Sometimes, no matter what you do, dogs are going to do dog things (thanks to Kerri Gebler for that phrase). This knucklehead, FlyBoy Ace's Bullseye (Shack), decided to go on a walkabout one afternoon last week. When time is short and the dogs need some exercise, I'll let them all out, and I'll take off on the Kawasaki Mule. As a group, they'll follow me and pass me as we circumnavigate the pasture- about a 1 mile run. They get to stretch their legs and get a little aerobic exercise, and I get to watch them and do a little appraisal. This time, when I pulled in to the barn, Ruby and Cap were already there, in the big water trough cooling off, and Pearl and Blue followed them into the trough. Shack was still out there, but I wasn't concerned. Sometimes, the males are a little bolder and will range a little farther afield, but they will show up within a few minutes hot and thirsty.
Shack on a Sharptail in South Dakota
One minute stretched to five then twenty. I drove the pasture, calling and whistling with my hunting whistle. I checked for tracks down by the creek and found one of his as he hit the bridge crossing to the South side (away from the house). I checked the sun, and figured I had about 2-3 hours of daylight left, and then checked the overnight lows (40 deg.). I grabbed my boots, whistle, and GPS and headed for the large tract of land behind the house, hoping he was still on my part of it. Just as the sun was setting, I called my wife to pick me up as I emerged from the other side of the tract onto a dirt road. By that point, the temperature was dropping rapidly and the wind was picking up, . From experience, I know a healthy dog can survive much lower temperatures and much higher winds, as long as they can find a place out of the wind. Shack was no rookie bird dog, at 5 years old, he'd hunted all over the U.S.. And, while he'd never been "turned around" this long before, I was confident he could find some cover and hunker down for the night. I would resume the search in the morning. In the back of my head, I figured he'd end up straggling into the barn in the middle of the night, worn out and hungry.
Ruby, me, Shack on Prairie Chickens in Nebraska
As an afterthought, I posted on our local Lost/Found county Facebook page, that he was missing, the area I last saw him, date, time and a picture. Also, the info that my name and numbers were on his collar, he was micro chipped, and he needed medication. Then, I went to bed. Just as I was drifting off, my wife nudged me and said, "You should check FB one last time. You never know who may have seen him." I opened the page, and there must have been 20 comments tracking the bonehead as people saw him running along the roads around the county! One guy said, "I knew he wasn't a stray. He looked too fit and sure was pretty. I figured he was one of my neighbor's dogs." Another lady wrote, "I wish I'd seen this 5 minutes ago! I just saw him in the parking lot of New Hope Church!" That post was about 10 minutes old. New Hope Church was about 5 miles from me on roads that went every different direction, except direct. I jumped out of bed grabbed some pants, shoes, shirt and jacket, cranked up the Beast and tore down the driveway. I made it to New Hope Church faster than I care to put in print, pulled into the parking lot, got out and started calling....nothing. I slowly turned, using my headlights as I scanned the graveyard and surrounding pasture. My phone rang, and it was a guy who said he saw Shack on the road about a half mile from the church. "On my way", I said..."Thanks, neighbor!" As I pulled to the side of the road, he came out around one of the old houses and looked at the truck. "C'mere, boy! It's good to see you!" That knotheaded Brit came in the driver's side and just curled up in my lap. All 50 pounds of him was on me- and he would not move. He was absolutely scared to death, and mighty glad to be with me. I guess I was a little glad to see him, too. Dogs doing dog things!