American Field

If We Don’t Always Take Them Too Seriously

Our Dogs Can Provide Us With A Bonus

By Gerry MacKenzie | Aug 09, 2018

Our dogs are like a box of Cracker Jack, providers of a myriad of treats, but with a surprise in the form of a toy at the bottom of the box. Rather than provide us with a toy a dog can go one better and surprise us with a humorous anecdote or two that we can treasure long after it has left us. The “treats” come in the form of birds found and pointed and then retrieved, or birds simply retrieved, or herding livestock, or guarding our homes, or simply being friends and companions. The humorous anecdotes can occur while providing said treats, or simply when interacting with other dogs. Take “Bird” and “Bubba”, for example.

Bird was a pitbull female that I rescued from our local dog pound when she was about three months old. She was possessed of a gregarious personality right from the get-go, and although she grew to be about 65 pounds and was very formidable looking, she never once demonstrated any of the undesirable traits attributed to her breed. Conversely, she could have been most accurately described as a canine comedienne. She was the “clown princess” of dogdom.

Prior to Bird’s arrival, my everyday house dog was a small poodle male named Bubba. Bird quickly made it known that she much preferred living in the house rather than outdoors, and so she and Bubba became roommates. They got along splendidly, and became great pals, even when Bird grew to be much larger than Bubba. They did, however, display a grudging jealousy for human attention. Before Bird’s arrival, Bubba had been given a half dozen or so doggie toys, all of which squeaked when squeezed. Toys one would feel only appropriate for a smallish dog like Bubba. When Bird observed Bubba having such fun playing with them, envy reared its ugly green head and she began to covet them as well. Bubba was much quicker than Bird, and thus always got the toy he wanted before Bird could get to it.

Naturally, when Bird saw how much fun Bubba was having with the toy of his choice, she wanted it, but was just not quick or agile enough to take it away from him. Thus, she devised a clever scheme. She would grab one of the other toys and create a pretense of having such a good time with it that Bubba would decide he would rather have it than the one he chose initially. When he was preoccupied with it, Bird would then snatch the one she really wanted in the first place. I saw this scenario repeated so many times that I was convinced that it was not coincidental. Even though they were good buddies, Bird was always reluctant to share attention and affection with Bubba. She would even go so far as to encourage him to do a bit of roaming around the farm with her and then try to get him lost.


When I lived in Oregon, my neighbor and good friend was a rather eccentric chap, Mr. Art Bohren, the owner of a darned good field trial bird dog registered as Paladela’s Delivery, callname Hap. Hap was one of the first three field trial dogs to win ten championships, sharing the honor with Safari and Oklahoma Flush. Needless to say, Art was quite proud of Hap, and would talk the ear off of anyone willing or unwilling to listen to Art boast of his accomplishments. Hap was developed and handled by a gentleman who originally hailed from Pinckneyville, Ill., Clyde Queen. Clyde’s kennel during that era was at Bakersfield, Cal. Art acquired a pointer female sired by the great Oklahoma Flush with which to raise a litter of pups sired by his beloved Hap.

Art’s pride in Hap was no less than a father’s for his son, so when the puppies came along they were regarded with as much reverence as one would have for one’s grandchildren. Art selected one of the pups to be campaigned and carry the torch for old Hap, and placed the youngster with the aforementioned Mr. Queen. Of course, he named his prodigy “Okie” after his famous grandsire. (Hey, there could only be one Hap). Okie was

a talented individual, albeit a bit headstrong. Art rationalized this trait as being nothing less than burning desire. As we are aware, grandchildren can do no wrong. Clyde was not quite so understanding and in Art’s absence admitted to not sparing the rod occasionally so as not to “spoil the child”.

I was in attendance when Clyde was running Okie in a Derby stake at the Lake Success area near Porterville, Cal. Art was riding in the gallery reminding all within earshot that the wunderkind they were watching was a scion of old Hap. Okie was putting down the kind of ground effort dear to Art’s heart — far flung and forward, when the course abutted private land pasture sealed off from the Lake Success area by a tightly-strung, five strand barbed wire fence. About fifty yards from the fence a group of domestic geese were feeding and gabbling loudly. The racket captured Okie’s attention as he sped along the fenceline, and he quickly ducked under the bottom strand and captured and dispatched an unfortunate member of the goose gaggle. This was done in spite of Queen’s loud protests, and despite Clyde’s urgings Okie was loathe to part with his prize. Thus Clyde had no choice but to squeeze through the tightly stretched strands of barbed wire and remove the corpus delicti from Okie’s grasp. In order to dissuade Okie from any further mayhem, Clyde used the limp carcass to give Okie a mild flogging, then dragged him back to the fence and struggled to get both himself and his dog on the right side of the fence and back on course. Sometimes the “best laid plans of mice and men go awry”, as when released Okie shot back under the fence and promptly killed another goose. Art’s response to the quizzically bemused glances he was receiving? “He sure is bird crazy, isn’t he?”


Sometimes what could be regarded as a humorous situation to some only adds insult to injury to a principal involved in the situation. This is especially true when the dog in question does not take advantage of what turns out to be the last chance for redemption. Consider the plight of Stanley Downs, who was competing with a string of decent all-age dogs in the Southeastern Open All-Age Championship. The trial was held on Dr. Ron Deal’s famed Chickasaw Plantation, near Sasser, Ga. This is a venue where shortage of game is never a problem, as it teems with bobwhite quail. Finding birds is never a problem for entrants in events held on Deal’s holdings.

I was reporting the event in question, so rode every brace of the stake, and was witness to virtually every dog having multiple quail contacts. Every dog except those that Stanley Downs ran, however. Stanley was having one of those ill-fated experiences where everything was going wrong. Times like all of us who have competed in field trials have experienced, I assure you.

By the next to the last brace in the stake Stanley had run six dogs and all had gone birdless, given the plentitude of game on the area an almost unfathomable circumstance. And so, he was left with but one dog to run with which to escape a most dubious predicament. Time was growing short in his hour, and Judge Jim Crouse and I, riding side by side and trying to will Stanley’s dog into a game contact, were jerked upright in our saddles as we heard Stanley call point from about 75 yards to our right. Definitely not wanting to miss the spell being broken, we spurred our horses and cantered quickly to where Stanley sat proudly on his steed with hat held aloft, the signal for a dog on point. He pointed to the dog standing proudly at the edge of a large feed patch, and no sooner had he exclaimed, “IT’S ABOUT TIME”, than his dog rare’d back and knocked and chased the birds like a puppy — a classic case of adding insult to injury.


Occasionally, an errant canine’s opportunity for redemption may require an assist from its master. This was definitely the case with “Cocoa”. Cocoa’s persona was such that he required redemption in massive doses. How to best describe Cocoa? Well, to put it bluntly, he was obnoxious and possessed of a knack for devising new ways to be obnoxious. He was hyperactive, unruly, disobedient, stubborn, stupid, and barked incessantly in an abrasive raspy, raucous tone. On top of all that, he was ugly. All of that having been said, how was it that Cocoa could ever have been the beneficiary of human kindness. Cocoa was a German Shorthaired Pointer male which by a major stroke of luck was purchased as a tiny puppy by an individual who read in one of those outdoor magazines that Shorthairs make excellent “all around” hunting dogs. Little did his fond owner know that this was to be the “ugly duckling” story in reverse.

Cocoa’s master was a gentleman who I worked with at Rentex Corporation by the name of Pete Olsen. Pete and I were both in direct sales and public relations for the firm, each of us assigned to one half of our marketing area. Pete had been in charge of the entire area until my assignment to one half of it, and therefore I solicited advice from him in order to better handle my half.

During those conversations I learned that Pete was interested in hunting, and in fact had recently purchased a “bird dog”. I had been hunting in the Treasure Valley area between Ontario and Vale, Ore., not far from its easternmost border, enjoying great success in part due to the fabulous pointer female I owned at the time, Smoky, which I have written about for this outlet on more than one occasion. I related tales of some of those hunts to Pete, and the salesman in him emerged as he wrangled an invitation from me to join me on a future trip. We agreed on a weekend early in November, with the plan being that I would pick he and Cocoa up at his home in Portland after work on Friday evening. That would have been about 5:00 p. m., which gave us plenty of time to make the five hour drive and check into a motel at a decent hour.

I arrived at Pete’s home at 5:00 sharp, and although his vehicle was in the driveway, he was nowhere to be seen, and did not answer my knock on his door. He appeared shortly somewhat agitated and out of breath. “Have you seen Cocoa?” he literally gasped. At that point I did not have a clue as to what Cocoa looked like, and had not seen him or any other dog. I was told that Cocoa had escaped Pete’s grasp when he took him from his pen so as to be ready to load him into my vehicle. In a few minutes Cocoa returned to Pete’s yard, ignored his pleas to “come here” and took off on another tour of the neighborhood. To make a long story short, it was not until 7:30 that Pete was finally able to capture Cocoa and get him loaded into my vehicle.

Checking into a motel at a “decent hour” now seemed to be a bit out of reach. Also, the trip was not exactly a joy ride, as my vehicle at the time was one of those tiny Volkswagen station wagons, thus we were in rather close quarters. Further, I have failed to mention that Cocoa was large, and had obviously just recently passed puberty, and spent most of the trip harassing Smoky, which was definitely NOT in season. She had been through this drill many times, and wished only to sleep and conserve energy for the hunting that she knew awaited her. So, Pete and I had to take turns driving and wrestling with Cocoa. I have also failed to mention that in addition to being large, Cocoa was also strong, and along with being highly motivated was quite a handful. An additional problem arose when we discovered the interstate between Pendleton and LaGrande was covered with snow and ice in many places. Thus, as it turned out a decent hour became 2:00 a. m.

I figured I could sleep until 6:00, which gave me four hours of rest. Being only 29 at the time, I knew that I had gotten by on less on numerous occasions. I was not prepared, however, for Pete’s newly announced concern for Cocoa. “Gerry, it’s going to be cold out in that car. Can Cocoa stay in the room with us? Smoky is staying in with us, so why not Cocoa?” I guess he did not understand that I was not concerned about Smoky’s ability to take the cold, but rather wanted to get her the hell away from Cocoa so that SHE could get some rest. I knew that if I did not relent I would have to listen to him moan all night about Cocoa freezing to death. “I guess he can, Pete, is he housebroke?” Pete’s response was “I think so.” I gathered from that response that Cocoa had never been inside of a dwelling in his life. Oh well, it was only going to be for four hours — “Yeah, go ahead and bring him in,” I said resignedly.

Well, it turned out to be both the longest and shortest four hours I’d ever spent in my young life up to that point. Cocoa did not seem to be in need of any rest. He alternated between harassing Smoky, pacing the floor, noisily drinking from the commode, and making woofing sounds at noises he heard coming from the parking lot. None of these activities was conducive to sleep on my part. I loudly suggested to Pete that he do something to get him to lie down and be still. His answer to that was to go out to the car and get his chain link lead and chain Cocoa to his bed. The beds in the room had the old fashioned metal rod head boards. The chaining resulted in an incessant clinking as Cocoa stirred around restlessly. I finally had enough. It was now 4:00 in the morning and my planned four hours of sleep was being reduced to just two. “Pete,” I stated firmly, “there is a very thick, very plush down sleeping bag in the car, and that is where he is going, and if he freezes to death, which I sincerely doubt, that is his and your problem.” With that I took Cocoa and his chain and deposited both in the friendly confines of my vehicle.

The two hours remaining seemed to fly by, and at 6:30 we ventured outdoors to let the two dogs relieve themselves. As we approached the vehicle, it looked like a feather bed had exploded inside of it, and there lay Cocoa snoring loudly in the debris that had been my sleeping bag. Pete was a rather thrifty individual, and although he did not offer to buy me a new sleeping bag he volunteered to clean up the mess. I have often heard the phrase from hunters that I was with that “a bad day of hunting is better than a good day at work.” I would not have bet on that as this day began.

The place I chose to hunt that morning was along a dry creek bed that meandered through a shallow valley. The outer edges of the valley rose very gradually to meet flat crop land at their crest. These gentle hills were covered with sage brush along with a variety of other good cover that intermingled with it. The area was always full of pheasants and valley quail. I knew little about Cocoa’s prowess as a bird dog. Pete had offered that he’d had him out hunting a few times, but furnished no other details. Therefore I suggested that he hunt on one side of the valley, and I would hunt on the other. That proved to be a wise move, as it was not long before Cocoa found birds, evident by Pete cussing at him as he chased and barked at them. Smoky was her usual efficient self, pointing a few pheasants and several small groups of quail. Every time I had hunted that valley in the past, I encountered a covey of Hungarian partridge. As good a bird dog as Smoky was, she could never get them pointed — they were just too jumpy, and this was an enigma as I had never killed a Hun before. I was sure that with repeated exposures, Smoky would get the elusive devils figured out, and I would get off of the schneid. I wondered if we would run into them that day.

Soon Pete’s cussing and Cocoa’s barking subsided, and I was walking along in peaceful tranquility when I heard a loud hissing sound coming from across the valley. It was Pete trying to get my attention as discreetly as possible. I looked across the valley to where he stood, and not fifteen yards ahead of him stood Cocoa pointing, all swelled up like a poisoned pup. “Go ahead Pete,” I hissed, “flush his bird and be sure to kill it for him.” I was certain it was a pheasant. Pete strode cautiously in front of Cocoa grinning like a jackass eating briars when PPPPPPDDDDDDDD — out flew those blankety-blank Huns. “Shoot Pete,” I yelled. He raised his gun and no nearer to him than I was I heard the resounding “CLICK”, followed by “I forgot to load the &*#%* thing.” Cocoa’s redemption laid in the pocket of Pete’s hunting coat in the form of a live twenty gauge shell. One thing is for certain, as far as earning redemption with that single point Cocoa may have fallen short, but I’m sure it guaranteed him a home for at least another year.

I hope that you have enjoyed the four “toys” that I have shared with you. I assure you that throughout my lifetime experiences with dogs there have been many more. I find it amazing that these beloved creatures can inspire within us an entire gamut of emotions. If there is a lesson to be learned from them it is that in spite of how hard they try to please us, they are not perfect, and as we try to please them, neither are we.


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