We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
It must be late summer, and I have hunting on my mind.
This is my muddy-legged huntin' Standard Poodle, gazing out the cabin door after a long day in the woods and bogs a few years ago. Don't laugh: he points hard, and retrieves. Bred from a line of hunting Standards, and my second from that line. Used to hunt pretty close, but lately ranges too far yet will loop 20 yards left or right on command. Will chase a damn deer in a swamp forever, dang it. That's what whistles and shock collars were made for. He's been good with whistle commands, but I haven't practiced with him lately. Also known to point on mice. Love the guy despite imperfections, and well-aware that any dog's imperfections in training are really the master's laziness.
"Find the bird." He will do that with the greatest of pleasure, but it might very well be out of range if he puts the bird up or points on it. Loves the job, loves the hunt. Like most field dogs, cannot understand how any human can miss a bird. "No bird, no bird." They look at you like you're an idiot. You are supposed to be God.
I cannot clean a shotgun with him in the room. He goes berserko with excitement. All hunting dogs know the difference between hunting gear and ordinary outdoor stuff.
There is no work-out like a few days over hill and dale and busting brush in Maine near the Quebec border, pursuing the Ruffed Grouse (they call it pa'tridge up there - or "chicken") and Woodcock. Gosh, I just love it, even though you occasionally annoy a cranky moose.
My dad raised me to help in field trials. The dog of choice was the English Springer Spaniel. From 8 years old, my job was to set out the birds next to a 6' bamboo stick with a plastic ribbon, so the handlers knew where the birds were [I suspect the dogs did, too]. Using whistle commands and hand signals, the handlers would direct the dogs to the bird. It was called "quartering."
With a pigeon, you hold it by the back of its wings and legs, and twirl it around for about 15 - 20 seconds, then roll it into the tall grass next to the bamboo. The pigeon staggers to its feet, but stays there until the dog comes charging in.
With a pheasant, you push the bird's head under its wing, and rock it back and forth. Three or four rocking motions are all that's needed. Then you lay the sleeping bird in the grass, where it snoozes away until it hears the dog come galloping in. The bird is flushed, the gunners shoot it maybe 30 - 35 yards out, and the dogs are graded on how well they retrieve, don't chew on the carcass, etc.
Good times! I'm 63 now, but I remember field trials like they were yesterday.
One more memory: the dogs paid no attention if a broken open shotgun barrel was aimed in their direction. But if a closed gun barrel happened to be aimed at them, some of the dogs would actually cringe. They're smarter than we think.
I had a Golden Retriever that was a great water dog, but his love in life was retrieving pheasants. He'd hold a point, too. A missed easy shot would earn you an incredibly dirty look.
I once had him point, and then on command bust out a pheasant in a cornfield at the edge of some woods. Bird took off almost straight up and then away from me. Nice, easy shot, and I popped it from about 20 yards. Nailed him, but the bird had set his wings, and they locked out. Dead in the air, but still flying.
That poor dog spun around, obviously wondering what the heck was wrong with me that I wasn't putting another shot up there. I told him, "Get the bird", but he turned around, sat down, and dejectedly watched the bird "fly" out of the field. It hit an overhanging tree branch and tumbled to the ground, at which point his look of amazement almost made me fall down laughing. He charged off through the corn stubble to make his retrieve.
By the end of the season the "feathers" on the bottom of his tail and back of his legs would be tattered and ragged, with me having had to chop so many burdocks out of them. But even when he got too old to retrieve, he loved walking the fields, and starting up birds.
We have had three poodles, none standard, unfortunately. They are great dogs, the name, supposedly, does come from a foreign phrase - puddle hounds. All three of our dogs, however, have webbed feet. You do not need webbed feet for puddles, only for swimming.
Ben David, the springer spaniel who was our family dog when I was a teen taught herself to ring the front doorbell when she wanted to come in. We had a bay window next to the front door. Like clockwork, you'd see Pepper's head pop up in the window and about 5 seconds later, the doorbell would ring.
Pepper was smarter than 20 Joe Bidens and a character to boot. She developed a habit of holding the tags hanging off her collar in her mouth, which made her look pretty goofy, since she had to walk with her head down when she did that. She'd sometimes walk into the wall. We dumb humans were slow on the uptake, but we finally realized that the jingling sound the tags made irritated her and she was holding them in her mouth to stop the jingling, not to provide entertainment. So Pepper went collarless when at home, which was undoubtably a great relief. She was such a good dog and never strayed beyond the yard boundaries.