For the past few weeks I have been working my way through hundreds and hundreds of original negatives made in my 25+ years (intermittent) in Ireland. I came upon one that is one of my favorite all-time images. I had been invited by my good friend Danny to come out with him on his small fishing boat for a day of work with nets and pots. It was a fine day and I eagerly agreed, despite my great and deep-rooted respect (call it 'fear' if you like) for the sea.
We had a great time. Danny is a consummate seaman, and has even navigated from Ireland to the U.S. in an open boat. I have the utmost confidence in him. I asked him when we were back on the quay, "Danny, are you ever afraid of the sea?"
"I am, of course," he said. "Always. And the man who isn't is soon dead."
We've been getting a lot of hoarfrost this season. Cold surfaces with warmer, moist air flowing over them creates perfect conditions for it. On some mornings it creates a fairy wonderland on the trees, the weeds, the prairie. A lovely gift for this time of year.
I'm jumping the gun a tad since he won't actually be six months until next Tuesday, but I was labeling pictures the other day and decided to do one of him and include it. I've also posted his "first point" picture, for comparison. They sure do grow up fast!
Jack is still working on his relationship with barbed wire. Several weeks ago he went under wire here on the place at speed and dug a shallow trench all along the top of his head. On our hunting trip he once got hung up on wire and it took two of us to get him loose. I'm not sure whether this scar is from the earlier mishap or the hunting trip, but it looks like he will have an identifying mark for a long, long time-- maybe forever. Maybe he can pass it off as a dueling scar. He's German, after all.
Emma casting; Jack checking the birds; Jack steals a wing
We're back on the ranch after our annual Thanksgiving hunting expedition. All went well. The dogs had a great time, but, like me, were glad to get back home. Like humans they are creatures of comfort and habit and like the old, familiar places best of all.
I was pleased with Jack. He worked well with the other dogs, watching them and following along as if he were trying to learn. He needs discipline, of course, but he just turned six months so that's to be expected. He had a tendency to run ahead too much and several times bounced birds when they were too far out. For a while I kept him on a lead and just let him watch. Surprisingly, he was very mannerly on the lead. Birds in the air got his undivided attention and volleys of 12-gauges didn't phase him. Once I worked him alone in a little triangle of field and he cast well and stayed close. No birds there, but gratifying nevertheless that he seemed to "fake it" so well.
Em was her usual, business-like self: focused, busy, organized. When she's hunting she does not like to fraternize with other hunters or other dogs. She has work to do and she does it. You can also see the joy she takes in her chosen profession. Her age is starting to show. Some mornings she was creaky and slow for a while. But she was always eager and ready. One afternoon we drove into town to get some stuff and I left her in our camp trailer. She thought we were going without her and I could hear her howling inconsolably as we pulled out.
I can do a day or two of unrestricted walking and then the hip starts to hurt. So I did a bit of blocking and some delivery/pick-up of my hunt mates. Emma will go with another hunter if I tell her to and she will work with them just like she does with me. But Jack wouldn't go with anyone but me, and once refused to leave the truck with them when I had been dropped as a blocker. They had to leave him.
Mags of course stayed at the ranch house, up on the couch, watching television. She always gets spoiled there as the wife really likes her. Mags would go along for morning chores and then happily return for some couch-time.
A good trip, but glad to be home with no place to go for quite a while, save for routine errands and the like.
Despite the bitter cold and the heavy overcast, the bird-dogs and I took a nice, long walk this afternoon. (Mags wanted no part of it.)
As I walked behind Emma and Jack I had a flashback to similar outings with Emma and her mentor, Róisín (roe-SHEEN). Róisín was that dog you hope will come along at least once in your life-time. I think she taught me much more than I taught her. She was a natural hunter, endowed with tremendous stamina, matchless drive, and a will to do the thing she was meant to do like I have never experienced in any other living critter.
When Emma came along she recognized Róisín as "the boss" from the get-go. And as Emma learned the ropes they made a formidable pair. There was no need to take a gun along on an outing with those two: just being with them afield was reward enough. However, in season they wouldn't have it any other way. They lived for the "rush of the flush and the sound of the guns" and if nothing was rising in our sectors they would go to where the shooting was if I didn't keep an eye on them. Just the sight of a shotgun coming out of its case made Róisín's eyes flash and her flanks quiver with anticipation.
Today as I watched Jack following along behind Emma, eyeing up her every move, I thought about the passion and drive that Róisín Dubh brought to her days afield, and that Emma has emulated, and found myself wishing the same for Jack. So far, at just shy of six months, I think he shows great promise and I see no signs that he won't come close to that mark. The mark that no dog, ever, will really touch and certainly never exceed. Or maybe my memories of the great Dark Rosaleen have prejudiced me forever.
Jack is a very active lad. That's the polite way to say that he is into, well, everything. He plays very well with stuff from the dog's toy box, but he also cannot resist stuff that he's not supposed to mess with. Like dish towels, paper napkins, my socks, a cap, newspapers, clothespins.
Mags has taken on the task of monitoring her little brother. When she comes into the office, sits down, and stares at me, I know that all is not well in one of the other rooms. Sure enough I'll check it out to find Jack enjoying something that is supposed to be off limits. Mags is infallible. Never misses, and no false alarms either.
I've never known a dog to do that. It may be a facet of her own reliability. It's absolutely unthinkable that Mags would take liberties with something of mine. Or raid a trash can. Or do anything annoying like that. I'm sure she is very unusual in that regard. And she also gives me a good laugh when she does it. Lately I've been getting four or five good laughs a day. At least.
A neighbor just brought me two big pick-up loads of firewood, which we stacked neatly close to the porch for my convenience. Emma now has it in her head that "something" is living in the woodpile and she aims to have it. She is steadily "de-constructing" the nice job of stacking we did and she is having so much fun that I haven't the heart to stop her. I am, however, hoping the visitor is not a skunk. I doubt it. It's most likely mice, with which she maintains a mafia-style vendetta of great intensity.
There are actually small pockets of trees scattered around. I believe I posted about one of these a year or so ago. The Indians valued these little oases for the shelter they provided, and I have no doubt they also had spiritual significance. Many of them have "council" in their names. Later, settlers planted trees on their homesteads. In many places nowadays the trees remain but there isn't the slightest trace of any of the homestead buildings.
The Indians used to say "Only earth and sky last forever." Let us hope.
Emma and Jack this morning in the back pen. I need to make some pictures that better show the great difference in their heads. Emma has the "gaze-hound" head and Jack is just plain hound-dog. He is, in fact, the houndiest Shorthair I have ever owned— in temperament and comportment as well as looks. Voice, too. He's a very vocal lad.
(I might have gotten a better shot if I hadn't had to take it though a window.)
This fellow [Bubo virginianus] has been hanging around the place for several weeks now. I see him (actually I think it's probably a her) in the trees, on the old barn roof, and occasionally on the ground.
They are remarkable critters. I might feel a lot different about them if I had wee-tiny dogs. Even so, I keep a close eye on Miss Mags, who at 18 pounds is safe from a carry-off, but who knows what a hungry predator might do? People who claim to know infallibly what wild critters will do are simply wrong-headed.
They're welcome here, within limits, and as long as they behave themselves. They always look so magisterial, so serious and imperial. It's hard to imagine Rodney Dangerfield or Jerry Lewis coming back as a Great Horned Owl. Boswell's Dr. Johnson perhaps.
I've spent a goodly chunk of my life in Ireland, either enjoying myself privately or leading small-group cultural experiences in the Gaeltachts (Irish-speaking areas).
But one thing I have not done, yet, but always wanted to was spend some time on a narrowboat. Ireland has many canals, and the entire Shannon waterway is riddled with them. You could spend months put-putting over the whole country, stopping at little villages, visiting pubs and doing some shopping and all the while soaking in the country in a manner available no other way. Some people even live on these things full-time.
In a way I have been doing my apprenticeship with my little fiberglass travel trailer that is, in fact, built more like a boat than a traditional trailer.
But the urge is getting stronger. I suspect it may not be denied much longer.
[The picture is not mine. It is from a boat rental site.]
Sandburrs. I really hate these things. They get in the dogs' feet and I don't like that. When Em is out on the prairie and gets one she will just stand, raise her foot, and look around for me to come to the rescue. I always carry the proper tools (Kelly forceps are good) in the Rhino so I can perform the operation when called for.
Yesterday in the back pen attached to the shop building, Jack limped over to me and raised his left front paw. At first I couldn't find anything, but then found a burr deep down in his pad. It was "old and tired" and easy to remove and Jack was off again on his endless search for adventure. Didn't even say thanks.
Those little green "starbursts" get hard as they age and the spikes are amazingly sharp. Barbed, too, so they stick to whatever picks them up. They also seem to have something on them that causes the stuck place to sting and burn for a long time after they are extracted.
I've just about eradicated these things inside the compound. Shortly after being spotted this one, growing up through the auto-gate, got a nice dose of Round-Up.
As Ol' Man Winter slowly tightens his grip on the High Plains it's reassuring to reflect that there will always be spring on the agenda. The prairie may brown-down and even look dead and desolate, but there is abundant life here just waiting to be awakened. I guess you could call it the infinite promise of the seasons.
We're getting our first "real" snow of the season today. Woke up with snow on the ground the last couple of mornings but it was gone in a few hours. It's been falling most of the day, sometimes right briskly. This one will stick, at least for tonight, as the temp is now 33° and falling quickly.
This might mark the end of our unseasonably mild late autumn.
I have to thank Carol for reminding me that not every dog owner knows about the comparatively new rattlesnake vaccine for dogs I mentioned earlier. I thought it might be useful to say something about it for those who might be interested.
An outfit called Red Rock Biologics has developed a snakebite protection inoculation for our four-legged friends. You need two shots, a month apart, to get the dog started. My vet charges $25 for each shot. After that you need to get them a booster every year, also $25. I call that cheap piece-of-mind if you live in snake country. Mags and Emma have had their two shots and Jack will get his second in about three weeks. That's $150 to get my dogs onto the program and then $75 a year thereafter. My dogs are worth a lot more than that to me.
My vet wanted me to stay fairly close for a couple of hours after the first shots, in case the dog developed an allergic reaction to the shot. None of my three showed any signs of a reaction of any kind. Something else to keep in mind: If your dog is ever bitten by a snake, you should get him to a vet as soon as possible, vaccine or no vaccine. Dogs that are inoculated are unlikely to suffer the horrible and painful swelling that results from a bite, nor the fatal consequences so often suffered by unprotected dogs.
The fact that my dogs are "protected" will not make me careless about where we go or what I let them do, but I feel I have provided them with an edge and that makes me feel good. We're lucky in that we have no rattlers in our immediate area. This is because the prairie dog has been been pretty much extirpated from right around here, plus we have no rocks for dens and hiding places. (We are nothing but sand and you couldn't find so much as a pebble if your life depended on it.)
Though the vaccine is advertised as for rattlesnakes, Red Rock says it also protects against copperheads.
[The photograph was made on a friend's ranch about 100 miles south of me. I hope to never be able to make such a picture close by!]
This poor excuse for a photograph is the result of not checking the camera settings. Sloppy! I had been doing some copy work and plumb forgot I had the aperture set pretty high. The camera sought the shutter it needed and the result was the dread camera shake. A tyro mistake if ever there was one. I have to keep reminding to look at the SCREEN and not rely on a quick glance down at the dials, like in the Old Days.
Poor picture but a nice buck.
This fellow was with a bunch of smaller bucks. The rut hasn't started yet and the bucks are still banded up from summer. They'll split off pretty soon to go their separate ways except for the really young ones who might stay together most of the winter.
Hard to believe I haven't done any posting here for as long as it's been. No real reason for it, just been involved in other stuff. Nice though to get a jog from someone saying that I've been missed. Real nice.
We're having a strange fall. The days are warm and sunny (85° two days ago) and the nights are cool but not real cool. I think 27° is the lowest so far. This morning we had snow on the ground, our first of the season. Just enough to cover the ground and since it was 31° at 6AM it's not going to last.
I took Jack to the vet last week for his first rattlesnake shot and he weighed 44 pounds. He's getting to be quite a lunk.
I'll have to post a few pics here and try to keep up a little better. No promises, though. They just get in the way of otherwise good intentions.
The other day the pups and I did a lot of walking on the place, checking everything out. If there's a high point, Jack likes to take it and do his King-of-the-World thing. He climbed up on the dirt backstop to one of my shooting ranges and when I said "Jack!" gave me this shot. I can see "adult" in it and I like what I see.
It captures his basic nature. He is definitely a spicy meatball, but good-hearted, robust, and a great deal of fun to have around.
This morning I was out with the dogs and decided to go into the garden to empty the rain-gauge so it wouldn't freeze and shatter. What to my wondering eyes should appear...?
My fence is four feet and has always been more than adequate in the past, perhaps because the garden is so close to the house. It now appears there is a wise-guy in the mix. Maybe two or three.
No question of raising the fence. Once a deer knows he wants to be somewhere he's not 'posed to be an eight-footer will be required and that might not even work. I'll just have to be a little more vigilant. Fortunately, past experience has shown me that when the garden is producing the deer are off someplace else. May it stay that way!
If I'm working in the office and Emma thinks I may be overlooking her culinary needs, she will stand in the doorway, quietly and patiently, until I look up and then she will dash into the kitchen and stand by the pantry door, where the dog food is kept.
She's always been a great fan of quality eats. I let that slip up on me recently. But I noticed that Emma was getting a little "flat-backed" and put both Emma and Mags on a gentle diet. Last week we went to the vets and he commented that Emma's last recorded weight was 73 pounds and this time was 59. Wow! Did I ever screw up. (Mags was 28/20.) They both look better and I suspect they feel better. I am totally against overweight dogs and feel guilty about my dereliction.
Emma has adjusted well, except at dinnertime, when I am sure she thinks she is being abused. She has a very good tummy-clock, but it's often a wee bit fast.
Jack is 4 months, 1 week, and 2 days old today and weighs 36 pounds. He is almost infallible about coming on command, sits when told, and is doing pretty well on "waiting" to be released to eat when I put his bowl down in front of him. He and Emma spend a lot of time "hunting" together: checking out brushpiles, treelines, hedgerows, that sort of thing. He has always been very interested in what she was doing and now he can easily keep up and that attention toward her and her methods has increased about four-fold. I'll have to wait until he gets his adult teeth to start him on retrieving, but he is already very good about bringing me stuff and putting it down when I tell him to. Well, most of the time anyway.
If you could walk in the field with a pair of eager bird-dogs and not feel the pure, unadulterated joy radiating from them, then you have no soul. To me, they are a constant delight.
In the Old Days my working travel kit was made up from three Nikons and three Leicas. Nowadays my old friends live in an equipment cabinet and my daily image-making tools are all digital. Sic transit gloria.
I use two Canon SLRs that are extremely capable instruments, but are also big, heavy, and require a take-along camera bag for lens, batteries, filters, and all the other stuff that I feel I might need when I use them.
But my ideas about working kit are slowly morphing into something very different. On my latest trip to Ireland I took along my biggest and heaviest Canon, with a couple of lenses, plus a little Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot. Admittedly it's a point-and-shoot with a Leica-designed lens, which really does make a difference. I found myself making the majority of the images I shot on that trip with the Lumix, while the Canon SLR waited in the camera bag (usually back in the car).
One of the people on my trip had a little Sony pocket-camera that I was much impressed by. Instead of the shutter-like lens protector, which I distrust, it had a sliding panel that both protected the lens and turned the camera on and off when slid up and down. I was so impressed with it that I ordered one of my own as soon as I got home. (Actually, I ordered it on-line while I was still in Ireland.)
The Sony I bought is slightly different from the one that inspired the purchase. I went with a "ruggedized" version that is water- and temperature-proof and drop-damage-resistant as well. It is so small that it fits easily and comfortably in a shirt pocket or a front pants pocket. Since it arrived I have carried it with me in a pocket at almost all times.
In the interests of my newly evolving working kit I also bought an upgraded Lumix. This one has a fast f/2.0 Summicron Leica-designed lens that covers a range of 24-90mm (in 35mm equivalencies) and takes a removable viewfinder so that I can use it at eye-level just like a "real camera." I've never taken to the arms-length LCD screens, although I use them out of necessity.
The Sony and the second Lumix will make up my new travel kit, with the first Lumix as a back-up. All three cameras together weigh a pound and a half: the body alone (with no lens attached) for my Canon weighs two pounds.
There must be a trade-off, and there is. I'm giving up long telephoto capability and also losing some megapixels. But both the Sony clam-shell and the Lumix are capable of making 12x16" images and the Leica-lensed Lumix can give the larger Canon a run for its money. Pixel count is only part of the story of digital image quality.
At any rate I now have a working travel-kit that will fit in my pockets and do a lot better than a merely good job on about 95% of the pictures I want to make. In the event that I feel I must make a long-lens shot I can always sacrifice a little absolute quality and make use the digital zoom feature that reaches out to about 500mm in old-time 35mm terms. On this last trip I found no use for such a lens.
You'll seldom roam the high country in western Ireland for very long without meeting a "hill maggot." Not a very flattering nickname, but when you see them from afar, clustered on a green slope, they do kind of look that way.
Most are wild, wary, and stay well away from you. Give a whistle and they will start looking for your dog and edging even further away from you.
Occasionally, however, one will approach you and even allow you to touch her. It's a sure thing that she was an "orphan" and hand-reared by some farmer's kids. The others will just stare at her, as if to say "Are you crazy? Get back over here where you belong!"
Somehow they just seem to make an Irish mountain landscape complete.
I've been doing small-group cultural travel in the Irish Gaeltachts (Irish-speaking regions) for a long time. And when I'm not with a group I'm rambling around the countryside looking for sites and just plaining enjoying the place. As a result of twenty-some years of that I have become intimately familiar with an area that is rich with archeological and historical treasures.
Among my favorite sites is one of the many that tourists will never see. From one little road (bohareen) you turn off on another, and then finally yet another after passing through a tiny three or four house village, or baile. Then you hike across a farmer's field, watching out for his bull as you go. Finally you come to a slightly raised embankment which, if you climb it, you can see is part of a more or less circular enclosure. You have found a very early monastic settlement. Against one bank of the enclosure, hidden among bracken and wild rose bushes, is a small stone holy water fount. Above it sits a vertical cross-inscribed stone. (Local legend has it the roses cannot be transplanted, as they will grow nowhere else but this little enclosure.)
The site is clearly pre-Viking as it is very close to the sea. After 850AD when the Northmen began their raids along the western Irish coast no one would have built so close to a landing place. Local legend has it that the site antedates Patrick, and is surely one of the earliest Christian sites I have ever visited, perhaps dating to before 400AD.
I've included a picture with the inscribed cross emphasized so it may be located by the viewer.
The field systems of western Ireland are ancient. They are almost always surrounded by a stone wall that has become covered with sod over the centuries so that they look more like grassy humps than walls.
The average farm size for Ireland is between forty and fifty acres. In the west country it is unusual if a farm's total acreage is contiguous. A farmer may have a field here, one there, and still another in a different location. It is a system they have become accustomed to over the passage of time. Fields are used for the grazing of sheep and cattle. Except for silage, and little of that, there is virtually no cropland in western Ireland.
The fields, their shapes and walls, are reminders of the age of the countryside and the traditional lifestyle and culture that created them.
Lately the days have continued to rise into the 70s and 80s, but the mornings are in the 40s or even the high 30s. These cool mornings are driving Emma crazy-mad to get outside and look for stuff to hunt. Yesterday I took all three pups for a ramble and she set up on a point on something in some thick brush in a tree-line behind the house. I figured it was a bunny so I released her and she did a beauty of a jump-pounce and out popped a rabbit that took off across the prairie. She just stood and watched it go, with no desire to chase a mere rabbit. Emma is craving birds: large birds that are noisy when they burst out of cover.
Mount Brandon is the second highest mountain in Ireland at 3123 feet. (Carantouhill in Magillicuddy's Reeks near Killarney is the highest at 3414 feet.)
Brandon is usually wreathed with cloud and when the cloud falls low on the slopes it's hard to believe there is even a mountain there at all. But on some days the clouds and fog dissipate and Brandon shows itself in all its glory. There is a tiny, ancient chapel at the top named for Saint Brendan, and it is said that he fasted and prayed up there for many days before he set out on his voyage to the west in the Sixth Century.
St. Brendan's day is celebrated on the 16th of May. Local folk, and many others, climb the mountain that day in honor and remembrance of The Voyager. A minor distinction for yours truly is that he was the very last person to climb the mountain to the top in 1999. If you accept the fact that 1999 was the last year of the 20th century then my place is history is assured! Well, maybe. Anyway, it was a good hike and a brilliant way to get some first-rate exercise.
On a misty, foggy day (a "soft day" to the Irish), I took my group to a castle on the coast that had been destroyed by Oliver Cromwell's boys in 1650. It's near a holy well so we were double dipping. (I'm sure Ollie's guys did their best to destroy the well also, but it didn't work.)
Below the castle there is a "storm beach" -- a beach where huge boulders are washed ashore, only to be taken out to sea by the next storm, and then returned again by the next one, sometimes even blocking the road. Someone, the Good People* no doubt, had been having a bit of fun with the stones and left us quite a little display of their mastery of the problems of balance and precision. The more you look at it the more you wonder about how they did it. There were many, many of these little wonders besides the ones pictured here.
I'm reminded of the comment of an old Irish gentleman: "The faeires? I don't believe in them myself, of course. But they exist nevertheless."
* Never refer to Irish faeries as "The Little People." It annoys them.
For me the downside would have to be being away from my dogs for several weeks. They go to dog-savvy neighbors, or, in the case of Jack, to his Mom and Dad's place, where one brother still remains. It's not really their deprivation, it's mine. Worse in the case of a puppy. I missed three weeks of Jack's development after all.
The pic above was made today, on a ramble the four of us took. In some situations and from certain angles he looked very mature. He's losing some of that dunderfoot puppy-klutz stuff and becoming more agile, more confident, even occasionally elegant in the way he moves and handles himself.
Not much can compare to walking with two close-working bird-dogs. They are the very definition of passion and the giving of 110% at all times. Life is good!
I'm back from Ireland, tired but happy. A great, wonderful trip. Unlike last year's I had plenty of time to visit my friends, catch up on the gossip, and just plain... loaf before my little group arrived. They were good people, all muy simpatico, and it was fun to share "my Ireland" with them for ten fun days.
Last year I drove to the airport on the day of departure and when I returned I drove all the way home. I live about five hours from the airport and the return trip, when I had already been awake for many, many hours was an ordeal that I swore I would never suffer through again. So this year I went down a day early, got a motel, and had a leisurely departure day. Did the same on the way back: got a motel, a good night's sleep, and a very early start the next morning. I was a good way from the airport when the sun came up, as shown in this picture. (I have a bad habit of taking photographs through windshields! Much safer now with the stand-off digicams and their nice big screens.)
In my next few entries I will be reviewing some aspects of the trip, posting some photographs and comments.
Still in Ireland, and visiting the two-room schoolhouse of the home village. Rest assured they are not all angels, but wonderful, inquisitive, bright children nevertheless with endless curiosity about ranch life, Indians, cowboys— the whole nine yards.
You know you're aging "a bit" when you first met their parents when they were this age.
The pic is from last year's match when Tipp lost to the Cats. There is every chance these two fine teams will meet again in 2011. (I need to start planning my trip!) The county colors for Killkenny are gold and black and Tipp's are blue and white.
Today, in a monumental upset, Tipperary defeated four-time champion Kilkenny to take the All-Ireland Hurling Championship for 2010. Killkenny had won for the last four years and was heavily favored to win today for an unprecedented fifth in a row -- which would have been an historical first. But the underdog Tipp team came out breathing fire and in the first few minutes scored, and scored, and scored again. Neither team let up through 73 minutes of non-stop, no time-out action. Some of the fiercest and most skillful play I have EVER seen, and I am not alone here in that. Natives say it is a hurling match that will go down in Irish sporting history. An absolutely thrilling, heart-pounding game. In this house we were all rooting for Tipperary from the get-go (the underdog, plus we all have connections there), but were secretely resigned to yet another overwhelming victory by the Killkenny powerhouse. (This is their first lost in over 50 games.) It is truly a great day here in western Ireland!
Coming into Ireland, the clouds over the Atlantic cleared slightly and revealed that we were making Irish landfall just north of Mount Brandon, Ireland's second highest mountain, and only five or six miles north of where Lindbergh saw land in 1927. I knew three men here who, as young boys, saw him fly over— sadly all three now gone. I am currently in a tiny village at the right edge of this photograph, under clouds, but later bathed in glorious sunshine. True to Ireland, we are now being lashed by a fierce storm and have been all day.
He's going into a growth-spurt right now. In the pointing photo immediately preceding this post he looks like a little rectangle. Now he's becoming more lanky and is an almost perfect square. He worked the pheasant wing very well yesterday and enjoyed it. He got a little more exposure to gunfire this morning and still no reaction to speak of. (He stops eating for a moment, comes to the front of the deck to look, and then goes back to his breakfast.)
On a 200-mile supply run yesterday he was a near-perfect traveler: no complaints, no howling, no accidents, no nonsense of any kind. So many dogs are temperamental about traveling that I am glad to see he doesn't seem to be one of them. I bought him and Maggie a dog-house at the ranch store and he has already been napping in it, while Mags is avoiding it as a "new thing."
I go back to Ireland on the 1st and am not looking forward to missing my pups for almost a month. Well, there'll always be the homecoming!
Jack is 9 weeks old today. I figured he was overdue for a little work-out, so I thawed a pheasant wing and attached it to a fly-rod. I took him out front (with the other dogs put away) and let him see and smell the wing but not touch it, keeping it away from him with the fly-rod when he got too close. In about thirty seconds he decided that pointing was better than chasing and I grabbed this shot of his first real point on a "bird."
I only worked with him for about fifteen minutes. He didn't want to quit and after I put the wing and rod away he stayed on the training ground and "tracked" wherever the wing had been, with great enthusiasm. I finally had to go collect him and put him in his pen for a nap.
I guess it would take another bird-dog person to understand what a special thing this is for me. My "little man" has passed his first test and this is a very major thrill for me— and I think for him as well. Nothing can match this until his first point on a real bird this fall. Life is good!
Been kinda AWOL lately. I can't really blame it on Jack, but he has been a factor, even if a pleasant one.
For those that might be interested, he weighed 10.4# and stood 12" when he came to us. Yesterday, his ninth with us, he weighed in at 13.4# and stands 14". He and Mags are great buddies now and the play-fights they seem to enjoy so much would curdle your blood to watch and listen to. He's spunky in spades, and though she continues to be able to dominate him, at 26#, she cannot cow him. She's going to need counseling when her dominant period comes to an end, which isn't all that far away. But she's amazingly patient with him, which I think is quite a feat since I know well how sharp those little teeth are.
He knows his name; will come about 2/3ds of the time he is called; responds well to "Be quick!" (potty command); hasn't soiled his crate and sleeps through the night; understands "No bite!" as well as a more generalized "No!" He barks at strangers, but is ready to be friendly if they are. He's doing a lot of little quick points when we walk in the fields and I think he's ready for the pheasant wings now. Doesn't seem afraid of thunder and I've been shooting a .22 rifle about 50 yards away while he eats. No signs of undue alarm yet, but he is curious about it.
They can be tiring, but puppies are a wonderful experience and I feel sorry for anyone who hasn't experienced one.