From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge


By Julie Reardon


The timing could not have been worse, but I knew I had to have her. This new puppy I got this summer would represent the third, and probably final attempt, to have a competitive field trial dog before I got too old to enjoy it. My first two attempts ended with a $65,000 cripple and a broken jaw that left a facial deformity that interfered with her vision. Some of you regular readers might recall the sad tale of my crippled dog, which I wrote about here in December 2017

The second attempt was a related puppy I got in the spring of 2018, who got bitten by one of my adults in a warning snap that unfortunately broke her upper jaw. It was surgically repaired and being only 8 weeks she recovered rapidly but the resulting facial deformity left one eye tipped inward and down affecting her vision and depth perception along with a severe under bite. It was a disheartening time.

Because of the pandemic and quarantine, field trials and hunting tests for retrievers were cancelled and no one was doing anything with their retrievers. Without regularly seeing friends at training and events, it was easy to hide how short of breath I’d become, incapable of training or running dogs. Besides, I had no competitive dogs. All of mine were retired or crippled.

When the chance to get this puppy came up just as the pandemic was ending, I had to take it. One of a dwindling number of a bloodline I’d developed and the last litter out of this particular female as she was almost nine years old. On the sire side were several of my favorite dogs. It was a once in a lifetime chance to get exactly the bloodlines I wanted and not getting a puppy would be giving up on myself as well as my dream. Life’s short. Get the puppy! Or horse, or boat, or place in the country, whatever it is you’ve been holding off on because the timing is wrong. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow so just go for it.

My new puppy shipped to the East Coast from Seattle and arrived here in May. I won’t deny it’s been a challenge and it has taken a village plus to his dismay, the cooperation of my husband. He’d been looking forward to his gardening without the digging and destruction of a retriever puppy only to have one arrive mid-season. Two friends helped out and kept her after I had to be hospitalized shortly after she arrived here. With all young dogs and especially Chesapeakes, it’s vital to socialize them early and often exposing them to many new things, hard to do if you’re quarantining and socially distancing. So the friends socialized her for me, allowing her to do things I wasn’t capable of tethered to oxygen. She attended steeplechases, horse shows and polo matches and went to retriever training days too. Some obedience but the focus was on exposing her to new experiences. In July, she came back bigger and rowdier but still her bold confident self. Now we are packing her bags to go to a retriever training for her basics. This was always the plan, only delayed a bit because the professional trainer we selected had come down with COVID himself. But fingers crossed she will leave for school in August, while I concentrate on my own rehab and care for her geriatric relatives here at the farm.

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