If the dogs had opposable thumbs and a driver's license, I would be obsolete.
Before the season started, I worried that I didn't have enough dogs to spread the load on shoot days. I didn't take extra work on other shoots, which I do most years, because I though I would be under-dogged. However, Molly has recovered so well from her knee surgery, she's been able to do a full day's work picking up birds. And she's a pleasure to work.
And I'm very pretty...
Gertie is only a year old, but she's been out in the field a few times this month. It was just to give her some experience, but Gertie impressed me with her confidence and desire to please. She's always looking at me, waiting for the next command-
The old dogs, Podge and Pip, have been out picking up too. They are past the training stage, and well into the "I know what I'm doing. You just worry about driving and making our dinner, mum." stage. Field trialers (those who train working dogs to compete at a very high standard on simulated game days) claim that after around 6 years, a field trial dog is often retired as it knows its job so well, it stops taking directions from its handler.
What is a drawback in a trialing dog is a blessing in a working dog. Pip and Podge know from experience when a bird is wounded, or where it will be likely to hide. Each has followed enough blood trails to recognise the scent, and remembered pulling birds from the security of thick brush, fallen trees, or even rabbit holes, so that's where they look. They mark falling birds, accurately estimating the distance they need to go before trying to pick up the bird's scent.
They also know they are not as quick as the younger dogs, so each has come up with a solution: Get a head start on your competition -
I'm certainly not going to tell them off for doing their job -
They never complain about my driving or cooking.