Having just read David Tomlinson’s column on having your old, faithful gundog at your heels as you are out shooting
(Sporting dog, January issue), I would like to relay my story about my old, faithful dog, Feathers – she was featured in your February 2011 issue
(Gamebirds in the African south).
My husband was involved in the train shoots in South Africa, as described, and other shoots around the country with visiting guns. I was never invited so took it upon myself to find a way to be involved. I was not a gun – or male! – but I don’t give up easily. I realised that what was missing was a faithful gundog.
We had an old labrador that I thought I could take to classes to be trained as a gundog. I was informed that she was no good and that I should buy myself a bloodline gundog. I picked Feathers from a litter of goldens. When she was old enough, I took her to training classes.
Our first national trials fell on Easter Saturday and I flew back from Chobe Reserve to enter her. I was quite uptight having left my vehicle in Maun after it had been confiscated by the police for some small violation. My husband was in the Cape doing the Two Oceans Marathon, so I was on my own. Feathers picked up my tension and chewed the bird during her first retrieve. As she was young, they gave her another chance. On the next retrieve she took the bird under a bush and ate it.
I returned to Maun to argue the point about my vehicle, having collected my paperwork from home, and the next weekend we attended another field trial. We travelled to the trial with four other handlers and their dogs, all squashed into one vehicle and the only space left for Feathers was on my lap. I was teased about my bird-eating lapdog. (Actually, I treated it as “bonding” time, which was necessary after the previous attempt to win a field trial. To everyone’s horror, Feathers won with flying colours. On the way home, there was more than one dog sitting on its owner’s lap.
A couple of weeks later there was a train shoot with many foreign visitors. My husband was asked to bring his Field Trial Champion. He had to admit that Feathers did not come without her handler. I was at last included in the shoots with my faithful gundog at my heels. I have been included ever since.
Patsy Allen, by email