Sunday, 26 January 2014

Doggie (Can) Do

There's only one more week left of this season's pheasant shooting. For the dogs, it means one more week of doing what they love most: hunting birds, flighting birds, and bringing birds back to hand. They're gun dogs and it's in their nature. They have a shared working nature, but boy are their personalities different.

Dulcie is on one end of the spectrum. She wants to go to work every day. A morning walk before a shoot day looks like this -

video

Pip is the other end of that spectrum. On shoot days, Pip works and will happily retrieve everything -- but at her own pace. Pip has the speed and urgency of a pensioner counting out change in a long grocery store queue. Pip finds a bird, and she'll get there when she gets there-


I work the girls as a trio, usually in a "one spaniel and two retrievers" combo. I'm not skilled enough to run four effectively. I cover my deficiency with the excuse that it gives each dog a day off in turn.

The Pip-Dulcie-Quincy combo

Do you know the saying about young boys? One boy is a boy, two boys is half a boy, and three boys is no boy at all. This should apply to working dogs too. Individual personalities mean that some dogs work together, and others distract each other. Quincy and Spud play all day together, and see a shoot day as just a "pheasant finding" extension of their daily games. Ditto Pip and Podge. This is fine as long as birds are eventually brought to hand, and no one even thinks about a game of tug o' war - a venial sin in the shooting field (and one which has happened to all of us).

The Dulcie-Quincy-Spud combo

Podge is currently doing a solo gig in the beating line with Monty, our new apprentice underkeeper. Podge will work for any handler - a rare and appreciated trait in a dog. She knows her job, and will stay with whoever takes her out of the kennel in the morning. 

There is an even more special dog on the shoot. He belongs to one of our favourite clients. Merlin is a black lab with PRA. He lost his sight at a very early age. He's about four now.

Merlin and his companion Jasper

 And he retrieves his owner's shot birds -

video

I love this video for the genuine feelings that both owner and dog reveal in this one small act.

We're all looking forward to the 2014-15 shoot season, and a job for every dog.

7 comments:

  1. You look so fabulous in your shooting garb!

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    1. Me - it's all Mike's cast-off clothes, but they do the job of keeping the rain out.

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  2. Now I know that I have no business owning a spaniel. Just watching that video of Dulcie was exhausting.

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    1. Seester - I'm still 'Team Lab' when you and Remy decide it's time for a dog. Labs like sleep and TV as much as walks.

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  3. Beautiful, beautiful dogs! We are in England for 6 weeks and I have new appreciation for how wet your winter has been-the mud is incredible! We've been on several walks and it's tough going. Have you had more hoof problems? Every time I see sheep I can't help thinking "foot rot/scald". Once a shepherd always a shepherd, I guess

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    1. Pam - You have been unlucky with the wet on your visit. It is making life difficult for us outdoor-types!

      As you say animal feet don't like this weather either. Kitty has to come into her stable at regular intervals to dry them out on clean straw. The sheep are doing remarkably well - though now that I have put that in print, I expect to find at least six lame sheep this evening!

      I hope you're enjoying your visit despite of our wet welcome.

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  4. You just gave me several more reasons to love Pip. All your creatures are marvelous but I have a special fondness for those eyes. Well, also for Dulcie. And Quince. And Dr. Kitty, of course. And, and, and...

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