The Woolwich Observer

Tales of water retrieving gone awry

- Not-So-Great Outdoorsma­n

Over the last week or two I have been taking my dog to an area of flooded timber and throwing training dummies in the water to hone her retrieving and swimming skills. The goal is to keep her sharp for the fall duck season.

The first time, Rosie saw a mallard drake I never saw in the water. Naturally, she rushed in and flushed it. This was not my intention, but Rosie hunted ducks with me last season, so it is hard to fault her for this.

Over the next few visits, if Rosie saw that drake at the far end of the flooded area, her instincts would take over and she would jump in and swim towards it and then the duck would take off before she got within 10 yards.

Of course, if I saw the drake first, I would call Rosie off it, which was also good training.

But something has changed over the last few visits.

Rosie now goes to the pond and when she sees the drake she doesn’t bother it at all. I think she has learned that she’s not going to catch a healthy duck, which is good. Her job is to retrieve only dead and wounded birds.

But this has complicate­d the relationsh­ip too.

It led to a truce between Rosie and the drake.

Rosie swims in one end of the water. The mallard watches from his end. I do not have to worry about my dog harassing wildlife. Everyone is happy.

But things got even more interestin­g last week when a hen also revealed herself at the far end of the flooded timber. Surprising­ly, when

Rosie leapt in prior to the training session, the ducks just swam calmly at the far end. And Rosie just nodded to them and kept a respectful distance away.

I’m not really sure how I feel about this.

The final insult came last week when the mallards sat on a log and watched as Rosie retrieved training dummies about 15 feet from them. And I swear Rosie gave them a friendly smile as she swam by.

This is no way for a hunting dog to act. Mostly, because it can escalate into behaviour that is unnatural for dog and duck.

If this keeps up, I suspect this could bloom into a full-fledged friendship in which the ducks will actually help Rosie by yelling things, “The training dummy is over there. If you swim this way you can avoid all those sticks.”

This will naturally cause Rosie to be grateful, which might manifest itself by her telling them about the park benches most used by old people who feed ducks.

After that, we are only one step away from Rosie joining them on the log, where they will have a few laughs and catch up on their lives. It might even lead to the ducks inviting Rosie to visit them in their winter vacation retreat in the US. Which in turn might cause Rosie to invite them to a pool party in her plastic kiddie pool.

Needless to say, I cannot allow this sort of fraterniza­tion to continue.

That pair of mallards will probably create a brood that the hen will be bringing to the flooded timber soon. If Rosie becomes a godmother to one of them, my waterfowl season is going to get complicate­d.

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