Bang! And a cloud of feathers, the pellets barely slowed the wing-clipped chukar. It soared over plowed furrows, a creek, and finally bounced into a thicket of willow. Manny was off and running, until he hit the fallow ground where he did a pretty good imitation of a Chinese acrobat: a flawless somersault, ending up on point, dazed and confused but only momentarily.
The pup got his bearings and rocketed for the dead bird’s last known location, still 100 yards away. Like football fans in a luxury box, we watched from the high ridgeline where we’d sort-of shot it following a beautiful point by Buddy and honor by his nephew. Buddy, not one for retrieving when anyone else volunteers, was already hunting again.
Even at a distance we saw the unmistakable pause, pounce and head nod that described a quick re-arranging of bird in mouth for a secure carry – we were assured he’d found the bird.
Manny streaked around the plowed field, taking the longer but more secure route through the sage. Before he knew it, he was delivering the chukar to my hand, a skill not yet perfected in our training regimen. Holding fast to his collar, I gave it back for a moment, letting him savor the smell, taste and feel of the precious bird. As he relished the bonus in his pay envelope with snorts and snuffles, the wheels started turning in my head.
Is there something in the long distance run and 50-yard-line view that helps a pup focus, become a bit more single-minded, and bear down on the work at hand (at paw?).
Retrieving training at home, on the table and in the yard is going fine, but lacks the intensity of yesterday’s performance. Sure, gunfire, other dogs, people and new surroundings pump up the adrenaline level. So does a live bird, rattling out of its sagebrush hidey-hole, kee-kee-ing its way skyward, then silenced by a boom!
But does a young dog find singleness of purpose when he sees a bird glide and land so far away? Does he do the canine equivalent of cartoon workmen who spit on their palms and rub them together before picking up the sledgehammer?