There are no grouse in the woods where I now let my pup run – and that is why I choose to take her there. Grouse should not be harassed this time of year and Rosie is born and bred to be a harasser of grouse. It is her calling.
That drive is deep within her and, at less than ten weeks old, it already shows in the way she moves through the woods and the clearings. It’s apparent in the manner in which she runs ahead, searching; nose up, into the wind whenever possible. She dances through the cover like she was born in it.
She keeps near and continually checks back with me because, though she is a bold pup, she yet lacks the confidence required to range too far ahead into places unknown. This is something she will keep if I train her right; for a springer spaniel should hunt close so that flushed birds can be seen and shots can be taken.
That is why each morning of late, we slip into those woods and I zigzag through what passes as cover. I am trying to gently instill the habit of hunting with me and changing directions as I do. And, lo and behold, these days she does just that.
The pup could not have come at a better time. These last few months have piled sadness upon sadness.
At times like these, a puppy run offers a more pleasant diversion. Each eager step is driven by curiosity and there is unbridled joy in every bound. They view the world through innocent eyes – taking it all in, rejoicing in the unexplored possibilities that lie ahead, discovering who they are meant to be. And it is wonderful to see.
These excursions of mine present a chance to forget our ever-present troubles for a while and marvel at this little miracle who scours the woods with the enthusiasm only a happy dog can muster. And when we get home, she quickly reminds me a puppy has two speeds – full out and fast asleep – and, after a morning of trying to keep up, I believe I am coming to favour the latter.
As I write this, Rosie slumbers deeply in an armchair whose legs I have removed. It is beside my desk and when I first set it up, I told Jenn it would allow me to watch Rosie so I can keep her out of trouble. But, if the truth is to be told, having Rosie there just brings me comfort, mostly by demonstrating, that even in the midst of great sorrow, you can find countless small reasons to smile.
A pup looks to you for guidance and fun. It wants to give and be shown endless affection. It needs approval, the chance to make mischief and assurances that she is a welcome part of the pack. And I am only too happy to oblige Rosie in all these things. She has stolen my heart already.
She is the perfect tonic for me right now. She provides purpose. She reminds me of simple lessons: that a good nap is made better when it is earned; that it is OK to celebrate little things like the sudden discovery of a dandelion or the excitement that can be had chasing a butterfly; how fine unconditional love and responsibility can feel. A pup will show you how to live in the moment, but also how to look forward to tomorrow and the day after that.
It will cause you to suspect there will better days just around the corner when we will smile more often – and there will certainly be mornings where we will walk through those places that hold a few grouse.
(Dedicated to Ian Watt.)