My Side of the Plate: A bird dog by any other name

Ever since the kid began duck hunting in Michigan eons ago, I was envious of those fortunate folks who had retriever-type dogs to fetch birds.

A bird dog is a good investment for the avid waterfowler.

For guys like me, who sometimes have a problem judging distance — that’s why I like to shoot maximum loads of BB steel — a dog enables you to take that so-called “marginal shot” that might just clip the birds and still allow a hunter to bring home the bacon thanks to having Bowser in the blind beside you.

Less birds tend get away and become food for the eagles when you can send a dog after them.

If you have a dog, you can also work your decoy spread over deeper water without having to worry about going in over the top of your waders while trying to bring back a fallen bird and face potential drowning. Also, you don’t have to go through the process of hiding a small boat in close proximity to your blind.

Over the years, I hunted with friends who had different types of dogs, some pedigreed, some not, some good and others — well, made me wonder if canine flesh can be used for crab bait.

Some of the dogs would sit tight in the blind and wait for you to raise up and shoot before they even thought about going into retriever mode and hitting the water.

Others, as soon as the ducks cupped their wings and began to settle into the decoy spread, were head-first through the blind. With those types of mutts, we spent more time repairing blind damage than we did hunting.

One year, a guy we called Gunner, had a dog that the only way you could keep her quiet in the blind was to feed her copious amounts of canned sardines. It made for more things to pack on a waterfowl safari, but Sadie was a good one. She’d bust ice, dive after birds and swim the breadth of the Columbia River if she had to.

I won’t bore you with the lengthy story as to how my lady and I came into possession of Avalon, other than to say we’ve had her for about three weeks and it took some doing to get her back to where we live north of Oak Harbor.

Avi is a full-grown, purebred, Standard Poodle, almost three years old.

Before you start snickering, here is your history lesson for the day.

Poodles were originally bred in Europe to be duck dogs and contrary to popular belief, the French didn’t have much to do with the breed — other than the name.

Poodles may have been developed in Germany or Denmark from the nearly extinct Barbet or the Hungarian Water Hound.

Two days after we brought her home I had her out for a walk and what should begin to land on Dugualla Bay just off the deck in front of the house, but a big flock of geese.

Avi saw the honkers before I did and sure enough, she began tracking them with her eyes as they came in. “Good girl,” said I, and patted her curly head.

In the lagoon just down the road from where we live, ducks congregate all the time and she has learned to stop and sit still behind the cover of bushes to watch them.

Who knows, maybe I got me a “natural.”

If nothing else and, seeing we live in sort of the upper crust part of the burbs,’ we are now the proud owners of an upper crust-type of dog.

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