The pat­ter of tiny paws

As Emma the sprocker puppy ar­rives at the Tom­lin­son house­hold, David won­ders if he has bit­ten off a lit­tle more than he can chew

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

MICHAEL IS MY old­est shoot­ing friend, as pas­sion­ate about the sport now as when I first met him sev­eral decades ago. His ad­vice on all things shoot­ing is to be con­sid­ered care­fully, so when he said I shouldn’t get an­other puppy — “You’re too old for one” — it did give me food for thought.

How­ever, Michael is not a dog per­son. It is his part­ner Sue who is the dog en­thu­si­ast and it was only a few months ago that she got a springer puppy. Like all puppies, it is brim­ming with en­thu­si­as­tic ex­u­ber­ance, so Michael has re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing with an ado­les­cent spaniel.

It is 12 years since my springer Rowan was a puppy but as she was home-bred she had her mother for com­pany, who not only pro­vides com­pan­ion­ship but also dis­ci­pline. My pre­vi­ous two springers were also home-bred, so it has been many years since a young puppy, re­cently sep­a­rated from her mother, had come to live in the Tom­lin­son house­hold. When Emma the sprocker ar­rived here, aged eight weeks and one day, I was fear­ing the worst.

The first night she protested from her cage from dusk to dawn: a heartrend­ing mix­ture of squeaks, pips and small woofs. We tried the old trick of pro­vid­ing a hot-wa­ter bot­tle in her bed to repli­cate the warmth of her lit­ter­mates, but it didn’t make any dif­fer­ence. At 4am my wife Jan fi­nally gave in, tak­ing her out into the gar­den. Though it was still quite dark, there was a sky­lark singing, so Jan de­cided that there was at least one re­ward for be­ing up at such an hour.

The sec­ond night the protests were re­peated and I was be­gin­ning to think that Michael was right; per­haps we should have got a more ma­ture dog. Then things started to im­prove rapidly. Emma not only went to bed with­out protest, but slept on pro­gres­sively later, with not a woof all night. She now wakes around 6am, which is not a bad time on a spring morn­ing with the sun shin­ing and the cuckoo call­ing.

Puppies are enor­mously en­ter­tain­ing and I had for­got­ten quite how en­er­getic they can be, the in­tense bursts of en­ergy, fol­lowed by to­tal col­lapse as bat­ter­ies are recharged. From the mo­ment she stepped into the house, Emma has oozed con­fi­dence and has been as bold and in­quis­i­tive a puppy as you could wish for. She has also been de­mand­ing, so we are tread­ing the fine line be­tween giv­ing her at­ten­tion with­out giv­ing in.

As she will be an in­door dog, house-train­ing has been a top pri­or­ity and she has been quick to learn: af­ter

“Puppies and gar­dens — or at least well-tended ones — aren’t a good mix­ture”

Sprocker puppy Emma has shown a nat­u­ral abil­ity to re­trieve

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