If dog is actually man’s best friend, why does he incessantly bite my heels? Is this how “friends” treat each other? This flavor of disrespect fills every horrifying episode of Real Housewives of Orange County. But it’s not the behavior I’m looking for in my daily life. I’ll cut to the chase, I’m a card carrying “dog liker.” I’ve had a long standing embargo on canines inhabiting the Adrift™ worldwide headquarters. My argument to Mrs. Adrift went something like this: “as long as I am knee deep in changing diapers, I don’t need another butt to manage.” While Mrs. Adrift has never owned a dog, I grew up with them including an excitable Golden Retriever named MacArthur that lived into my twenties. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I vividly remember the amount of work and dedication required to create a well adjusted citizen, and until recently I wasn’t up for the task.
Now that Jack is finishing 1st grade my already flimsy argument has worn thin. Louie the cat just isn’t enough of a presence to fill the animal void in our household. I finally relented and began the search in earnest for a new partner in crime. We toyed with the notion of rescuing a dog and actually had a few unsuccessful attempts at making a connection. Upon my initial delving into the seedy world of pooch acquisitions, it became apparent that demand was outpacing supply. I quickly learned that like a hot real estate market, you need to be ready to pull the trigger at a moment’s notice. Recommendations from a few colleagues at North American Hunter led us to procuring a British-style Lab due to their mild temperaments. I called around to an obscene number of breeders in the midwest, only to be told that I’d have to get on the waiting list and a puppy would become available anywhere from fall to next year. This was not an unexpected result. My homework over the last few years, in preparation for this event, informed me that this was the name of the game. A call to Red Oak Labradors netted a referral to a gentleman named Doug Westphal. Both Jeff Sorensen from Red Oak Labs and Doug regaled me with a story about a “pick of the litter” male fox red labrador puppy available from Doug Westphal Retrievers. It was 10 weeks old, potty trained, sleeping through the night in a crate, and already playing fetch. Doug couldn’t have been more friendly on the phone. He mentioned that he’s been breeding dogs for 30 years and typically sets one puppy aside from his litters to train for hunting, and often sells it at 6 months of age for a whopping $2,500. Because he had another litter on the way, he was going to sell this puppy at a bargain before the training was complete. He texted me a photo of the puppy and the puppy’s parents. The cuteness factor was in full effect and the kids were getting excited at the notion of a pup that was immediately available. Arrangements were made to visit the dog at his home in Savage. We went and met the little fella named “Abe.” Mrs. Adrift, Jack and Ava’s hearts melted upon exposure. They were powerless against his evil clutches. My thoughts were more practical and tempered, but I must confess that he was a great looking pup. Doug explained that Abe’s dad is named Lincoln and has a heralded pedigree loaded with hunting champions. We decided that we were interested in purchasing Abe and agreed to come back the next weekend to pick him up. I took a copy of Abe’s pedigree, just so I could do a little research about Abe’s bloodlines.
We had a week to prepare. Puppy proofing, google searches and trips to the pet store were the norm. I was up to my eyeballs in work, putting in 15 hour days, and largely unavailable to participate in pregame festivities. One evening I got a frantic text (if there is such a thing) from the Mrs. in regards to Abe. As it turns out, she had been searching Fox Red Labs on Pinterest and stumbled across the picture of Abe’s parents that we’d been texted, and it was from a place called Warne’s Labs in New York. It was at this point that the “story” we’d been given from Doug and Jeff unraveled completely. There had been red flags throughout the process, but I chalked up the obvious half-truths to good old fashioned salesmanship bluster. Many of the things we’d been told just didn’t add up. And for good reason, because the story was a complete fabrication. The old “too good to be true” adage was in full effect. It was at this point I dug in my heels and attempted to figure out the reality of the situation. After several calls to breeders on the pedigree I was able to determine that Doug Westphal had no hand in the breeding of Abe, and that he wasn’t the super dog they claimed. The actual breeder didn’t even know who he was until they reviewed their paperwork. I learned that a few weeks earlier Abe had been purchased as the 5th male pick of a recent litter from Turkey Creek Labradors out of South Dakota for a few hundred dollars cheaper than what we were going to pay. The pedigree I was provided is accurate, and Abe’s dad really is a Turkey Creek stud named Lincoln. Once we determined that this bizarre scam to broker or “flip” dogs at a marginally higher price still was going to net a solid dog from a reputable breeder, we decided to bring Abe to our home. I guess I’ll never really know why we were given such a load of horseshit when trying to buy this dog. When I picked Abe up I let Doug know that I uncovered his plot. He reacted just like naughty children do by compounding the problem with more lies. The truth of the matter is that we were actually fine with paying a little extra by not waiting months to get a puppy. Sorry for the lengthy diatribe on the matter. I’m writing this as a public service to assist people who google these “breeders” in the future. Perhaps landing on this post will help individuals make a decision on whether or not purchase a dog from their poorly executed hustle. Seems like an awful lot of work for a few hundred dollars. Needless to say Westphal Retrievers order for a female out of next year’s Turkey Creek litter has been revoked.
Enough of the fluff, let’s get to the meat on the bone. After a few days at home I was ready to take Abe for a test drive. I wasn’t really sure how a young pup would do on a fishing excursion, but I felt compelled to give it a shot. I surmised that an easy fishing habitat improvement stretch would fit the bill. As you know, I’m not prone to fishing the golf course style theme park stretches with any regularity, but I do see their value for novice anglers. And make no mistake about it, Abe is a rookie. He was surprisingly well-behaved and not particularly interested in my fly casting. After a few minutes of work we finally netted a dink Brookie that would serve as our litmus test. He made a few lunges at the perfect candy bar sized specimen, but I didn’t allow him to chew. After a lick or two I released the candidate, and he was no worse for the wear.
I used this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Abe wasn’t the only virgin in the mix. I had a small4/5 weight 6’6″ Eagle Claw Featherlight fly rod that I had yet to fish. Mrs. Adrift had procured one from Mend Provisions as a birthday present. I had eyeballed these little gems last fall in the shop, but hadn’t gotten around to picking one up. It was a simple case of nostalgia on my part. Growing up my brother had an Eagle Claw Featherlight that we regularly put through it’s paces on our neighborhood Smallmouth creek. In recent years Cameron from the Fiberglass Manifesto and others throughout the blogosphere have praised these little rods as cheap thrills. I could sugar coat it and tell you what you want to hear by complimenting the superiority of glass, but that just isn’t the case. I found the little rod to be quite awkward and it took me awhile to master the stroke. Perhaps it’s just a little too short for my liking and I need to step to one of the longer models? If nothing else it will make a great starter rod for Jack.
I learned pretty quickly that the biggest danger for a trout fishing puppy is barbed wire. Whether lunging towards fences or swimming in creeks, Abe was in harm’s way. At one point he jumped in a deep pool and lustfully swam towards a length of barbed wire crossing the surface of the water. I quickly jumped in the drink and rescued him just in time before he became entangled in the mess. Abe had done enough good deeds to graduate from troutin’ preschool and I decided to move him up to kindergarden. I grew tired of the predictable water features and dink Brookies found in the fake habitat improvement beat. We moved to a more natural location where I suspected better Brookies could be had, and it didn’t disappoint. No giants were seen or landed, but that’s okay with us. Abe has the attention span of a gnat, but we had a pretty good round nevertheless.
In some ways it’s hard to regress to the land of newborn babies. People are rarely honest about the brutality of caring for a newborn. Sure they’re precious, but I’m not afraid to admit I’m not particularly fond of that stage of management. Let’s just say that it’s a long term investment that hopefully pays dividends down the road.