Happy Anniversary, Pritchard. One year ago today we plucked you from the only home you knew. A place filled with littermates–your pack–and other dogs. And suddenly you were riding home in the arms of Jenny.

Like new parents, we watched your every move, charted your every poop, studied you for any sign of gun dog talent, and marveled at your tiny size. You found comfort in snuggling with my brown shoes because, we liked to think, they resembled your littermates. You had a few accidents, whined all night long, and only quieted down when we pulled your crate close to the bed so that we could reach down to you.

Were you (are you) spoiled? Good Lord, yes.

Training began. And I rode the ups and downs as if strapped to the arm of an oil rig. One day you were going to be a field trial champ. The next day a lazy couch dog. But I quickly discovered you were nothing but a reflection of my training talents. Yes, I could take credit for your gorgeous first retrieve in the dove field. But I needed to also accept responsibility for the time you decapitated the pigeon during our first field trial.

Funny thing happened as we traveled down gun-dog road. You taught me as much as I taught you. Patience. Discipline. Fairness. Focus. And a bit more patience. Another thing happened, too. I went bird hunting more than ever. Dove, ducks, quail, and even an ill-fated marsh hen expedition. I wanted nothing more than to be in the field with you.

How far do we still need to go? Miles, pup. Miles. But I can’t wait.