I grew up in the northeast – Ruffed Grouse country – although no one called them that, except “the society“. Nope, in my neck of the woods, everyone hunted “partridge”. We also hunted woodcock. At some point in my life, I moved to Maine. The birds they hunted there looked like the ones in New Brunswick, except they were called “pahtridge” and “woodcawwk”. I had always kind of had a hankering to hunt over a bird dog. One day I was reading a Sports Afield magazine and spied a picture of the most beautiful dog I had ever seen. It had classic hunting dog lines, like an English or Irish Setter. It was a little bigger though, and jet black. Black with mahogany feathering. And a little white splash on the chest. In the photo I saw, there was a pair. they were Gordon Setters. I immediately started to research these dogs, and tried finding breeders in Maine. I stumbled across a breeder, Jeff Pratt, in Woodland,ME. My wife (at the time) and I took a drive down, and I was hooked! Alas, though – we didn’t think it was in our budget – so we added it to our “someday” list. That September, I was helping her Dad work on a storage shed by the cottage on the lake in Danforth. I heard her car pull up, and out she came with a beautiful little pup! An early birthday present! Woo hoooo !!! My eyes got moist for sure! I named him “Jake” and for a long time, Jake was my boy! He was a hard dog to learn on though, when it came to training. He was a bird-crazy SOB, but boy, did he run wide! That dog would go like a black missile! We hunted some, but I got discouraged long before he did. Later, when my wife and I separated, Jake and his yard-mate Zeb got adopted out to my family, as I had to move into an apartment. Zeb was a big furry Newfoundland-and-something mix; a bear of a dog that was happy and gentle. He went to my brother’s. Jake went to Mom and Dad’s. I think Mom and Dad got attached to ol Jake, and Dad fussed over him quite a bit. Jake passed on after I moved west. He had that stomach-twist thing that dogs get now and then. Zeb passed as well – he got loose one night and was hit by a car.
After I moved to Arizona, it wasn’t long before my thoughts turned to taking a crack at another bird dog. There are a few Gordons here and there in Arizona, but not many. It’s just too hot. I saw an ad for GSPs not too far from my home. I checked out the pups, and melted. “This one is a big love”, Ken the breeder told me. That’s the one that came home. Trooper was a kick. My wife wasn’t so sure about him – she’d never owned a “big” dog. Turns out, years later – Trooper is her favorite. For as bold and brash as Jake was, Trooper has always been timid and skittish. Not sure why. I know his breeder, and he’s never been abused here or there. If the toaster pops, Trooper makes a dash out of the room. I’ve never worked with him on birds. I admit, I got him and just didn’t have the time to commit to properly train him. That, and I just didn’t know how to deal with such a sensitive dog. He’s made a great dog though – everyone is afraid of him at first, but they always wilt with a dose of “trooper-love”. He’s like a 70 lb lap dog, and is as caring and gentle as any dog I have ever owned.
I’m a little disappointed in myself that I wasn’t realistic in assessing my ability to make time for, and train these dogs. I’ve always been a dreamer I guess, and the vision in my head of hunting over my own pointing dog was just too much to resist. That being said, they both ended up as great dogs, and I loved them dearly. I’m glad to have had them along, during my little slice of life.