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DRIFTWOOD OUTDOORS: Bringing home a new best friend

Adopting dogs can be fun for all

The love of a puppy is one of life’s greatest gifts. But puppies require a lot of work. Even if things go really, really well, you are still going to have to spend a lot of time training your puppy and mopping pee off the kitchen floor.

Adopting an older dog can equal all the love with much less work.

Junior is three. Up until a few weeks ago, he was in full-time training for field trial competitions. He lived in a kennel outfitted for a king. His previous owner occupies a 22,000 square foot house on 500 acres of pristine Mid-Missouri wilderness. The property has been meticulously groomed for dog training and field trial events. What August National is to golf, this place is to dog training.

Junior is a male black lab. He has the skills and pedigree to be a champion, but he's a little on the lackadaisical side. He reminds me of Jay Cutler, quarterback of the Chicago Bears. Imagine training your whole life to be in the Olympics, but when the team is finally announced you fall just short of making the cut. That's where Junior is as a retriever.

He's amazing, but not one of the very best in the world, so he “washed-out.” That's a term trainers use for dogs that just aren't going to compete at the level expected.

I’ve always dreamed of having an outstanding hunting dog. I had a weimaraner as a kid name Remington who could hunt by instinct, but was never trained. Remi was a glimpse of what could be.

Junior’s training is way above my ability to control him. I’m so excited to learn how to properly handle him. I’ve bought a number of the tools regularly used in his training, like a training collar, bumpers and a leed, and have begun studying the art of dog training.

Each night we go out in the yard to practice retrieving. Junior is trained on blinds, which blows my mind. One of my daughters will run way out in a field and hide a bumper, which is a retrieving dummy, far out of Junior's line of sight. Once they get back, I'll use a hand signal to fix Junior on a direction and then I release him on his name.

He runs until I blow a whistle and then he sits and faces me. I then use hand signals and voice commands to direct him to the bumper, which he eventually sniffs out. It's amazing. I am enthralled with training this pooch.

He may have moved from a mansion to a mole hill, but the level of love he's getting sure hasn't diminished. My young daughters wanted a puppy, so I wasn't sure how excited they'd be when I showed up with an already fully grown dog, but after an hour it was like they’d loved him forever. He's been pretty excited about discovering the intricacies of the great indoors. He took to the couch in my office like a fish to water. It's makes me laugh out loud to think about him saying to himself, “Now this is more like it,” as he stretches out and lays his big ol’ block head on the nearest pillow.

Over what I hope is a very long time, you'll come to know Junior through my column. He's the hunting buddy I've been dreaming of and plan to share many a frosty mornings with him in duck marshes and pheasant fields. And I hope Junior is my introduction to lifetime of hunting labs.

See you down the trail…

III

Brandon Butler is an outdoors columnist for the News Tribune. He can be reached at outdoors@newstribune.com

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