Thursday, January 17, 2013

Still A Work In Progress...

But he's coming along nicely (that's actually not a point, just him looking photogenic). He's even showing some signs of being a natural backer to Jenny, who I'm happy to say, nailed this single (Ozzy looks much farther away in the photo than he actually was...).

He does, however, still have that goofy puppy curiosity about most things...

But finally, and just shy of his first birthday, Ozzy got his first real, honest-to-dog, rock-solid, no-doubt, "this-is-it, boss!" point on a genuine, non-pigeon, non-planted, non-poultrified, buck-ass wild Oklahoma quail. And I even managed to shoot the damn thing.The quail. Not the moment. With a gun. Not the camera. So, just like Jenny's first point last season in Kansas, the moment will live on only in my mind. And hopefully his mind, too, so he'll know what the hell to do next time...

He's come close quite a few times this year. Not so much early in the season in Montana, which had me thinking Ozzy might be a little too laid-back, perhaps a little too chilled-out to be the dog I needed ( "I wanted a balls-to-the-wall firebreather, damn it!" I lamented to a friend at the time, "and what did I get? Freakin' Jeff Spicoli!).

Even taking into consideration his puppiness, I was, to put it mildly, a bit frustrated with Ozzy's drive, his seeming lack of intensity and boldness in the field. Couldn't ask for a sweeter, more personable dog, but sweetness doesn't bust through thickets and brush and creeks. Sweetness doesn't brush aside weariness and pain as it eats up miles of prairie to find birds. Only fire and toughness does that. Bird dog tough. And Ozzy, well, Ozzy was just a big, goofy, soft, loveable baby.

And then, about midway through the season, Ozzy suddenly discovered that he had balls. He started running bigger, faster and with some semblance of purpose. He busted birds, which was fine. Anything to stoke his fire. I let him bust birds. I let him chase birds. I even (pro trainers please avert your eyes) shot a couple busted birds just so he'd possibly start making  the gun-bird-hunt connection. And all this time he was getting a bit bolder and more confident every time we went out. He started ranging well ahead of Jenny, leaving her behind. I nearly wept with joy the day he charged through the North Canadian river without so much as a second thought (those who hunted with me in Montana know what I'm talking about...)

He had flash-pointed a rooster in South Dakota, and he'd been flash-pointing a few birds here, so I know he was beginning to use his nose, but the awful scenting and hunting conditions we had for most of the season (combined with a woeful lack of birds) certainly wasn't doing his nose confidence any favors.

But a few weeks ago we finally got some moisture and colder temps. And on a foggy, misty afternoon hunt, Ozzy suddenly, for one, brief, glorious moment, (actually several: he was staunch until the bird flushed) became a bird dog.

One of the most common laments heard from owners of young dogs is the fear that their Chosen One is not going to work out; the dreaded "I just don't think this dog gets it" syndrome. And one of the most common retorts to said lament is the maddeningly trite-sounding "Your dog's fine. You just need to get him/her into birds." Which does nothing, absolutely nothing, to allay your rampaging fear that your dog, the one you had so many sky-high hopes for, the one you paid so much money for, belongs on the short bus.

Color me guilty. Guess he just needs more birds. But then again, don't we all?

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