Friday, July 20, 2012

Red Badge of Courage?




I am somewhat flumoxed
by the number of people who think a picture of a bleeding dog is a "red badge of courage"

Hardly! More like the scarlett letter of a novice.

A dog that is constantly knackered is a dog that does not know butt from breath -- or else it is a good indication of a novice digger that does not know how to terminate quarry or get it out of a stop end.

Either way, a muzzle that is covered with blood is a good indication that you own a dog that cannot hunt next weekend, for one reason or another. Is this such a good thing that it is worth photographing and bragging about?

Injuries to both human and dog are part of the sport, to be sure, but they are something we try to avoid -- a regret, not a mark of success. They are some small or large measure of failure, even as they were in the old days before people had huge kennels of rosette-chasing dogs.

Once upon a time people hunted several times a week and worked all season with just two or three or four reliable dogs that knew the busines. The men were experienced and the dogs were too -- instant experts and replaceable dogs had not yet found favor.

It does not take a smart dog or an experienced dog to get ripped up in a hole -- any over-large, thick-headed, over-adrenalized dog can get wrecked. If you have such a dog (and yes, I have owned one!) you learn to temper your own style of work to spare the dog unnecessary abuse.

That means you pull the dog and snare out the animal, you take the trouble to drop another hole and tail the quarry out (what's another three feet?), or you shoot it, bar it, or let it bolt free. Whatever your option (and you have many) you have respect for the dog and guard it against injuring itself.

Above all you do not take pictures of wrecked dogs and post them on the interet! To do so is to shout from the rooftop: "I am greener than alfalfa in April."

The job of terrier work is not to get a dog wrecked, but for the dog and master to locate the quarry, to bottle it, to dig to it, and -- if needed -- to dispatch it.

A successful day in the field is not defined as a day in which a dog is injured, but one in which there are few regrets, no condolences offered, and the dog and master are both tired, happy and healthy.

A friend of mine -- somewhat puzzled that my dogs were so eager to hunt -- recently asked me how I rewarded my dogs after a successful day in the field.

"Simple," I said. "I let them hunt next weekend too."

The reward for success is being able to do it again the next day -- and all of us wanting to.

.

6 comments:

boct said...

Hey Patrick..as it should be..very good proclamation.
To add..allowing one's dog to facilitate into detriment as such is not a far jump from dog fighting..and indeed the mindsets are somewhat parallel..perhaps?

PBurns said...

There's a pretty big gulf between the guy who hunts with terriers and the sick sadist who fights dogs. Hunting is not dog fighting, but yes I think the world has no shortage of twisted bastards and fantasists -- a point I have made many times.

Inexperience is different from sadism. The simple truth, as it was noted in the most recent issue of Earthdogs-Running Dogs, is that no one apprentices anymore. Half the young people have no idea how to sort things out at the end of a dig. They do not know what their job is, or the dog's. Having done so little, they are pretty sure they have a lot to prove, and the irony is that they fail coming out of the box trying to "prove" themelves and their dog. Inexperience is fixable. The other isn't.

True diggers dig. They know the forest and field and they respect the wildlife and the dogs and they vibrate with woodcraft. The wannabe dog fighters who sublimate to working terriers do not last long, and most are pretenders and puppy-peddlers. Unable to find quarry and unwilling to spend time in the woods, they devolve to Havahart traps, and then they are gone... none last. True terrier work demands too much time, knowledge, committment. The sun is too hot, the wind too cold, the hedge too wet, the thorns too large, the drive too long to hold much sustained interest for the small-tooled fools who engage in dog fighting. Money can only be lost in the hedge -- it cannot be made. So the overlap is very, very small and very temporary for the most part.

boct said...

Yeah, somewhat succinct and narrow of thought on my part. I guess on one side there is ignorance without intended malice and on the other there is malice intended ignorance..

Good digging to you this weekend.

PBurns said...

Probably not out digging for a few weeks due to the hernia surgery a few days ago. All knitting up well, but apparently it takes a while to knit up. With the heat, the timing is good in any case.

boct said...

Aw come on..back when men were men and when we used to walk 8 miles to school and 10 miles on the way back uphill in both directions..

but right probably too hot for the dogs.

PBurns said...

Let it be noted that I got that hernia shifting and lifting a rock during a dig!