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DOGS continued from 16

“Here!” command. They sit and stay on either side of you. They “come” and “sit” by whistle command. They know hand commands. They’re even housebroken. By now Laurel and Ross have put a huge investment into them. “All good breeders use this

program,” explains Laurel. “But then it’s important to keep it up when the puppies go to their new homes.” For that reason, Laurel gives obedience lessons to “her” puppies, starting as early as a week after they leave. If the puppies stay with them for

training as hunting dogs, they remain in the house for six to eight months. They are regularly obedience-trained and socialized. By the time they’re ready to go to the kennels, they’re ready for training from Ross. Once a year, Culandubh Kennels

are hosts to a huge “hunt test” on their road. A hunt test is the second most important stage in a hunting dog’s development. The first is to receive an entry working certificate; the third is participation in field trials. For the hunt tests, at least 100 people and about 117 dogs stay in trailers and tents on their property for two days. At the end of it, Laurel and Ross do a massive pig roast and serve everyone. It’s hard to imagine how these

two have the energy for all the things they do. Yet they both seem unflustered, easygoing. Everything about their property, from house to kennels (they board dogs, too) is in order. There’s not a sign of “dog” in the grass (Ross does fastidious poop-scooping). The house, from top to bottom, is beautifully and artistically decorated by Laurel. And when Laurel isn’t doing looking after dogs, she’s painting pictures of them.

The portraits, and Laurel’s talent, is another element of this interesting, accomplished woman. When the female retrievers are

six or seven years old, the breeding stops and they are placed with selected people or families. “We don’t just place them with

anyone,” Laurel explains. “They’ve ‘done their time in the trenches’.” Puppies don’t just go to anyone,

either. And when that time comes, it can be hard for Laurel. “I have to tell her,” Ross says

fondly, “to let the new owners carry the puppy to the car themselves. I tell her it’s time to let go.” Years later people with their dogs

send letters and emails to say how the dogs are doing, or to tell them when the dogs die. Some are on their second or third dogs from Ross and Laurel. “We meet a lot of neat people,” says Laurel, “in all walks of life.”


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