The Beautiful Familiar

“Come on dogs, let’s go hunting.”

Not just one dog but two. Not much more work having two. They get fed at the same time, go to bed at the same time, and adapt to each other’s miscellaneous routines at home, like, for example, keying off of each other when it comes to hearing something outside, both of them to end up running full speed through the kitchen and out the dog door barking their heads off. We’d gotten use to having two dogs around all the time at home and on the mountain. The one thing that I loved most about having two dogs was watching them hunt together.

Last June when Angus passed away from cancer it was an adjustment, and a void for everyone, including Peat who now has to do all the work by himself finding the birds. It wasn’t that he was lazy, but he was smart. He was like one of those co-workers that we’ve all had at one point in our lives, the ones that sit back and watch everyone work and then when the donuts arrive from the boss on Friday rush to thank everyone for a good job, and he’d be first in the break room to get the only maple bar. Peat would be the first on the bird for the retrieve, a covey of birds that he didn’t find in the first place but he’d bring the chukar to hand and get all the immediate praise that followed while Angus continued to hunt.

Peat this season was definitely forced to step up his game by being the lone dog. His average mileage used to be three times ours, now it’s four times. He can find birds and he’s the relocation specialist but his nose is either super sensitive or not fully refined because he’s really cautious on pinpointing the covey’s location and getting close enough. The birds are either just very jumpy and busting wild for other reasons. I don’t know if it’s because he spent so much time as the co-pilot.

The main thing I’ve missed this season is watching him honor another dog. Peat in action is a beautiful, mesmerizing and sometimes funny sight to behold. It’s by far my favorite part of seeing a pointing dog work. Looking back, I think he purposely let Angus find all the birds just so he could honor him. They had a beautiful relationship.

Before the season started, we stopped by to visit Angus and Peat’s breeder, Katie and Gabe of Sunburst Brittany’s and I casually suggested that maybe they could loan us one of their dogs. I wasn’t entirely serious and thought that it was stupid to even suggest in the first place, but in November they lent us and entrusted us to keep Custer, their young liver and white American Brittany for a few days. I was excited to have another dog to hunt with again, and I was equally excited just to have the presence of another dog in the house.

One-and-a-half-year-old Custer arrived, and from the get-go it was evident that he hadn’t been around cats before. He went on point when he saw Seamus for the first time. Peat soon took notice of what was happening and acted like he’d never seen a cat before, either (despite getting his ass kicked by Seamus on his first day with us almost 6 years ago!), and both dogs chased Seamus and both got a full set of claws in their furry snouts. From that point when Custer wasn’t tethered to me, he was in his crate on the floor. My 15-year-old cat continued to taunt him by sauntering past his metal crate door within an inch. Cats are masters of intimidation. Trying to train Custer, a kennel dog, to be a house dog that lives with cats in one day so he could be loose in the house was very optimistic.

The following day, to give the cat a break from all of us, we took Custer out hunting with Peat to a place on some BLM land not far from where we live. We started out initially wanting to have Custer only hunt with me but realized that he hadn’t bonded with us yet and he wanted to hunt with Peat. About 20 minutes into the hunt, my Garmin beeped that Peat was on point. I headed his direction and could see Peat pointing and Custer honoring him through the tall bitterbrush. It almost brought tears to my eyes seeing two dogs working together again. Instead of getting into position to shoot, I pulled out my phone to photograph and capture the moment.

Custer honoring Peat for the first time.

The next covey of chukar we found, Custer was the first one to point. I slowly got into position and out of the left corner of my eye, I could see Peat running full speed right past him! Instead of honoring Custer, Peat ran right through the covey and busted them. Freaking Peat! I don’t know what he was thinking. I’m no dog psychologist, but on the next covey Custer found later in the hunt, Peat honored him. They took turns on a couple more coveys and we hunted with both dogs together at least six more times before returning Custer back to Sunburst. We would have preferred to have kept him longer if it wasn’t for the cat. I love my cat. That darn cat.

It was a beautiful thing to see Custer, Angus’s nephew, move with the same show-dog gait as Angus. He’s got the same sweet personality, and whisky colored eyes, and is a natural on the chukar hills. Custer is a miracle and a bright hope for the future where next spring a new puppy will be in our lives or maybe one of them will be in yours.

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth. Enjoy the video!

Custer backing Peat again.
Sunburst’s Custer and Peat, November 2020.
Peat honoring Custer on some chukar. December 2020
Custer post retrieve
Angus and Custer, January 2020

2 Replies to “The Beautiful Familiar”

    1. Merry Christmas to you and Susie.
      We’re just hoping to gets up to 36 today, 15 right now, and no wind. Perfect conditions for a Christmas day chukar hunt.
      Happy New Year,
      Leslie

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