A DOG’S LIFE

How hens in the pheas­ant pen will teach a young­ster the art of self-con­trol.

Shooting Gazette - - October 2017 - By Rod­er­ick Emery.

Hu­man

We are coming to a point where we need to in­tro­duce our spaniel to the con­cept of live game and the proper be­hav­iour as re­gards chas­ing some things and yet and at the same time not chas­ing other things at all – ever, ever, ever.

This is al­ways a bit of a hur­dle be­cause, af­ter all, we want our dogs to chase run­ners but not to chase birds which are just run­ning. Even look­ing at that on the page seems odd; how it must seem to a dog is any­one’s guess.

Hav­ing said that, the spaniel seems to have al­ready de­vel­oped a knack for spot­ting things worth chas­ing and those which are not. Re­cently the pup was watch­ing a squir­rel in the gar­den and I was watch­ing the pup. The squir­rel came down one tree and set off across the lawn for an­other which had a bird feeder in it. It went up the sec­ond tree and helped it­self to a hefty meal of seeds. Then it set off for home. The spaniel timed its run to perfection. As the ro­dent was ex­actly half way be­tween the two, it went. Not only that, it guessed – rightly – that the tree rat, heavy with elevenses, would make for home rather than go back to the café. The squir­rel got away but I had to ad­mire the pup’s think­ing. Not so batty spaniel.

Speak­ing of bat­ty­ness, the Batty Spaniel Woman has a keeper friend – and spaniel wizard to boot – who keeps back a pen of his ex-layer pheas­ant hens for a week or two af­ter the lay­ing sea­son for dog train­ing and we are bid­den thence for the pur­pose. Set­tle your dog in the mid­dle of a flock of pheas­ants and let them mill about it at will. What could pos­si­bly go wrong?

Old dog

These are pheas­ants, kid. The very thing we are af­ter. These are what we shall be spend­ing the win­ter chas­ing, fetch­ing and car­ry­ing. But not to­day! To­day what we have to do is to lie in the mid­dle of this pen and do ab­so­lutely noth­ing! I don’t know why. I know why we col­lect them in the win­ter. So that he can show them to his friends. But why we have to ig­nore them the rest of the time – and es­pe­cially now – re­mains some­thing of a mys­tery. I have a feel­ing it’s a sort of test. Yes, like when you had that ten­nis ball un­der your paw all the time.

Don’t tell me you’ve got a yel­low ten­nis ball al­ready? Here? In a pen sur­rounded by pheas­ants? So what have you got? What? What? You drive me mad, some­times. Do you know that? Of course you do.

Young dog

Hello Mrs Pheas­ant! Hello! Hello! Hello! I’m a spaniel. Have any of you got a yel­low ten­nis ball? Have any of you seen a yel­low ten­nis ball in the vicin­ity? To be honest, it’s not re­ally for me but for my friend here who hasn’t had one in weeks and is hav­ing a bit of a with­drawal prob­lem.

Me? No. I can take them or leave them. Al­ways a plea­sure but not a ne­ces­sity. The thing is that they just can’t re­sist throw­ing a yel­low ten­nis ball. You drop it at their feet and they throw it. You drop it, they throw it. Drop, throw. Drop, throw. It amuses them for hours. You’ve never seen them do it? Find me a yel­low ten­nis ball and I’ll show you. You don’t know what a yel­low ten­nis ball looks like, do you? You’re just a bird. What do birds do, I won­der? What are birds for? They stand about, they feed, they fly, they land, they stand about? But what do you do? Re­ally? I mean what ex­actly is the point of you? Does any­one know? What time is it? Can we go for a walk? What time is sup­per? Has any­one seen a yel­low ten­nis ball?

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