Friday, May 14, 2010


I've been without a bird dog for over a year now.  Doesn't seem like that long but nothing ever does when you're looking in the rear-view. Never thought I'd be this long without one, and I can assure you this isn't going to turn into one of those "as much as I hated it, it turned out for the best" posts.  It's been about as bad as I thought it would be.  I know, I know, cry me a river and build a bridge and get over it.

There's still a dog around the house and he's of a bird dog breed and all, but he's no bird dog.  The only flying things that interest him are butterflies and grasshoppers.  Needless to say he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  Not to discount his presence, though, which has been a godsend over the last fourteen months. I don't need any New England Journal of Medicine study to tell me that scratching a dog's head is good therapy.

As any parent, businessman or politician will tell you, once you're given something the consequences of taking it away are oppressive.  After a decade and a half it sort of becomes an established part of you, both expected and taken for granted that in some form or another it will always be there.  Remove it and you might as well be a hillbilly with a broken still, a Canadian during an NHL players strike, or my wife without access to Facebook.  Wars have been waged over such misfortunes.

The upside to being an inquisitive person is that there's knowledge to be had everywhere, hiding in plain sight if you keep your eyes, ears and mind open.  One of the nuggets harvested over the last few years is that as you get older, changes in life brought about entirely by your choice result in other changes over which you have exactly no say whatsoever.  Kids seem like a great idea before you have them, problem is that nobody has figured out a really good way to let you know in advance how much time, money, and mental stability they consume.  Lacking this preview you get temporarily blinded by potential bliss only to see something resembling a Pollock when your vision returns.

A second parcel of wisdom is that just because you can do something doesn't necessarily mean you should.  As King of the House, I could have exercised power over my domain and brought home another bird dog last summer.  And I could have watched that dog run off because someone forgot to put the electric fence collar on him.  And I could have sweated as my already thin bank account dwindled further under the weight of dog food, vet bills, replacement shoes, furniture, etc.  And I could have watched his antics reduce my spouse to a drooling cucumber, sitting in a corner rocking in the fetal position.  Yes, it's not just about me any more.

Strangely, time seems to have a way of resolving nearly everything.   The tide of inconveniences that conspired against a new dog last summer is slowly receding and while a puppy still might not be such a good idea, I'm warming to the idea of a 2-3 year old, well-trained or at least well-started dog.  Slightly less spastic and unruly, ready to hunt this fall, house-trained if I'm lucky.  Maybe when my butterfly chaser goes it'll be time to put a puppy in the rotation.  And there's the matter of finding a few new places to hunt seeing as several of my old coverts have gone the way of neglect or subdivision or foreclosure.  Gotta look into some new gear, too.   If I look far enough out there, I think I see the sun rising.


  1. Mark - i'm not sure how to live without bird dogs in my life. But I do know where there a couple of well-bred, fully trained setters. They are the real deal and the owner is looking to place them because he is running out of kennel space.

    Lemme know if interested.

    Yours in sympathy...


  2. Thanks for the offer Mike. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Brittany guy, though. Maurice is pretty dialed in to that community in this part of the country and has offered to help me locate one when the time comes. Things are lining up for later this summer, so we'll see before too long.

    If you'd asked me even two years ago if I would ever be without a bird dog I'd have thought you were crazy, but life gets more complex with every year you put in the books. Fortunately the wisdom to deal with it usually comes as a bonus.

  3. Nice post, Mark. After I had to have my first chessie put down, I was in the same level of purgatory. I swore I wouldn't have another dog, too much pain. I even went through a season trying to hunt without one, but I discovered I was just going through the motions, everything I did and felt was hollow.

    I still had my beloved little pointer at this time, and she helped me through it, but of course I couldn't duck hunt with her. So I got another chessie pup, and then two years later my little pointer's pancreas began to fail and she was gone within a couple months.

    After that I said no more pointing dogs, and I held true to that for four years, but then that voice started whispering in my ear again and here I am, getting another pointing dog.

    I've pretty much been a raging failure at that "no more dogs" vow, and after my young male Lewey died a few months ago I briefly wrestled with the question and the vow again, even considered not getting the setter pup (I had actually planned on getting one before he died).

    Dogs are a helluva mystifying thing, aren't they?

    BTW, I adore Britts, and if I could have found a nice local litter I would have had hell trying to choose between that and a setter...