Tom Hennessey's beautiful new book "Leave Some For Seed" arrived in our office last week. The book is full of Tom's pen-and-ink images accompanied by memorable stories about hunting, fishing, and the outdoor life.
Following are a few paragraphs from one of our favorite essays, "Addicted to Dogs:"
Whenever someone tells me I’m going to the dogs, I tell them they’re wrong, explaining that I went there a long time ago. The first hunting dog to leave tracks on my mind was Queenie, a tri- color English setter owned by my uncle, the late John MacDonald. I was just a kid at the time—too young to hunt, but old enough to be captivated by the magical equation of dog, gun, and bird.
Meat hunter that he was, my uncle shot only partridges and pheasants. I don’t think he ever snapped a cap at a woodcock. Years later, whenI took to hunting the long-billed birds with my first pointing dog, a Brittany spaniel named Misty, he scoffed, “You’re wasting shells shooting those ‘hummingbirds.’ They’re not worth eating.” That, of course, was a matter of opinion, and by then it was my opinion that walking in behind a dog paralyzed by the perfume of bird scent, be it par- tridge, pheasant, or woodcock, was the essence of bird hunting. Moreover, unlike partridges and pheasants, which tend to run when alarmed, woodcock hold like they’re glued to the ground, thereby providing opportunities for dogs to point and hunters to prune alders and poplars.
Actually, my first bird dog was a springer spaniel that became my personal guide and hunt- ing partner before I began shaving. Since then, I’ve hung bells on a variety of feather hounds, all of which were pointing breeds. Yet, in spite of the great days and grand times we shared, I’ve yet
to own, or hunt with, the storied ideal gun dog. My experience has been that, sooner or later, one way or another, a bird dog will try your patience. For example, my English pointer, Jake, had a full-choke nose that enabled him to hunt hard and fast without bumping birds, but I often went home hoarse from yelling at him to hunt close. Conversely, Sam, a gentle English setter, hunted so close and cautiously that I could have followed him on crutches.
In defense of bird dogs, it can be said that bumping birds, false pointing, pottering on old chalkings, and other such annoying behavior usu- ally results from poor scent conditions, the cul- prits being east wind, strong gusting wind, warm dry weather, and, by far the most culpable, covers barren of birds.
In addition to the dogs I’ve owned, including my current English pointer, Bud, it has been my privilege to know many others on a first-name basis. So it is that I’ve listened to dog stories on gunning grounds far and wide and, naturally, fired off a few of my own. Though each of my dogs
left memories that have remained untarnished by time, one of the most unforgettable involved my aforementioned springer spaniel, Snooky.
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