Feath­ers Friend

The Field - - LETTERS -

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

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