One day, when I arrived at Dekle Plantation for a day of working dogs off horseback, Curtis called me to come to his horse trailer. He and Neal had conspired to give me one of their dogs, and Curtis knew he had the perfect dog for what I needed. Out of the crate came a yearling pup, long-legged and ready to roll, but with no understanding of what his genetics had in store for him. This gift of a dog from Curtis meant the world to me, and I told him that I was aware that I’d have big shoes to fill. He laughed and handed me a long lead to handle the dog.
I wanted to get right to work with Jughead, but as I set down a pen-raised quail in a tip-up trap at the far end of the field where the horse trailers were parked, Curtis stopped me. His words were simple: “Before you get to tryin’ to work this dog, you need to be the dog’s friend and he’ll give you the world.” Those words have guided my training ever since. Befriending the dog, developing a relationship, and earning the dog’s respect is the single most important part of working a hunting dog, and following Curtis’s advice has been invaluable to the success I’ve had with this young dog thus far. Each day after training, the dog looks up at me, wide as his hazel eyes are, with confirmation that he enjoyed the session as much as I enjoyed watching him put the pieces of the puzzle together.