How A Dog Can Change You

You know, there was a time not so long ago that I did not understand my husband’s fascination with bird dogs and bird hunting. He completely quit archery hunting deer with me and went in a complete opposite direction. I went to Colorado Elk hunting that first year–without him. He headed to Maine, instead, with a raring 6-month old bird dog pup to chase “birdies” (as I used to say sarcastically to tease him). I used to say that I could fill the freezer with one Elk and feed our large family for a year, while it would take an awful lot of little birdies to feed our family…

My Llewellin Setter, Luke
My bird dog, Luke

So, instead of my husband “coming to his senses”, a wonderful bird dog of my very own came into my life and changed me, forever. Luke was “mine” from day one. My husband agreed to be hands-off and to let me train him. The first trip to the woods with that dog changed my whole world. He was a sight to behold. His first point left me standing there in awe, he was so beautiful! It was on a bird that I finally found 40 yards away! How could he smell that bird that far away? Well, needless to say, I was hooked. It took me all of a few weeks sneaking out on mid-week mornings to realize I had an addiction!

I fell in-love with my bird dog and bird hunting. I wasn’t sitting in a tree freezing, worrying about my every move and my scent and the right location at the right time… I didn’t have to get up at 4:00 a.m. to be in the woods and climb up a tree before the crack of daylight. Hmmm., I can go whenever I want, wear whatever I want, get great exercise, leave when I need to–I am loving this game! I get to watch this incredible creature work the cover and find birds for me. The pouch full of birds is much easier on my back than a deer or elk quarter and I can go every day and get more, unlike big game hunting when you harvest one, your season is over!  Non-resident, small-game licenses are much less expensive than big-game tags and you can always get one–without preference points! It’s no longer an obsession to hunt horns, and I have yet to see bird hunters comparing or bragging about how big their bird is compared to yours or making trophy books.

Now, I go on bird hunting trips–even when my hubby isn’t able to. I would prefer that we go together, but I just can’t let the dogs down, you know? They have to get worked and hunted! I don’t know, I love this upland hunting game and I love the dogs. I have always been a dog person, but never like this. I suppose it all has to do with this wonderful breed. They are so natural on the hunt and are the most loyal, most loving dogs I have known. I remember when Scott brought Brier home and I insisted this dog needed to be outside. Then, Maisy and Shay came, and they, too, were built kennels and lived–happily–out doors. When I brought Luke home, we were building a kennel, but I was in no hurry. Well, a few years later–and many more Llewellin Setters later–and most, now, live inside. I love every one of them. Every one of them is unique and beautiful and I couldn’t imagine life without them.

Our home is pretty much messy all the time and the work to keep up after the dogs is A LOT to say the least. We don’t have much to look at–except for our beautiful dogs and a fine dog trailer! I am pretty much always “dogged” with muddy paw prints on my jeans and dog hair on my best black suede jacket, but I love it. I am much more laid-back about the condition of our home, about handling all these dogs–and more about understanding the dogs–and just about everything else in my life. Instead of worrying about being “scent-free” and perfectly clean for an archery hunt, I can grab a few dogs,  my gun and shells, my orange vest and hat, jump in the truck (with dog nose prints on the window) and away we go! The dogs eat better than we do and I get thrilled about ordering a new bell or saving-up for a launcher or the next place we want to go to hunt the dogs. It is a different life. It has changed me.

Laurel's Countess OliviaSo, anyway, there I go around the world with this story to tell you about today. A pup was to be coming back to us and I was on my way to the airport to pick her up, and stopped by to drop something off to my mother. She asks where I am off to and I tell her about the pup. So, she says, “You are selling her right away, right?” And I respond with, “Well, of course–as soon as I evaluate and train her and find a suitable hunting home.” And that honestly was my intention–until I brought this magnificent creature home and immediately upon getting out of the truck, this 8-month old pup that has never seen a game bird, locked up on the prettiest, most-stylish, high-head, high-tailed, foot-up, point I ever saw on the pigeons in the coop beside the driveway.  It wasn’t just that one point, though. We clicked again immediately at the airport–does she remember me? Well, I think this gal isn’t going anywhere. I honestly can not say why the folks that bought her from us 6 months ago wanted us to buy her back. They mentioned they wanted a more laid-back house dog, didn’t have time to work with her and didn’t have time to hunt. Well, I don’t know, maybe it’s the flight across the country or something, maybe it’s just our own calmness, but she is laying on the sofa with her head in Scott’s lap and is perfectly calm and content. She had a grand romp around the yard with the other dogs and her sister, Addy. She ate her dinner, played some more, and is resting, now. I don’t know. I don’t get it. But, I think it’s pretty amazing how God works things out.

I liked this pup a lot from the start (okay, you’re right, I like them all). But, as far as bird dog puppies go, she was the first one to escape the whelping box at 20 days old. She was the first to point a wing, the first to make it down the “big hill” in our yard… a lot of things. And, here she is again, back in our lives–to stay. I mean, come on, now… I just can’t let her get all settled in here and bond with her just to ship her off to someone else, right? She’ll have to catch someone’s eye very soon or she’ll just be staying, here. And, my kids are rolling their eyes, and my mom will have a fit–if she finds out–and I have to figure out where on earth to put one more crate in this tiny house and I need another dog bowl and now, I most certainly need to find a 6-8 dog topper for the truck… but, ahhhhh, isn’t it great? I can’t wait to get her out on birds tomorrow. There are those of you that know exactly what I mean.

I think she is right where she was always supposed to be–and, it would seem, that I am finally right where I am supposed to be doing what I am supposed to be doing. I get to work from home (mostly) and be with the dogs and whelp and raise the puppies and train and hunt…..It all just fits. And every time the thought crosses my mind that someone else needs to be changing in some way, I find that I am the one that needed changing all along.

God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me. ~Author Unknown

Blessings to all,

Michelle.

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