Friday, September 9, 2011

Gun Safety - My Introduction

I've been involved with shooting sports and gun safety since I shot the neighbor's alarm clock off their night stand at around age 6.  I'd found a S&W .38 laying on the bedroom night stand as my Mom visited with the neighbor lady over coffee in their kitchen.  My "introductory training" began within a few short hours following that incident!

My Dad, assigned to a B-29 crew as a tail gunner at the time, also served as a gunnery instructor on the base gunnery range when they weren't actually flying.  And, with all the skill he'd been taught along with the wealth of knowledge and experience of the men he worked with, I got the very best start a kid could hope for in things "guns".  It began with, "You are NEVER to even TOUCH a gun unless your Mother or I tell you that you can." and, making me promise them I wouldn't.

A few days after that, Dad and a buddy of his were going rabbit hunting.  And, Dad asked me if I wanted to go along.  "Heck yeah, Dad!", I exclaimed.  And, I asked him if I could shoot one.  "No, son.", he said, "We'll do the shooting.  But, we need another sharp pair of eyes to help spot those rabbits.  And, you can watch us and learn just how it's done.", which was just fine with me!  And, off we went.

As I tagged along just behind them walking through the desert, I remember watching them take shots with the .22's they'd brought along.  At first, I could see the bullets hit the dirt near a rabbit they'd taken a shot at.  And, it'd dash off out of sight.  But, soon, they began hitting their mark and, the rabbit would jump a bit before flopping down on the ground, maybe kicking a couple of times.  They sent me out to fetch them back when they got one.  That took a bit of getting used to.  But, I managed pretty well until one I picked up by the hind leg raised up and grabbed my fingers with its front paws before I dropped it with a scream!  Dad came over and got that one!  I remember, though, thinking with each one I picked up how much that must have hurt, getting shot like that.

We were done for the day and, walking back to the car.  As we walked past a big boulder, me and Dad's buddy heard the hissing at the same time.  He looked to his left and jumped back a bit exclaiming, "Holy SMOKES!"  And, my eyes locked "dead-on" with the eyes of a rattler that was as big as ME!  Ever seen a 6 year old kid shinny up his Dad's leg to crawl into his back pocket, pull the flap down and, button it shut tight?  You would have if you were with us that day!  "Pop Pop", went the .22!  The snake reeled around to its body where it was hit.  But, it wasn't done yet!  And, Dad's friend handed his rifle to Dad and, drew out his pistol to finish it off.  Kneeling down he took careful aim just as the rattler raised its head to strike again.  "POW", went the pistol!  And, the snakes head splattered as it flew back and slumped over the rocks behind it, dead!

I began breathing again as two rocks fell to the ground from my tight grasp.  All thoughts of the poor dead rabbits vanished as relief came rushing in on seeing that rattler shot dead!  Yes sir, yes Ma'am, I had to pee!  But, you know; to this day, I still don't know where the heck those two rocks came from?

Days later, Dad invited Mom & me out to the base gunnery range to watch them practice.  The guys were going to shoot their big guns...twin "50's".  I remember asking Dad when he took me over to see the shiny red "drone" as some fellows prepared it, "Wow, Dad! Can I have one?"  The guys, overhearing me, all laughed; one saying, "You could just about ride this one! Couldn't you?"  "Gasp!", I thought to myself, "How'd he know I wanted to take it home and fly it around just LIKE MY DAD?"

"No, son.", Dad answered, "We're going to use it as a target and, shoot it down with those BIG guns over there.", dashing all hopes of flying alongside him in his BIG bomber and, me on my shiny red airplane.  Disappointed and, not liking guns so much again, I replied, "But WHY?"  He replied, "So we can keep sharp and hit what we're aiming at.  And, shoot down the bad guys before they can shoot us down, son."

That was a "CHUNK" for a kid to digest.  But, it was the truth.  It was his job.  I'd just never thought about it that way and never with such images of the possible outcome still fresh in my mind from the previous days.  I loved my Dad!  And, looking back on that occassion so many decades ago, I see just what a gift he and, yes, his buddies, the ones he flew with in the Air Force back then, who all worked together with my Dad to help me understand something important...our mortality.  Thanks Dad.  Thanks you guys.  It worked.

You all have a wonderful season afield, this year.  And, BE SAFE!  We want to read all your stories when it comes to a close!

The Three Golden Rules:

ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Here's a link to the rest:  NRA - Gun Safety Rules

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Early Days with Snooks"

"It was often said of a good dog that one had to
stop up one of his nostrils to keep him from
chasing two rabbits at the same time." [1]

I’d just turned a teen, already wore out a couple of BB guns and had gotten pretty good with them.  But, Starlings, Crows and Hares beware!  I had my eye on a new pellet gun down at the local hardware close by where we lived near Box Elder, South Dakota.  I’d worked hard that summer bagging groceries for tips.  And, I was determined they wouldn’t be escaping my prowess or disappointing my near daily hunting partner, Snooks, for another summer.

Our family pet, she was a jet black Spaniel mix.  She’s the one who brought me to realize the value of having a good dog along on a hunt.  No “trainers”, no formal schooling for her at all. Just a boy and his dog spending time together daily doing what they loved best.  And, she picked it up “jack-sprat” quick!  Early on I swear she showed me that she had an innate dislike for any bird wearing the same color coat as her.  All on her own she figured out how to distract their attention away from me by circling around them just out of “spooking range” to allow me to get close enough to dispatch ‘em for her.  And she got GOOD at it!  We both did!

One day we were out, she happened upon a rabbit.  It tore off when she got too close to it and, it was “game on”.  At first it scared me…the suddenness of it all.  I knew she was fast but, cripes a mighty, I’d never seen her put on moves like she was showing that hare!  It was hopeless!  That rabbit tried every trick in the bunny book on her.  But, it was like I was watching one of those heat-seeking missiles tracking his tailpipe ever which a way he went!  She was ON his butt matching him, move for move!  I swear, she was running full tilt and leaning over so far in cutting a turn after him, her ear had to have dragged the ground.  But, she never lost an inch on him in doing it!  I soon realized, however, the chase was quickly leading away from me…way too far away from me!

I hollered for her but, all I got was a flashing glance.  One I knew meant, “What are you doing just standing there, boy?  How about a little help!”  just as they vanished over the crest of the slope a couple hundred yards away.  That was the first time I experienced that “sinking” feeling.  You know, the one we all don’t like having.  My dog, my best pal, my best hunting buddy was going to chase that damned rabbit clear to Minneapolis; maybe clear to Grandma’s house in Wisconsin!  Off I tear at a dead sprint up that slope after them, madder ‘n all get out at that rabbit.

I think I made it about half way up when, back over the top that rabbit comes…Snooks hot on his afterburner bunny tail!  Somehow, on the far side, she’d overtaken him and, turned him back toward me!  By now, she had his FULL attention, too!  Because he kept right on coming toward me until he got close enough and I dropped down to one knee.  When I did, Snooks hit the brakes.  And, a few hops later the bunny, no doubt realizing the pickle he’d gotten himself into, came to a dead stop between us.  That was his last mistake!

Yup!  Mom & Dad let me buy that pellet gun!  And, I know now, she’d have given those hounds down in the “Jillikins”[1] more than a run for their giblets, Snooks would!  Yessir, she’d give ‘em a darned good run for ‘em!  Because she and I slept real well that night; our bellies full of warm rabbit stew & gravy that Mom cooked up special, just for the two of us!  God!  What a show!  What a dog!  What a memory, fifty years hence!  And, up to now, I was the only one to ever know.

Well, “Here’s your due, Snooky!  Now, everybody knows how good you were.  And, no, I haven’t forgotten our times together, baby!  No way could I ever forget that day!”

[1] Dr. James E. Price ~ article, "Bowin' An' Spikin' in th' Jillikins",[1] OzarksWatch, Winter-1992

Thursday, November 4, 2010


May ?, 1997 - Nov 2, 2010

            By big dog standards, Bear was an old dog but still beautiful, playful and loving.  His soft brown eyes would pierce your soul.  With gorgeous soft, long fur and an undercoat resembling alpaca, he was mostly black with tan on his chest and flowing tan feathers on the back of all 4 legs.  His long bushy, black tail was tinged with traces of blond.  He most resembled a Belgium Sheppard with pointed but  floppy ears as his only flaw from a study of this breed.  Unlike a kennel bred shepherd, Bear came from very humble and almost lethal beginnings.
            Late one evening while returning home from her job as a dispatcher with the Haines City PD, Dianne noticed something moving on the side of W. Lake Eloise Rd. just across the bridge.   She slowed and was startled to see a black puppy trying to eat from a freshly killed small alligator carcass.   She stopped and noticed the emaciated puppy was friendly and whining so she brought him home.   She made him a bed of newspapers in the garage and gave him food and water and went to bed.
            The next morn she introduced me to this soft eyed, smelly, mangy and parasite ridden dog.  My heart melted looking at this pathetic creature that had been so badly mis-treated so I asked her to take him to our vet.   A week and a half and close to a $1000 bill later, she brought him home.  He still stunk a little from all the parasites still dying on his body.  Dr. Nations, our vet, told us he thought the puppy was about 2 months old and had been dumped for about a month and was near death when brought to his healing graces.  Let’s hope there is a special place in Hell for this person and all others who mistreat animals.
            We named him “Bear” and he immediately bonded with the family.  4 months later, completely healed and at the proper weight, Bear blossomed into one of the most beautiful dogs we had ever seen.   A dog who drew inquiring compliments from everyone who saw him.   Bear loved to play with our other dog Tiggie as well as our cats but it soon became evident that he was to be my buddy.  He seemed forever grateful for his rescue.  I could not move without his getting up and going with me even to the bathroom.   If I was working in the yard, he would find the closest shady spot to me and supervise.  We needed beds for him to sleep on within a few feet of me while watching TV or working on the computer. 
            In his prime, until hip problems began to appear, Bear’s favorite thing to do was to “fly” after Frisbees.   A magnificent leaper he would soar through the air with his front legs over 6’ off the ground and his rear legs slightly lower.   I’d swear a few of his leaps may have been 8’ at the tip of his nose.   He rarely missed a well thrown Frisbee.
            Even after his flying antics were exceeded by “Duffy” a Border Collie acquired in 2005, Bear would still try to fly.   Unfortunately his hips continued to deteriorate to where his runs became a trot or walk and his catches were at ground level.   Yet he still tried with tail up and wagging.
            This last year, Bear experienced difficulty walking, often falling down when his hips collapsed.  Bowel control also became a problem but not one we weren’t willing to deal with.   Having Bear put down was never considered.   We were even looking into a hip wheel chair apparatus to help him walk.
            In his last months, Bear spent 20 hours a day sleeping but would still play keep away with Duffy when offered a tennis ball sometimes retorting with his very deep and guttural growl/bark in the process.   I would sometimes picture what an intruder might do when faced with this growl in a dark room and mostly coal black dog.   When getting up to chase a ball became too hard, Duffy, a great dog in his own right, knew Bear was disabled and would bring him the ball, often rolling on him, head to head, ball in mouth.  
            Since his mobility problems made it difficult for Bear to come to me, I would lie down on his bed next to him and stroke his face and ears.  He would offer a warm lick on my arm or face and always extended one of his long furry forelegs to my face or shoulder.  Knowing that he was old for a big dog, I would wonder how much time Bear had left and, thank Him for the many years we had enjoyed together.
            Then the worse came.  Bear collapsed the evening of Oct. 31 after vomiting.  He lay on his bed right next to my side of our bed.  We hand fed him water and tried helping him up but he still would barely move, not even a routine tail wag.  We took him to the vet hospital the next day.  Dr. Nations, still his vet 13 years later, said he had a kidney inflection and possibly pneumonia but that he thought he could bring him around..  Sadly, we received a phone call that Bear passed away at  4 am on the morning of Nov. 2.
            “Dogs leave paw prints on your heart forever” (author unknown).  Bear’s spirit will always be with me.  Tears stream down my face again as I remember this wonderful dog; my buddy; my best friend.

Note:  I am honored to have been asked to post this notice here in "Gun Dogs..." by my good friend Roy Brown who, while recovering from heart surgery just days prior, himself, suffered the loss of his best friend of 13 long years. My condolences to him and his family. It is my honor to have done so. ~ JFK ~

"My Becoming"

By the time I'd turned fourteen, Snooks and I had gained a household reputation as "Hunters". Maybe because Mom grew tired of cooking those rabbits for us, she "had a talk" with Dad. I don't know. But, one evening over supper, Dad told me he'd enrolled me in the "Hunter Education" class! "Wow! Really, Dad?", I gasped in disbelief. "Well, if you're going to hunt, you'd better learn how to do it right.", he replied. I was awestruck. My Dad, a man of few words, knew how much I loved it. He'd noticed that, after all, I was just following his footsteps, the ones he'd showed me while I sat in the car safe with Mom while he and his buddies went out hunting deer, rabbit and javalina in Arizona where I was born. "Guy Stuff", he'd showed me since I was still in my jumpers. I guess he figured, if I was bent on putting meat on the table, I might as well make a decent showing of it...make it worth Mom's while in the kitchen, anyway. I wasn't to know his whole plan until later...much later.

I went to the weekly classes for what seemed like an eternity. Dad went with me to almost all of them when work allowed him to. The one or two he missed, he made sure Bob Harris, our family friend and, one of Dad's closest hunting buddies picked me up to go with him and his boy, who was also attending. I soaked it all up! Hung on every word. Craned my neck to see over the crowded classroom every detail and fine point they talked about and showed us. I even memorized the "Ten Gun Safety Rules", a feat my school teachers could only wish for! And, I passed my written test! All that was left was the "Field Test" the following Saturday at the local shooting range...GULP! Shooting range?

Away again for work, Dad missed that class. When he got home, I told him I'd passed my written test and asked if he'd be there for the "Field Test". He would, he said. Then I poured out all the stuff about the shooting range and, that the instructor said we would be shooting along with my concern that all I had was my pellet gun. And, he told me I wouldn't be able to use it. Dad just said, "Well, we can use mine for that.", almost giving me heart failure where I stood! I thought about it..."The Canon!"...gasp! I'd been with him a couple of times when he'd fired that thing. And I swear, when it went off, I saw the earth move! I felt it under my feet! Now I was worried about passing Hunter's Ed, about my Dad; Had he fallen & hit his head, lost his mind?, whether I'd even survive tomorrow's "Field Test"! I didn't sleep a wink all night for the first time in my life of fourteen and a half years.

The next morning found us at the shooting range. "The Canon" rode in the back seat out there with us. With it, I went through the verbal tests, how to cross a fence safely, kept the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, showed how to unload, make safe and work the bolt action just fine. All that was left was shooting. I had to do it twice, once standing and once prone or, laying down. The time had come! No getting out of it. "The Canon" and I were going to have it done and over with! I stepped up to the line with Dad who handed me a cartridge. I loaded it with Dad's help and closed the bolt sliding the cartridge home for what seemed like a mile and closed it. Raising it up to my shoulder, it felt like it weighed a Ton! Once there, I couldn't see through the scope for beans! When I stretched my neck forward to get closer so I could see, my right hand slid back away from the trigger. Dad and the instructor did their best to get me adjusted as best they could and, finally, I let it rip!

Well, as I knew it would, it kicked me back a couple of steps, came right out of my hands and, the PAIN! It was excruciating! Dad caught "The canon". In shock at the outcome, he quickly handed it off to the instructor and knelt down by me. There was no hiding it, I wasn't able to "buck up" this time. Pain pulsed down my right arm like nothing I'd ever felt before. Dad, seeing me this way, helped me unbutton my shirt far enough to have a look. The bruise was already showing inside a red ring surrounding it. As he touched it, I winced and pulled away. I could barely raise my arm for him. Seeing this, he was at a loss and turned and called his best friend, Bob, over to have a look. As the instructor handed the rifle back to Dad, Bob came over.

Dad told Bob what happened. Bob turned to me saying, "That old gun packs a punch, eh! Can I have a look?" I nodded yes. And, he did. Seeing the bruise, now darker and bigger than just a couple of minutes ago, he felt down my collar bone asking if that hurt, squeezed my shoulder bones a bit asking the same. "You didn't break anything. Probably just didn't have a good hold on it." I told him there was pain pulsing clear down the back of my arm, though. "Oh?", he said clapping his hands and rubbing them together briskly a couple of times. "Here. This ought to help you out." And, he gave my arm a "rub down". He was right. It did help.

He had me show him how I held the rifle. A no nonsense man, Bob studied everything. He showed me exactly where on my shoulder it belonged, where my cheek needed to be, when I reached forward toward the trigger, he saw the problem right off and said, "Hmm..." as he studied it closer. His assessment finished, he said, "Well, this rifle's just a smidge big for you. Not by much, though. What do you think? You going to let it ruin all your great work up to now? Think you can fire this thing one more time to pass?" That did it. There was no way I'd done all that work...come this far that "The canon" was going to take it all away from me. I was only one shot away from passing Hunter's Ed!

So, with a rub down and a pep talk, Dad and I go back to the firing line, Dad carrying another of those "ought-six" cartridges. Putting it in his pocket, he helped me get situated down in the prone and, called the instructor over. When we were all set, he handed me the cartridge saying, "One more. Just get a good grip and pull it in tight and keep your cheek down solid, son. You'll do just fine." Then he stepped back. The instructor said, "Ready?"  I nodded I was. "All right. See if you can get this one on the target. Load, and, fire when you're ready." I put a gorilla grip on that rifle and pulled it in tight. As I did, the black ring disappeared from the scope's glass and, I saw the target clearly! "WHAM", went "The canon" again! Looking through his binoculars, the instructor called out, "You hit it!", just as I started seeing stars!

The pain on top of my shoulder, cheek and, now coming from above my eye screamed, "FOUL!" to my brain! Yup! The scope came back and whacked me around the eye! But, it was over! I asked, "Did I pass?" Scribbling on his clip board the instructor said, "You certainly did, young man! Good job." And I let out a huge sigh of relief. As I got back to my feet, he handed my completed paperwork to my Dad pointing something out to him saying, "Your boy did a darned fine job in the course, Mr. Kingsland.", and walked off.

Dad, seeing what he'd pointed to, turned to me saying, "You scored a ninety six on your written test?" I replied, "Yes Sir." He just beamed back at me, "I'm proud of you, son...real proud of you!" Then, seeing my face beaming back as I looked back up, his went sullen again as he reached into his pocket and handed me his clean handkerchief. Taking it with a questioning look, he pointed to the spot above my eye saying, "There's a bit of blood up here. What happened?" Wiping my brow, I told him. Chuckling, he beamed back, "Well, you've sure earned your hunting rights!" We both laughed. Then, he asked if I wanted to shoot some more. "No thanks.", I said. "I think I've had enough!"

He told me he needed to talk to Bob for a minute and instructed me to get his rifle packed up in its case and back to the car, he'd meet me there in a minute. And, he walked over toward Bob. He was trusting me to safely handle his rifle on my own! At that moment, it began to sink in...I'd "Become!"...I'd become more than just a kid, now. I was becoming one of the guys! As Dad and Bob talked over on the small arms range, I wiped his rifle down with the rag kept in its case and carefully returned it there. I walked it back to our car confident, now that I'd conquered "The Canon".

Dad returned with a seldom seen grin on his face after thanking Bob for his help. As he did, Bob, wearing a similar grin, hollered out to me, "Congratulations, Jimmy!" with a wave. I hollered back, "Thanks!" And, I waved back. Then, we headed for home joking and laughing all the way, me, with a bruised up shoulder and an emerging "shiner" on my grinning face. As we rode, I felt their pain less and less. It was being responsibility....I'd passed!

Little did I know; their "master plan" was still at work...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Here In This House"

Here in this house......

I will never know the loneliness I hear in the barks of the other dogs 'out there'.
I can sleep soundly, assured that when I wake my world will not have changed.
I will never know hunger, or the fear of not knowing if I'll eat.
I will not shiver in the cold, or grow weary from the heat.
I will feel the sun's heat, and the rain's coolness,
and be allowed to smell all that can reach my nose.
My fur will shine, and never be dirty or matted.

Here in this house...

There will be an effort to communicate with me on my level.
I will be talked to and, even if I don't understand,
I can enjoy the warmth of the words.
I will be given a name so that I may know who I am among many.
My name will be used in joy, and I will love the sound of it!

Here in this house...

I will never be a substitute for anything I am not.
I will never be used to improve peoples' images of themselves.
I will be loved because I am who I am, not someone's idea of who I should be.
I will never suffer for someone's anger, impatience, or stupidity.
I will be taught all the things I need to know to be loved by all.
If I do not learn my lessons well, they will look to my teacher for blame.

Here in this house...

I can trust arms that hold, hands that touch...
knowing that, no matter what they do, they do it for the good of me.
If I am ill, I will be doctored.
If scared, I will be calmed.
If sad, I will be cheered.
No matter what I look like, I will be considered beautiful and thought to be of value.
I will never be cast out because I am too old, too ill, too unruly, or not cute enough.
My life is a responsibility, and not an afterthought.
I will learn that humans can almost, sometimes, be as kind and as fair as dogs.

Here in this house...

I will belong.
I will be home.

~ Unknown Author ~

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"The New Layout"

My mind races and overflows with things I would say here!  Yet, I felt the need to give those things more suitable lodgings in which to reside.  So, I took time out from writing to give "Gun Dogs..." a complete, fresh, new look; one I hope, will set the warm and loving tone and nature of what I will say here about my best friends throughout this long life.  New to 'blogging', this was no "small" undertaking for me.  Indeed, there are still a few "tweaks" & "niggles" I'd like to get ironed out (ie. "Jump Page" doesn't work...groan).  But, they'll come in good time.  The bulk of it is done.  I hope the new look meets with your approval and, you will visit often.

Too, as many know, I'm new to bird hunting.  I'm amazed, sometimes, when I think back to all the years we spent living in South Dakota during my youth that we never once went bird hunting!  Deer hunting, "Yes!".  But never did we go Pheasant hunting.  I know our dog at the time, "Snooks" - a black spaniel mix, would have been fabulous at it with a little effort.  Knowledge I gained when, as a young lad, she and I would head out to the vast, open prairie that disappeared over the horizon just outside the back door of our home.  A place where, on sunny summer days I'd grab my pellet gun which set her into such a delightful commotion knowing we were heading out there together.  And, we reveled in our times there so!  Each sharing in the companionship and safe keeping shared between us, the friendship, the family.  These are the priceless things I look back on now.  The sort of things I'd like to put down here.  These are the things of a "Rich Life", the parts that will comprise the "Other Parts of Heaven" here!

I pray I do it no injustice.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Sitting this One Out"

As many of you know, Sadie and I are sitting this season out. She decided to go gunshy on me last year. I'm going to spend some time with her using a training cd "guarenteed to get them over it".  But, we'll be back in the fields again, next year. Meanwhile, I'll do some more writing and, look forward to all your posts on your adventures!  Have a great season, all!

JimK & Sadie

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"My New Name"

I must first tell you that I am, by no means, a "Professional Trainer"!  I have had no "formal" schooling or training in it. And, I don't "train" other people's dogs for them.  I'm just like most of you, a life-long dog lover!  However, it is a considerably l-o-n-g life passion; now spanning sixty three years and, I hope it will continue!  And, what I know and share here is what I now hold to be of paramount importance in my relationships with my dogs; what they, astonishingly as it may sound, have taught me about them; indeed, taught me about life and what's important in it!  In my humble opinion, in this later part, they really have no equal.

In my reading, I've learned a good trainer must be a GOOD observer!  And, I can spend hours quietly just observing how Sadie and Duke "interact" with one another when they're out hunting or having a romp around the park and pond.  I find it a "magical world"!  I look for "action followed by reaction" between them for starters.  It simply requires us to discipline ourselves to become excellent observers; to pay attention.  It takes time and patience, but, eventually one begins to notice repeated signals; ones seen or heard before with an equally familiar response.

The one thing that always takes my breath away in all this is the, usually, one and only "first" time, a silent, "time-stands-still" moment when animal and man look at one another and realize they are actually trying to communicate, to understand one another!  The information exchanged in that moment, I'm sure, could fill volumes!  But, certainly "Self Worth", "Safety", "Caring" and, "Trust" must lead.  It's amazing to me how hard our "silent friends" work at it for us; how patient and creative they can be and, truly are.  They are, as well, diligent at trying to get us to "understand" them, to try to communicate with us.  Think not?  Then take this example: "House Training".  What you taught your dog was, NOT to relieve himself inside the house; to do it outside.  Right?  Now, answer this question for yourself.  Who taught whom how to recognize when he needed to have the door opened for him so he could go outside?

Having thus arrived at your own answer, may I now welcome you in joining me in my utter and complete amazement, my astonishment in that moment of recognition to the effort, diligence and, creativity these marvelous singular creatures, among all others inhabiting our world, expend and devise in choosing to join their lives with ours; to commune with us?  Indeed, I myself have come to regard it as a true Marvel of life itself!  From that point on, for me it is much easier to recognize that "training" becomes one of a "team" effort; working with one another rather than one "on" the other.  My having found this perspective has transformed my overall sense of my involvement in the activity from one of, its being a "job" to one of, its being a "joy" in which I'm delighted to participate with my own beloved, "Sadie"; one who has rightfully earned my respect in her performance of her part. 

Indeed, she ranks, among all the other dogs I've grown up with or, held stewardship over, as the only one whom I have dubbed "My Teacher" in our relationship!  And, it is SHE who, at the point of my writing this, who truly merits "High Honors" between us in that roll.  For all I know, she may well be the "chosen emissary" of her species for mine.  Many who know her by name but who, after equally numerous meetings with me, must ask mine yet again, will tell you she most certainly bears ample qualities for such an esteemed role.  In that, I cannot help but concur and wonder at the possibility!

How much so?  I invite you to join me in my amazement, my astonishment, my literally having my breath taken away for yet another amazing moment in time by my beloved Sadie.  Be forewarned at the outset, however, it is with great risk that I tell you what follows; risk to my credibility, perhaps even questioning my "sanity" or, humanity. It may even spawn many among you to respond; discounting, denouncing what I will say, offering up volumes of contradicting arguments, even admonishing me.  To you who might, know now that you would garner for yourself no greater response, no greater notice from me than if you were to offer it up to the cloud over your head, the water running past your feet in the stream by which you stood or, the rock by which it flows in so doing.  So true do I hold deep in my being, my very living what I, nevertheless, choose to share with you now.

I LOVE my dog!  It's quite simple, really.  She, being my only companion in life, accompanies me wherever I go; into stores where she is welcome or, as far there as is possible before I'm forced by my own kind to leave her in the car alone, outside.  When we are alone to ourselves, we unabashedly exchange "playful love" with one another; my petting her, she nuzzling me, rubbing my leg with the top of her head with a strong and goodly force as though to add emphasis to the act that I somehow would understand it meant she LOVES me.  The greater the force, the greater the love!  To show her my understanding, I simply took to reciprocating this action to her.  After all, this would be my "speaking" in her language back to her.  Funny as it may seem to many of you; soon Sadie began to "acknowledge" my "conversing" with her by demonstrating her own "great celebration" of the occasion back to me. She'd jump up, and, with obvious great elation begin wagging her tail so hard it started from her ears and worked its way back!  She'd start barking in excitement choked voice and, dance about with abandon as I laughed and we'd just continue enjoying our play time.

Now for the startling part.  I celebrated this with her from then on regularly at home.  Naturally, being a regular part of such exchanges I'd say to her while "head rubbing" with her, those three precious words, "I Love You."  But, I did so with my own "signature" inflections, cadence, and “musicality" if you will.  This had become yet another delight we happily shared with one another regularly.  I repeated those three words numerous times on countless occasions we've shared.  Then came the SHOCK of my life!

I do not know how long she had been trying.  I still don't.  Suffice it to say that she persisted however long she did until finally, one day as I left the desk, walked outside where Sadie was in our yard to go across the way to visit a neighbor about something I don't even recall, now.  Instead of turning to rebuke her for her usual rauchaus barking at my leaving her behind, as I had done countless times before, on this particular day, I was stopped by something faintly familiar; a sound.  In disbelief, I turned back to her, now standing at the edge of the yard, not to say anything to her but with an obvious and, for her, recognizable "questioning" expression on my face.  She turned slightly to my right and, looking to see if I was watching closely, she "grunted" softly while shifting her eyes down to her muzzle that mine would follow and, she repeated three, concentrated "woofs" with such effort that I knew it was important to her.  When finished, she opened her eyes back to mine to see if she had my "full" attention. Seeing that she most certainly did, she then turned to my left and, with focused concentration, closed her eyes and repeated the exact same three "woofs", complete with the same intonations, cadence and, within the limited range of her own voice, as closely approximated as she could those three precious "words" that she'd heard me say so many times before, "I LOVE YOU!"...."Ra RhAoh rUuh!"

Dumbstruck, in disbelief and, still doubtful of what I just heard, I needed confirmation!  I repeated back to her aloud, "I Love You!” just as I had so often before; with my same voice, my same cadence and, my same "musicality" that only she had ever heard.  On hearing me, she broke into unbridled revelry!  I've never seen her so utterly excited!  She, literally "danced" in circles, leaping, nearly turning summer salts, while barking louder than I've ever heard her bark before!  Her tail wagged so hard, the poor girl might have knocked herself out with it!  She pranced about literally unable to contain showing her elation that I had, at long last, "heard" her; that I finally, "got" it, that she had succeeded in "mimicking", my own kind's language that which she felt of such importance for me to know from her and, that I UNDERSTOOD her!!

As the full realization of what had just transpired fell on me, I gasped in astonishment, dropped down to one knee with my arms held out to her.  And, she flung her entire ninety pound self into my outstretched arms sitting broadside against me.  She draped her head over my shoulder and, pulled me tightly to her as my arms wrapped around her.  And, we just sat there for a moment sharing the embrace; sharing a second glorious "time-stood-still" moment!  Since that monumental day, I have been further blessed.  She has decided to "name" me, "Ra RhAoh rUuh" and routinely calls to me with it now.  And, it is to this day, the only time I hear her use it.  Whenever she does, and I turn my attention to her, she will motion to me why she called me; to be let outside or, "it's light out, Dad", she'll point to the sun shining in through the bedroom window, "Time to get up!”   With which she unerringly reinfects me each morning with her own precocious anticipation of what delights lie in store for us to discover each new day; what marvels life might offer up to us!  And, all I need do is pay attention!

In closing, allow me to answer any "Doubting Thomases" beforehand quite simply, with a warm, knowing smile, "Here's your rock; Have a great day!"  And, Sadie and I will continue on our way to enjoy ours hoping only that you haven't been so deafened by the clamor of your own kind that, you won't miss out on much greater things that are important in life yet, sadly, we are so prone to miss!  How about it?  Are you paying attention?

~ Ra RhAoh rUuh & Sadie ~

Friday, October 1, 2010


I'd read a friend's email about her horse "stepping away" when she tried to mount. And, while I'm certainly no "horseman", it reminded me of similar difficulties I had getting Sadie to "Come" to me. So, I thought I'd share with you about my curing the "precocious" behavior in Sadie.

Sadie waged a growing "control game" on me regarding "Come". She defied me for a couple of months turning away and doing as she pleased while ignoring anything I tried. An old trainer told me the best way to end such challenges is simply end the game and leave. Flabbergasted at such a prospect I told him there was no way I could do that. He responded by explaining that I had to "set it up" in advance. No! Of course you're not leaving her in a parking lot somewhere by herself! And, he "laid out" a workable solution for me to try that did the trick for him.

A few days later I had the day off. So, I loaded up my shotgun and Sadie and headed way out into the prairies. When I got to the spot I knew about, it was perfect! Nothing for MILES around; just me, Sadie and, the car and endless miles of straight dirt roads leading off to the horizon. I let her out and we "pretended" to hunt for awhile (no game anywhere near where we were but, didn't matter - wasn't the why I'd brought her out there anyway). After about 45 minutes, I called her to "Come". As usual, she looked at me and returned to nosing about. I calmly called her to "Come" twice more and, the last time, when she opted to ignore me, I simply got into the car and drove off! Straight up the dirt road I drove keeping an eye on her in the mirrors. When I crested a nice long uphill after about a couple of miles with her galloping madly along trying to catch the car I stopped and, waited for her to finish climbing the hill on foot.

As I waited, a foreman from a nearby ranch happened along. After carefully passing Sadie he stopped to see if I'd broken down. I said, "No. My dog and I are finalizing our negotiations on whose going to be the boss in this outfit and, whose going to be the straw-boss." Explaining to him what I was doing he got a chuckle as Sadie finally trudged up to the car at a dead walk, covered nose to tail in dust, panting, tail drooping down and, tongue hanging half way down to the ground. I looked at her and calmly said, "Come" and, opened the car door. She got in and plopped down totally exhausted. I told the foreman I thought that little 2 mile jaunt eating the car's dust ought to get it through her hard little black head that I wasn't going to play her game any more! He just broke out laughing. And, I've never had another problem with her since!

I tip m' hat to you, John Pine if you have occasion to read this! It WORKED! 

Monday, September 20, 2010

"The Gulf Oil Spill"

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
 ~Thomas Jefferson ~

I do not think for one instant the honorable Mr. Jefferson would object my adding to his statement, " the laws of our country or nature." Indeed, knowing his love for and study of "Nature" throughout his life over 200 years ago, I feel he would compel me now to do so. I have long held quiet this belief without knowing, until now, the esteemed company with whom I stood.

Suffice it for me to say at this point, that the words with which I would follow the above would fill volumes. That I hold such corporate entities as "BP" in such contempt as can only be measured exponentially to their contemptuous acts of defiling the world's precious natural resources along with their repeated rejection of offers to assist in cleaning up and containing or stopping the disaster of their making in the Gulf of Mexico. I hold them and those like them operating throughout the world to be in Contempt of Life itself on this Earth! And, I do so without any affiliation with any organization anywhere. I do it standing on my own two feet in outrage at the things I have witnessed being done by these "entities" of man's creation; entities created for nothing more than the generation of "profit" and "power" with little to no regard for the adverse impact their activities have on the world in which we live, those with whom we live or, over whom we hold stewardship!

Further let it be known that any government, my own included, that subsidizes such entities in their activities which result in this level of disaster I hold no less contemptuous should it continue those subsidies or bow down to them in the enforcement of what we all know would be the right thing to do! In the words of the esteemed statesman from my own country's past, "..crush them.."! Then, step in and bring the disaster quickly to a close by whatever means necessary! We all have but one house in which to live. Let any who would defile it suffer swift and sure reprisals for doing so!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"The Head Mistress & Her Pupils"

It was several months after adopting Sadie, my Black Lab, from the Boise Humane Society Shelter that the opportunity to take her along for some pheasant hunting presented itself. Still unsure of our understanding regarding who was “boss” and, who was "straw boss", I had some reservations about turning her loose in the wild; whether I’d spend the day hunting pheasant or her! I hoped she'd "tag along" with me, my hunting buddy, Clint and his dog, Duke, a smaller Tan Lab. But, the day to find out had arrived and, along with her leash, a fanny pack of cut up beef jerky, her favorite treat, and all my hunting paraphernalia, we loaded up in Clint's truck for the trek out to the nearby Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area.

While passing through the town of Parma, we got our first clue for what lay in store for us. As we approached the first turn off the main highway near the west end of town and the truck slowed, loud whining immerged from one of the dogs riding in the back. Clint, always impatient with Sadie's "free spirited" nature, saw she was causing it in his mirror and grumbled, "Sadie! Settle down! Cripes a' mighty!" I turned to look back and saw her pacing all around the back, looking out the windows of the topper whining loudly. She grew ever more agitated as the truck made the first turn. When we made the second turn, the whining turned into loud, excited barking; her wagging tail banged the truck sides just as loudly.

Now thoroughly irritated with the rude disruption of his ongoing yet, entertaining professions of expertise in “matters outdoors", Clint began competitively voicing his disapproval of the unruly canine behavior going on inches behind him. Watching her looking through the front window and out the windshield in such an excited state, the “light" in my head finally came on and I said to Clint, "You know, she acts like she knows where she's going!" which managed to get at least one of them calmed down. Clint began studying her in his mirror as he drove. And, when we made the third turn, she went completely BONKERS! Poor Duke, was doing all he could to keep from being trampled by his now charging around, barking and howling at the top of her lungs, traveling companion!

Seeing this, Clint laughed out loud saying, "I’ll be! You know, I think you're right! That crazy mutt of yours knows exactly where we're going!" So, we put up with the din for the remaining mile or so out to the parking area with growing curiosity of what laid in store for us on this; our first pheasant hunt with my, “…pound dog; a female one, no less!”, as Clint often referred to her. Just what had I stumbled upon adopting and bringing her home from that shelter? Well, with growing anticipation, we were about to find out!

We donned our orange, grabbed our shotguns and, I buckled the treat pouch around my waist. Taking her leash with me to the back of the truck I arrived just as Clint opened the back window of his topper so he could drop the tailgate and let the dogs out. Before I could say anything, the back window flew open out of Clint's grasp as he nearly got knocked over by the 75 pound black streak of solid muscle that shot out of the truck like a thoroughbred race horse out of the starting gates! Sadie hit the ground running sniffing around all the other parked vehicles apparently checking out the competition. Meanwhile Clint, muttering something, lowered the tailgate to let Duke out in ever more polite and dignified fashion. I just smiled as I anxiously watched Sadie for signs of bolting off into the thicket. But, she didn't. She even ran over to greet her canine buddy now finally out of the truck and join him in a sniff of the pheasant wing Clint produced and, I relaxed a bit. Sniffing done, however, she headed straight for the gate leading to the hunting grounds at a run. She stopped in the gate, looked back at us, barked twice excitedly urging us on before heading through and up the road herself.

Clint and I looked at one another, grabbed our shotguns and hustled after her and Duke who’d now joined up with her. I threw her leash around my neck and, once through the gate, began clumsily shoving shells into my gun as we hastened along following the dogs; Duke tagging along behind Sadie who had taken the lead and begun ranging back and forth across the trail with her nose to the air well ahead of us. She'd occasionally venture further off into the brush on this side or that, following her nose. But, when we'd fallen too far behind and, I called her to “Wait” she looked back at me and paused while we caught up, easing my concerns about her running off altogether. Then, when I gave her the "Okay", she resumed her ranging and quickly led me off the trail, into the adjacent field to our left. I liked what I was seeing in her! I liked it very much, indeed!

The field was thickly covered by near waist high grass that grew in softball sized clumps hidden from sight on the ground below making for treacherous footing. I had to "feel my way" with each step to avoid stumbling in it. And, it briefly took my attention away from Sadie, flanking my right, to where I was walking. As I did so, Sadie stopped cold near a clump of Sage with her tail curving straight up at the tip and, with head down and ears out, her eyes locked straight ahead into the Sage five feet in front of her. This, I noticed out the corner of my right eye just as my right foot landed on one of the grass clumps below twisting my ankle inward when the pheasant she'd led me to burst from the Sage thirty yards to my right! Off balance and hopelessly twisted the wrong way I tried to swing around for the shot on my off side; a miss! While reloading, he accelerated as though afterburner equipped forcing me to stumble around even further for a follow-up shot with even worse results! He made it safely over and through the trees spinning me around nearly 180 degrees and, almost toppling me over as I stumbled around on the grass clumps underfoot like a drunken sailor on a 3-day pass!

Flustered, I regained my upright stance, turned to look at Sadie and our eyes met with me getting "the look"! You know the one. It's the one every boy learns from his mother when he's done something she disapproves of but isn't going to say anything about, just yet. Every boy learns "the look" early on. And, I was getting it from my dog! We hadn't been walking more than ten minutes into our first hunt together and, I blew the first bird she'd put me on in record time for us, badly! And, she knew it! This proved to be but a prelude to what followed. Doing my best to ignore Clint's chiding remarks about my "grace afield", I ambled out of the tall grass over to Sadie and lavished her with praises for a good job "finding the birdie" and, rewarded her with a sizeable chunk of the beef jerky from the pouch. Feeling I'd "bought my way" back into her graces sufficiently, I urged her on and, rejoining Clint and Duke back on the trail, we resumed our quest.

It wasn’t ten minutes more when she'd gone just off the trail, into the low hanging tree limbs and brush lining its right side and, stopped cold again. Only her back half stuck out of the brush but, again, her tail curved straight up at the tip clearly visible to both Clint and I as we both walked up closer. Clint, on my left however, was focused on Duke, also on the left side of the trail and, apparently he hadn't been paying attention to Sadie when the second pheasant erupted from the brambles right in front of her. My first shot missed. Surprised, Clint's flustered follow-up was a miss and, my follow-up third also missed as the wily bird shredded its way through the tangled tree canopy to the safety of the opposite side!

Once again, seeing her prey retreat to safety after the shots, Sadie bounced back out onto the trail, turned toward the three of us standing there with our jaws hanging open in disbelief and gave all three of us males "the look". This time, adding one of those "doggy sneezes” I’ve learned translates into, "You stink!" She'd made her point so clear this time that even Duke understood it! And he had, watching Sadie in all this, finally come, not only to realize what "the game was" that we were playing but, who the expert was at playing it on this crew! And, looking over his shoulder up at Clint and me, he trotted up to join Sadie who turned with him as they both trotted up the road together glancing back only to ensure we were following the "Teacher" and her new "pupil". Clint, seeing this, was dumbfounded, even a little humiliated as was I. It was one of the rare times I’d seen the man held “jaw-open speechless”! Nevertheless, we fell in behind them not saying a word; just reloading!

Clint, now on my right, and I followed the dogs through an opening in the tree line to our right onto a narrow field perhaps sixty yards across. Another tree line bordered the opposite side with a canal just past the trees. A span of tall cat tails grew up midway in the tree line. As we entered behind them, Sadie was almost half way across the open grassy area heading for the cat tails. Duke had branched off to the right of Sadie and was flanking her some 25-30 yards as they both slowed to a walk toward the tall cat tails just across the way. Duke was turned left, looking toward Sadie and the tall cat tails.

Clint, seeing Duke out "by himself" had already ambled off to the right of Duke and was heading down toward the canal, calling for Duke to follow along way and, was missing what I was seeing of the two dogs altogether. I chose to cross the field behind and right of Sadie who was watching the base of the tall cat tails. Soon, she was stalking "head down - ears out" glancing quickly back and forth between the cat tails and Duke who, now mimicked Sadie's stalking posture. Seeing them both, it was as though Sadie was saying to Duke, "Hold it from running down that way, and I'll keep him from running up this way while the two-legged's come up between us." Meanwhile, Clint rounded the far end of the tree line alongside the canal all on his own; completely missing the two dogs putting on the most magnificent "stalk and hold" teamwork it has ever been my privilege to witness!

Regrettably this left me, the sorriest shot gunner ever to pick one of the things up, to press ahead with the dogs! As I made it across about two thirds of the field closing with the dogs, within just a few more steps the fattest bird of the day burst up from cat tails right where the dogs were pointing him! And, even being "at the ready", I again, missed two shots at it! As it dove down and away out of my sight and shot across the canal, Clint tried a third. But, being 60 or 70 yards away and, with it blasting, "full steam" from left to right across in front of him, he missed it too! Well, that was THAT!

Sadie, having found, stalked and, led us to three pheasant in, for us, a record 30-45 minutes, only to have us bungle our job with, not single but, multiple missed shots taken at all three, had all she was going to take from us incompetent, incapable, complete "Duffers" at this game in which, she was the obvious Master! Looking me dead in the eyes to make sure I was paying attention, she leaped up whirling around and, with an angry snarl, snapped the brown "cigar" off the top of a six foot tall cat tail behind her, scattering a million seed pods floating through the air like the feathers of what should have been a well hit pheasant. Turning full circle in midair, she landed back down on the ground still glaring at me, now standing there jaw hung open. This time she didn't just "sneeze" at me, either. Instead, she let out a head-shaking, growling "snort" of disgust as she stomped her front paw on the ground tossing sand toward me, turned and stomped off in a huff! Duke, her obedient pupil, cast an indignant, nose up gaze at me as he pranced by, following her! There was no doubt about it. The “Head Mistress” was taking the rest of the day off! And, taking her “Star Pupil” with her, “School for the Shooting Impaired” was closed!

Nevertheless, Clint, still hopeful, and I, not so much so, fell in behind wherever the two dogs went. Through thickets, across creeks, alongside ponds where the dogs plunged in and had a great time swimming after ducks they went, leaving us on our own to poke around along the shore hoping to flush another pheasant. This went on for the next couple of hours without any sparrows, much less, pheasant. Finally toward the end, Sadie lead us down a narrow, tree-lined creek; crossing it back & forth several times for a quarter of a mile or more when, the six point Mule Deer she was "entertaining" all this time finally broke the tree line cover 150 yards ahead and galloped across a wide-open field to another tree stand half a mile away! Looking down at her “pleased-with-herself” face smiling back up at us, both Clint and I could just "hear" her snidely asking, "Is THAT one big enough for one of you two Bozos to maybe hit it?"

I looked at Clint. He looked at me. And, in the same exhausted breaths we both muttered, "Let's head for the truck." The long trek back with both dogs following along behind, obviously content with their humiliating "payback", gave me ample pause to reflect on a whole new set of problems. In all the books I'd looked through in consideration of buying them to learn how to train my dog to hunt, as well as, those I have since purchased and read; I have yet to find ANYTHING written about how a DOG should teach a HUMAN to hunt!

Yet, having personally attended and, experienced just such training first-hand; rather than simply explain it by glibly saying, "That it was just another mean female plot hatched on the male gender.”, as Clint might and leave it at that. I honestly and humbly go about the business of seeking the means for membership in a nearby Trap & Skeet Club to work on my sorry scatter gunning skills to raise them sufficiently enough to meet the high standards set and expected of me by my new found teacher and, in this household, bird hunting expert, Sadie-the “Head Mistress”. Hopefully, I will regain my usual, more comfortable, not quite so perplexed but, ever more respectful of the “gentle gender”, male confidence and prowess!

“Bird-less” as it turned out, this first day’s hunt with Sadie, for me, remains the pinnacle of all the days we’ve spent together; and, one I truly cherish the most! The joy I took home that day now laid firm in the knowledge that I was the benefactor of someone’s living, one-of-a-kind, long-lost, BLACK TREASURE! She’s a gem of ever growing, near legendary proportions! And, reflecting on it always brings a grin to my face along with a head shaking chuckle from within.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Special Time of Season"

It seems we're all anxious for warm & sunny days to return. So much so, I see and hear more and more how people are doing things to hasten their return. Me, sneaking off to the boonies in spite of the expected hazards; a friend of mine outside, cleaning off her back porch, putting out the furniture and plants & daring to enjoy a meal outside. Everywhere, people are expressing, each in his or her way, their need to break out; to do something outdoors that they enjoy. To me, this is the special time of the season; the time when, just as children, we sneak out while the weather is looking the other way. And, just like children, we wear bigger smiles when we get away with it, like we used to whenever we got away with an extra cookie from the cookie jar when mother wasn't looking. Yet I suspect that, just like mother knew about the cookies, Mother Nature knows about us sneaking outside. And, just like mother, she simply smiles and chuckles as she continues on with her work making warm and sunny days ahead. And, that just adds a dash more "special" to this time of the seasons for me!

The "Cabin Fever" is about to peak. We've endured all that I think is humanly or canine possible! While the temps have begun to come up a bit, now tapping on the fifty mark briefly in the afternoons, nights still dip down into the 30's. And, the rain/snow mix continues to pay us regular visits keeping the ground saturated and, muddy. Along with it comes the usual blustery winds. There are, however, rare and most welcome exceptions.

After a very cloudy morning, the sky finally cleared and it turned out a beautiful, sunny afternoon with calm wind added as an extra! So, I decided it was time to "break out" and, piled the .22 & some shells into the P/U and, headed out to the "Whistle Pig" grounds! And, because she doesn't like the sound of the rifle fire, I left Sadie home. En route, I came upon a young rancher pulled off on the shoulder with the hood up on his P/U. So, I pulled over to see if I could help. It was in quite a remote area, after all. He'd run out of gas in the old P/U. So, I gave him a lift to get his gas can filled and drove him back. We had a good visit during the twenty or so minute trip and, I made another friend; always a welcome happening. Having gotten him on his way home, I resumed my trek out to the shooting grounds.

I was greatefully surprised to find the main dirt road to be quite smooth, relatively dry and, well packed. And, while putting along down it several miles, I saw quite a lot of the pesky little critters scampering about along the way. After getting well enough away from farm homes & buildings I came to one of my favorite turn offs going down into one of the many valleys between the ridges & hills where I like to shoot. And, having had my confidence sufficiently built by driving on the main road, decided to venture a ways down into that valley.

I hadn't gone more than 25 yards when, what appeared to be a minor puddle, turned out to be a major quagmire of muck! I don't mind telling you that when all steering and traction vanished suddenly, I knew I was in for a battle to get back out of that mess with my lowly 2-wheel drive machine! But, after several attempts at going forward and backing up, I managed to finally get the back wheels up and over the flanking ridge of the trough on the left side and, with great banging and bounce, finally backed the rig out of the mess and onto the main road safe and sound! That "minor puddle" now left, resembled a small pond after my battle in it! I decided then and there all my shooting would be confined to the main road shoulders!

I found several wide pull-overs overlooking some likely spots with good, clear views of ample burrow mounds and, spent the afternoon "dusting the rust" out of the old shooting muscles. Amazing, isn't it how atrophied they get from long periods of just sitting idle? And, I began to feel them talking back to me in protest early on! But, in spite of that, I managed to send a few of the little devils to "the great burrow in the sky" going through a couple of boxes of ammo in the process (not my usual "yield" rate to be sure!). It didn't take long, not more than a couple of hours, until the temperature began to drop sharply again; as is usual up here when late afternoon announces the coming evening. It was time to head for home.

That trip went without incident, thankfully. And, I got back home just around dinner time. Tired, stomach growling, hands cramping up from all the exertion and, the P/U covered in dry mud; I knew I'd gotten away with an extra cookie this day! And, it brought out a big smile. I fixed a good, hot dinner, fed Sadie, with a dab of some of that yummy chili from the pan mixed in her kibble for a special treat; a consolation for leaving her behind and, settled in for the night with that big ol' smile on m'face! Can't wait for a repeat; weather's going to change. It always does. And, I'll keep a sharp eye out for an extra cookie from the cookie jar!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Our Autmn Calling"

The turn of the leaves, the chill in the air
beckons us both to come walk awhile there!
There in the fields, amidst grass and cut stalk,
dog, she will run, while I simply walk.

She’ll cast to and fro, nose to the air
searching the game we know to be there!
Up the row, down the row steadily she casts
while I watch intently; the signal at last!

I sneak up slowly toward game that’s been found;
yet to me is unseen, as I look o’r the ground.
Keen senses attuned, our hair all a bristle
with one last step; it explodes from the thistle!
With the rush of the start, the shot’s never heard
but, shortly thereafter she brings me the bird!

We’ll walk awhile longer toward setting of Sun
both, knowing well a good day's been done;
by a dog, an old man and, his trusted old gun.

"Sadie & Me"

I'd received a response from an online friend, after she'd read something I'd quoted in a Blog about dogs, "This was a wonderful expression..." she said quoting it back to me,

"He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.) When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me... whenever... wherever - in case I need him. And I expect I will - as I always have. He is just my dog."

- Gene Hill

To which I replied, "Yes it is, it truly is. And it very much reflects, as eloquently as human words can, how it is with me and my "Sadie". We are most certainly bonded in this way, one with and for the other; missing one another at a moment's separation. Where one is found, the other is nearby, always. I did not tell my friend how I came to post Mr. Hill's quote along with many others about man's best friend in the first place; why it was there for her to comment on to me, at all.

You see, I'd spent nearly four hours reading what others had written about dogs one sleepless night caused, perhaps, by a resurgence of guilt and remorse welling up within me for what I'm about to reveal to you. Doing so, I found two quotes that brought me to tears, the one above being the later of them. "Sadie" came to me, you see, only after I'd lost two of her predecessors in violent, close succession; my beloved "Princess" to a careless driver and an even more useless vet, and her successor, "Duchess", still just a pup, shortly after at my own carelessness backing our semi up to a customer's loading dock and running her over myself!  Having read those passages brought the horror of those losses back as well as the tears I'd shed for days and nights over them. It is why Sadie's full name: "Princess Sadie-boo, Duchess of Boojy Woojy" carries both of her for bearers' name in it as well as, "Princess' " litter mates' nick-name "Boojies".

Finding that sadness too much to bear, I soon found another passage; quite short, it quickly turned my attention toward more recent and pleasant thoughts;

"She had no particular breed in mind, no unusual requirements. Except the special sense of mutual recognition that tells dog and human they have both come to the right place."

- Lloyd Alexander

While I'm sure Mr. Alexander was describing a scene he'd happened upon of a woman looking for a dog, when I read it, my thoughts were drawn to the day I went to the Humane Society Shelter to look at a dog I'd seen advertised by them who bore an amazing resemblance to my "Princess". But, spending some time with it once there, I found the dog was in no way like her at all. Disappointed, I put her back in her kennel and walked around a bit just browsing. As I drew nearer the exit door just past the last kennel, all but conceding I'd be returning home companion-less and with my melancholy still wholly intact, I looked down into the most beautiful, longing brown eyes and was instantly held captive!

There, sitting on the floor leaning against her kennel gate as close to me as she could get was the most beautiful creature of her kind I'd ever seen; shimmering black as a clear night's sky, her eyes gazing directly back into mine. At that moment it was as though two souls touched! I took her out into the yard, where we played a bit of "fetch" with a ball I'd brought along and just sat in the sun for a time; her, leaning against my leg, resting her chin on my knee content and at ease as I petted her head gently and spoke softly to her (as a man would only confide in his dog regarding such regrettable, even deplorable events as had befallen me) of my reasons for being there. And, as only a dog can, she listened to me in quiet consolation, perhaps knowing full well the depth of my remorse and guilt. Yet, she never wavered; just pulled my knee closer to her under her chin and sighed, knowingly, understandingly and continued to listen while I poured out my soul to this silent, loving being. Whenever my hand trembled a bit with emotion, she'd simply pull me closer to her with her chin as one would "hug" another in their time of need. She knew! And, she gave me solace through it all.

As it grew late in the day and it came time for me to go, we slowly walked across the yard, back to the building housing the kennels. I opened the door we’d come out and, she went in after looking at me with tail and head down in disappointment. I followed. We were met with the din of frightened, yelping dogs echoing resoundingly inside the stark concrete building. I walked up the long hallway with her a short ways to the door leading back into the kennels where I found her and, we stopped there listening for a moment to those never ending echoes of the homeless dogs within…me, hesitating, contemplating and battling with the inner conflict over my horrible track record with dogs recently. But, looking down at her looking up at me and back to that kennel door with such sadness and worry then, looking up the hallway to the offices and front desk and back up into my eyes again with her ears laid back and tail down with a slight whimper she sat down as though to give me just a little more time. I knelt down, reaching out to hold her head gently in my hand and promised her I’d do my very best to take good care of her if she would consent to being my dog. And, I asked her, “Do you want to go HOME with me?”

Her ears FLEW out to attention as she stood up, tail wagging and giving that little “doggy” lick of the lip the way they do with an expression of questioning disbelief at what she’d just heard me say. And, as I rose back up, she stretched out her front legs far into a bowing invitation and swung around to my side opposite the kennel door pointing up the remaining hallway leading us BOTH out of there!  So, we struck a deal, she and I, that fine and sunny afternoon. And, the rest is our recent history; one happily still in the making after being together for over three years, now. She's become my family, my companion as I have become hers; albeit evermore watchful over her as I agreed to be in our accord that wondrous day.

Perhaps Mr. Alexander was unaware of the power of his perception when he wrote the above passage about the woman looking for a dog but, reflecting on it, I truly believe he was unknowingly describing exactly what my "Sadie" was feeling in that kennel the day I happened by.  And it was SHE who had thus, chosen me; "one of no particular breed and no unusual requirements except the special sense of mutual recognition that tells dog and human they have both come to the right place."

And then, an overwhelming tear of grateful joy welled up in me as I reached out my hand and stroked her silken, black coat tenderly, lovingly, gratefully and in marvel of the “powers that be” overseeing us in this life and world we live in and she just sighed contentedly in her peaceful slumber beside me in our, be it ever so humble, loving home!