It was nice seeing a dog from the sporting group win best of show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in February. The winner this year was a German shorthaired pointer named C.J., a liver-and-white dog that comes from good stock. His grandmother won best of show in 2005.
The first pointing dogs I hunted over were GSPs, so I’ve got a soft spot for the breed. On that hunt I wandered around for most of the day with my pal, GSP Man, without finding birds. Then, as all seemed hopeless, the three dogs went on point. I took a photo for GSP Man, and he got teary-eyed when I gave him a print. That was well before I started running my own bird dogs, so at first I didn’t fully grasp why it meant so much to him.
I get it now. The lead dog was mom, and the two younger, but fully grown dogs backing her were her puppies that GSP Man had raised and trained from birth.
German shorthaired pointers are great hunting dogs. They’re known as versatile dogs in that they point and retrieve upland game, but can also be used to retrieve waterfowl and track big game. One time GSP Man called stammering with excitement as he was headed out in the morning to help a friend find an elk. The dude had hit the animal with his broadhead, but as they often do, the elk ran off and the hunter lost track of the blood trail in the fading light.
GSP Man and his dogs were going to join the chase the next day, the dogs hopefully picking up with their noses the trail the hunter had lost.
For the longest time I thought if I were to get a bird dog it would be a German shorthaired pointer. But when I finally pulled the trigger I ended up with an English setter, though that was purely by accident. I was chatting with a friend, a quail hunting guide who raised his own setters to use with clients. He’d had a “oops” litter, didn’t really need the pups, and hoped to get them into good homes.
That’s how I ended up with Jack, and by accident, became a setter man.
They say dogs and their owners end up looking a lot alike. I’m not so sure about that as my ever-expanding waistline makes me look less-and-less like my current setter, Doll, who is built more like a Kenyan marathoner.
But there is research that suggests owners often share personality traits with their dogs. I may not look like Doll, but we are an awful lot alike.
For starters, Doll is a Diva. Everything is drama with that dog, and while I hate to admit it, I probably have a bit of diva in me as well. My fishing buddy, The Professor, tells me that I’m prone to catastrophic thinking, a condition that causes one to ruminate endlessly about worst case scenarios for even the most easily resolved dilemmas.
The personality trait I most share with Doll, however, is our flighty inattention to detail. We’re easily distracted by what my bird-hunting pal, Papa Bill, describes as “shiny objects.” Unless she’s focused on the intensity of hunting, the electrodes in Doll’s brain are constantly shouting, “Squirrel!” I have the same problem, which is one reason I became a journalist. Deadlines, like hunting, are the great distraction filter.
Like me, Doll isn’t too fond of structure either. I let her run long when we hunt, and now that she’s matured I have confidence she’ll hold steady on point until I arrive.
Some folks prefer close working dogs and I suppose that’s just fine for them. But I want a dog who’s always wondering what’s over the next hill. As I see it, that’s the way you’re supposed to approach life.
Rob Breeding writes and teaches when he’s not fishing or hunting.
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