Dog days of summer, trepidation about the fall

Sandy Turner
Down Home

He thought he was living his best life until the shock collar arrived. My fur baby is turning 2, and training has begun fetching something other than treats.

When we rescued Duke, after being rejected from his breeder, from the animal shelter, it was agreed he would be the hubs' companion while hunting, but now I’m having second thoughts. Duke is one hundred percent an indoor dog, although his full-bred Labrador instincts kick into full gear every time we’re outside. I have witnessed this dog hunt down and catch a mole, frogs and a catfish, and he has had close calls with a few too many squirrels.

Sandy Turner

I’ve never been hunting, although I’ve asked my son-in-law to tag along and just sit in the blinds. He hasn’t said no, but he hasn’t said yes either. He just gives that blank stare, like a deer in the headlights, so I’m assuming that means it’s a no go. I don’t want to shoot anything, but would enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

Everything now revolves around the fall hunting season. I’ve fretted over the dog like it’s his first day of Kindergarten. I even convinced the hubs to buy Duke earmuffs as I was afraid the gun shooting would hurt his ears (which didn’t stay on for long). What if he swims in the pond to retrieve and his leg gets stuck on something? Do dogs drown? What if he gets bitten by a snake? Will he carry a snake first aid kit for a dog? What about the insects? Will he get bitten by mosquitoes that carry Lyme disease? Do dogs get Lyme disease?

When I shared my worries with my daughter, who happens to be a veterinarian, she too gave me a blank stare as if I had lost my mind. “That’s what Labradors are trained to do,” she said. “It’s what makes them happy.” Sure enough, as soon as he says, “Let’s go hunting,” Duke is prancing around the room like he just won a bucketful of bacon.

They are practicing with stuffed doves, with dove scent, and I really didn’t think the first outing would go as well as it did. The hubs hid three doves, in different places, throughout the 10 acres, and, in just a matter of minutes, Duke found all three. Happily bringing them back, one by one, like he’s done this his entire life. Stuffed birds are one thing, but what happens when it’s a real bird? What if he runs into a sunflower field and can’t find his way back? What if the bird bites him? Do birds carry diseases that are harmful to dogs?

There’s nothing I can say or do to change the minds of this hunter and his dog. They are practicing every day and, soon enough, it will be hunting season. What if I strapped a GoPro camera on Duke's collar so I can monitor what’s going on? Can we put a locator on him in case he gets lost?

Do they make orange vests for dogs?

Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at sandydownhome@hotmail.com.