Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Some pretty good dogs I have known. By Scott Linden (Guest)


Some pretty good dogs I have known


By Scott Linden


I am the luckiest guy on the planet. I get to hang around bird dogs. Some are mutts, others are refined canines of the highest order, with pedigrees boasting an alphabet’s-worth of capital letters.


Some have entrenched themselves in my memory, become the stuff of campfire stories or inspire subtle smiles during business meetings. I’ll bet you have sigh-inducing recollections of dogs that shared a field with you. Maybe they’re like mine …


Missy was a mutt, half Lab, half Brittany. A pint-sized bundle, she never ran fast or far. But her tiny body contained a gigantic heart. The quail covers we hunted were peppered with blackberry thickets, and the flushing half of her DNA would propel her to their darkest, prickliest corners. She would emerge, ears bloodied, just long enough to retrieve quail we’d shot. Her owner still carries her memories on every hunt and so do I.



Scratch the shorthair is a walking (okay, running) miracle. You would never guess one front leg had been crushed and skinned by a jeep wheel. He pants and slobbers through quail covers at fever pace, outward evidence of his demonic obsession with birds. Owner Nancy Anisfield deserves a medal for channeling it. Considerable effort with numerous setbacks finally resulted in this inspiring dog earning a Versatile Champion title at the recent NAVHDA Invitational. 


Duke, also a shorthair, is an introvert. A mid-season replacement at a Montana hunting lodge, he gazed right through me when we met, searching for – what? – universal truth? The meaning of life? His thousand-yard stare drew me like a magnet, finally intrigued enough that I asked if we could hunt him the next day.



He wasn’t “finished” by any means, but he employed every skill, all his natural abilities, all the tools he’d learned in his short life toward serving us. He found birds. Pointed. Okay, he flushed some. He retrieved, even honored another dog’s point, sort of. All with a workmanlike style (if you could call it that) I would love to see in my employees. He’d shown us everything a young dog should, in bits and pieces, dribs and drabs, ultimately defining whatever word is the opposite of “flash.” Poise?


Someone shouted “point” and two TV cameras, two shooters and a guide scrambled toward Duke’s trembling form. Bird up! Bang! Bird rolling downhill, and Duke watching, staunch. “Fetch” shouted by his excited new owner, and soon the bird was delivered softly to hand. Cool, calm, unfazed. If he could talk, he’d have said “all in a day’s work.”



Baron is a Deutsch Drahthaar, and his noble demeanor reflects both his name and Teutonic heritage. He methodically works the wind, moving with a minimum of wasted effort toward his ultimate goal – a bird in the air. When I want to know we’ve covered a field from corner stake to corner stake, I ask for Baron. Being German, he would probably show up on time, too. At home he will survey his domain from a porch bench – you’d think. But he’s really watching out for his human while she gardens, intently scanning the horizon for danger. Or birds. 



Harry’s coat was black as coal on a moonless night, the young cocker’s eyes shone like the only two stars in the galaxy. His unbridled joy at hunting infected all of us, and enchanted the 16-year-old we had invited for her first hunt. 



He is the protons and neutrons of a highly-charge atom, orbiting a nucleus of even more energy. He vibrated. Stub tail a blur, he would wriggle under palmetto branches to put birds in the air, then retrieve with an ecstatic yip, launching himself into his handler’s outstretched arms to thank him for being allowed to GO HUNTING. 


Just 35 pounds of over-caffeinated elegance, a little setter in California would slam into the scent cone as if it were a brick wall, quivering until a shot was loosed. She would never be a trial dog, streaking away at the flush. But she was as earnest as any I’ve met, concentrated dog-ness bursting from her tiny body. Even her “drive-by” retrieve manifested the extra measure of hunt in her; she barely slowed while dropping the bird at her handler’s feet. At the end of the day, she slept the sleep of the righteous – knowing that no dog could give more than she had.


You have your own list, misty recollections of long-gone dogs. Go ahead, take a moment and look back on them. I’ll wait.


Dog memories make long hot days of summer go faster. Misty at first, becoming more clear as leaves turn russet and gold. There might be a genetic connection to your current dog, or that pup you’ve been eyeballing. You might be reminded of a long-lost hunting buddy. Whatever the link, it is often sweet, sometimes bitter, but always worth another look.



Randy:  I've known Scott for many years.  Initially, only by his media and online presence, but that changed one rainy day in Idaho.  I heard he was at a sports store in Boise, doing a whatever it is he does.  I was tired of slogging through mud and the dogs needed a rest, as well.  I drove to Boise, went to the store, and introduced myself.  We had a long chat and connected as bird dog friends with a promise to hunt one day.  So far, we haven't made that happen.   I think mainly because trying to get a retired, traveling bird hunter together with a famous author, blogger, and TV personality is much harder than it would seem. I've been on his podcast twice and we chat every year to catch up.  One day, I'll trap him and we will have a day or so together that we can lie about.  Until then, I stay up to date by connecting to his amazing BLOG "Scott Linden Outdoors".