Bird Dog Summer

It’s been an end to a long, hot, dry summer in this part of Idaho. The occasional fiery red sun from the smoke of western wildfires has started setting earlier every day as the days are getting noticeably shorter. The early mornings are also getting cooler and I think bird dogs can sense the change in the weather, and, unlike some humans, are happy that summer is finally over.

Sunset and smoke from a wildfire near Hells Canyon.

I imagine that summer lasts a long time for bird dogs waiting for autumn and a job that will soon begin. Or maybe some dogs don’t know it’s been a long wait and don’t understand why they’re so birdy; they just feed off our anxious energy for the new bird hunting season to begin.

I would like to think our bird dog had a good summer, but in reality he probably didn’t. In early June, after trail runs in the hills, the result was post-run tick removal sessions which our bird dog tolerates but doesn’t especially like. Despite the expensive deer tick protection, the record was 51 ticks latching on after only 90 minutes on the trail. We also had two trips to the veterinarian, once to fix a ripped off back toenail and the other to remove pieces of cheat grass from deep inside his right ear. It’s ironic that the main food source for the chukar partridge would be such a hazard for the bird dogs that like to hunt them. Payback time, maybe?

Cheat grass that was endoscopically removed from his ear canal.
That’s what you get for not letting us cut your toenails.

In early summer, we sold our house and packed up all our things. It was bittersweet but the reward was that we moved closer to our beloved chukar hills. Despite the flurry of unpacking and getting settled into our new home we still found the time to keep our bird dog active. Angus got plenty of exercise running and finding coveys of quail to point and flush along the Weiser River Trail close to our home. In early August, he came face-to-face with a black bear on the same section of trail. Angus, against our wishes, barked incessantly at the bear. A close encounter like this could ruin our day because with one paw swipe she could easily shut him up for good. Luckily, when her two cubs came up onto the trail to join her, they all ran away like a fast wind down the trail. We avoided that part of the trail for a few days after that.

Black bear near our new home.

Mid-summer trips to enjoy time at a family mountain cabin usually meant
Angus would spend hours on the deck babysitting himself by watching tiny chipmunks running up and down pine trees. Hunting instinct in play or maybe just pure boredom, the score ended up being Brittany: two, Chipmunks: zero. A chipmunk had sought refuge in the engine compartment the previous visit to the cabin, so to ensure no dog more damage to our pickup, we gave him a quick audible buzz to return whenever he got close to the pickup. It’s amazing what kind of damage a Brittany can do to one’s license plate trying to get to the chipmunk, and it’s not fun to be forced to duct tape your radiator hose together for a seven hour drive home through the middle of nowhere.

Brittanys pointing chipmunks.
Angus and his friend Ava.
Bird dog teeth marks on license plate.

Fishing trips are especially boring for bird dogs. All the waiting and waiting and nothing to do but standing in the water and maybe swimming around. I suppose one could teach their dog to fish but I think we’ll just stick to upland birds.

This is no fun, please give me something to do!
Uh no, not again, more waiting!
I’m no lab but look at me now!
Angus underwater.

Just before Labor Day, the summer ended with Angus making yet another trip to the vet. Having just moved, we found the closest vet that would take him that day. It’s funny how dogs sense they’re at the veterinarian: one foot into his new vet’s office and he tried to make a quick beeline back out the door, pulling and tugging on his leash. Luckily, it was nothing serious and a few drops of medicine in his eye did the trick. While we were there, besides a manicure for Angus, we asked the new vet if he knew of any ways to keep cheat grass out of his ears. He suggested placing a few drops of Vaseline jelly inside his ear, we’ll see if this works.

Returning home to the smoke from a huge fire way down in Hells Canyon billowing above our chukar hills, we felt happy, not about the fire but as we imagined Angus did, that the long, hot summer is finally coming to a close!


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