I recently dedicated a post to the three family dogs that I remember: the late Dusty and Oochy, and our current dog, Dakota. The following post briefly chronicles the lives of the dogs that I personally owned over the years.
During Oochy’s long and glorious life I, like most boys do and should, often dreamed about having my own puppy. Not the family’s dog but my dog. I remember repeatedly signing out the AKC Complete Dog Book from the school library and spending hours reading about the different breeds, looking at the pictures, and deciding on exactly what kind of dog I wanted. The latter usually changed every week. I also received a dog supply catalog in the mail and would spend hours browsing all the products I would need once my puppy actually came.
Finally, and rather unexpectedly, the day of fulfillment arrived. My cousins found a stray puppy from what they later found to be a litter of abandoned black lab/bluetick coonhound puppies. Would I be interested in giving this one a home? Is that even a question? Well it was for my parents but after sleeping over it they consented, and thus, Scout entered my life as my very first dog. My dog. I kept Scout in a good-sized room on the second floor of our barn. Whenever I returned from school and opened his kennel door his near rabid excitement would cause a temporary malfunction of his bladder system. He was a lot of fun and would have made a great companion dog, but, a few months after I got him his life was suddenly cut short by a car. Very sad.
Soon after Scout’s end I became interested in pointing dogs through a friend and current dog-training mentor of sorts, Russ Richardson. Once again the dreaming and planning began. I spent hours reading Russ’s collection of Gun Dog magazines, browsing supply catalogs, and researching breeds online. For awhile I entertained the idea of a Gordon Setter but settled on German Shorthairs and soon purchased a puppy out of a litter advertised in the local paper. Nisley’s Nitroglycerin was born on June 14, 2002 and became my second dog and first pointing dog exactly seven weeks later.
My ideas about dog training were very undeveloped and rather naive, but one needs to start somewhere. Although Nitro turned into a decent bird dog and I shot (or at least shot at) a good number of pheasants over him, he never lived up to the explosive nature of his name. Except of course when it came to food. Only his love for birds matched and occasionally trumped his love for food. In the field he was rather lazy and bone headed although I seldom would have admitted it at the time. He would potter around thick brush and fervently disobey my increasingly fervent exhortations to increase speed and effectiveness. I mostly blame his ineptness in the field on my ineptness as a trainer. Blind leading the blind for the most part. I tried going by the book, but he was a rather eccentric case. Nonetheless, we still spent countless delightful (sometimes not so delightful) hours chasing birds together and training each other.
His first seizure occured in the hunting field one hot early fall day a few years after I got him. The bizarre ugliness of it scared me horribly. In the following months they only got more frequent and severe. I consulted my vet and he recommended an expensive side-effect ridden medication. Big help that was. I decided to leave it and let Nitro live out the rest of his days in relative normality. At times I thought the seizures quit for good, but then they would return with increased severity. His over health, coherence, and coordination gradually disintegrated. I was in Mexico when the inevitable happened. While bedridden with a severe case of nausea and stomach ailments I received the news that a final severe seizure claimed the life of my very eccentric yet very beloved canine companion of four years. Cruel world. Yes, I know he was “just a dog”, but, as a tribute to his memory, I keep his picture and framed pedigree on display in my room.
During Nitro’s last summer (2006) a two year-old German Shorthair, named Max, came up for sale at our school benefit auction. Illegal I think but it happened. I kind of felt sorry for him and to my partially experienced eye he looked like a promising bird dog. Energy, good disposition, good build, long legs, etc. He had papers but no bird experience whatsoever. I figured I could take care of that, so I bought him and used up most of my graduation money in the process.
Except for his incessant barking while tied up or kenneled Max was a rather enjoyable companion. He trained very easily and loved to run. Racing the four-wheeler soon became his utmost passion. He would wind out and set his cruise at around 30 mph all the way back our grass airstrip. Back and forth. Then back again and forth again. Crazy dog.
I had decided beforehand though that if he failed as a bird dog I’d sell him to the next highest bidder. After a few days I worked him on a few pigeons. Nothing. I’d lead him directly to the bird and he would barely glance at it. I still kept him for awhile giving him a chance. Still nothing. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was when one day he spied my brother walking across the yard with a 12 guage shotgun. Immediately, Max took refuge in the nearest doghouse. Not good. Awhile later I held a broomstick to my shoulder in a shooting position as a test. The poor dog pinched his stub-tail between his legs and nearly dove for shelter behind the nearest sturdy object. Well, a dog with serious qualms about shotguns normally makes a less-than-desirable hunting companion, so I called the next highest bidder and sure they would take Max. Except for some dog food and training time I even broke even on the deal. Not bad at all. I have seen Max once since then and he seems to be doing quite well. Except for his hunting game of course.
After Max’s departure and Nitro’s death I was without a dog for nearly a month. I had graduated earlier that spring, so I had time and money on my side, and Russ, who semi-professionally raises, trains, trials, and sells English Pointers, had a recently whelped litter with a fairly serious pedigree. He sold me the pick of the litter, and Nisley’s Bonny Belper, more commonly known as ‘Bel’ has been my canine companion at home and in the hunting field for almost two years.
Due to the nature of the sport trial-bred English Pointers are generally all-business, focused, emotionally detached dogs. Bel does receive and appreciate affection quite readily, but she gives her loyalties to anybody who takes her hunting or simply opens her kennel door and sets her free to run manically. I love her for it. I purchased her for bird hunting and that kind of focus, stamina, and energy are key to a successful hunt and excellent dog. I finished her yard/obedience training last fall and her hunting abilities are coming along quite nicely. Her pointing instinct developed late and is still in the developing process, but in my opinion energy and drive top natural pointing instinct in importance.
Bel’s demeanor usually ranges from ebullient to frenzied exuberance. During her daily exercise routine she can be most accurately described as a white blur as she cruises the open fields with the ease of a marathoner and the speed of a sprinter. Only when on point is her body fully still. Her pointing style is simply beautiful. I know many cannot appreciate this, but time stands still when she locks up with head and tail held high, intense eyes and quivering nose pointing towards her prey.
I’m not sure what the future holds for her what with me starting school this fall, but until then she remains my one and only Bonny Belper.
Personal News Bulletin: Besides working, biking, dogs, and general running around, not much.