Bird Dog Buyer's Remorse

by Scott 

Letting a bird dog into my house was the worse decision I ever made… I’ve lived with Rupert, a wirehaired pointing griffon, since August of 2014 so let me offer some advice to the reader considering buying a puppy. 

Rupert is the proud owner of a contraption called the  “Big Dog water fountain”. This piece of hardware set me back $75,  but let me tell you, it was worth it. This thing not only holds over two gallons of water, it also circulates and filters it. I mean this thing is so cool I am tempted to drink from it… but the inevitable photographic evidence has thwarted my urges. The good news is that Rupert loves this fountain! So much so that, when it first sounded with the familiar water fountain gulp, he became absorbed in delight. He then proceeded to use his genetically perfectly webbed feet to scoop all two gallons of water onto my kitchen floor. With an air of pride, he trotted off thirsty from his work, directly to the bathroom where he proceeded to drink from the toilet. 

Before buying Rupert, I did my homework. I spent hours on the internet reading other people’s thoughts on rough coat vs short hair or flusher vs pointer. But the most important lesson I learned was that purebred dogs are expensive. I wanted to make sure that my investment lasted so when the breeder told me to only feed Rupert high quality food I took it seriously. I went into the city and found a boutique pet shop, the type of place where you can sign your dog up for acupuncture or a calming massage. The owner of the shop, a short, short-haired woman, was so knowledgeable about dog food I would swear she shares a bowl with her dog. She directed me towards a vacuum sealed bag that had kibble made from free range and grain-free sources.  Rupert was happy and I could rest easy knowing he was eating well. That was until I discovered the dessert menu. Rupert had found a self serve dessert bar that features feline feces made fresh daily. I wonder if people who claim to enjoy puppy breath have owned a puppy and a cat at the same time?

In every visible corner, and every dog sized nook, in my house you will probably find a dog toy. I have spent more on dog toys, over the years, than the truck I depend on to get back and forth to work. I have stuffed rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, ducks, pheasants and fox. I having flying squirrels, Frisbees, rings and boomerangs. I have balls of various sizes and materials and launchers that can throw them 100 yards. Considering this, you can imagine my confusion when Rupert passed not one or two but at least a dozen of these toys to pick up my house slipper. In my disgust, I approached Rupert to collect his new “toy” and he ran away toward his water fountain. Realizing that he was thirsty he attempted to drink from the fountain. But the slipper was causing a problem so naturally he dropped it into the fountain. This, of course, prevented him from drinking from the reservoir… Not to worry Rupert, is clever. He simply turned around, walked to the bathroom and drank from the toilet. Not one to pass up the opportunity for dessert he grabbed a fresh one from the nearby litter box and came back to inspect my retrieval technique. As I scooped my slipper from the fountain, he was impressed. He showed this by bringing his wet, stinking mug close and gave me a light kiss on the cheek.  

So, if you are on the fence about owning a dog you may be asking what the upside is. After Rupert came home, we started training right away. I attached a pheasant wing to a cat feather dangling toy and got a kick as Rupert chased it through the backyard. I kept bringing out the wing for him and he grew to love it. He chased as fast as his top heavy 10-pound frame would let him. I laughed as he attempted a sharp turn and his head carried him him ass over tea kettle. Rupert would glare at me as if to say “just wait”. The day came when I brought the wing out and he stopped chasing and just stared with his body stiff. For a moment I thought to myself that he didn’t want to play and almost put the wing away. It then registered Rupert was on point! I instinctively yelled “flush it!” Rupert dove at the wing leaving little time for me to react. The excitement of owning a bird dog was starting to hit home and I couldn’t wait for the season to start.

Bird season opened and Rupert was still a little young for me to have too high of expectations. I decided to spend some quality time with Rachelle out in a local field. I let Rupert run, not expecting him to hunt but I thought I could test his obedience training in a hunting situation. We were walking through a field when Rupert made a sudden right turn. As I watched I thought he just smelled another dog’s tracks. I decided that I would entertain Rupert’s whim and followed. The wind was blowing in his face and he was moving toward thick brush. I dove into the brush and all I could see was his nub tail wagging so fast I thought he might fly away. I first noticed the fluorescent marking tape and then saw the pheasant wing in Rupert’s mouth. He had found a training wing that was missed during someone else's training session I now knew Rupert was actively hunting and using his nose. 

Encouraged, I continued to take Rupert out. Our luck was wearing thin and we had not seen one live bird after several trips outs. I decided last minute that I would go try a new hunting spot. We were out in the field for a little over an hour and not finding any birds. In the distance, I heard a diesel engine and it seemed to be coming nearer. A short time later I saw a truck owned by the local pheasant farm. I quickly called Rupert over and put him on leash. A woman emerged from the truck and suggested that I wait to shoot until after she leaves. I agreed and watched her go to work. Rupert couldn’t believe it as the pheasants started flying from the back of the truck. He pulled on the leash and looked back at me as if to say “What in the hell are we waiting for!” Eventually the truck pulled away and I released Rupert from his tether. He took off on a dead sprint with his nose to the ground. Suddenly a flash of feathers and a shot rang out from my gun almost surprising me. The rooster fell to the ground. Rupert found the bird and now associated the sound of the gun with the bird. I spent the next month following Rupert through every bird cover imaginable. He put up six roosters with no formal training and before he was even six months old.

 Rupert and I still have a lot work left to refine our techniques. But I have no doubts that I will shoot flocks of birds over top of him. Rupert starts formal training at the end of this month with our local NAVHDA chapter and I can’t wait. But in the meantime I will settle for the feeling only a dog can provide as he excitedly greets you after a long day at work and keep dreaming about seasons to come.  I have come to realize that letting a bird dog into my house was the worse decision I ever made… because now I want two!