Thursday, June 19, 2008

At some time every bird dog man (sorry... bird dog person) loses one somewhere out in the country. The creeping realization that your dog is lost brings on a low grade panic, a confusion of ideas about what to do, and what to do next swirl around in the mind.

The poster above is a souvenir of a few years ago when I lost my maniac setter, Benny. I was staying at a place I rent on the breaks of the Wenaha River in NE Oregon, fooling with dogs, birds, and steelhead for a month or two. One morning while loading the dogs into the Landcruiser, Benny slipped by me at the door to the garage, ran down the drive, across the little road, and into the breaks. A hellish steep, timbered and wild place. Yelling and whistling did no good, he wasn't waiting for me to go hunting.

I immediately started after him but he was gone and not responding to calling or whistles. I started driving the ridge road in the direction he had headed. Stopping, whistling, calling, firing my gun in the air. I stopped trucks of elk hunters to ask them to keep a lookout. By mid-afternoon three of my friends were also out driving, calling, looking for Benny. No dice.

Next morning I went to my friend Dean to use his printer to make the poster you see above. I widened the search area, talked to everyone on the roads and in the village of Troy, Oregon. I postered signs, trees, bulletin boards for 10 or more miles in every direction.The $100 reward got some other people out looking, too. By night fall of day two, everybody knew about Benny and the reward. But no joy.

Day three. I was pretty convinced that Benny was gone for good. I had to do the thing I feared most – call my wife and tell that Benny – her favorite – was missing in action. I kept driving, calling, whistling, shooting in the air, and interviewing rangers, hunters, cattlemen. Still no Benny.

The morning of the fourth day, I was preparing breakfast when the dogs on the chaingang set up a barking and howling. I figured the resident bighorn ram was taking a shortcut through the yard again and went out on the deck for a look. Out pops Benny from the brush in exactly the place he had disappeared days before. He was hungry and thirsty but no worse for wear. 

They usually come back on their own. “Where 'ya been, Benny?”

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