Even a poor bird dog is better than no dog at all

I haven’t always had a bird dog, but there hasn’t been a day of my life I haven’t had a dog. I’ve had dogs that seemed to think they were human, but on the flip side, there are times I think I’m more a dog than a person.

I grew up with dogs. I learned to walk by leaning on our obese Norwegian elkhound, and I learned how to care for other living beings by taking care of a succession of huskies during my formative years. That elkhound and a few of those huskies also served as my babysitters on numerous occasions. I think my parents recognized that I wasn’t going to listen to my sister or any other humans who tried to influence me, but I’d do everything in my power to make sure I took care of those dogs. Keeping the dogs safe required that I also stay safe, so it was a brilliant parenting strategy.

The regular dogs we had were wonderful. Well, sure, there were a few dinks in the bunch, but most of them were pretty good dogs. But then I started hunting birds with one of my dad’s friends, and I realized you haven’t known either dogs or hunting until you’ve hunted with good bird dogs.

Pointers and flushers both opened my eyes to a whole new set of possibilities. It’s still a dog, but this dog actually helps you hunt.

As with the regular dogs, some of the bird dogs I’ve had have been better than others. My current bird dog, for instance, is a bird dog in name only. She’ s a black Lab, and she isn’t gun-shy, but that’s where her prowess ends. She’s more interested in sniffing badger holes than tracking pheasants, and when I send her to retrieve a duck, she just looks at it, then looks back at me like, “whoa, there’s a duck here. You gonna’ get it?”

I still take her with me when I go hunting, even though I know it’s an exercise in futility. I end up doing all the dog jobs, and she just tags along for company. But that’s OK. One day I’ll have another good bird dog. For now, I’ll just keep hoping someday she figures out how to be a real Lab.

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