March 26, 2008
Ralph had decided that he really needed a “best buddy” of his own since I had pretty well taken over Indy. He also knew that the wild boy might not make the best companion in a boat or in a blind on a long slow morning. Ralph has always had a contrary streak and went looking for a pup that was a bit different from the labs. After being around a few, he was quite taken with the Chesapeake Bay breed. These dogs have a reputation of being tough, loyal and headstrong, a lot like him! I was somewhat leery, not having any experience with the breed, but dedicated myself to learning as much as possible and researching the available litters. After a few false starts, we selected a pup out of a strong field performing female and a Canadian show quality male. From day one, Scout was a pervasive character in our household. He was very calm, affectionate and focused but with a huge sense of humor. Scout moved forward in the world with thoughtful caution and earnest eagerness. We started basic obedience on him quite young, and it proved to be a good choice.As a typical Chessie, he would test us on a regular basis for weakness in our will. Upon finding that we were stalwart, he would do as asked with a great attitude and absolutely soaked up learning like a sponge. At about 6 months as he was entering the first stages of retriever work, he developed an occasional lameness that would cause him to “hitch” his left hind leg. We had him checked for everything and the vet found nothing. After a month’s rest we tried again. Once more he started off great, loved his training, showed great desire and ability, and once again, on a simple short mark came up lame. This time we gave him almost 3 months rest, still with no diagnosis. When he resumed training again, we moved very slowly with short sessions and most marks on level ground no more than about 90 yards. He really began to blossom and I started to appreciate what kind of dog we had here. Scout embodies the concept of “team” and has the natural skills to go with it. He passed two junior tests before he was 14 months old. He also failed two because he chose to be an entertainer after completing the test. At the end of the last test, after determining the audience was sufficient for his efforts, he returned directly to Ralph’s side for the final delivery. Before Ralph reached down to take the bird, Scout wiggled sideways about one foot. On the next attempt to receive the bird, he was another three feet away. At the command, “sit” Scout took off in wild abandon, returned to the pond, swam to the middle and turned, treading water, holding onto his duck, and laughed with his audience all the while. No amount of calling, bird throwing or shooting moved him at all. Finally Ralph had to leave him there and return to the truck about a quarter mile away. When Scout realized that he had been truly abandoned, the crowd lost its allure for him and he raced up the hill to Ralph by the truck, sat quietly by his side and delivered the duck to hand. In the next few months Ralph and Scout went back to the wood shed to work on this little thing called respect. Once again, the pup was making great progress. But once again, the lameness came back. This time we consulted an orthopedic surgeon and got a full set of x-rays. At 13 months, Scout showed a bad hip. According to the surgeon, that was not the cause of his lameness, but was something to deal with and manage as best we could by keeping him fit, light and very well muscled. The best guess on the lameness was tendonitis, and another long period of rest was recommended. We also began a regimen of Adequan injections. After about 5 months, we very slowly began building up the exercise again. This time he progressed very well, and though a lot of time had been lost in training, he was happy, sound and healthy. Scout is now almost three, and is living up to all the potential. He is a great dog to train and live with. His willingness to please and his great sense of humor have given him a very special place in our lives. We will continue to train and compete with him as long as he remains eager and healthy. Watch out for this one!