Friends Old, New, and Soon to Be,
I’m sleeping on the couch a lot these days.
It’s not what you think. I’m not in trouble, just going to a lot of it. Many of you will know of which I speak when I tell you we’ve added a coal black Labrador puppy to the house. His name is Jed, though he’s got a much longer name reflecting a fine lineage, courtesy of River Ridge Kennels in Richlands, NC. The truth is, given the relentlessness of his desire to chew pretty much anything within twelve inches of the floor, if someone found alligator in his DNA, I’d be wholly unsurprised.
Academically, I understand puppies bring preciousness and objectionable behavior in equal measure. But for the last twenty years, our dogs have been rescues who came to us at least housebroken. Such is not the case with this Labragator. And so, for the last three nights (and for the foreseeable future), I’ve been on the couch so my family could sleep and I could rush out the door at the first sign of a squat.
Puppyhood is an endurance event.
I’ve wanted learn the art of raising a duck dog from start to finish for a decade, a dream my wife is kindly enduring far more graciously than I have the presence of the cat. The center piece of that endeavor is currently recharging at my feet, preparing to renew his assault on his new home and our ninety-pound Pyrenees/Hound mix, Laurel. Jed’s, and my, education is a process that will consume much of the next two years. Fortunately, between my career in the Marine Corps, two decades of ultramarathon running now largely gone to accumulated injuries, and growing up in Georgia, I understand endurance of mind, body, and spirit.
That may explain why I prefer pursuits in which I do rather than watch; why I don’t spend fall weekends watching TV though I absolutely get the allure. Give me the bite of cold air on my neck, offset by the burn of hot coffee in a blind. Give me the smell of a wet dog shaking off after a long retrieve and the sad beauty of a greenhead’s iridescence in my hand. I have enough Scots-Irish in my own DNA to feel guilty if my pleasures don’t come with some kind of adversity; some requirement for endurance.
I may watch two football games in a year, so let me not claim any kind of false fandom when I tell you what I must. I grew up in Athens, Georgia, close enough to the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium that on the Saturdays I wasn’t there with my father, I could hear the roar of the crowd from my back porch. So last night, when I begged puppy-based exhaustion and the fact that we didn’t have a way to watch the National Championship game, I felt a tug of guilt as Jed and I laid down for another night of up and down.
Such it was that I found myself in the dark this morning, January 11, at 4:17, with Jed’s needle like teeth piercing my pantleg as he shook the hem like he’d run me down and caught me. I disentangled myself and interested him in a stick before checking a stack of missives from the ether. I needed information I was almost scared to seek because, well, Alabama. As ever, endurance.
Georgia-born author Harry Crews wrote, “Karate is a Thing of the Spirit.” I reckon that notion applies to UGA football, even for someone not called to tailgate. I read texts from friends, passionate fans all, that sent me rushing to a highlights reel with tears welling in my eyes. The cold air biting my neck, I knelt to rub the ears of ten pounds of black fur. As I fended off those teeth by casting a stick for a three-foot retrieve, I thought, “Jed, you’re going to be a Damn Good Dawg.”
Russell Worth Parker
Editor at Large, Tom Beckbe