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Scott Rall: Sarge is my bright new prospect

Scott Rall

Daily Globe outdoors columnist 

As summer comes to a close I am busy with my new puppy Sarge. He is just one neat little friend.

He came from Round Lake Kennels and is a puppy from a repeat breeding. A repeat breeding is when you use the same sire and bitch as a previous litter. The dog I have from the earlier litter is named Tracer and he is one special dog, too.

In my house we have Axle who is five years old, Tracer, who will be three in September, and Sarge is now four weeks old today. I really prefer to have more age separation in my hunting companions so that they don’t all get old and retire at the same time. These dogs are pretty close in age and if there was a greater spread I would prefer it. The reason they are so close together is the result of some very, very bad luck.

Back several years ago I had a 10-year-old dog Decoy, who had at least two more years of hunting in him, die unexpectedly of a twisted gut. This is usually the result of too much food or water ingested within an hour before or following strenuous exercise.

Never feed or water the dog and go run his tail off immediately following. Dogs and food/water are just like little kids and swimming. I grew up understanding that you did not eat or drink an hour before swimming or within an hour of finishing swimming.

I don’t know if the people rule was necessary but the dog rules are critical. In my case, the dog had eaten at 5 p.m. and had no exercise. He went out at 10 p.m. before bed and twisted an intestine and died within an hour, even though he was at the vet by that time.

This is just bad awful luck. It was only a few months later that my 4 ½-year-old buddy named Ace was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and he also died within hours of his collapse. He showed no signs or symptoms before he crashed. He hunted like a wild man the day before. It was Dec. 16 and I still miss him bad. I carry his picture in my truck and his dog tag is sewed to the sling of my favorite shotgun.

I lost two dogs within the span of only a few weeks and I needed to rebuild my hunting horsepower from scratch. I purchased an 8-year-old dog from a client and used him for a few seasons and he then retired to Golden Valley and now lives with my daughter Brittany Remme. If I had not found him it would have been the first time in 15 years that I did not have a hunting dog and missed a pheasant hunting season.

It takes two years to get a trained dog, and while I was hunting him I purchased another dog named Axle and I have him still today. Tracer came next and I had the two solids I needed to hunt pheasants and ducks.

I was going to wait until Axle got a little older and closer to retirement before I added another dog. The challenge I had was that Tracer was turning out to be one of the best dogs I had ever owned and his mom was only going to have one more litter. If I wanted another dog like Tracer I had to do it now.

She had one more litter and it was a “do it now or forget ever doing it again” moment. I added another puppy when the next closest dog was only 32 months older.

I now have three dogs which all fit in a five-year window. This is not ideal. A 9-year-old, a 4-year-old dog and a puppy would be ideal for me.

In a perfect world you would have perfect spacing. I don’t live in that perfect world. I have suffered some of the worst dog luck from health ailments. I do take some comfort in that my veterinarian told me that I was not responsible for any of the bad luck I have suffered from. It was just what it sounds like, bad luck.

Back to Sarge, his outlook seems very bright. Many people will ask me what they should be doing with a dog of this age or that age. In each stage of a puppy’s life there are things an owner should be doing. I have written before that the biggest problems dog owners have as a group is their desire for their little puppy to be and act like a big dog. This can never happen and yet humans try every day to make it so.

Form zero to six months of age a puppy needs to learn two things. They include doing their business outside and learning that barking is not necessary in almost all situations. They should also learn that retrieving is fun.

I toss a retrieving dummy a few times every other day. Why not every day, you might ask? The answer is that puppies are just like little kids in that their attention span is about 90 seconds in length. A puppy will find the game of retrieve really fun for a short time but too much of even a good thing might cause them to get bored and lose interest.

Playing the game in short intervals every other day keeps the puppy from getting bored. This is where owners will try to push the envelope and try to do more. I have heard this at least 100 times. My puppy is so intense or so smart he can do this all day right up until they don’t want to do it at all. Just because he seems to want more does not mean that he needs or should get more.

The other thing I am doing with Sarge is to take him everywhere I go. He can even go to work with me. I took him on an 800-mile ride last weekend and he experienced some other dogs and many new sights and sounds. He went to a wildlife management area dedication in Martin County and to the sporting clay shooting range in Lakefield at the Horse Barn and Hunt Club. He had a great time interacting with all of the folks that were there and got some additional exposure to the sound of guns. You can see why these types of outings would benefit him.

Over the weekend he interacted with a very small Jack Russel terrier. All Sarge wanted to do was play and all the other puppy one-fourth his size wanted to do was to show him he was the boss. It reminded me of a snake and a mongoose with lots of jumping around and nobody getting hurt. Sarge learned many things on this trip, and even though none of them had any direct connection to hunting they were the very best things I could have done to help ensure that this puppy ultimately ends up being a stellar hunting companion.

He now weighs about 30 pounds and I think at the end of his growth cycle he might weigh 75 pounds. I would prefer 65 pounds but I wished I weighed less than I weigh, too. Picking a puppy has few guarantees as to the end size. He will be on puppy food for a few more months and then switch from puppy food to adult food, and feedings that now happen twice a day to being fed one time per day as a young adult dog.

I feed my dogs one time per day at 7 p.m. because I feel it helps the dogs settle in for the night. I know that after a meal I am way more prone to a nap than I am before one.

Sarge loves shoes and other non-edible items as much as the next. I have not lost anything valuable yet but there are a few teeth marks on the leg of grampa’s rocking chair that were not there before. He will be a little too young to hunt with any earnestness this season. He is better off to get the right foundations and train as a big dog next spring.

My dad’s saying that if want to see how fast time flies take out a 90-day note at the bank is very true. I would add another for your consideration. If you want to know how fast time flies get a great bird dog and before you know it they will be gray in the face, stiff in the joints and ready to retire. Why is it the things that mean the most seem to come and go in the blink of an eye and the pain of loss seems to linger forever?

Sarge, let’s go have some fun, I’m not getting any younger, you know.