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Posts Tagged ‘Buddy’

A while back – now, it counts for real.

We are making progress. Manny and Buddy – a team again – are getting steadier by the day. Our past three days:

1. Flanking the whoa table, with Rick Smith’s waist-rope “point of contact,” the guys were attentive and still when the pigeon was fluttered, flapped and waved in front of them. Not too close, but closer than usual. Ditto when brought downwind of a launcher. They stood side-by-side (actually, Buddy gets first position, Manny learns manners).

2. Retrieves are also more than simple fetching drills now. Each honors their bracemate, learning patience and more manners.

3. Next day, the rope was simply draped over their flanks, a tap reinforced the point of contact but no waist wrap. Birds – flap – steady again. And earnest, purposeful “duck search” on dry land for the little guy afterward with a soft-mouthed retrieve after a momentary point upon discovery of the pigeon.

4. Today, no rope, no table. Dogs loose in the yard, I showed the pigeon and they froze. Big waves, major flaps, up-close- and-personal distance. Like statues.

Now, I’ve probably jinxed it.

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The promise of puppyhood ... eight years ago.

Well Buddy, you are officially a “senior dog,” turning eight years old today. You are slowing a bit in your step … especially after our long runs. Mornings are less friendly, joints stiffer. For us both. As I finish my first coffee with you alongside, I see us both limber up, ready for the day.

I envy your ability to curl up and hibernate for hours, checking on me periodically through a single half-opened eyelid. But I envy so many things about you: your tolerance of my training goofs, the stoic mid-distance stare that asks questions of everyone and everything … and especially your patience with your grand-nephew Manny. I think he’s responsible for most of the scars, scratches and scrapes you’ve endured the past two years!

Buddy, you deserved to be a NAVHDA Utility Dog, and I’m sorry we never got to that test. You have all it takes, raw natural ability and the discipline. Through Manny, you will receive your due.

As you age the contrast between you and your nephew becomes an open book. You: methodical and disciplined, thorough and always ready to comply. You are a four-legged Boy Scout. Him: wild-eyed and coming-off-the-rails sometimes, earnest and eager the next moment. He is the young Marlon Brando without a motorcycle. I have come to appreciate those differences, each of you in turn bringing to the fore what I love most about the other.

When you circle twice then lie down, sighing, I know you are at peace, at least for a while. Still vigilant, guardian of our household, and steadfast companion to your humans and your nephew while you rest mind and body. It is a well-deserved rest.

I promise to give you longer breaks between hunts as your nephew grows stronger, but I also promise to let you roam the fields questing for the sweet scent of birds as long as you are able. When you are ready to rest, Manny will spell you. But he will never replace you in the hearts of me and the friends who have hunted with us.

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"Dogging it" after an especially long workout in Manny's younger days.

Funny, you think you’re doing pretty well in the fitness department, then with a jolt, you’re reminded that you’re not as buff as you thought.

Nope, not me. I know I’ve got a long way to go before my pants are loose and knees less stressed from that extra weight. Let’s just get that out of the way once and for all.

But it’s also Buddy and Manny. They are magnificent, mystical hunting machines, fine-tuned for their purpose. But my wife remarked today at how Buddy is looking slimmer – and (slow on the uptake) I noticed it too. You know how it is, when you’ve lost a belt-hole’s worth of weight … everyone compliments you. Left unsaid is that it was noticeable, i.e., they discerned a difference between your heavy persona and your (temporal, usually) less-heavy version. (My wife is jealous of how easily I can lose weight until I remind her that I usually find it again.)

It made me think: all these months of running one dog, then the other to avoid confrontation halved the length of each dog’s workout. Yesterday’s long romp among the rimrock and bunchgrass drove home that point. Manny’s tongue was dragging, and Buddy was walking alongside me for the last half mile or so. Me, well, if I could walk alongside myself I would … and my tongue was at least figuratively dragging along with my feet in the volcanic dust we call soil here in the high desert.

We could all use more of those kind of workouts. For next hunting season, but also for the simple, 30-minute bit of fieldwork Manny will have as part of his Utility Test this fall. Adrenaline, stimulus overload and his handler’s stress will amp up his average speed and a little bit extra in the tank will serve him well.

Thankfully, daylight saving time is here (have you re-set your clocks?). Longer days mean longer workouts … and we aim to take advantage of them.

How about you? What gets you – and your dog – in shape?

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Yep, plenty of Real Bird Bumpers are ready for Manny's UT training.

“Pottering” is an old-time word describing someone messing about with their plants, re-potting, and other garden-shed er, potting shed-related tasks. It was not all work; as Merry Olde England (where the hobby reached its apex) was chock-a-block with humdrum chores that morphed into hobbies (poor buggers – where else would pinning insects into picture frames be ‘fun?”)

My pottering was in the right place (our garden shed) but had nothing to do with plants – unless “planted birds” qualifies.  That humble structure has been transformed into my dog-training headquarters. And with Manny’s date with a NAVHDA Utility Test looming, it was time to get my gear together, ready for an intense spring and summer.

Don’t you have your own version? Varying with the season, it might be reloading, or gun cleaning. It could be poring over catalogs or helping in your club booth at a sportsmen’s show.  It might be exactly what I was doing – messing with gear that might –  or at least you think it might – help your dog excel next season in the field or at a test or trial.

The seemingly mundane task was full of bright spots, starting with Manny’s peaceably sharing the yard with his mentor Buddy without one whit of dominance behavior or aggressive posturing. (Many of you know that’s been an issue since the pup got huskier than his great-uncle.)

When not over my shoulder, my new Jaeger leads have their own hooks in the shed too.

The balky #2 bird launcher needed nothing but a new battery. A little gun oil on moving parts, and both were poised to help teach steady to wing-shot-fall. A few test launches on both dogs proved their functionality. New tie-outs installed along the fence near the training table. Bumpers and dummies arrayed on the shelf that formerly harbored terracotta and trowels. My go-to steadiness tool, the balsa-wood windup airplane, flew straight and true after a quick adjustment to the tail.

The Garmin Astro 320 is now handy instead of buried under hunting gear, my Tri-Tronics collar chargers are plugged in constantly and in a place where I’ll actually use them daily.

I found the training shotgun, sling and blank ammo, and they too performed to expectation with a couple pops for the doggies … who stood straight and true alongside each other … which might have been the best part of the whole day.

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The whole crowd ... Trent probably hit this one!

We came to honor Duke, a young shorthair we’d hunted with years ago in Montana. Duke impressed me with his metamorphosis over one day’s hunt: from new kid in the kennel, insecure and unsure of whom to work, for to a confident young dog.

Duke’s distant cousins hunted with us today, Gabby and Cricket coursing the deep grass and heavy cover that makes Pheasant Bonanza such an awesome hunting destination. Thanks to Frosty our guide, and Trent Leichleitner the manager at this beautiful spot. Yes, Nebraska is scenic, rolling hills and hardwood bottoms full of fall colors.

The shooting, thanks to Trent was spot-on. He was kind enough to give me partial credit on  pheasants that obviously fell to his shot string. Beyond that, highlights included Buddy’s points and a couple pretty good retrieves, and Manny, after two days of skunking finally found a ringneck and made a solid point. A track and a flush, and … yours truly got a few pellets into a bird that flew into standing corn. Risky, but I sent him for the retrieve and got it. Ditto for another nice point, which Trent and I both dropped inside 20 yards … and another nice retrieve. I didn’t want to, but when Manny appropriated the head, I didn’t argue. Would you?

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