Daughters, Dogs, and Fishing

Daughters, Dogs, and Fishing

(as published in the Mountain Gazette, April 18, 2013)

Once again I’m writing from the road –
an all too often occurrence. It’s a bit more of a challenge writing about the
outdoors when you are in the city and you don’t have the great outdoors staring
you in the face like you do back in Vermont.
So here I sit, surrounded by my outdoor reading
material, lugged all the way from Vermont for writing inspiration – a Ruffed
Grouse Society magazine; Fly Fisherman
magazine with a “cannibal trout” on the cover; a spring edition of Northern Woodlands, featuring an article
on “how young animals disperse” – clearly aimed at graduating seniors from
college; and two issues of Northwoods
Sporting Journal
, featuring articles on “big trout tactics,” “ice out brook
trout,” and “a boy’s first gun.”
My daughter Katie called and suggested
that I write about the difficulty of training a bird dog in suburbia, which is
where we got our first bird dog. Now I can’t get the thought of dogs we’ve had
over the years out of my head. I trained my first bird dog about a mile away
from where I’m now writing. (OK, for those keeping score, he was about the only
really trained dog I’ve had.)
It wasn’t really that hard training a
bird dog in the suburbs of Washington. It was most difficult training a bird
dog with two little girls around who tried to undo any obedience I tried to
instill. I remember coming home one night after a long day and was greeted by
my two little darlings giggling hysterically. I asked them what was so funny
and they said in unison, “Look at Daddy’s bird dog!” Then old Tupper comes
running to the door wagging his tail. I think he was wagging his tail, but it
was tough to see since he was wearing Little Mermaid panties. My little girls
couldn’t have been more proud of themselves. Never has a good bird dog been
more disgraced.
It was in training Tupper (a Brittany) that
I first got published in Gun Dog
magazine. I had sent in a training tip and a picture of Tupper. I still have
the page from the magazine framed and hanging in the house. I even sent Tupper
away for a few weeks to be worked on birds. When I went to pick him up the
trainer was telling me all that he could do, all obedience training stuff. I
think the trainer was hoping I’d be impressed. I wasn’t. “He could do all that
when I dropped him off,” I said. Truth is you don’t have to live in the country
to train a bird dog well on basic obedience commands you will use in the
field.  Obedience training can be done
anywhere…except maybe around a house with two little girls and a dog-indulgent
wife.
Maddie helping to pick out our first gun dog
Tupper was a great dog. He had a good
nose, was biddable, loved to hunt, and he could play “dress-up” with the best
of them. He has been gone for over five years, but you never forget a really
good dog…or a really bad one. My dad still hasn’t forgotten or forgiven
Bentley, our first pound-rescued dog, for drinking his martini. Stories of
Bentley could fill a book. He was a miscreant from the beginning – chewing
everything, soiling the carpet, the refrigerator door, cabinets…don’t ask. His most
redeeming characteristic, and it may have been his only one, was that he was
great with children – especially ours. Whenever we returned from a walk the
first thing he’d do was find the girls, then plop himself down and watch over
his flock. He was a Bearded Collie after all.
The memory of each dog we’ve had recalls
a stage in the life of our family. Thinking of Bentley, after suppressing
memories of cleaning up after him, brings up memories of being newly married
and starting a family. Tupper and Dixie (an Australian Shepherd) saw our
transition from Virginia to Vermont. Calvin Coolidge, aka “smiling” Cal (a
Brittany) and Cabot (an English Setter) are our “native” Vermont dogs and kept
the nest from becoming too empty.
“Dogs,” thanks for the idea, Katie. You
can train a dog anywhere, just like you can start and raise a family. But when
it comes to “finishing” a bird dog or a child, is there any place better than
Vermont?
OK, what about fish? As if I had
forgotten. Fish are good to eat, but more fun to catch. Bass catch &
release season opens April 13th. Regular Bass season opens June 8th
and runs through November 30th. Trout and Landlocked Salmon season
opens on April 13th and runs through October 31st (no
closed season on the big lake). Finally, Walleye season opens May 4th
and runs through March 15th (2014) for all waters except the
Connecticut River and Chittenden Reservoir.
Happy days afield. Please visit www.sportingafield.blogspot.com for more news,
musings, and interviews or to leave questions or comments.

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