I think we all knew this day was coming. The day when the endorphins of puppy-mania would wear off and we would be hurled into the new, sleep-deprived reality that is raising a puppy and child. Now just because you can predict something, doesn’t mean it is any less impactful – in fact sometimes it might be easier to be blindsided instead of bracing for impact.
I apologize for the delay in posting. It’s been hard to find spare time as of late. The novelty of having a new family member is still there and there is no regret in our family decision, however, the workload of a dog is now apparent. And in fairness, this is less a reflection of Willie, and more so a reflection of how busy we are as humans. So, for any prospective dog owners, in your euphoric glee to snatch up a pandemic puppy, maybe read my film review below of one of my favourite western’s; the Sergio Leone 1966 classic starring Clint Eastwood.
We will push this section off to the end as I want to leave you with some hope.
Your adoration and love for that little furball will be tempered by the realities of a puppy that are inescapable: they will have A LOT of energy, they are still untrained, and they will require attention one way or the other. All puppies will want to play and run, even more so in working breeds such as an Irish Setter. These dogs are bred athletes so don’t be surprised when they want to have fun and have some intensity.
Fun also looks a lot different to a puppy than a field trial dog. While the end goal is to get to a point where training and hunting is the reward, it is a process and there is no shirking that process. Willie and I train every feeding session (at least 3 times a day) and even then, there are set-backs and bumps to our progress. Willie might get bored one session, or seemingly forget a command the next. I’m told it’s all part of the process. He's learning, I'm learning, neither one of us are perfect. Some things you cannot rush, and here, patience appears to be the prescription.
These pups are also very smart. And as they grow, so does their intelligence. What was entertaining last week is old news today and they require a new challenge. This keeps both the pup and trainer occupied and on their toes. Failure to attune to Willie’s needs in this regard seems to result in outbursts, unwanted behaviour like chewing or whining, or unsupervised chaos. Again, it’s a lot and I doubt any owner is perfectly on top of this, but know it takes commitment.
In reality, nothing has been truly “ugly” thus far. We are lucky to have a healthy and smart pup. However, the big challenge for us has been the adaptation of our lifestyles, especially in regards to child-rearing. Willie just got his last parvo booster so he can start to socialize more, but for a while it meant no visiting and segregation to the basement with me in the evenings as Finn was down for the night. The cold hasn’t helped.
As I write this it is -38 C outside, which makes outdoor training and exercise almost impossible. It’s also made potty-training a hassle for all (never forget your doggy-bags), but I think we might be there. I used to be a night owl. That is no longer an option. I find myself trying to stay up long enough to put the dog to bed and then struggling to wake up to pull him from the crate. God forbid we through some house repairs in there, which happened. It can become overwhelming as we try to balance it all.
Dogs are extremely loyal, intelligent, loving and connected animals. They also probably require the most attention out of all the pets I’m aware of. It’s the commitment we make as dog owners. Your life will be undeniably altered.
The Good (Finally)
All those challenges are real, and from what I understand, rather common. It helps to be aware of them before committing to each other as dog and owner though. Even though some days I feel like collapsing into a pile of human mush in my bed, it has been rewarding to watch Willie grow and learn. He is learning fast too. He takes his work very seriously and dials in like a senior hunting dog come training time.
It also melts my heart knowing Willie and Finn will grow up together. Willie is starting to calm down around Finn so we are able to have them interact more, which makes me smile just thinking of. I daydream about our time to be spent afield. And finally, we are once again a dog household.
That void that was left for years once Remington had passed is now filled; filled with a rambunctious, crimson, floppy-eared soup hound; a little furry klutz whose favorite part of the day is when you get home from work. And with only a little tilt of Willie’s head, the bad and ugly seem to vanish, for a time at least.
Relaxing with Willie