our movements thirty yards away. I stopped and gave the hand signal for him to retrieve. 

Junior’s speed to get the bumper was reminiscent of a cartoon roadrunner. Junior seemed to gain speed as he barreled our direction destined to take me out at the knees. 

At the last moment, he threw on the brakes and sat perfectly with the bumper in his mouth, ready to retrieve again. I don’t know who was more proud, me or Junior. 

In spite of my lack of training, I have hope for the future with this dog. It seems too prevalent in our media that the good times are long gone. I assumed my best dogs were retired, but a slobbery yellow lab with a bumper in his mouth changed my mind. I’ve decided to keep chasing great dogs and great times no matter what the media tells me.