Friday, September 7, 2007

Every Tree

When we first got Duncan, the breeder told us he came from a long line of champion hunting dogs, a claim I didn't believe for a long time. He was far too energetic and easily distracted to be a hunting dog. Hell, there were times I tossed his ball right over his head and he missed it and couldn't find it. I can't tell you the number of times I had to go get the ball myself. But after we left Stapleton, where there are no trees or birds, only foxes and rabbits and the occasional coyote, we moved to The Breakers, where squirrels nearly outnumbered people. Duncan had never seen one, but there was something in him that instinctively knew what they were.

"Squirrel," I said and his ears popped up, his head cocked to one side as if he knew the word and was listening to me carefully.

From that moment on he was a full fledged hunter.

Duncan dragged me from tree to tree, across parking lots or street to get to a place he'd spotted a squirrel. It was all I could do to keep up with him. He broke three retractable leashes in our first month there. Walks became unpleasant and it wasn't until Kevi and Mike gave us a pinch collar at Thanksgiving that I was finally able to rein him in. We've worked hard at making him stop and sit each time we cross a street. He can't proceed until I say, "Okay." He no longer drags us around at a near run while he sniffs out the squirrels, real or imagined.

But he still stops at every tree. And I do mean every tree.

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