by Randy Lawrence
The meme cut to the heart of it all: “God, please make me half the person my dog thinks I am.”
Certainly, isn’t that the humbling thing about being owned by a dog, one of the reasons our prehistoric ancestors invited them in to the fire in the first place? We can trip, stumble, fall, and sprawl in every other aspect of our lives…but come home to our dog, and we can be reminded that we are at least not beyond possible redemption.
So what can we possibly give back for that level of acceptance, of loyal faith? Surely the creature comforts are the minimum. When we bring home a puppy, we are making the promise of warm, dry, clean lodging, fresh water, ample food. But it’s the next level commitment that makes all the difference: a place in our lives.
By that, we mean safely, intelligently integrating our dogs into our busy schedules, our quality time. Some of the most effective, and surely most rewarding, gun dog partnerships are forged away from the field – in our homes, our yards, our vehicles, our day to day lives.
The kind of full partnership I would wish for our dogs is an everyday thing, shaping a gun dog by molding a living room dog. Child dog. Golf cart dog. TV time dog. Leash dog. Vehicle dog. Stupid Pet Tricks Dog. Dining companion dog. Paddleboard dog. Bedtime dog. A dog that doesn’t bull its way ahead of us through a kitchen door, doesn’t surf counter tops, accepts crate confinement, falls into a clean-out routine, can wait its turn while we are working from home, that understands boundaries and markers, that responds, if not always happily, then dutifully, to a gradually expanding set of clear, concise cues, be they spoken or offered in body language. Every useful connection made in Daily Life With Dog is primer undercoating for a working relationship in the field.
I still know men and women in our hills who insist that keeping a gun dog or livestock dog in the house makes the animal “soft.” Some prefer keeping a dog on a chain to build desire to run; others will mix a sprinkle of gunpowder with a dog’s food to gin up hunting desire, or keep only females because of their presumed gender-based drive to forage for their puppies.
Over and over in this blog, we ask readers to define for themselves the experience they want with their dogs. Is the dog a tool to bring out after a favorite cap is lifted from a wall peg, feet are snugged into carefully greased and laced leather boots, the gun is cased and loaded into the truck? Is the dog an accouterment, another accessory to our image of ourselves as Upland Hunters, more like a boutique small bore double or high tech hunting vest than collaborator or co-conspirator?
Instead, is that bird dog the most compelling reason we do what we do, so much so that we’d give up going to the woods or marshes or prairies before we’d think about going shooting without our dog? So much so that to have our dogs in our homes, squarely in the middle of our lives, only makes the ties that bind a hunting partnership more purposeful, richer, sweeter…not to mention hellamore fun?
she’s not with you right now, go get your dog.
Bring her in to the fire circle.
She belongs there, while you figure out just how to be half the person her eyes tell you that you are.