In a recent issue of Hunting Retriever magazine, Rich Carpenter discussed why some people enjoy running their dogs in hunt tests and yet they don't hunt.
I'd like to expand on that a bit and ask, "Why did you choose a retriever if you don't hunt?" There are lots and lots of other breeds and many make sweet and loyal companions.
If you are a non-hunter, could you be doing your dog a disservice?
I remember the first time Chip retrieved a freshly-killed bird. He brought it back to me with a look on his face that clearly said, "Wow! THIS is what I was meant to do!" He had retrieved many times before - balls, sticks, frisbees, bumpers and even dead birds - but to him, this was different. His instincts had kicked in.
If you don't hunt because you don't know how or where or maybe you don't have any of the equipment, speak up. Many hunters are passionate about their sport and would be glad to talk to you about it. If you have a good attitude and a sincere desire to learn, you might be able to talk one of them into an invite on one of their hunts.
But maybe you don't hunt because you might have to kill something. And you don't want to do it. I understand. Many hunters feel a pang when they've killed an animal or a bird, but it is the way of nature.
We are so far removed from our food, we often forget those steaks we bought - so nicely set in a little tray and wrapped in plastic - were once a cow. A peaceful, grass-eating animal. We don't think about that because we didn't participate in killing that animal or cutting it into pieces to store in our refrigerator.
And that's okay. The cows and pigs and chickens on display in the grocery store were bred and raised for exactly that.
Wild game on the other hand often die a violent death - sometimes being eaten alive. Or they could be injured and, if unable to fend for itself, die a slow death from starvation.
As hunters, we owe it to the game we hunt, to provide a quick, clean death. But when the shot goes awry and a bird is injured, a well-trained retriever is the best bet to find that bird and save it from a painful, lingering death.
Do we always kill when we go hunting? No, and that's part of the fun of it. When the birds just aren't flying, we still get to watch the rosy hues of sunrise with our 4-footed friend. Or maybe the birds are flying, but zig just as we shoot and miss. Then the dog gives us that astonished glance that questions why we would do that when he was ready to go.
Rich quoted more from Gassett, "One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted... with all the extras that this carries with it: the immersion in the countryside, the healthfulness of the exercise, the distraction from his job."
So many things you miss by not getting out in the field with your dog. Think about it!