Archive for Thursday, October 4, 2007

Pet Talk: Hunting dogs require investment

October 4, 2007

A few weekends ago, my son, Jon, decided to come home for the night and the following day. My wife and daughter were out of town, so his return from college was welcome.

I think Jon was a bit homesick until I found out it was dove season. Sure enough, he had his shotgun out and an ample supply of shells.

Jon was a good shot, especially at trap or clay pigeons, but, dove were certainly a challenge to any hunter.

Our farm, after the corn was harvested, had more that its fair share of these swift-flying game birds. Jon got all his gear organized, placed his gun on safety and called for his trusty hunting dog Minnie.

All of a sudden, like the arrival of a Kansas tornado, a small white blur of fur dashed into our presence, spinning with excitement. You see, we really do not own a full-fledged, pure-bred hunting dog, but boy do we have one that thinks that she is.

After the hunt, the pair came in the back door. Jon was beaming.

"Dad, where can I dress this bird," he said.

"Well, you know you mother is not here, so we'll pluck it and clean it on the kitchen table."

I knew if my beloved knew what we were up to, she'd point Jon's 12-gauge right at me. But, what the heck ... I certainly did not want to extinguish Jon's joy of bagging a bird.

"Hey, Dad, did you know Minnie found that bird for me after I shot it? I had to call her back, though, when she took off for home with it in her mouth," Jon said, as he placed the quarry in a freezer bag for storage.

The next morning, as I peered out the bathroom window, I caught a view of the hunter and his dog. As a father, the view was priceless.

It was times like these I wished I could encapsulate the moment. Who said a rat terrier could not make a great hunting dog?

For these two, though, it was all about companionship -- a boy and his dog. Even though I had to get to work, my heart was somewhere out there in that hazy cornfield.

Every year, as the hunting season gets underway, I try to make a pitch for the health of the hunting dog. This champion of canines, whose value is reserved for this time of year to enable hunters to find and retrieve game birds, such as dove, quail, chuckers, waterfowl, pheasant and the like.

Without the hunting dog, a downed bird may never be found and for those who enjoy a good feast, the ultimate reward of the hunt could be savored.

So what are you doing about the health of your hunting dog?

On this list should be the following:

1. Are my dogs' vaccinations current? Hunting dogs should be vaccinated yearly because of their increased risk of exposure. Check with your local veterinarian for guidelines.

2. Have my dogs been wormed or checked for worms recently? Internal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms are especially prevalent in hunting dogs primarily because of stress and confinement housing.

3. Is my dog not carrying heartworm, on a monthly preventative or recently checked for heartworm? The fall season is a prime time to contract heartworm. Monthly heartworm preventative are easy and economical as opposed to the alternative high cost of treatment of a positive heartworm dog.

4. Place a flea and tick preventative on the dog. These external parasites can be easily encountered afield, leading to many other serious diseases.

5. Adjust the dog's diet to a higher protein and energy content. This can be done either by switching diets or brands, or by supplementing the dog's regular chow with beef & allow and powdered mick, such as calf manna. A trip to the meat market or feed store can help to find these supplements.

6. Prepare an emergency care kit just in case an emergency arises. Bandage materials, such as gauze, triple antibiotic salve, vet wrap and tape or elastic on, should be gathered. A quick energy source, such as a dog treat, honey, karo syrup or otherwise to help treat hypoglycemia or low blood sugar as it occurs. Plan ahead and by also researching phone numbers of local veterinarians to call, if a serious accident occurs.

This checklist is just a suggestion, but it is intended to not be take lightly. Many of you reading this column have invested a lot of money and time in your dog.

Like any good possession, one would want your dog to function at an optimum output afield. Take stock in your hunting dog's health, as the reward is a great hung and limiting out.

One other word of advice, precondition your dog as well as yourself. Plan to take regular walks prior to the major season opener in November. Conditioning makes for a healthier heart and hunting enjoyment.

I talked with Jon later that morning and he came home empty handed, that is, in birds. But, as my heart smiled, I knew he was not short on memories of the hunt and that precious time he spent alone with his best friend Minnie, the dog.

Thank God for dogs.

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