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Sam Cook: To a dog, we must look silly and slow

Maybe I have it all wrong. Like many dog owners, I've often wondered at my dog's great generosity of spirit. She'll plow through cattails, raking her muzzle raw, to flush pheasants. She'll leap into frigid water to retrieve a duck or a goose. She...

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Maybe I have it all wrong. Like many dog owners, I've often wondered at my dog's great generosity of spirit.

She'll plow through cattails, raking her muzzle raw, to flush pheasants. She'll leap into frigid water to retrieve a duck or a goose. She'll crash through the forest in search of grouse scent.

All for the occasional privilege of presenting me with a warm bird.

When we are not hunting, my Lab will leave her dog house at any hour for the promise of a walk on a sub-zero winter night or an early morning trail run.

Like most dog owners, I'm moved by her faith in me and humbled by her friendship.

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But the other day, I got to thinking: Maybe she thinks she's getting the best end of the deal.

Oh, look, she thinks, wagging at her kennel gate, here comes the vertical mammal again. It looks like we're going for a trail run. What can he possibly be getting out of these runs? I mean, he has to run upright on just two legs. How awkward is that? No wonder he's so slow. I can lark around, stop to smell deer tracks and still catch up with him in no time.

It's just like when we go pheasant hunting. When I get on hot rooster scent, there's no way he can keep up with the rooster and me. When I hear him whistle, I stop and wait for him to catch up. You should hear him wheezing and panting. I worry about the guy.

By the way, have you ever smelled a rooster pheasant? Sweet. They smell like woodsmoke and cinnamon and fresh-cut alfalfa hay. The poor two-legger. I don't think he has any idea what a rooster smells like. I've never even seen him sniff one.

Some of those mornings, duck hunting, you can't believe how long it takes him to get layered up. He must have no fat layer at all. His cap has ears like a beagle's. It's not a good look for him. His leggings are welded to his boots, and they come up to his armpits. Weird. Me, I'm up, I'm out the door -- boom -- I'm on it. I've got my insulation. Let's go.

Pheasant hunting on warm days, he lets me go swimming in every cattail slough we come to. Oh, man, does that feel good. Skinny-dipping in farm country. Can't beat it. He just stands there, holding his thunderstick, wearing that funky orange clothing. He never swims. I want to say, hey, upright dude, shed those duds. Jump in.

And when I get home on a cool fall day, I get to go back into my insulated dog house. So comfy and cozy. He puts straw in there for me. Out there, I can see the stars and listen to the owls and hear the rain on the roof. It's a great life. The two-legger goes into that big square place. I don't see how he can stand it. I've been in there for a couple hours at a time. Hotter than Kansas in August. And no straw anywhere.

But he's a decent guy, even if he isn't the best shot. Brings me a bowl of food twice a day, keeps me up to date on shots. I plan to keep hanging out with him.

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Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune outdoors writer and columnist. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or scook@duluthnews.com . Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/samcookoutdoors .

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