Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I grew up with dogs. My maternal grandfather had English pointers, two old girls that were retired from hunting before I can remember. My mom had a German shorthair before I was born that fell victim to a rattlesnake. By the time I came along, the folks had a short hair dachshund who cleaned beneath the high chair and taught me not to mess with the dog, at least much. We later added a sweet mutt of indeterminable origin. By the time I was in junior high, the previous dogs had gone on and we had acquired three more, including a couple of vizslas. The first vizsla we got as an adult; he'd been abandoned by someone and came to us as a burly and wild two-year old. He turned out to be a wizard bird dog with a great nose: capable of pinning of covey of blue quail as he literally slid into a point, dust raising around his feet from the sudden stop. He also ate the birds he picked up for the first couple of seasons. He never got over a hard mouth but we accepted the few extra puncture wounds as the price of doing business and finding more birds. The female was a decent bird dog in her own right, though her nose never matched Red's. She particularly loved to fish in small mountain streams, shuttling back and forth between anglers leapfrogging each other to hit the pools and runs. Every so often she'd wade out next to your fly or bait and look intently in the clear water for fish. Of course, finding none with forty-some pounds of bird dog in the middle of the hole she'd give you a quizzical look as if to question your choice of spot. I'll probably always have an affection for red colored dogs after those years.

During the course of completing my education I had no pets, an odd hiatus in life which extended longer than planned or anticipated. Eventually I moved into a house and initially thought to get a dog (a hunting dog, of course), but talked myself out of it. I figured that it just wouldn't be fair to the dog since I was at work for ten hours or better every day. The cat handles long absences and uses the time constructively to take naps and kill bugs. Meanwhile, I got my dog fix visiting my folks and sister (wirehair vizslas) and annual grouse trips with some friends that run pointers.

Now I've reevaluated that stance. Years go by and I'm not looking at any reduction in work for the next few decades. Any dog living with me will have to put up with some long-ish days alone. On the other hand, it wouldn't be the worst life in the world for a gun dog. Regular walks to stay in some modicum of shape and play weekend warrior for the rest of it. Backpacking, trout fishing the creeks, and road trips to scout hunting areas are all pretty dog friendly. Come fall and winter, I generally make several trips to hunt grouse and then hunt ducks most weekends of the season, which lasts a couple of months. Having a dog to hunt with would likely inspire me to try to find some public-land quail not too far away and maybe work up a couple of dove spots.

So, back this last spring I started seriously thinking about the dog thing. I looked into Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, as a Chessie will be best suited for those sub-freezing duck hunting mornings and still ought to find the mountain grouse. A lab or a hunting golden would also work, but Chessies appeal in looks and general breed characteristics. I was pleased to learn that there is a very well organized and active rescue group for the breed, so I've been talking to those good folks about hunt prospects, ideally in a young adult. There have been a couple of glitches in getting the right dog and travel is likely required, but a hunting partner is in my fairly near future. This fall will be even more interesting than usual.


Chas S. Clifton said...

My second Chessie proved to be a good upland bird dog, capable of rousting pheasants out of thick cover. He preferred to that hunting to sitting in a duck blind, actually.

mdmnm said...

Thanks, Chas, good to know. I've only lost three ducks in the last four years and two of those probably would have escaped a dog. On the other hand, hunting with a dog is about three times more fun that without, in my opinion. I hope to tap your experience for hints on Chessies in the future.

Matt Mullenix said...

Good on you! Keep us in the loop!