The Bullet Dog
It's really painful when a Brittany doesn't work out for the adoptive family. Sometimes they don't work out because the owners have never owned a Brittany and just simply weren't prepared for the dog. Sometimes the owners are prepared for the dog but something, somewhere, somehow fails.
This is a true story of dog that we sold that just didn't seem to work out for the adoptive family. All privacy is respected. Any names used herein are with permission.
This particular dog was only 11 months old when I received an e-mail from the owner. ( In my contract, I get first option to take a dog back so the owner was honoring his end of the contract). The owner was explaining in the e-mail that the dog was no good. Of course I immediately picked up the phone and called the owner.
The owner explained to me that the dog was every bit a great house dog and very loving but that it would not point or retrieve birds thus he had no use for the dog.
Without the advantage of seeing the dog personally (the family lived about 9 hours away), I reaffirmed that I indeed would like to have the dog back as a 'rescue' to place with a non-hunting family. I told the owner that I would pay to have the dog flown back to which he agreed. He offered to make it easy for both of parties by "putting a bullet in her head" to which I WAS HORRIFIED! The owners' reasoning was that she couldn't hunt so was not worth anything even though he admitted that the dog was a great house dog.
I explained that sometimes even the best bred dogs can have a problem but that I definitely wanted the dog back for, if for no other reason, than to place it with a loving family that would accept her limitations. After more discussion and scheduling, the owner returned the dog to me.
When I picked her up, she seemed subdued. I noticed after I got her home that if a man spoke loudly in her vicinity, she would roll over on her back, sometimes urinating on herself. It was pitiful. So I placed her in a kennel with another dog with the plan to slowly get her confidence each day.
I was so busy that I didn't have much time the first 2 weeks after she arrived but felt strongly that she needed a chance. Enter Rusty Calhoun.
Rusty has 4 years experience with Brittanys. He started out with Zeb. Zeb's picture is on the front page of my web site. Zeb is the dog in the background.
Rusty saw Missy in the kennel and asked about her. I told him my rescue story. He asked if he could take her out to play and I told him that would be great. They connected! She didn't seem as apprehensive and afraid of Rusty as she did others.
Rusty asked if he could put her on some birds just to see for himself if she really had no inclination to point or hunt. So we took out the launchers and planted some pigeons in the tall grass. I had Rusty take her perpendicular to the downwind scent cone at about 30 yards...no indication that she made game. So, we moved in a bit closer to which she smelled the bird and wanted to get it. I launched the bird and she chased. Ok, she didn't point.
We gave her another bird which she pointed! I told Rusty that I thought she had a better nose than what she showed and that maybe she simply didn't know the game. So on the third bird we took her down about 40 yards from the planted bird, crossed perpendicular to the scent cone and WHAM! She pointed beautifully, held until we launched the bird and fired the gun.
The previous owner had told me that he had worked with her a lot and that she wouldn't point but that she would 'whoa'. Rusty tried her on 'whoa' and she did in fact whoa...but not the kind of whoa we wanted. She looked defeated at whoa. She clearly had no clue what it was about.
I told Rusty that I didn't have the time to build her confidence the way she needed it to be done. I asked him if he wanted her to which he replied 'yes!'. Now he already owned Zeb so he had to get that one past his wife. She finally agreed (succumbed is probably a better word!).
A short time thereafter, Rusty and I took Missy out on her first Quail hunt. She found and pointed a good many quail though she did not initially retrieve.
The Calhoun's spent several months giving Missy unconditional love. They put no restrictions on her. Rusty started to develop the natural retrieve the way I describe on this website. Soon, he had Missy gleefully running around his home finding things and bringing them to him. WOW! This was great! The dog that wouldn't point or retrieve (according to the original owner) is now pointing and retrieving.
Rusty guides bird hunts for me. I encouraged him to take Missy on bird hunts to give her necessary experience and to give her the confidence that she can find birds. Boy were we in for a surprise. This little one year old dog soon became what I refer to as a 'Go To' dog.
When I say a dog is a 'Go To' dog, that in itself is a small way to say something HUGE about the dog. In other words, her nose and skill at finding birds is so great, she is the dog you reach for when no other dogs are finding birds. Rusty quickly came to rely upon her to find birds in the worst of scenting conditions. She was holding her own against dogs with years of experience!
Above: Missy retrieves a Quail to a young hunter!
If you want an incredible hunt, put Missy and my dog Peanut down on the ground to hunt at the same time...it's simply incredible. BTW Missy is the daughter of Peanut.
Above: Peanut honored by Missy. Mother and daughter.
Rusty lost his beloved Zeb early in the season of 2001. This was a critical point for Rusty. You have to understand that Zeb was spectacular. Rusty put his whole life into Zeb. The day Zeb died was terrible. If you've never seen a tough man wail over the loss of a dog, let me tell you, it ain't pretty. Rusty's whole family was paralyzed. The death of such a magnificent companion gun dog had us all crying. Gun dog is an understatement....he ran huge in open cover. We hunted him from foot and trucks. Zeb blew away the competition and won his first ever field trial of 32 starters....But, Zeb is another story...
That was the time in which Missy was starting to come out of her shell, win over the Calhoun's and show her ability in the field. Rusty swears that the little rescue dog who just nearly received a bullet to her head saved his life (due to the loss of Zeb).......I believe it.
This story is not about blasting anyone. Consider all options when having problems with a dog. Get professional help, especially you have no previous experience with the breed.
Sometimes, folks who are experienced with a particular breed of dog, believe that they know all there is to know about the breed and their own dogs. Frequently, it just isn't true. Better to get a professional opinion from someone who trains/handles hundreds of dogs from that breed before giving up.
Finally, a dog that doesn't work for you may work for someone else. I am so pleased that the Calhoun family now owns Missy. She is an integral part of their family. She goes everywhere with them including sleeping in their bed every single night!
Y'all take care.
Chief's Brittanys® All rights reserved
P.S. For what it's worth, we have never produced a Brittany that wouldn't hunt.