Chances are that if you come from a family that is rich in bird hunting traditions, then you have had your fair share of dealings with a good bird dog along the way. Bird dogs are part of the family and I would like to tell you that I have been fortunate enough to own some champion pure breeds during my time on this earth, but unfortunately I cannot. I have never had the pleasure of being Master to a field trial champion or a legend making retriever. I have always enjoyed watching a good dog and envy those how can train them to react to their every command, however I have never had the time or resources to put towards the proper schooling to have such a dog. This does not mean that I have not had some fine canine friends along the way though, and I would like to dedicate this post to the dogs who have blessed my life up until this point.
Our first real dog was a stray that came up in our yard. We tried to run the little Brittany Spaniel off, but she wouldn't leave. You could tell that she was hungry and very scared. I think I was about 6 years old at the time, so I'm sure that the first thing that I asked was "Can I keep her?" The typical parent answer soon followed..."No!" My parents decided that she could stay with us until we could find her owner. I fed her and played with her as we waited for someone to answer the ad that we ran in the local paper. I also decided that she needed a name as long as she was going to be staying with us. I decided to call her "Ginger" and she seemed to respond to that pretty well. It was only a couple of days before someone called to claim her. My parents told the man to come to the house well after my bed time (that was really sneaky Mama) because I had become attached to this little dog that my parents were not ready to take in. The plan did not work however as I came running down the stairs at the sound of the doorbell. I latched on to the little Brittany and cried my hardest. The man told my folks that he had to keep her couped up all of the time and I don't think he really wanted her anyway. I don't know if it was my crying or the fact that my Dad could tell that this was not a man fit for a bird dog, but he agreed to let the dog stay. I was so excited and almost forgot to ask the man a most important question as I ran to give my new dog yet another hug. "By the way, What is her name?" The man turned around as he was walking out the door and simply said "Ginger. Her name is Ginger." Now if that is not meant to be, then I don't know what is!! Ginger was the best dog that any kid could have. She followed my sister and me every step that we took in our neighborhood. She was well mannered and an overall good dog. She was happy being loved by a family that treated her well. We found out that her previous owner beat her when she barked and did not provide a good home for her. In fact, the ten years that Ginger was with us, I heard her bark exactly one time. She was not a hunting dog and really couldn't do any tricks to speak of, but she was the world to our family and we were sad to see her go. She grew to a very old age and when it became apparent that she could no longer enjoy life, we let her go in peace to chase my sister in heaven. Its funny how a stray dog can change your life, but Ginger did just that!
My Mama always wanted a Cocker Spaniel. She got her wish when "Mickey" was given to her. Mickey was a blond bottle of energy that quickly became my dog and loyal follower. I spent some time training him to fetch and do other tricks, but he was really best at just playing his role as family pet. He and I spent a lot of time together and when I left for college something happened to him. There are really no other words to describe what happened to him than to simply say that Mickey went crazy. Mickey would let you know that he needed to go outside by going to the front door and giving you a little bark. After you let him out you could just leave the door cracked a bit and he would let himself back in. When I left for school, Mickey started going to the door asking to be let out about every five minutes. It would drive you nuts! My Mama took him to the vet and he was even sent to the University of Georgia to be studied. He saw a dog "shrink" and my parents were told that Mickey had suffered a nervous breakdown because I was no longer home. Well, leaving school was not an option and a college apartment was not a place for a dog, so my parents decided to do what was best for Mickey and give him to a home that could spend much needed quality time with him. My parents have not had a dog since. Mickey was a great dog and I am glad that he was part of my life.
I graduated from college and was living on my on. I thought I wanted and was ready for a bird dog to hunt with. I knew what I wanted and didn't take the time to do my homework like I should have. I found a breeder and went and picked up my brand new Brittany Spaniel that I named "Jackson". Jackson was given every opportunity to become a great bird dog except for one thing... an owner that knew what he was doing! I was working for East Georgia Turf Farms at the time and had run of the place chasing doves, snipe, ducks and quail. I took Jackson with me every time I went hunting and tried to introduce him to my hunting world. Let's just say that Jackson and I did not meet eye to eye. He was a very stubborn dog and did not take to my directions very well (of course I didn't know what I was doing). I stayed frustrated with him as well as myself and the match just was not working out. I expected this Brittany to have the same temperament as my Ginger and that was just not fair to Jackson. I had gotten into a relationship with a bird dog that I was not ready for and I knew it. I asked my vet if he could find a good home for Jackson and he told me that he would be happy to take him into his kennel. My vet was a bird hunter and later told me that Jackson turned into a pretty good hunter, although he was still rather hard headed. I vowed to not make the same mistake again. I would do my research and be ready the next time a hunting dog came into my life. It didn't take long.
My current dog is none other than "Josey the Wonder Dog". Josey is a Boykin Spaniel and is a pure joy. I was ready this time! My kids needed a dog and I knew friends who had Boykins. I knew that they were very smart loving dogs that were small and good with kids. I also knew that they were very good hunters, but my past experience in bird dog training could speak for itself. I was in the market for a pet for my kids. I did however dust off some old training books so that I could work on teaching Josey good manners. We brought Josey home and we all fell in love. She really is the sweetest little dog and fell right into our household routine. She learned the ropes fairly quickly and even showed some promise when I tried to show her how terrible I was at bird dog training. I didn't care however because I had a good dog that was great with my kids and that was what I was expecting. It wasn't until I shot a squirrel in the yard one day while Josey was watching that I figured out that I might just have a bird dog after all. After the squirrel fell from the tree, Josey shot off after it and brought it to me. The rest is history and you can read about Josey's first dove hunt here. I will be the first to tell you that I am no dog trainer and I'm not sure why Josey chooses to be the dog that she is today in spite of me, but I will say that I have enjoyed having a bird dog, even when I wasn't trying to find one.
So as I get ready for another bird season, I am very excited to see what Josey will do. She seems to have taken to the limited training that we have been through with her new electronic color as we try and prepare for the season, but I really hope that her natural instincts will kick in and make me look good. If I had to tell someone who may be reading this wanting ideas about being a dog owner, my best piece of advice would be to learn from my mistakes. Be ready to be a dog owner and commit yourself fully to the life that you will be responsible for. The dogs deserve it and will reward you more than you know if you spend the time to treat them right. All I did was love Josey and care for her like she was part of the family. I now have a constant traveling companion, a snuggle partner, a kid watcher, a house protector and a dang fine hunting partner!
I have found my Ginger once more! It has finally come full circle!