by Kyle Wintersteen - Wednesday, May 25, 2011
It is said that you should never insult a man’s gun or his dog.I think further emphasis ought to be on the dog. Insult a gun in the presence of its owner and he will be mildly offended. Insult his dog and you better be prepared for a roll in the dirt.
Such loyalty, I believe, is merely a reciprocation of our dogs’ allegiance. They’ll do anything to please us (though it helps if there’s a bird in it for them), and as they quest for game we derive the same great enjoyment that’s been experienced since man first partnered with wolf.
It makes no difference whether your affinity is for pointers, setters, spaniels or hounds, or whether you have hunted behind one breed or all of them, the thrill of a dog on game is universal. Rivalries persist between fans of flushers and pointers (hell, even black Lab versus yellow Lab), but rare is it that gundog owners can find no common ground. We understand something about one another. Hunting dogs aren’t just conservation tools to us, but part of our essence—our mental health depends upon them. We probably wouldn’t even hunt without them.
As I write this, a springer spaniel is curled at my feet who provides me more joy than he’ll ever truly understand. It is a pleasure to watch him hunt, but in this era, especially, our dogs are also our companions. Part of the family. A reassuring WOOF in response to bumps in the night.
I love having a dog in the house. There’s nothing so satisfying as waking up eye-to-eye with a tail-wagging bundle of bliss who believes your return to consciousness is cause for great celebration. Not to mention the delightfully sincere greeting a dog provides every day upon your return from work.
I have owned many dogs over the years, some good, some not so good; however, I have found strong points in all of them. Even when they have disappointed me (a phenomenon precipitously linked to the number of witnesses involved), by the time the ride home is over, we are buddies again. When has a quarrel between humans ever found such swift resolution?
I love all dogs. Every breed. Every dog I have ever owned. If they have a flaw to be found, it is in their tragically short lives. I remember the first one I lost, a Gordon setter named Luke who was partaking in his evening meal and simply fell over, abruptly dead of natural causes. It was the first time I ever saw my old man cry. Dad wrapped Luke in a blanket, and we buried him with two spent 12-gauge hulls and a handful of pheasant tails.
Whether owning dogs is worth the pain of losing them is not worthy of discussion. Of course it is. The companionship we get from our animals; the realization they are improving afield and our training methods played a small role; the pride that overwhelms as they trail a running pheasant, bust through ice to retrieve a wounded mallard, hold point while pinning a grouse or howl hauntingly at a treed coon; these are pleasures to be cherished!
It is nearly June, the month “when champions are made,” according to a friend who trains bird dogs for a living. He was referring to field trial dogs, but now is also the perfect time to prepare a pup for its first season. Summer’s oppressive heat has yet to arrive, the cover is just the right height and, if you start now, that young dog who has inspired your irrational optimism will be ready to roll on opening day. It’s a great time to own a dog. Isn’t it always?
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