Tales From My Father: Put That Back!

It's nigh impossible to go on a hunting trip without coming back with a few yarns to spin, and another of my favorites involves my dad and his now (long retired) Golden Retriever, Chelsea.

Chelsea (who's pictured above) is 13 now, and well past her best days afield. But in her day she could be an uncharacteristically nasty Golden when she was in the field—none of my dad's hunting buddies could bring their own dogs on a hunt if she was going to be there. She'd even run off my uncle's 110 pound black Lab. Nowadays about the only thing she gets amped up for is a sandwich, but this story takes place right in the middle of her prime.

My dad, a few of his buddies and Chelsea were working a field, trying to knock down a few snow geese. Toward the end of the hunt someone winged one, and it drifted for a bit before crashing down inside some taller grass on the outskirts of the nearby woods. Intending to retrieve the bird and then call it a day, my dad climbed out of the pit, sent Chelsea after the goose and leisurely followed.

Chelsea dove right into the grass after the bird, and took a bit longer (and caused more of a ruckus) than my dad had anticipated. At first he assumed the goose was still alive and that there'd been a tussle.

Well, he was right about the tussle. Just not about who the fight had been between. After a few minutes Chelsea came bursting out of the reeds, happy as could be. In her mouth? An adult groundhog, alive and very, very unhappy.

Dad was dumbfounded, and "Put that back!" was about all he could manage to get out. In return he got a confused stare from Chelsea, who begrudgingly tossed the rodent aside before heading back into the woods to look for the missing goose.

The groundhog, meanwhile, took off like an Olympic sprinter. No one ever saw him nosing around the edge of the field again.

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