Tug of War
While most everyone else was either fighting the crowds at the malls or surfing the web for bargains, I decided to spend my Black Friday a bit differently. Mitch opted to work overtime, to pay for the new alternator the dog hauler just had to have after I spent a small fortune at the grocery store. Had I known the alternator was going to go out, I would have waited to buy some of the extras. Sorry I digress, (a sign of old age). I thought that since I was on my own for Black Friday and crowds of strangers, each ruder than the next, are not my idea of fun, I took the dogs hiking. They didn’t care where we went as long as they were with me, so it was a win-win situation.
So I loaded them up and headed off for a morning of tearing around out in the woods at break neck speeds. For three dogs that normally spend their days looking like large lumps on the bed, laying around sucking up oxygen and conserving energy, it’s a whole different story when we take them out to the woods, they turn into three energizer bunnies, going and going and going. I parked the car at the top of the hill with about a half mile hike to the bottom where the trail starts. Which means the way back to the car is at the TOP of the hill, about a half mile hike UPHILL to the car. As soon as the dogs figured out where we were, they couldn’t wait to get out and run around. Orso started barking and pacing back and worth, because I wasn’t moving fast enough for him. I opened the tailgate and out came the three happiest dogs. The only thing that could make their day any better would be if there was peanut butter cake there too.
The day was chilly with gusty winds and clouds covering the sky, not the prettiest day but definitely not the worst. We were the only ones around so the dogs could run and sniff to their hearts content. After the hike I gave each one a bath so now I have pretty dogs – Bonus! I can’t think of a better way to work off turkey and all the fixins.
I tortured my dogs today. I tortured them viciously, remorselessly. I did it with malice and premeditation. I was the ultimate evil pet owner. Charlie tried to escape the onslaught by huddling deeply in one of the dog beds. He looked up at me with pitiful soft eyes, begging for mercy. Orso jumped up on the bed and curled into a ball hoping for leniency, bracing for the worst. AJ stood silently by me looking up at me with soft loving eyes hoping for a reprieve and letting me know he loved me even though I was not the loving pet owner he deserved.
But I’m the worst pet owner any dog would ever have. I wielded my instrument of torture with the precision of a skilled surgeon. I worked quickly, leaving the dogs no escape from their fate. All three knew the worst was yet to come. I showed no outward emotion on my face, but inside I felt a degree of satisfaction, maybe even a little evil pleasure at their despair. Yes, I was enjoying this.
They finally gave in and hung their heads knowing there was no escape and gave into the inevitable. My instrument of torture? A leash. I made my “water” dogs go for a walk in the rain.
What is the attraction to dogs with dead disgusting thoroughly gross smelling animal carcasses? And it’s not only animal carcasses, it’s animal poop, urine or the likes that dogs love. Charlie especially. The more wretched the better. I’ve lost track of the number of times Charlie would be off exploring on our walks, then come racing back to me with a proud expression of excitement on him, as if he’d won the lottery. He would smell so bad I would barely be able to get close enough to put the lease on him and take him home for a bath in the basement garage. Because no dog will come into my house smelling like that.
This hunting trip was no different. Monday, last day of the trip, Mitch and I were working a small stand of tall prairie grass, about the width of a football field and the double the length. Perfect for four hunters, but also manageable for two. We’d made the trip from one end to the other without any success and decided to walk back through one more time, just to give it a complete sweep. I was in the middle of the field and Mitch was close to the south edge, when I heard Mitch hollering at Charlie, “No Charlie, get up. Quit!”
I asked him what was up and Mitch told me that Charlie had found a deer carcass and did the stop, drop and roll. He came up thoroughly pleased with himself. Charlie came running over to me for a whiff. Lucky me. Both Mitch and I said simultaneously, “You’re getting a bath today, Buster!”
Feeling sorry for the dead deer and sorrier for me, because I was the giver of bathes, I restarted working the field. We hadn’t made it twenty feet when Charlie came upon more remains of another dead deer. Thinking he’d hit the jackpot, Charlie dive bombed head first into the disgusting pile of bones, fur and flesh. I yelled at him to stop, but he was in stinky dog nirvana. I finally had to use his shock collar to get him to stop. Charlie was so proud of himself, he strutted up to Orso with his head high, as if to say I am the king of stink! Smell me I smell absolutely wonderful.
What a stinker, literally.
This year on the annual “Great Pheasant Hunt” the weather was more cooperative. Saturday was sunny and chilly around 38 degrees to start the day. Too windy, with sustained winds around 20 miles an hour, but it was dry, no rain or snow. Not too bad all things considered. AJ and Charlie were beside themselves with energy and excitement for the upcoming event. Orso was just along for the ride, as usual. No interest in hunting, just happy to be with us.
Even though we’ve been pheasant hunting for decades, Mitch for almost five decades and me for twelve years, every year we either learn something new or a better way to prepare for hunting. Because we don’t get the opportunity to go hunting as often as we would like nor do we work the dogs as much as they need to stay at the top of their game, the first day has always been very chaotic. The dogs have so much pent up excitement at finally being able to do the one thing they were bred for, hunt birds.
Fifteen minutes into our first morning, we always tell each other that next year we need to come up a day earlier than everyone else to wear the dogs out a bit and never do. This year was no different, but now we’ve added a twist, next year we plan on getting set up about an hour before the others and work the dogs away from where we plan on hunting, so as not to chase off any pheasant that may be loitering in the area. We definitely don’t need any more handicaps.
This brilliant idea came to me watching the dogs the second morning totally out of control running through six foot plus tall dense prairie grass, losing sight of them almost immediately. I stomped down the hill and up to Mitch, poor unsuspecting soul, and said, “I have a thought. This area is too hard to manage the dogs with all of this energy. We need to slow them down. I think that we should take them across the draw to the open hilly field and run them to burn off some of their exuberance. What do you think?”
Mitch was experiencing as much frustration as I was and quickly agreed. We both knew that there were birds laying low in dense grasses and didn’t want the dogs to scatter them. So we called everyone out of the prairie grass, called the dogs and regrouped. As expected one was missing. AJ was nowhere to be found. I told Mitch to hold on to both Charlie and Orso while I tromped off to find AJ. Orso, thinking he was going to miss something immediately started wailing so I told Mitch to let him come with me. I found AJ heading back to the cars having lost us. After getting all of us together, Mitch explained our plan and off we headed across the electric fence that we always forget to unplug until one of us remembers the hard way. Everyone else that hasn’t touched the fence yet laughs at the victim, really glad it wasn’t them.
Even though it was only 40 degrees, the dogs found the pond at the bottom of the dam a refreshing swim. Brrr. Hydrated and renewed, the dogs bolted off up the open ground. We started yelling, “Whoa!” as soon either Charlie or AJ got too far ahead of us. The plan was to keep both of them working close to us. Orso wasn’t a problem never straying too far ahead, as I constantly clomped him in the jaw with my heel. He prefers to let me clear a path, less effort on his part.
After walking and working the dogs from one end of Todd’s land to other, we succeeded in taking some of the out of control excitement out of them. We decided it was time to head back to the tall prairie grass and give it a thorough sniffing. The dogs worked wonderfully and rewarded us with two more birds.
Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?