Raising a Rice Dog

By Luke Matthews

Anyone that has owned a dog knows that they are like family. When we lost our dog in the beginning of 2020, she left a large hole in our lives. It was not long before we decided that we needed another dog. After a lot of research, I found a great kennel in Orland that breeds hunting Labrador Retrievers. Our puppy was born at the end of March and, after a few visits, we finally got to take her home at the end of May. After much deliberation, my fiancé and I settled on a name for her, Phoebe. This name comes from a little bird that you can see in and around rice fields, the Black Phoebe. The next few months we spent time bonding, house training, and teaching her basic commands. Phoebe was a quick learner; nevertheless, there were still many sleepless nights, destroyed shoes and pulled up plants.

Once Phoebe had all her vaccines and was cleared to leave the confines of our yard the real fun began. I took her with me practically every time that I left the house and, over the past five months, I have been training her to be my field companion. Thankfully, my position at the Rice Commission allows me to visit a wide variety of rice farms throughout the Sacramento Valley and Phoebe has really enjoyed getting to tag along. One of her favorite things to do is run through a flooded rice field after harvest.

The one benefit of quarantine and working from home, is that it has allowed me to spend much more time training and bonding with Phoebe. She is currently only 9 months old and still has a lot to learn, but she is quickly becoming a great field dog. We are both looking forward to spending more time in rice country this Spring as I do field visits for our various habitat programs.

Luke Matthews is the Wildlife Programs Manager for the California Rice Commission