For the Love of a Good Bird Dog

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Canine sidekicks brighten our days, improve our lives

By Meredith St.Pierre

During these uncertain shelter-in-place times, getting outside with our dogs has been the highlight of our days here in the St. Pierre house.

We’ve escaped to public lands close to home. We’ve stretched our legs, breathed in fresh air, and watched the world begin to green this spring. We’ve seen migrating woodcock and ducks. We’ve listened to the prehistoric cry of sandhill cranes and the raucous chorus of frogs in a marsh. We’ve gone out and found solace in nature with our trusty sidekicks -- our three German shorthaired pointers -- by our side.
 
Esky, Gitche and Trammell are each in their own phase of life.

Esky is in her prime at age 6, finding most of the migrating woodcock flying through Minnesota. She may need to brush up on just a few things to be at peak performance this coming fall, but for now she’s having fun running free.

Gitche is just 6 months old and learning the ropes. She’s mostly just out for a run and fun, but we’re practicing her recall and she’s starting to get the hang of things. She hasn’t quite figured out wild birds yet, but she’s watching robins fly in the yard, so there’s promise.
 
But Trammell, she’s in her swan song at 13, and watching her is where my attention has gone on these walks in the woods. It might be because her pace has slowed down and we’re side by side more often, or it might be that I’m trying to grab on to every moment with her and commit it to memory.
 
By golly it’s been fun to be out with Tram. She’s had 13 seasons in the field with Bob and she knows him and his cues. It has warmed my heart to watch her watch him. She’s not really out to hunt much anymore, but when he picks up his pace to get to Esky on point, that old girl picks up the pace and changes course to get in there too. She’ll be strolling along, and at times we think she’s losing her hearing, but he gives Esky a “woah” command, and those ears perk up just a bit. She’s still on the hunt, but letting the young pup do all the hard work. She’s honoring the point more than pointing these days, but gosh darn does it make me happy.

I hold out hope that she gets to see one more wild bird fall in front of her this autumn, but if not, I’m going to hold on to these memories and remember how she loved to be in the woods and fields with us.
 
There are many reasons to love a bird dog, but watching them do their thing on the hunt just might be the best. So for the love of our ol’ bird dog, I’m going to support Bird Dogs for Habitat this month. My vote is obviously for the shorthairs, but I may throw a few dollars behind the Lab in honor of my childhood pal Lucy too.
 
For the love of a beloved bird dog . . . and the places they share with us . . . take the time to remember and vote at www.BirdDogsforHabitat.org.

When she’s not working for the conservation organization Great River Greening or wandering wild places with her beloved canine companions, Meredith St. Pierre does her best in the always-uphill battle of keeping husband and QF vice president of marketing Bob St. Pierre on the straight and narrow.