Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Five, "One Year Old", Part 3

3or background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

While that first year made for some interesting episodes inside the boat, it also added those moments when time on the water was just too quiet.  Duck hunting can be defined as 14% preparation, 1% hunting, and 85% waiting and thinking.  In those thinking moments I often reflected on the times that dad and I spent in the very same boat, doing the very same thing.  When reflecting, I couldn’t help but miss him terribly, and found these times being more and more melancholy.  I missed our discussions; both important and trivial.  I also missed the silence that you can share with someone you know and love that does not have to be filled with conversation or distraction.  I missed everything about him not being there with me. 

Fortunately, Blitz offered a perfect distraction.  She was usually into something she shouldn’t have been, which required constant management and correction.  But in those events where she was actually behaving, she would be doing something endearing like thumping her tail against the bottom of the boat at a volume that would scare away any duck in the county or sit with her head on my knee, patiently waiting to be petted. 

In these moments, and especially when we were out there just by ourselves, she became a treasured hunting companion.  She also made for a great conversationalist, as while she never verbally responded to anything, she listened well, and would sometimes sympathize with an appropriate whine, yawn, tail wag, or episode of flatulence.  In many respects she was a perfect hunting partner. 

Beyond conversation, Blitz was a commensurate duck hunter.  Armed with a canine’s keen hearing and amazing eyesight, she’d often spot ducks in the distance well ahead of my noticing them.  Dozens of times I’d be able to look at her face, at it would belie that she was tracking ducks – her ears were up, her brow lowered, and her unblinking brown eyes focused onto a distant target.  In these times I’d try and align my gaze to hers and see what she was tracking.  Surprisingly, it would often be ducks.  I say that this was surprising as there are many birds that one encounters while duck hunting – seagulls, swans, pelicans, cormorant, blackbirds, eagles, hawks and crows just to name a few.  However, there is something very distinct about the flight pattern of a duck, namely it constantly flaps its wings, and only stops when in the process of losing altitude or landing.  While that pattern is distinct, it can be mimicked at times by other birds, and it can take hunters many hours in the swamp before being confident in identifying birds on the wing at a distance.  Despite this difficulty, Blitz was true on many of her identifications, and I was able to call and work birds I would have otherwise never seen had I not been paying attention to her. 

The focus she was able to display in those moments made me question my original concern about her potential case of ADD, but then the birds would leave, she’d be back to tying to eat a cattail or chase a spent shell around the bottom of the boat, and the cycle would begin itself all over again.   

*      *     *     *     *

Outfitting a hunting dog for training, waterfowling, and upland hunting is quite expensive.  Beyond the costs of the training itself and staples like food, crate, dummies, toys and snacks, there are a plethora of other components of gear that help to make a sporting dog’s time in the elements more effective, and unfortunately none of these are cheap.  I was fortunate as at the time I owned Blitz I was running marketing for a major outdoor retailer, and was lucky enough to obtain cheap gear through my employee discount or by samples received from sympathetic merchandise buyers. 

Blitz, though, earned some of this gear herself. 

Occasionally product would be featured in our advertising and would really need to be modeled in order to best reflect the item.  While this was obvious for clothing, it also worked for some of the dog gear, and with Blitz’s photogenic good looks and extremely light yellow coat, she’d make a great pallet from which to sell our gear.  Her first opportunity to be a dog model arrived when a buyer stopped into my office with a camouflage neoprene dog vest.  “Mike, you have a light-yellow colored Lab, right”  he asked.  I nodded in the affirmative, and he continued, “I have this camo vest that needs a yellow dog in order for it to really show up well on film.  The lighter the better.  Would you be interested in using her as a model?  You can keep the vest.”  I told him that indeed I’d be interested.  But things got tricky after that.  “She’s well trained and will sit, right?” he asked.  “Uh,” I stammered, “yeah I spent a lot on her training and…” I trailed off.  “Perfect,” he replied, “I'll have the Photo Studio to contact you on the shoot.” 

While the vest was a great incentive, I wondered exactly what I might have gotten myself into. 

The day for the photo shoot arrived, and I had purposefully put Blitz through some rounds that morning in an attempt to burn off some energy from her.  We had doubled our morning walk, and I followed it with a session of retrieving training dummy after training dummy in the back yard.   By the time we had finished, I had one very tired yellow lab who was eager to get back into her crate while I got myself ready. 

Upon completing my shower and dressing, I was pleased to go downstairs and see that Blitz was calmly laying in her crate, and had obviously just woke up when she heard my footfalls on the steps.  Given her state, I was cautiously optimistic that this photo shoot might just go OK.  I loaded the dog into the back of my truck and headed for the photo studio.  

Upon arrival, every iota of my optimism was immediately dashed.  It seemed that the studio was also shooting for another retailer that morning, and that shoot just happened to be for kid's clothing.  There were literally kids everywhere, running around, screaming, and acting like kids.  While Blitz loved people, she absolutely adored kids.  If you introduced her to a group of people, she'd always greet one of the kids first, and would do so with her tail wagging, ears down, and with that canine facial expression that can only be described as smiling.  And as far as she was concerned, the more kids around, the better things were.  So when I saw 20 or so kids spilling out of the studio lobby into the parking lot, I knew that all of my hard work to wear down my dog as a means of keeping her calm was for naught. 

As I opened the lift gate, Blitz could already hear the squeals of the kids, and was thumping her crate with her tail like she was beating a bass drum.  I opened the crate door, barred her exit, and attached her lead as quickly as possible.  Once attached, instantly she bolted from the crate to the end of the lead, looking to meet those wonderful kids that were making so much noise.  As we approached the building, I was met by the evil and disapproving eyes of the kids' mothers, as I'm sure their concerns about keeping things calm were on par with mine. 

W.C. Fields is credited with saying "Never work with children or animals."  Given the next few minutes, I knew exactly what he meant.  Blitz was overloaded, as she was quickly surrounded by kids.  Moms were yelling to kids to not get dog hair on them.  One kid asked if she could pet my dog, and I answered in the affirmative.  That gave the entire group the green light to pet her, and immediately the dog was buried beneath little hands wanting to pet the friendly dog.  Another little girl asked "What's the puppy-dog's name?"  "Blitz," I replied, and immediately every  kid was happily yelling "BLITZ!  BLITZ!"  Confusion reigned in our kid-dog party.  Reigned with an iron fist.

I somehow got the dog out of the middle of the chaos, and got her to sit, but a little boy standing nearby couldn't stand it anymore and threw his arms around Blitz's neck and gave her a huge hug.  Blitz always liked this, and she thumped her tail approvingly and gave the kid a big lick.  Immediately other kids quickly lined up for their turn for a hug, all while the mother of the first little boy was chewing him out and trying her best to get the yellow fur off of his black pants.   It was a scene of joy and love shared by the kids and the dog, and simultaneously one of frustration and seething shared by the moms and me.  Happily, photo studio staff soon arrived on the scene and ushered the dog and I into our stage area as calls of "GOODBYE BLITZ!" echoed behind us. 

The calm of the studio room was a welcomed relief, and Blitz continued to make more friends as we met the photographer and the two assistants.  After introductions, one of the assistants asked if Blitz was ready for her first modeling job, and held out the neoprene dog vest to me on a crooked finger.  Little did I know that that the chaos had only just begun.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to include any thoughts you may have. Know, however, that kiddos might be reading this, so please keep the adult language to yourself. I know, for me to ask that language is clean is a stretch...