Firelight Bird Dogs

Firelight Bird Dogs

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Having Things The Way I Like Them

 By Randy Lawrence

The older I get in wingshooting, the more I Like Things The Way They Are.  That's because, for the most part, I Have Things The Way I Like Them.

I have a favorite hat, shooting glasses and vest.  I like my boots.  I shoot doves from a battered lawn recliner.  The dogs that hunt for me, I trained myself.  I know their faults and foibles because they mirror my own.  And for many years, what I knew I didn't want was a new shotgun.  I was comfortable missin' 'em close with the short stable of good birdguns already on hand.

Then came The Lockdown and too much time to think...and I started grieving the various 28-gauges I have owned in the past.  I regretted parting with a 5 and 1/2 lb. Grulla that Bill Hanus swore would be the firearm I'd choose to put in my casket for the Afterlife.  I mourned the too long, too heavy SKB 28 that I hauled around in a saddle scabbard for almost a decade, hunting and training dogs from horseback. 

My brother is fond of saying, "'Need' is the language's weakest word," suspicious as he is of virtually anything that smacks of "f-u-n."  But that's my brother - the sensible one.  I "needed" a 28-gauge because I wanted one;  not just ANY one, but 28" barrels fronting a straight hand stock, built on an actual 28 gauge frame...just like the one I stumbled across on one night during a bout of insomnia-fueled web surfing.

There it was:  a sleek, purpose-built Rizzini box lock over-under, 28" barrels, good stock architecture with a schnabel* forend, slight perch belly to the butt and, glory of glories, double triggers!  

"Boy howdy!" I cried, or something to that effect to the various dogs arrayed where I could trip over them in my sleepless perambulations.

I plunged into research about Rizzini guns and was quickly reminded that there are various brothers, nephews, cousins, etc. putting their surname to Italian firearms.  Add to this one of the Rizzinis being married to a Fausti, and stuff gets really confusing.

This particular gun was being sold under the F.A.I.R. style:  Fabrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini.  I had handled enough of the company's side-by's manufactured there in Northern Italy's Val Trompia, ancient home of Spaghetti Gun Making, that I trusted this "Isi Rizzi" O/U to be of  quality.  

Then stuff got serious.  

The fences were sculpted, there was a cut-away design to the top-lever's thumb, and the sides of the receivers were computer etched with Bobwhite Quail in flight on one side and a Gambel's Quail strutting on the other.  Ho hum...til the photo came up of the action's underside...and the beautiful Woodcock there was hand cut, the work signed, and the darned image actually LOOKED like an honest-to-Labrador Twister woodcock!

That matters to me.  I loathed that the SKB 28 I shot maybe better than any gun I've ever owned had (Heaven forfend!) ditch parrot pheasants in flight on the receiver.  And yes...I shot wild pheasants with that gun, sharptails, too, but doggonit, that was my quail and woodcock and ruffed grouse gun!

"Who cares?," any sensible person would ask.  I wouldn't raise my hand on that query where anyone could see it, but not very deep inside, I care very much.  The art is part of the deal.

(PS:  I can overlook the fact that the Woodcock image is of Scolopax rusticola, the barred breasted Eurasian Woodcock.  It was an Italian artisan at the graver after all...) 

I sweated through three auction cycles before I had the money to make a bid on that shotgun.  When I finally took delivery, the bird season was already over, so the little gun has stood empty by my bed where I can fondle it,  throw it to my shoulder, explain its virtues to the dogs, and dry fire on a covey of bobwhites flushing in an old print hanging on my bedroom wall.

Yesterday marked my first chance to shoot the dove patch we keep on the hilltop, three acres of mowed, then disked, sunflower, millet, partridge pea and wheat in the middle of my hayfield that absolutely horrify my no nonsense Amish farmer.  Boots the Labrador and I set up our water jug, chair, and two boxes of Fiocchi cartridges under a tree, and spent the next two and a half hours getting acquainted with the little Rizzini. 

This morning, Lynn Dee Galey texted, "How did you like the new gun?"

Without thinking, I replied, "OK."

That's the truth, actually.  It was "OK" shooting a new gun after any number of years standing pat on the firearms that I've loved, fitted, carried, and shot for thousands of rounds of game and clays, including the Beretta that's due for a refitted hinge pin.

The stock is a bit longer than I like.  The toe needs rounded and turned slightly out.  When that work is being done, I'll have my guy install an ultra thin rubber English pad to replace the plastic one there now.  

Those are details for another time.  For now, when I did my part, the gun felt great between my hands.  I missed some gimmes early, but by the shank end of the afternoon, "Isi Rizzi" and I let the air out of a couple of high fast ones that got the old dog some exercise on deep retrieves.

But doves are a dalliance.  If that little 28 and I do manage to form a new partnership beyond "OK", it'll be in October and November when the woodcock come through and the setter puppy Cool Hand Luke takes reps in front of the shotgun that was originally marked as "his."  

When he does his part, which he will, and if I do mine, I'll accept the retrieve and match the warm, setter-mouthed form to the hand cut one just forward of the trigger guard...and once again, we'll have Things Just The Way I Like Them.

*  Under the heading of "Did You Know?" comes the fact that the word "schnabel"is derived from a German word meaning "beak"?  I, of course, did not know this...

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Fit For A King

Firelight Seth

by Randy Lawrence

The very first one came off the nose of a bouncy Norwegian Elkhound named Britt (for those of a certain Rod Stewart/Britt Ekland vintage, all Elkhounds were "Britt," even though their namesake, sadly, wasn't even Norwegian).  She was hunting for, I don't know, moose ("elg") or rabbits or moles or whatever through a boggy thicket edging a freshly plowed field.  

I would not have even known it was a woodcock except for Aldo Leopold, whom I had stumbled across in a college lit class.  That twitter tweet rise meant Britt had to give it a good rip for about four bounds.  I watched it corkscrew away, then veer back into the thicket about forty yards ahead.

Britt went on about her business. I was marked for life.

American Woodcock (John James Audubon)

When the birddog bug bit me,  Britt was in her dotage, so she never made the mad runs to the Lake States as my friend Lyle and I tried, tried, tried every year to time the trip with the woodcock migration.  What we said we were, were grouse hunters.  We told each other and anyone who would listen that the woodcock were just for training, sort of the AA minor league to get our little string of setters and pointers ready for the Ruffed Grouse Big Leagues.  

But I was lying the whole time.  I loved the grouse, but it was the woodcock I came for then, just as I do today.  

Locals in the Log Cabin Bar and the little gas station sports shops had told us about 100 bird days, of dogs hunting from point to point to point to point.  But we were always in the "Shoulda Been Here Last Week" class, until the two years we weren't. 

Once was just above the banks of a destination trout fishing stream, and the birds were so thick that our young goofy dogs bumped as many as they pointed.  We became almost dizzy trying to mark the flights.  We shot poorly and staggered out of there as if a fever dream had broken over all of us.

The second time, I was alone.  I'd agreed to a week sharing a Wisconsin cabin with three other men and, as much as I liked them personally, we had very little in common in terms of how we wanted to hunt our dogs.  When the chance came to break off and bushwhack back to the truck, the big white and orange pointer and I peeled away to the east...and found a flight of woodcock that kept us busy for several hours.  Moxey was fast and experienced and stylish;  two of those three qualities got swamped in that woodcock tsunami as we battled through the nastiest, gnarliest, leg-cramping, step-over, crawl-under cover we'd ever tackled.  I finally unloaded the gun and focused on getting to where the bell had last gone silent so I could get the bird up and gone.

There had been a fair bit of shooting from the line the rest of the party had taken, and when Moxey and I spilled out into the road, my friends were waiting, still shaking their heads.  The birds were in where they had hunted as well, and we all stared at the numbers on one fellow's lanyard flush counter before loading the dogs up for another covert.

They fascinate me, woodcock.  The whole upside down brain thing.  The eyes with the 360-degree field of vision, sited above the ears,  that ridiculously long probe of a beak with its articulated end.   The plumage that so perfectly blends with the autumn woods floor.  That battering, erratic flight through tattered alder stands.  The savory prospect of woodcock as table fare.

Speaking of which, we're all semi-adults here, right?  Let's agree to honor personal taste and culinary skills on the issue of whether or not woodcock "eat good," as my Appalachian neighbors say.  My thought has always been that if folks don't like to eat them,  they shouldn't shoot this bird that's under so much pressure from the forces of modern life.  

Carry a blank gun on your hip.  Enjoy the dog work.  And if you do chose to swing that good shotgun on a woodcock wraith, err on the side of restraint.


Valery Siurha: "English Setter On Woodcock"

Surely part of the connection between woodcock and me is the so-called Sky Dance, the spring mating rituals that Leopold wrote so evocatively of in his Sand County Almanac.  When finally I returned home from cancer surgery in March of 2018, my first teetery, one-kidney walk on my farm was at dusk out the oil road to see if "my" birds were back yet.  It was cold and wet and I was so lightheaded that I was not certain I could make it to the singing grounds.  But then a brazen roading bird buzzed the Labradors and me not fifteen feet overhead before landing in the gloaming to buzz and strut.   I breathed a clumsy prayer of thanks to Someone Somewhere and decided maybe I was going to be OK after all.

So maybe you'll forgive me when I get a little weird over woodcock.  I bristle at disrespectful diminutives for any gamebird (spare me your phezzes, sharpies, and ruffs).  But what I loathe most are the woodcock tags:  Mudbat.  Timberdoodle.  Bogsucker.  Night Partridge.  Bog Snipe. Bug Eye.  'Doods is a double disservice (surely coined by a man-bunned hipster with a Versatile Pointing Airedale and a cut-down home defense pump gun).  

I blame Burt Spiller for "Lil' Russet Fellers."  "Labrador Twister" is one I can grudgingly admire, though I've never heard it in person.

They are woodcock, dammit, and their long migrations and mysterious comings and goings and their knuckleball, tweetery flushes, the way they drape from the flews of my English setters on a happy retrieve stir me more than any other gamebird save the prairie grouse, both dear to me in large measure because of the places and times they have lifted into my life.

Firelight Bo with a woodcock retrieve (L) and the painting done from that photo. (R)

Twelve years from my first woodcock with Britt, on a working vacation, I was sent with an eager, collie sort of farm dog to fetch cows in for the morning milking.  This was in Devonshire in the south of Great Britain, and when Dugal paused on the brushy edge of a rocky little creek, I wasn't at all prepared for the bird that burst out of the cover.  No Lil Russet Feller, he.  Nossir.  This was 'CockZilla, that nose piece, the snipey wings, the barred breast feathers making the tribal ID easy, kin to the jaw-dropping XXL stuffed woodcock clamped to the wall of our favorite pub down in the village.  At dinner the next evening down at that little bar, I stared at the woodcock the size of our ruffed grouse, and thought of King  George VI, father of the current queen.  His Majesty favored matched pairs of Purdey hammer guns and kept a meticulous shooting diary.  On those many pages, only the woodcock are recorded in royal red ink.   

Cheers to you, Bertie.  Woodcock, great and small, make for red letter days.

 Eurasian Woodcock in Flight

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Pride (In The Name of Love)

by Randy Lawrence

Over the years, my rule of thumb with firearms, vehicles, camera gear, and guitars has always been, "Just past halfway 'tween entry level and Pride."

That works for me.  My shotguns and rifles fit, go bang when they are supposed to, and are never to blame for my inglorious misses.  My trucks get me where I'm going; my camera gear fetches images I cherish.  The guitars?  They are tons better than I can make 'em sound.  But in another arena that matters to me - bird dogs - I have to confess, the mantra doesn't hold.  Regarding gun dogs, the needle is way over toward the pride end.  

That would figure - those other things are tools.  The bird dogs I love most feed my heart.

A word about "pride."  Don't misunderstand me.  My dogs have never been a "look at me" deal, for starters because my four decades'-long list of canine collaborators and I have embarrassed each other in times and places where the last thing we wanted was for someone to even glance in our direction.

The second reason is because, to date, my most beloved brag dogs were all bred by someone else.  Other than being clever enough to stay the heck out of their way, I can claim no credit for them being the kind of performers that almost glow with athletic beauty, tractable brains, and bird sense...other than I did my homework and knew where to place a good bet on getting that special kind of dog.

Not long ago, I stumbled upon this quotation by a noted British poker player named Victoria Mitchell, writing about the pleasurable escape she derives from the natural world.  She writes, "The key to nature's therapy is feeling like a tiny part of it, not a master over it. There's amazing pride in seeing a bee land on a flower you planted - but that's not your act of creation, it's your act of joining in. "

So this sort of "pride" isn't about me, other than I succeeded in learning where to "plant my flower," so to speak, the pride in getting to be part of something much bigger than my own contribution to the dog I'm following.

Bred-in ability to learn that translates into bird sense comes at a premium.  That's because to get it requires generations of thoughtful trial and error breeding that is totally based in time spent afield proving out bloodstock the hunter can enjoy as a companion year 'round.  That kind of commitment, passion, and wild bird hunting background is not common. 

But that's the prospect some of us believe we have to have, the one that pays dividends in developing more quickly and with comparatively fewer chances on wild game.  After all, the returns we're angling for are the ones that matter most to folks like us - that bit about sustenance for the heart mentioned earlier.

My stained hunting vest won't pass muster in polite company.  I can look out my office window and see the rear bumper of my truck is currently held in place by Gorilla Tape.  My favorite boots need resoled, and nobody's going to stop me in the grouse coverts to take a picture of my Italian over-under with the pistol grip sawn off and the comb raised with green molded fiberglass.

But my English setter?  I'd be proud to tell you how special he is.  

Better yet, let's go hunting. You'll see.

Friday, August 20, 2021

"Dif'er'nt Ain't A Bad Thing"

By Randy Lawrence

This really isn't my story to tell.  I just can't help myself.

Firelight Moondance is a friend of mine.  Lynn Dee Galey had marked her as "special" from the whelping box on, so I was thrilled when 'Dance spent some time down here in southern Ohio a year ago, helping me through a hard time during my father's decline, entertaining me with her quirky antics in exchange for some kindergarten bird work experiences we had together.

"Quirky" plays well on this old farm.  In fact, it's almost an entry requirement, starting with the guy whom the horses and donkeys and mules and pigeons and cattle and dogs think works for them.  'Dance fit right in.  

So don't expect me to be unbiased about anything about her, from her pedigree to her name to the somewhat unorthodox way she's gone about coming into her own.

But today Lynn Dee Galey sent me a photo of her youngest in-house Firelight.  Seems they were walking one of the sandy two tracks near their home in Michigan when this happened:

Lynn Dee writes, " Walking up the road, and 'Dance went on point.  Allowed me to walk up, calm and composed, and the grouse flushed.  I didn't want to harass the birds, and I suspect there were chicks somewhere around, so I praised her and picked her up.  But good job, 'Dance; good job." 

Lynn Dee Galey's trademark Vermont Yankee reserve aside, this is pretty small beer in the grand scheme of bird dogs.  My old friend Nelson Groves, the godfather of Southern Ohio grouse hunters, would have snorted and said, "Well o' course she stood there." (To Nelson, dogs didn't point; they "stood there.")  "That's what her ol' mother did, and her daddy did, so that's why I hired her."

But 'Dance is one of those "dif'er'nt" youngsters, with tons of precocity in one instant, and then goofy, almost willfull, adolescence swamping her the next.  Time and the kind of bird exposure that Lynn Dee will provide her, from the High Plains to the Lake States, will tell the tale, but you'd be a fool not to bet that Lynn Dee knew what she was doing when she kept 'Dance from a particularly promising Firelight litter.

Heck.  'Dance has known it all along.  Just ask her (she WILL talk to you).

Me?  I was late to the party.  But she had me at the first time she leapt to do a Suni Lee-worthy backflip and stuck the four-footed landing, all in the name of her conviction that she could indeed get enough air to catch a homing pigeon steaming high overhead en route to the loft.

"That's some weird (stuff)," said I to myself.

Naw.  'Dance is but a tad quirky...which makes her just my kind.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Sgt. Hulka, Andrew Marvell, And Early Setter Training

A week or so ago, a gun dog compatriot forwarded me a very sober, very detailed training description texted by an acquaintance with a (very) young dog.  My buddy is a rather staid, stoic veteran who was startled at the scope of his earnest correspondent's "program" with a puppy.  He presumed a reply was expected, but he confessed, "I'm just not sure what to say."

Me?  Lemme at 'im.  I either wanted to run and rescue that young setter or at least channel my inner Sergeant Hulka from the film Stripes and type to this person,  "Lighten up, Francis."

The two gravest errors we make with well-bred gun dog prospects are (a) not doing anything, (b) doing too much, too soon, and (C) colloquially speaking, bein' clueless about who's learnin' who what.

I get it.  We bought a BIRD dog, not a LhasoShizuDoodle.  We want to do birddoggery stuff - you know, with birds and pointing and gunfire and fetching and and and...

There's time for that.  Trust me.  There's time for that.  

But tempus is fugitting on other really important primary school matters.  How many folks do we see with young gun dogs who start doing field work being dragged to the session by an over-hyped English setter that doesn't know how to walk on a lead?  How many young dogs have gone into their first hunting season without a reliable recall, who don't look to their Person for partnership, let alone leadership?

When novices (and some who should know better) get gulled into asking me what they should be doing with their dog (hehehehe), they are always disappointed, mostly because the "work" I think they should be doing seems so boring:  Crate training.  Walking their dog on a lead.  Helping the dog be a good citizen in unfamiliar surroundings, with other people, with other dogs, cats, llamas, iguanas, etc..  How about reliably coming in when called...the first time?  Bonding, bonding, bonding, which means spending time doin' life together.  Learning together.

I'm stunned at how little time some would-be handlers really want  to spend with their dogs.  It is the human partner's fundamental obligation to understand her dog, which means spending the time and patience and thought it takes to establish that critical piece.  It's on us to understand how our dog sees her world;  it's on us to establish communication that runs both ways, which, frankly, should be the only kind of communication in which we're interested between others of our own species, let alone our dogs.

Every minute we spend with our dogs is a chance to learn something about them and about ourselves.  Our job is to take best advantage of that opportunity.

We do to young gun dogs exactly what our culture has been doing to our young people for years - never asking enough or asking too much too soon.  Only by being invested, by observing and being thoughtful, can we know what it is our learning partner is ready to tackle next.  That's the danger of many school curricula and, dare I say, cookbook dog training books and videos.  Such programs get applied without taking into account the individual.  That way frustration and heartache lie.

Lighten up, Francis.  The great advantage of not being a pro is your time isn't money in this venture.  This is your recreation.  So...DO that:  Re-create yourself as a collaborative learner with your dog, a deal where you learn how he communicates and try to get better at understanding that vernacular.  Learn how he receives communication from you which goes 'way, 'way, 'way beyond our insipid "commands" to every imaginable nuance of body language and vocal tone.  Establish rapport.  Roles.  Expectations.  Accountability.  Respect.  Love.

Live with your dog.  Learn your dog.  Support that dog early and often in walking at heel, accepting confinement, coming when she's called.  Do that with expectations commensurate with the dog's age and experience and opportunities.  There's world enough and time to do birddoggery stuff, Andrew Marvell.  For now, lighten up and learn to learn together.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Off Switch (Too)

by Randy Lawrence

Ever since Lynn Dee hit "publish" on the last blog post, "Breeding The Off Switch," I've been fretting.  I felt as if I wasn't able to express just how rare and difficult it is to produce setter puppies that hunt like speckled demons, but can be civil, in fact, chill at home.  I think I made it clear such qualities were desirable;  I'm not sure I acknowledged just how rare all of that is in the kind of dog I want to hunt.

For my sport, I want a fast, bold dog with fire and verve and courage, one with the conviction to range likely cover as widely as necessary for us to find a bird to kill, one he's pinned, cornered, overawed into sitting tight until I can stagger up alongside and put it to wing.

When my dog's on point, I want to see the same fever in him that I feel right then in me, like he could almost burst into flames so hot is the bird taint on him.  I want him to look so good, so BillBleepingHarndenFoster molten gorgeous that there's always a dilemma of camera shutter vs. trigger.

And if it's the trigger and we get lucky, I want him to streak to the fall, maybe even pounce on it, and bring that bird back high and handsome with the same expression to him that I know I'm wearing.

I've written it before:  We ain't so cool when we get it right.  Not do we make apologies when we party.  He wriggles and wags and acts the fool.  Heck, I've been known to bust a move, too, even now when "bustin' a move" risks an arrhythmic, geriatric white guy bustin' somethin' that might fall apart any minute now anyway.

October Blue Doc

When we move on, it's together.  I trust my dog.  I trust whom I've become to him in all the hours we've spent together since he came home to the farm.  So he goes like thunder, but with the kind of handle that no eCollar or Iron Check Cord Nazi can put on him, the one that has him checking in without coming all the way in en route to another likely stretch of cover.  He swings by because he wants to know where I am because he trusts me, too...

...and that's the handle we were able to forge because he came with that Off Switch.  I wanted him with me because he was easy and smart and beautiful.  I could take him fishing.  He eats dinner with me.  He checks the cows with me and only occasionally gives the barn cats a rip.   He goes into the dog-friendly feed store and cannot stand it until the clerks made a fuss over him.  He's quiet in his crate, he's quiet in the kennel, but best of all, he's quiet at the foot of my bed at night where he and the rest of my misbegotten menagerie keep the Dark Night away so we can all sleep.

Lots of folks can breed a pretty dog.  A number of people can breed a kind, mellow, lovable pet that makes into a bird dog of sorts.  But when Cliff and Lisa Weisse did their homework, looked over dozens of outside studs, then had the courage to outcross to (Heaven Forfend!) a Llewellin named Houdini's Man O' War, they just happened to birth a true paladin in October Blue Doc.  

Houdini's Man O' War

Lynn Dee Galey putting Doc to her superb Firelight females has seemed to enhance those qualities, something I know she does not take for granted.  And me?  I see the Doc/Firelight sons, daughters, and grandpups starting to find their way and...well...I can't help it.  I've still got a move or two left to bust.

Firelight Cool Hand Luke

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Breeding The Off Switch



By Randy Lawrence

It was the kind of text I love to get, a report on a puppy with a bit of October Blue Doc in the pedigree:

"Friendly, affectionate, loves to run in the woods, thought pigeons were terribly exciting but so calm.  Just walked around, and when we sat at the patio table he laid down near us and chilled.  Owner keeps telling me that he has never had a puppy so...composed."

A photo was sent, showing the puppy lounging in his open crate - his crate - watching his folks go about their business.

Only time and chances on wild birds will determine what kind of gun dog this little guy will be, but the gratifying thing to me is that he is already keen to cast and hunt, already fired up about birds, but came equipped with an "Off Switch," that makes him an easy keeper, the kind of dog that his people want to be around in their home life.

Granted, his people are doing a good job.  The pup has a clear sense of Place, not just his crate, but his Place in the family.  They've helped him learn to learn, they've rewarded his sensible behaviors, in fact, catered to them.  In short, they've built on what his Mama and Daddy gave him.

Pointer breeder Robert Wehle marketed his dogs as "genetically trained."  Some of that was, to be honest, marketing.  But what he meant was that he strived to produce puppies with sense and sensibility, in short, the Off Switch we're talking about here.  His expression was, "They know when school is in session."  They know when it's not, as well.

That's not a small thing.  Too many of us settle for bird dog prospects that have but one button:  "On."  Or maybe two:  "On" and "On-er."  They get it honestly, from parents that have so much "game" to them that they can't face it.  They are up and down.  They pace.  They are constantly into things.  They have no sense of place.  

In short, they are a nuisance.  Those are the youngsters that are too often consigned to a kennel where all of that energy just burbles, bubbles, and boils over.  What passes for conscious thought is "Anywhere but here," something that carries over into the field.  

My writer friend John Rogers once said, watching such a dog bouncing off the chain link,  then disappearing over a far field edge, "Aye, but thou hast been too long in kennel pent."

When it's school time, such animals have focus issues, energy issues.  They are distracted by anything and everything.  One such dog we had to work in a big enclosed pole barn, just to get any obedience work done, because every tweety bird that went overhead sent him into paroxysms of nonsense.  He made a grouse dog, of sorts, but never really managed to get "all of his stuff in the same shoe."

"Give me drive in my bird dog," people say.  "You can always take some of that out, but you can't put it in."  Puh-leze.  What good is all of that "drive" when I have to hunt a youngster half a day before she settles into the business of hunting with me rather than pinballing about the woods like a jackal on acid.  If I have a well bred youngster from the best, proven wild bird stock, collected enough to get around in front of me in good country, game contacts will instill all the drive we can use, and more.

October Blue Doc went hard.  He ranged to cover and conditions.  He pushed coverts with a predator's verve and intensity, but in his time with me, he never forgot we were out there working together to put birds up for the gun.  

But Doc had that Off-Switch.  At home, he was a companion farm dog, the one who rode shotgun into the village post office and cadged treats from the nice ladies in the bank drive-through.  He slept through guitar rehearsals and lounged on the porch while I visited with my Amish friends.  He loved affection but never made an issue of it.  He wanted to be where he could see me, but he didn't need to be on top of me to be reassured that he was The Man.

I fear that I write too much about Doc in these blog posts...but I won't apologize.  I feel as if it's OK to brag on him because he wasn't mine.  Cliff and Lisa Weisse bred him, and he was Lisa's hunting dog.  When he came into his retirement with me, Doc had known for a very long time exactly who he was.  From our time together, he knew what he was to me, too.  The puppies blending his blood into those established performance Firelight genes carry themselves in much the same way...and I never get tired of hearing about it.

The Off Switch: October Blue Doc entertaining guests at home.