We’ve bragged for years about our dogs. It’s part of the game, I think. Part of the culture. Everybody does it, or badly wants to. The dog work this season, though, has not begun as expected. The theme so far has been The False Point. Maybe the chickens are coming home to roost from the two years the dogs spent pointing ghostbirds in the timber farms on the Olympic Peninsula. There were birds there, both ruffed and sooty grouse, and the daily walks sometimes witnessed actual birds, sometimes by sight but more often by wing sounds when they busted. Most often, though, probably by a real-to-fake ratio of 1:100, it was Bloom pointing scent, backed spectacularly by Peat. This pattern grew increasingly boring for us, especially because the “forest” was so dense that you or the dogs literally could not penetrate into it at all off of the logging roads to try to relocate the birds. We did not, though, suspect that this daily routine might be damaging our dogs for chukar hunting.
Maybe I’m wrong about this. Maybe the preponderance of false pointing so far this season is just a phase and evidence of their incredible noses working to “recalibrate the stations of the [living].” “Never doubt your dog” has always been our mantra, but it’s being tested, and frequently conflicts with another mantra: “Never lose altitude.” I’ve lost track of the times this season that Leslie or I have descended far down a slope to reach a pointing Bloom, only to learn it was fake. This is a new one on us. Even Peat, whose batting average isn’t quite as high as Angus’s (I don’t recall Angus ever false pointing) but is still stellar, has begun fooling himself and, thus, us.
We don’t want to lose faith. Losing faith in your dog is like wondering if the sun will rise tomorrow, and really not knowing. You don’t want to go there. One hunt last week, Bloom false pointed at least 20 times, and never pointed actual birds. Leslie and I were nearly despondent, and afterward pored over the Internet searching for answers. There were as many differing opinions on the matter as there were people giving them. We decided that the most sensible thing to try was to speedily walk past Bloom when he pointed, letting him know we didn’t acknowledge his fake, and hope that eventually he’d find and hold real birds, whereupon we’d fire, hopefully hit one, and get him a full cycle out of the deal, re-cementing what’s supposed to happen: point – hold – bust – shot – retrieve. But the very next hunt, he nailed five straight real points, so that plan went out the window, thankfully. We thought, “Oh, we’ve been too neurotic about this whole thing; it was just a phase.” But on the next hunt, he only false pointed. Numerous times. And Peat did, too. Arg.
So we’re back to scratching our heads. I considered keeping this quiet because it probably makes us look like idiots (nothing new), and because I didn’t want to malign in any way these incredible dogs from a fantastic breeder, but I’m wondering if the smart people I’m used to hearing from here might have something helpful to say about it.