Granted

We’ve never been huge-mile hikers. We’ve never logged more than 9 miles on a chukar hunt, and I think our average hunt is less than 5 miles. But for some reason, each season we seem to go longer. Last weekend I hunted Saturday and Sunday, and totaled about 17 miles, which is a lot for me.

Angus did about 44. Something about the sensitivity to his condition, and wondering how much he can take, made me realize that I’ve taken for granted the fact that we do this together, human and dog. It’s deliberate, intentional, the heading out, returning together, and everything in the middle. All that cooperating. Checking in. Communicating. Sometimes the obvious things are the most interesting because we take them for granted. Not a new idea, I know, but when you think about what happens between you and your dog(s) on a hunt, it’s really pretty amazing.

I’m not the kind of person who’s used to tributes being paid to him (one can only hope), but for a dog to hunt with you, you’re being honored. The irony of my just now noticing this is not lost on me since the last post I wrote focused on how Peat honors Angus. Both dogs honor me simply by putting up with me, but to spend most of the day looking for birds I can shoot so they might be able to bring them back to me is ridiculous. It’s idiotically sublime, and kind of a source of shame; it makes me think of that saying, “I’m not sure I want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.” I do a lot of dumb, thoughtless things. What did I do to deserve this honor?

The answer is: nothing. Dogs grant us themselves. It’s an act of grace, “undeserved merit.” Yeah, we might think that without us the dog would be nothing. We might think that since we spent some serious cash rescuing them from someone who’d give them a more horrible life than we do that they owe us whatever we get from them. We might think other dumb things. Humans do that a lot. We think the world was made for us, that “lower” creatures were made to serve us. Our founders thought this justified slavery. They were wrong.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for my dogs and their unfathomable and bottomless generosity. I’m thankful for their beauty and grace. I’m thankful for the fact that we go places together to do things together, and that we get out of the truck at the same time, hike in amazing country pursuing a variety of pleasurable experiences and recognizing each other in the process, and return to the rig together, continuing the bond of trust that threads my life together like the golden stitch. I’m thankful they want to be with us no matter what, that they’ll spend day after boring summer day baking in the bottom of the drift boat while I get increasingly grumpy from putting down countless trout. Like the honey badger, they don’t give a sh*t: they’ll still love my sorry ass.

It’s not like I never realized any of this. But it just hit me after two wonderfully long days with a dog living on borrowed time: this is a partnership only because he’s willing. It can’t be forced. He’s granting me himself. He’s done it, without fail, his entire life. That right there, that’s worth thinking about.

12 Replies to “Granted”

  1. Awesome words Bob, they are truly amazing creatures!! I can’t even begin to imagine a life without them being by my side. Thx for sharing and wishing you, Leslie, Angus & Peat a joyful Thanksgiving!! Ryan

  2. Bob, I lost my son to an auto accident fifty years ago before I discovered chukar hunting, Since then my many Brittanys have filled a void,someone to spend 24/7 with, They have given me love,companionship and shared joy doing the thing we love most. And each day they motivate us to get off our sorry asses and go. I had a Dave Walker dog that lost a back leg to cancer at 8. That season he never missed a beat,climbing the steep ravines as fast as ever. What an example for us as we age,complaining about our legs,knees and backs. Brittanys are special dogs and I am grateful like you and Leslie for every day we have them are family members. I am praying for Angus,hope he has many more hunts with Peet.

    1. What an amazing story about your 3-legged dog, John! Dogs, among their many other incrediblenesses, are the best buffers for tragedy. Thank you for your prayers for Angus. Happy holidays and hunting!

  3. I had a special dog that made me realize the things that you just mentioned. That was about 25 years ago. I believe I was too full of myself to realize those things before but looking back I know those dogs before Tucker gave it all to me. Since than I have appreciated every moment with my canine partners and as time has progressed I now, as John said, am with my boys 24/7 and they are there to lift me up in everything I do. Not just outdoors. I, too, am praying for Angus and know he will get all the attention he deserves in his remaining years. Happy Holidays to you, Bob and Leslie, and all you other canine lovers out there.

  4. Great thoughts you guys, a dog trainer that I used to break my dog Gus of flushing birds, he is a pointer, commented that I spent a lot of time with my dog, well duh! We are partners in this life we share

  5. Bob, I have followed your blog for some time as we seem to have a lot in common. I’m an older chukar hunter – 32 years hunting Chukars, have had Brittanys , GSP, and now a Braque Pyrenees type. I agree with the way you think on so many things (except dogs in my bed and I brew non-hoppy Beers). For example, I find my Garmin Alpha a great addition as it takes stress from the possibility of losing a dog. Only thing is the beep and vibrate give me a shot of adrenaline even if I am giving my dogs water and I should know they aren’t really on point. Pavlovian.
    This post really struck a cord in me. My GSP is 15 and is able to hunt on cool days for a few hours. Her desire is not fading but her abilities are. Thankful for so many great days with her. Thank you for your writing and sharing your experiences.

    1. Thanks for your comment and kind words, Jeff. I know exactly what you’re saying about the Pavlovian response to the beep and buzz even when we’re all taking a break together! Longevity: it’s amazing to me that a dog Angus’s age can do this, to say nothing of a dog 3 years older, like yours. The desire really is indelible, which makes fading ability that much harder to witness. As for hops, I can see that mono-desire waning (last night I opted for a Scotch ale at our favorite taproom; and I do occasionally brew a brown ale or a non-hopmad winter beer); I wonder if you can imagine ever letting dogs on the bed? Thanks again for your thoughts, and for looking at our blog.

      1. I can imagine dogs in my bed. When we stay in a hotel in Winnemucca, my hunting partner invites his dog and my 2 to sleep on the bed with him. Its funny to see those four all piled up, but not for me. The dogs do sleep in our room and I think the price for their dog beds is more per square foot than my mattress.
        I love the Scotch ales, I do think its funny how some of my friends are bewildered when it doesn’t taste like Scotch. Brewing a Red Flanders tonight and hopefully find a respite in the expected rain this week-end to get out with the dogs.

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