New puppy, new town, new lessons, new life: Tackling it all together
Words by Douglas Spale, Pictures by KC.Photography
Part 2 of a Series
My new gun dog chapter begins under the gaze of the iconic Scout
in the City of Fountains and Home to World-Class Barbeque, Kansas City.
While my return to the Great Plains from Chicago evokes memories of my childhood, this journey will be graced by a new companion, a Labrador pup named Nʉ̠a Kohtopʉ̠ (pronounced Naw Koo-towp
, or just Kohtop for short). Her name, derived from the beautiful Comanche language and meaning “my fire,” captures my reinvigorated passion for the uplands as well as my triumph over the grief of losing a dog.
Although serendipity brought us together, our bond will take us from a city full of public green spaces to the golden prairies of autumn.
Kohtop’s prowess as a gun dog must begin with foundational concepts.
First, she must be taught a household routine that includes regular feeding schedules, house manners and kennel training. Next, we will harness the benefits the city can provide and introduce the pup to various experiences. The goal is to embolden the pup’s confidence while also stimulating her mental development through environment enrichment. Finally, I will teach her the three key commands she needs to know – sit, stay and come – along with building the desire to fetch.
With our roadmap set, this introductory phase is focused on the thrill of welcoming the pup to her new environment.
As our pursuit toward autumn begins, the pitfalls of house manners and kennel training are inevitable
Although the work-from-home lifestyle lends itself to a favorable learning curve, each accident is approached as a learning opportunity. While it is vital that her kennel becomes Kohtop’s safe space, my heart pangs each time I hear those sad puppy cries. Nevertheless, it is a special moment when Kohtop begins to learn her name. Our home becomes a sanctuary as the pup becomes familiar with her surroundings. Throughout this time, it is important to revel in each of the pup’s achievements, which by far outweigh the fleeting setbacks.
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As our home life stabilized, we began to venture out into the city.
Our walks through the Plaza were paused by her curious stares into the reflection of storefront windows. Her head-tilts at the constant commotion indicated her mental stimulation. Approached safely, establishments provided both the pup and I ideal socialization opportunities. Each stop at a water fountain offered moments of serenity and climbing opportunities for Kohtop.
While her first car rides may have seemed scary, our arrival at each new park became an aromatic oasis to explore during the spring blossom. However, our most cherished moments were watching the cotton-candy sunsets amidst the Kansas City skyline.
While our daily schedule is beholden to the temperamental weather of the Midwest, the city continually provides invigorating opportunities for the pup. This period together is idyllic as we nurture our bond.
The commands of sit, stay and come will be taught to the pup by both voice and whistle. Our whistle introduction begins in her sanctuary to avoid becoming a disturbance to others. As I look toward the future, these three commands will be essential to our training program. However, throughout this introductory phase they are approached with patience and consistent instruction. Over time, these commands should become rote for Kohtop.
A portion of each day is devoted to a Labrador’s namesake activity, retrieving. Regardless of the dog’s age and ability, there are few things that make me happier than a prancing retriever with a mouthful of feathers, a bumper or a plush toy. Our first retrieves are infused with excitement. While every retrieve is hardly perfect, we are simply building desire now.
This introductory phase is full of happiness as I welcome Kohtop into my life. Each lesson is approached with positivity and enthusiasm. These basic steps will build our confidence and trust in one another. Each pup brings a dog owner new opportunities to learn and improve. As I embark on the journey, this new city becomes home, a place from which I hope to deliver a gun dog for many to enjoy.
Douglas Spale grew up in Nebraska and seems to be working his way back westward, bird dog at his side
Click Here to View a Companion Picture Gallery
Other Stories in Douglas Spale’s Bird Dog in the City Series:
Bird Dog in the City