Collapsable Canines

By Beacon Staff

I’ve got a couple of pooped dogs here.

This is a good thing. Dogs with energy to burn are prone to trouble. That’s doubly the case when one of those dogs still acts more like a puppy than a full-grown adult, despite what her papers say about her birth date. Doll may be pushing 4, but you’d hardly know it some times.

Like the time she broke the pickets out of an otherwise secure backyard gate to go on a neighborhood romp. The call from the nice lady who lives down the block came just as I was entering Missoula city limits. The neighbor has a problem canine of her own so she knew what to do. When I got home that night I found Doll on a loaner lead secure in the backyard.

My older setter, Jack, has slowed considerably as he approaches 10. He acts like a tired dog most of the time, at least until I start loading the rig for a hunting trip. He still hops into the back of my SUV on his own, though I’ve learned to stand nearby and catch his back end in case he doesn’t quite have the elevation to get over the bumper. I suspect in another season or two I’ll be lifting him into his kennel.

Once out in the field Jack almost looks young again. He runs all day, though he stays much closer now. When he was young Jack was a wide ranging setter. That’s not the worst of traits in a bird dog, as long as the dog holds steady on point. There have been plenty of times I’ve covered 100 yards or more and Jack didn’t beat an eyelash until I’d moved into position and flushed the birds. However, I never bothered training him to hold until released. That kind of discipline was a little too “Full Metal Jacket” for my tastes.

The country Old Jack misses still gets covered now that Doll has joined the party. She ranges almost as wide as Young Jack once did. Between the two I think we’re covering more ground.

Doll is a sweetheart, but the verdict’s still out on her bird dog skills. She seems to have a decent nose, and loves to fetch. But she’s prone to pushing birds too hard and flushing them instead of pointing. Her tendencies in this regard may be beyond my skills as a trainer to correct. Considering my “skills” involve training one dog, Jack, who locked up in a solid point the first time he got scent of a game bird, and hasn’t screwed up since, I admit my skills are limited. I may have to find a trainer with a little Gunnery Sergeant in him to get Doll on track.

The dogs and I went looking for Huns and chukar on the barren slopes of a bench just outside town. The joke is that the country looks more like Pakistan than western Wyoming, but maybe that’s fitting as chukar are Middle Eastern natives celebrated as the national bird of Pakistan. The other night “Lawrence of Arabia” was on cable and those breaks on the edge of the bench remind me of the country in that film, minus the sand dunes, camels and warring Bedouin.

We’d seen chukar here before, but of course that was on a day when I wasn’t carrying my shotgun. This day, with loaded 12 gauge in hand, we didn’t see a bird. We did find tracks in the soft sand of a Jeep trail, but the dogs never seemed even mildly interested.

We also saw a handful of mule deer, including a nice buck that would have been a fine prize for a dude carrying a rifle and a deer tag. That wasn’t me and I just watched as the deer stotted off through the sage brush.

Our loop took us down off the bench nearly to the valley floor, and then back up again. I was dragging as we reached the rim, but the dogs looked like they could go all day. That was until we got back to the house and they reached their beds.

They haven’t moved since.

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