Up the Creek: Puppies and Happiness
Up the Creek
Ken M. Blomberg
“Whoever said you can’t buy happiness forgot little puppies.”
I’ve quoted the late, great outdoor writer Gene Hill before – and once again, his words ring true these days along the creek. You see, our cocker spaniel Belle, gave birth to six puppies two weeks ago. For long time followers of this column you’ll recognize the father of this litter, Buster – my constant sidekick at home and afield.
English cocker spaniels joined German shorthaired pointers at our kennel years ago when the boss and I brought Buster home from a nationally recognized leader in top-notch field bred English cocker spaniels. He was born in June of 2010. I found him among a litter of 8-week old puppies at Fallen Wings Kennels near Hilbert in Calumet County. There, two of the top breeders in the nation, Rumi and Mike Schroeder, introduced me to the wonderful world of field bred English cocker spaniels.
The breed club also notes cockers are, “merry and affectionate, of equable disposition, neither sluggish nor hyperactive, a willing worker and a faithful and engaging companion”. An understatement, I might add. Most who hunt over the breed will note “they will make you laugh”. Buster is all of that – merry, affectionate and bold in the woods, field and marshes.
Faithful readers of my weekly outdoor newspaper column watched Buster mature over the years. He turned 8-years old this past summer. You have read about his travels with me to the Canadian prairies of Saskatchewan, northwest to North Dakota and Montana, to the marshes and cornfields of Iowa and of course, throughout Wisconsin. Together, we’ve put some miles behind us to get to this point.
Conventional wisdom has long declared that gun dogs reach their prime between ages 6 through 10. Buster hit the ground running right off the bat, and despite my faults as a trainer, bucked the establishment and has performed at a high level in the field from early on. He is a flushing dog that hunts for the gun, seldom ranges out of range and quarters the woods and fields in search of his quarry like a pro. Made retrieves that took my breath away. Found wounded gamebirds and waterfowl other dogs would have given up on. Flushed countless woodcock, grouse, pheasant, and prairie game birds like Huns and sharp-tails. Now at 8-years old, he is, no doubt, at the top of his game. Along the way, we found a pair of females, Belle and Bingo. Sisters from the same litter, they were born in Ohio and purchased while on a visit to family friends in Indiana. All black and tan in coloration, they produce black and tan puppies – no doubt a shared dominant color gene.
The current litter, now 2-weeks old, are still pretty much, as No. 1 granddaughter says, “sleeping, eating and pooping”. But the socialization process began a few days after they were born. Their eyes and ear canals are still closed, but respond to their mother’s and human touch. So, at every opportunity, we allow the grandkids and neighbor boys to cuddle the pups. During the first three weeks of life, puppies require little assistance from humans – as long as mother is doing her job. But gentle human contact at this time is crucial for later social development.
To that end, we add puppy playtime to our kennel activities these days. And I’m here to tell you, for that chore I’m not lacking volunteers!
Blomberg is the author of two books, UP THE CREEK, and WISCONSIN BIRD HUNTING TALES. Both are available at either amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or arcadiapublishing.com. Autographed copies are available from the author at [email protected]