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All I want for Christmas is my two front canines. Or is it?

All I want for Christmas is my two front canines. Or is it?

Dogs are incredible, talented, mystifying animals. They dazzle us in the field, amuse us with their antics at home, and remind us what loyalty and honor really are.

But they can’t write their own Christmas list, so we have to help them. What does your dog want from you, from the world, from his packmates? How would he tell you – what words would he use to share his innermost wants and wishes?

Yes, a new chew toy and basket of dead birds would probably be high on his list. But what about something deeper, more abstract? Does he want what we want (peace on earth, goodwill to all dogs)? Are some of his priorities on a different plane?

I look at my guys, currently dozing, and wonder what runs through their doggy minds. They see a brightly-lit tree, gaudily-wrapped gifts, and know something’s different. But do they understand our motivation? The origins of the Christmas story? Our joy at sharing time with friends and family?

If he had an opposable thumb, what would your dog write on his Christmas list?

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What gift: skunked!

Oh well.

Add that place to the “naughty” list!  Sometimes, the best outcome on a pioneering hunting trip is to finally cross a spot off your list. You know the one: it’s been bugging you for years, tempting you with its siren song of lush habitat. That’s what happened yesterday.

Beautiful weather brought out a crowd, relatively speaking, of steelheaders, shivering  waist-deep while casting hopefully to the nervous water. In one draw there was even another truck with a dog box parked along the riverside road. But not a shot was fired.

No sign, no tracks. Not a feather or call. Simply glorious surroundings, bluebird weather and the chance for both dogs to get a pre-Christmas romp among the sage and lava rock.

No crash-landings among the boulders. Both dogs unscathed by barbed wire fences. A golden eagle peering from a cliff as we hunted past. That might be enough of a gift on the day before the day before Christmas.

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With Christmas breathing down our necks, have you ever considered the real gifts we receive? There’s the goodies, rich food and tchotkes that decorate our lives, clutter our mantels and boast our material wealth.

Sometimes, it's places like this.

But what have you learned, experienced, and remembered? I mean really, truly, deep-down indelibly etched in your mind as a result of this season’s experience? What is under your (figurative) Christmas tree?

Did your dog gift you with a solid pin-down on a brace of ringnecks, that you turned into a picture-perfect double brought to bag? Maybe it was your puppy’s first find, a ground-level ornament of trembling point and stumbling retrieve. You may have found a new hunting companion of the human variety – who understands what’s really important in life. How’d that sugar-plum of a new shotgun perform?

Other times, it's who you share them with

I may be a slow learner, but over time I’ve concluded that birds, dog work, and beautiful places are just part of the equation. They may be bright, shiny adornments hanging on the tree, but when all is said and done, much of the joy and satisfaction comes from the people with whom we share our experiences. Even hunting alone, I often long for the camaraderie of others après hunt: to relive the high points, seek counsel on technique or strategy, or simply to remind me that when all is said and done, we are members of the same tribe.

You? What’s under your Christmas tree?

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