December 16, 2004
by Chris Feeney
I never thought I would say this, but my old bird dog is smarter than I thought. Yes this is the same mutt that got banished to the farm and even was pictured in one of the local realty ads as “free to a good home”.
Apparently Penny (yes we named a male dog Penny) read that issue of the newspaper. Either that or he saw the writing on the wall as two new bird dog puppies were introduced to his workplace. With four dogs, and only three pen spaces, apparently he got the message.
Instead of just a simple outing with friends, you would have thought we had entered Penny into the national trials. I’m sure my setter would not have won a national title, but I have to admit it was one of the greatest exhibitions of dog work I’ve ever witnessed.
Penny, who typically is a track star on most hunts, never got started on his usual marathon run. He hunted close to our group all day, never requiring the use of the shock collar to make him re-enter the same area code as his hunters.
But his performance went well beyond good manners. He provided the first point of the morning and continued to follow it up time after time with picture perfect poses.
What was most impressive about that, was the fact that many of his model points were done behind one of the other two dogs. Penny has never been a real patient dog, meaning his honor of another dog’s point never lasted beyond the split second it took his brain to override his instinctual reaction to point his fellow pointer’s bird in sync.
But on Saturday old Penny was as honorable as any dog you’ll ever hunt with. He never once busted a fellow dog’s honors.
Yet it seemed like when he did not make the initial point, Penny felt like he needed to make amends. So he chased down the fallen bird and retrieved directly to his master’s hand. After he awakened from his fainting spell, the dog’s handler accepted the bird from his dog with pride.
As the day wore on, Penny must have realized that he had to go above and beyond this great performance to provide some form of encore.
He got the perfect opportunity when a winged pheasant fell into a small pond as its escape flight was spoiled by one of our crack shooters. I didn’t know pheasants could swim, but this bird attempted to paddle his way to shore with his uninjured wing. He never made it as the submarine, otherwise known as the U.S.S. Penny leapt into the water, and quickly corralled the escaping gamebird. Again he fetched the game to his master, this time displaying somewhat of a grin as the entire group of hunters looked on in amazement.
It’s amazing what a little bit of competition does for your dogs.
My other dog, Duke, who also calls the farm home, decided he needed to prove his value as well. He’s always been the better hunter of the bunch, but after Penny’s performance, he apparently felt the need to answer the challenge.
His show started off in unusual fashion. Duke simply disappeared as we prepared to head to town for lunch. While I headed back to retrieve the truck and pick up the rest of the party, he wandered off, apparently not ready to take a break.
The hunters saw a hen pheasant flush over the hill, but assumed Duke would return when it was time to load up.
Forty-five minutes later and three passes across the CRP and Duke was finally discovered. We immediately took back all of the cussing and complaints about the dog when we spotted him. He was sprawled out on the ground and we immediately assumed he was injured. But as we approached him, his nap turned into half a point as his old muscles put on final effort into his work. That’s when the rooster pheasant finally busted and let Duke off the hook. The poor dog had held that bird for nearly an hour, long enough that his legs gave out and caused him to fall over.
With two bird dogs like this, all I need now is to find more birds for them to chase. I’m supposed to guide for some out-of-town hunters this weekend, so we’ll see if this is the new-and-improved dogs, or if it was just a fluke.