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Tales from the Bark Side column: Luke, the great red hunter

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Welcome back to the bark side of life here in Ottertail, where this morning was greeted by the plaintiff cry of a low flying despondent Loon. From my vantage point, being one of the upstairs windows facing east, I could see a doe with two of her fawns frolicking in the tall grass (what is left of it from winter wear) in the field adjacent to our property.

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Could it be that spring is actually here? The robins are bobbing and bopping along, and the chipmunks scamper around like they are making up for lost time from their winter slumber, and the red winged blackbirds serenade us from the top of a soon to be budding oak. Morning has broken in rhapsodic splendor.

In continuing with our "Logic vs. Instinct" contest, here is a tale from Jim and Barbara Meinert of Perham, about a quick-learning hunting dog...

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This is a story about our hunting dog, Luke Tonka Wakonda, which is Sioux Indian language for Luke the Great One.

He was a Hungarian pointer (or Vizsla breed). He was a large red pointer bird dog. I had the privilege of hunting with him for 13 of his 15 and a half years. He had a great life. He was the center of our family and actually the whole neighborhood. He never once growled, and very seldom barked, as I'm sure he was content with being in charge of his situation. He could think and reason and remember how to get out of any situation that came up daily and especially a situation encountered while hunting, as hunting was his life.

The thing we noticed about him was that if we did anything in his presence more than twice, he would pick up on it and it was then the norm and would behave that way from that time forward. I could go on and on about his ability to think and reason and this story proves it.

I was never personally sick, but one time I was really sick in bed with a virus or flu, with a bad cough. Luke was so concerned about me lying in bed, that he sat on the bed beside me in an upright position, being concerned for me, he watched over me for a whole day. Lo and behold as he was right there amongst all the action he also caught my illness, complete with the cough. Well his treatment, performed by my wife Barbara, was that if he started to cough, Barbara would stick a tablespoon of terrible tasting cough syrup in his mouth.

After two tablespoons (remember the fact of doing things twice), he disappeared on his third bout of coughing. Where did he go? Well she found him downstairs, as far away as he could get from Barbara, with his head under a large piece of furniture muffling the sound of his coughing. That way, he reasoned that he surely wouldn't get another tablespoon of that terrible tasting cough syrup.

He's been dead over 30 years now, but every day we talk about him and laugh over some of the things he did. I could go on and on about how he could count the days till we hunted again. I could mention that he could climb a ladder, play games with the kids, beg when he wanted treats, be my fishing buddy and watch the bobber for me, and hunt pheasants so well that everyone I know wanted to own a vizsla like Luke. We would sure have hated to have not had our Luke.

***

What do you think, folks? Was Luke a free thinker, or was he conditioned to react because of his love for his master? I cordially invite all who read this column to send me an e-mail at info@rosswoodkennels.com or write to me at Keith Alan Ross, Richville MN 56576 or phone me at 218-495-2195 and share a tale about your pet, or wild critter, or whatever animal you choose to write about, that proves one way or another that animals can reason or that they can't.

The prizes in this year's contest will be "chamber bucks" and just how much each winning contestant will be awarded will be disclosed at a later date. Remember, like they say, you can't win if you don't enter. Until next time...

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