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A New Top Dog in Our Home

Hobbes is a seven-week-old Lab pup

     When Hobbes arrived at our home Saturday evening, two things became apparent. Neither order nor melancholy can survive around a seven-week-old black Labrador puppy. Chaos and laughter, however, grow exponentially.
     It’s been more than three years since our female German shorthair pointer Sophie passed, long enough for the pain and sorrow of her absence to fade.
    As Hobbes investigated, we traveled close behind and relinquished our possession, one by one, to the nether regions of our domicile. Rods and reels temporarily stored near my writing area went back into the basement. Carpets with any kind of delicate or financial value were rolled up and moved into the spare bedroom. Immediate arrangements were made for changes to the dining and lounging quarters of Dexter, our ancient all-white and somewhat chubby feline.
     Then we installed the pup’s food dishes, chew toys and lounge cushions. After surveying them, he assumed the air of visiting royalty who had graciously decided to reward us with his presence. We, of course, were attentively grateful. A new puppy can do that to you.
     As he pranced about happily exploring every nook and cranny, he did pause for a moment beside the front door. Upon opening it for him, we experienced one of the first of many surprises. At seven weeks, he was mostly housebroken. This was due, we were going to continually discover, to the thorough and happy development period provided by his breeder.
     Laurie McCain, who lives not far from us, was recommended by fishing and hunting friend Ross Staley as a thorough and caring breeder of Labs. At our first meeting, with a litter of six black rascals gamboling around her ankles, Laurie said that she’d had little time for anything but their care since their birth.
     Explaining how she had socialized, nurtured and sculpted their behaviors with constant attention, lavishly delivered affection and endless minute treats as rewards, she described the process by which they had become model canine citizens. She also told us how to continue their proper development throughout their puppyhood.
     I’ve raised and trained hunting pointers for decades, but Laurie’s organization and thoroughness, as well as her tenderness, made me feel like I needed a refresher course. So I paid strict attention and also made notes. Labs have specific development characteristics, and I was a new guy to the breed. I also knew that early mistakes in the development stages of a dog can lead to longterm problems that I was determined to avoid.
     The first night was another eye-opener. Expecting a noisy and heart-rending reaction when sleep time came — for this was his first night away from his mom and all his siblings — we braced for the worst. However, after only the briefest vocal protest, our newest family member went promptly to sleep and remained in that blissful state until 6am. 
     Hobbes has continued his even-handed reign over the household. Aside from constant patrols for errant bits of paper, dust bunnies or upright waste bins, he has settled quite nicely into our sometimes chaotic schedules. 
     It seems like an age since the presence of a dog has graced our home. But coming in the front door from an errand last night I was reminded. The sight of a romping pup with bright, shining eyes greeting my arrival amid bursting enthusiasm and yelps of happiness brought tears to my eyes.
Fish Finder
     The yellow perch run is mostly exhausted, the white perch run peaking and for the first time, a significant season for the snakehead developing.
     Though an invasive species, they have become all too common. They are staging for their spawn among the shallow water flats of various streams, These aggressive gamefish can approach 20 pounds. Taking large bull minnows under bobbers, soft plastics such as assassins and fluke minnows in white, yellow and chartruese, the toothed predators are getting quite a following.
     The primary hotspot is the Blackwater River system in Dorchester County. The key to locating a honey hole appears to be driving the secondary roads until you cross a bridge over the river. That usually indicates a culvert under the road and fishable flats on either side. Many of these areas will hold snakefish at some point during the tidal phases this time of year. Their table quality is quite good.
     Saturday is opening day of trophy rockfish season. Expectations are not high because of the reported plummet in the striped bass population. This year in particular, it’s prudent to return unspawned females to the water. Indications are strong for significant curtailing of the rockfish quotas in the near future. Limit is one fish, 35 inches or larger, same as last year.