I remember the first time that I met "the other woman." She has been a major part of my life ever since that first moment. It was difficult for me to accept that oftentimes my life was so drastically affected by her and her needs. It was difficult at first, but eventually,I matured. I realized what she meant to my husband and out of love and sheer devotion to him, I accepted her. I have even been known to share a bed with her. Actually, in all honesty, we share the bed most nights, and not necessarily out of obligation. I have realized her place in our house and in our lives. And truth be told,I really like her.
Sound strange? Not if your husband has a hunting dog. That mystical creature, that although fully dog, is elevated to at least equal status with all other members in the house. On certain days she will be relegated to superstardom. Many days, this dog will be in FULL possession of the apple in your husband's eye.
I don't remember the exact point when "Abby" (our 8 year old GSP) and I stopped being just acquaintances and began viewing each other as competition. All that I do know is that it happened. What started out as playful pats, games of fetch, and chew toys, eventually escalated to full blown war in a matter of months. She started out cute enough. After our first date, my husband invited me to his house to "see his new puppy." She was a 6 week old German Shorthaired Pointer. She was a beautiful dog. Just starting to get over that new puppy shyness and enter full force into that most trying of all puppy stages: the "I must chew on EVERYTHING with my sharp little puppy teeth until I destroy special, important, and/or expensive things, in sufficient quantity, as to test the very limits of self-control in those around me" stage.
Playful, sweet, and extraordinarily feminine from the get go. We had more people tell us that you could "tell" Abby was a girl simply by the way she looked and acted. I thought that was sweet. I never saw it as a warning sign.
She was definitely Neil's dog, but she did more than just put up with me. She studied me. She followed me around when I was there. She would imitate things that I did. If I stood at the sink to put on lipstick, she would "stand" at the sink, by putting her forepaws on it. If I dried my hands on a towel, she would pull that towel off the rack, and dry herself with it. It was weird. At the time I thought it was cute and endearing. Now that we have come full circle, I know better. I was dreaming of a cute little family with a nice family dog. She was gearing up to replace me.
The closer that Neil and I got, the more difficult she became. Nothing overt, mind you. No. She was much too cunning for that. Smart. Crafty. Sly. The very things that would one day make her an asset in the field, were making her an adversary in the home. And the worst part was that she had a huge head start on me. I didn't even realize that we were at war.
Neil and I would be sitting together on the couch watching TV. She would jump up, "pretending" she wanted to sit on our laps. Next thing I know, she had scooted in between the two of us and is giving me a look like, "Do you mind scooting over a bit? We are trying to snuggle here." Then, things would disappear and we would find them chewed up later. MY boots, MY purse, MY...,well you get the picture. Anything chewed up, you could pretty much count on putting a "MY" in front of it.
Then, the time came for boyfriend and girlfriend to become husband and wife, and dating turned into sharing a house and a life and, in this case, a dog. I was on to her tricks now, though, and the spirit of competition was welling up within my soul. Neil tried to deal with this situation the best that he could. Abby would be punished for the obvious infractions, like chewing. But, bless his heart, Neil thought it was cute, when she would knock me out of the way to get to him. It was obvious. Only one of us would emerge as queen of this castle.
For a while, her strategies were having better effect than mine. I had actually thought she was simply trying to replace her competition, I soon found out her strategy was much more insidious. She was using my own human nature to sabotage me. She was making me look paranoid and foolish in front of my new husband. Everything that I tried to do to rectify the situation was just another nail in my coffin as far as she was concerned.
I tried talking to Neil. Reasoning with him about the situation. I tried to show him how she was treating me. That may not have been the way to go. It was at this point, that Neil began to wonder about the emotional and mental stability of his young bride. For her part, Abby, had gone on to taking over my spot in the bed. Somehow, by morning, she and Neil were curled up together, dreaming their little pheasant dreams, and I was left clinging for dear life, half on and half off the edge of our bed. Not the romantic honeymoon you might imagine.
Somehow as the weeks and months past, Abby and I, each found our niche in the household. This relationship was strengthened and solidified when I brought home our first child. "I" would be queen of the castle. On the home front, "I" make the rules. And whether or not she feels that I am a master or a littermate (as my husband so aptly describes our relationship), she had better obey, or I will tell her daddy when he gets home. She appreciates me for what I bring to the table. She loves my kids, and the scraps that I feed her. She is fat and still sassy. As she gains in years and, unfortunately, in the aches and pains that go along with the accumulated years, she appreciates the warm bed at my feet. I have also mellowed out her master, who is her chief disciplinarian.
I have also learned to appreciate her. She is a wonderful housedog. She is gentle and full of patience with my children. She lets them dress her, put makeup on her, and use her as a jungle gym. I feel that she is only being paid back for what she dished out so long ago. The relationship with the kids isn't as one-sided as you might think. Our three young daughters are very careful to make sure that Abby has her afternoon snacks. When the children drop cookies on the floor, she even gives them a 2 second head start to retrieve it, before she eats it. But, she has definitely emerged as queen of the field. I have learned to appreciate the beauty and I will say artistry, for there is no other word for it, of a perfect point. She has surpassed our every expectation as a pet and as a hunting dog. She has even surpassed my husband as the leader of the hunting party. The hunters who know what they are doing, don't command that dog. They follow her. The most important reason that I have learned not only to live with her, and appreciate her, but also to love her, is that she has a special place in my husband's heart. She can give him a special joy and companionship, that I cannot. (Nor would I want to, if it meant running naked on all fours through weeds and barbed wire, pointing and retrieving birds.) When he comes home from a day's hunt, I have to listen to a minimum of 20 minutes worth of "Abby stories." Which have shifted from how many times she pointed, how many retrieves she had, and who said what about her, to how SHE is what makes the hunt special. The special communion they share. And how his heart will ache when she will no longer be able to join him in the field. I see him swell with pride and joy when he talks about her. The way I hope he looks when he talks to others about me.
But, for now, Abby will have to learn how to deal with "the other woman." There is now another female puppy at the Weidner household. "Rose Prettiness" (just a word of advice: be very wary of letting 2 and 4 year olds name dogs that you have to call in front of all your hunting buddies) is a sweet little GSP who will be learning the ropes under the great Abby. Unfortunately, Abby won't be with us forever. And the miles that we put on her every year at our pheasant hunting outfit have taken their toll. So, Rose Prettiness is here to take up the slack. Am I worried? Not a bit. After 6 years and 3 children I think I have pretty well established my place in the house. Besides, at least until her first hunting season Rose is content to be my dog. As for Abby, she is still "adjusting". But, a dog as wonderful as Abby, will eventually get over her pouting and enjoy Rose the way we enjoy them both.
As for Abby and I? We have even figured out how to sleep in the same bed. If she sticks to the foot of the bed, most of the time, I will share the blanket with her. Most of the time.
Editor's note: I wish to thank Stephanie for sharing this story with our readers. Stephanie has written a number of bird dog and hunting pieces and from time to time I hope to be able to get another example of her fine work for The Checkcord. Together with her husband, Neil, she helps to manage their great pheasant hunting operation on her Neil's parent's ranch near Colome, SD.
If you enjoyed this story as much as I did, please drop her a line and tell her so.