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Scout is a welcomed member of the family

It’s the 14th of February, better known as Valentine’s Day, and I thought it would be fitting to share a few words about the special guy in my life.

This is a fellow who knows how to cheer me up when I’m feeling down. He misses me when I’m not around and appreciates the little things I do for him, even if it’s just getting him a drink of water. In fact, he would even lay down his life to protect me.

He’s got the graceful body of an athlete, soulful eyes that see directly into my heart, and a charming smile. He’s not too bashful to reach over the center console of my truck and hold my hand while we’re driving down the road.

His only questionable trait is his predilection for stinky cologne, and by that I mean he likes to roll in anything dead or decaying that he finds on the ground. I’m describing our yellow Labrador retriever named Scout, of course.

There was a steep learning curve the first few months of having a dog. I’m not actually sure for whom the curve was the most steep, him or us. My family certainly went through a lot of adjustments. He’ll be having his first birthday in a few days, and a lot has changed around here since we first got him.

He still jumps up on the couch like he owns the place. But now he doesn’t just take up part of a cushion like he did when he was a little puppy. If we’re lucky, there will still be enough room for one person to sit next to him on the couch, and that’s only if he isn’t stretched out to relax. Then you might as well find another place to sit.

I’ve got one story that sums up Scout’s first year quite well.

Originally there was a small fence separating our yard from our neighbors. Now imagine their yard for a moment. The lawn is pristinely manicured, without a blade of brilliant green grass out of place. The flower beds are faultless, with perfectly applied mulch and exquisite rosebushes that the neighbor lady tends to daily.

One day, out of the blue, Scout decided to jump the fence. He knew by the shouting that he’d done something wrong, but instead of listening to our commands to come, he decided to make the most of the situation and raced through their prized rosebushes like a whirling dervish.

A favorite pastime of his is to shake the blossoms off the hydrangeas growing in our yard. It never bothered me much and I never stopped him. But I quickly realized my oversight when he started tearing roses off their bushes, kicking up a trail of petals and mulch in his wake as the kids and I chased after him.

The neighbor’s house stands on a bluff overlooking the water. Scout ran to the headland and sauntered out onto their pier like a king surveying his empire, oblivious to the mob of girls chasing after him.

Thankfully I was able to grab him and lead him back onto our property. The entire escapade lasted less than a minute, but in the span of 30 seconds I felt like I’d aged 10 years. I breathed a sigh of relief when he was clipped back on his leash. While the neighbors never said anything about the incident, we got an invisible fence installed the next week.

And that — disaster narrowly averted — was what the entire first nine months of puppyhood was like pretty much day-to-day. I was wondering if his obedience training would ever start to make a difference, but thankfully his behavior has dramatically improved as of late.

While it may have felt like he’d never come around, now that he’s almost reached his first birthday, it seems that he’s finally achieved the maturity of a hyperactive toddler. I can only cringe when I think about what must be coming next … the terrible twos.

In spite of all the hard work that has accompanied him, he has been a welcome member of the family. My girls are learning the responsibilities that go along with pet ownership and to appreciate the gentle love, and not-so-gentle rambunctiousness, of a young lab.

I’m also learning some humbling lessons, too. Like, for example, if it’s worth getting upset when a giant lab scarfs an entire plate of buffalo wings off the dining room table when your back is turned for five seconds, and then you have no dinner.

Fishing expo coming this weekend

The 28th annual Pasadena Sportfishing Fishing Expo takes place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Earleigh Heights Fire Hall in Severna Park.

You’ll find 200 tables full of new and used fishing tackle and crabbing supplies, custom built rods and lures and nautical-themed crafts, art and antiques. Also, talk to charter boat captains, find out more about local fishing clubs and you can even get your knife sharpened while you shop Food and beverages will be sold on the premises.

Admission is $5 each day and children 12 and younger get in free. For more information, call 410-HEY-FISH (439-3474).