Listen to your dog
I woke up. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was eyes. Big brown ones. Set where they'd always been, in the brown-and-white face of my devoted Springer Spaniel.
"What's your deal?" I asked in the perfectly logical way a human being talks to a dog.
"There's one out there," answered Scamp. Well, I suppose the word "answered" isn't quite right. Perhaps "indicated" is a more accurate descriptor. Because Scamp didn't actually answer me with words. I mean c'mon, he's a dog and is not capable of vocal dialog.
How he indicated his answer was by flicking his eyes ever-so-quickly in the direction of the outdoors just outside my bedroom window.
Anyone else would just see a dog looking around. But I knew better.
"There's WHAT out there?" I asked.
"A grouse," he answered.
Now, how did Scamp specify a grouse as being the "one" thing that was "out there?" Well that's easy, he whined. Not just any whine mind you.
Not a "I have to pee" whine or a "my water bowl is empty dummy" sort of whine. It was definitely a grouse whine. It comes from deep in the dog's chest and sort of rattles his windpipe when it comes out. It starts low and breaks into a high pitch right at the end. Owners of grouse dogs know what I'm talking about.
"Where is he?" I asked.
"He's in that little stand of poplars just below the shed, but not as far as where the sumacs start growing," Scamp said quite clearly by vibrating his bobbed tail while turning exactly 2.25 rotations counter-clockwise on the bedroom carpet.
"How do you know he's there?" I asked.
"Saw him out the window," Scamp answered by, well, just by looking out the window.
"I need coffee," I insisted.
Scamp allowed this. He knows how important coffee is in my life. So off to the kitchen he went, with his nails tap-dancing their cadence down the hall to where the coffee had already self-brewed.
Gosh I love those programmable timers on coffee machines.
I followed after the dog, although not so spryly, and poured myself a cup. Taking that first welcomed sip, I strolled to the window that overlooks the stand of poplar trees below the cabin and looked out.
I looked for a grouse. I saw nothing. "I see nothing," I said.
Scamp stood up with his forepaws on the sill and looked out the window too. The same whine came from deep in his chest. He could see it, apparently, with his crazy dog vision. "I don't believe you," I said.
The look I got back from the dog involved an expletive that I can't relay here. Foul-mouthed dog.
While I enjoyed my cup of coffee, and another half cup besides, along with some buttered toast and a banana, that dog would not shut up about that "supposed" grouse. To the window... whine... to my chair...whine... back to the window... a look and another expletive... and so on. Finally, I had had enough.
"Fine," I said. "If it'll make you shut up, I'll go. Are you ready?"
"I was born ready," Scamp boasted. I wasn't about to argue with him.
I went to the closet to get my little Browning 20, and that silly Springer just about tripped me five times on my way. Under my feet constantly. "Do you mind?" I asked. Scamp apologized.
I chambered one round and slid a second in the magazine. "If you can't kill a grouse with two shells then you shouldn't be hunting," I muttered under my breath.
Then Scamp had the nerve to say "then maybe you shouldn't be hunting. Because I've seen you shoot at least."
"Enough!" I said. Lousy, smart-aleck dog.
We went outside together and started toward the poplars. Scamp hesitated and looked back at me. "Are you ready?" he asked. I nodded, and he went in...
(Babe Winkelman writes for Northland Outoodrs, a publication of Forum Communications Co.