Reader Story sent in for Cooter and Java
Give the Dog a Bone
Jan. 11, 2012
Bird Hunters speak of their gun dogs with moist eyes and in reverent tones. They tell of how Ol’ Brownie would patiently and lovingly keep them company in the blind, spot flights of geese before the hunter, and focus without distraction until one of the giant birds tumbled to earth. Then, the hunter’s voice, now emphatic with delight, tells of sending the dog on “fetch”, and how Ol’ Brownie would fight snow, ice, dense tulies and snarled brambles to locate the fallen bird and bring it in softly clenched jaws to the feet of the hunter.
Charlie may be genetically connected to some of these gun dogs, but his game is not guns. Not saying that Charlie is smarter than the average gun dog, but he has insight into a danger rooted somewhere in his dim, canine subconscious. Guns plus humans has not always been a good combination for dogs. Be it accident or intent, somewhere in the annals of dog and man, men have shot dogs with guns. You must know that dogs share a collective soul. They are connected to all dogs that have gone before and they remember. I can see it in Charlie’s eyes when a gun goes off. It is certainly fear but it is mostly distrust. I can also see in Charlie’s eyes that the notion of sitting in a blind waiting for a gun to go off is a non-starter.
Charlie is a cross between a white standard Poodle father and a brown Labrador mother. Such a cross is called a labradoodle, but both Charlie and I find the label, gay, dismissive and without dignity. We prefer to think of his breed as Poodrador. Charlie is handsome and covered with a course, curly white coat. Pam and I picked Poodrador because we had spent a decade and a half with Basset hounds, an enigmatic breed and one that sheds spiky guard hairs that work into every fabric like porcupine quills. The Poodrador was bred initially to be used as dogs for the non-seeing, combining intelligence, loyalty and a non-allergetic, non-shedding coat. It is consistent with other choices we have made that the primary reason for the choice, non-shedding, would be rendered ridiculous by the fact that Charlie sheds continually and profusely. We have missed the boat by not raising several of the beasts, harvesting their shed and weaving it into creative clothing or blankets. I believe a Poodrador sweater would sell nicely on Amazon.
Though no gun dog, Cheeza, as called by my grandchildren, is the greatest “baller” I have ever seen. Like the gym rat who never tires of shooting free throws, the cap and mitt clad, would be major leaguer, tirelessly looking for a catch partner, or the sideline wide receiver who will toss with anyone willing, Charlie lives to play ball. Though just 5 years old his teeth are worn smooth from worrying tennis balls. Whether splitting wood, loading garbage or digging post holes, a tennis ball or stick or in their absence a saliva covered rock will be dropped in the middle of my work and the attentive gaze, and taunt stance of readiness will shape eye and muscle. Try to ignore him if you can, and he will up the ante and begin a persistent and irritating bark until the item is thrown. Charlie would chase a ball off a cliff, into a raging river or into a pile of barbed wire. There is no gun dog who could do more in chasing a duck. He is tireless, and I fear he will someday chase until he dies of exhaustion. To date, my arm has not proved worthy of the task.
I have had dogs all my life. They have shit and puked on furniture, bed, carpet and car seats. One actually puked in a newly purchased cowboy boot. They have consoled, thrilled and embarrassed. They have left me completely broken with grief at their passing. Even now, if I let the thought of dogs I have loved into my mind, the tears will begin to well. Of all those dogs, I think Charlie is the best, and for him I will likely cry the most. My favorite quote about dogs, and there are many, as humans seem to realize that dogs are really better than we are, was from Will Rodgers. He was speculating on the notion put forth by some religious folk that dogs do not go to heaven. Rodgers said, “If there are no dogs in heaven, then I don’t think I want to go there.”