Chief's Brittanys All rights reserved

Rocket (on right above)

July 15, 2001

Rocket had hardened muscles at the very young age of 8 weeks.  Large paws and thick legs were a sure indicator to me that he would be a larger Brittany.  An orange and white American Brittany with thick hair.  His head was broad with the 'smart bump' on his head that old-timers say is a good sign when present on a pup.  Yes, he was birdy too!  He is line-bred from the strongest of foundation blood lines known to Brittany breeders, 2 times NC Ban-Dee.

Rocket at 3 months old

Fast Forward to age 4 months.  Rocket was a 'busy pup'.  His energy level was high but not too uncomfortable to be in the house.  He was smart and easily house trained.  It was obvious to us that Rocket had to be contended with though if he were to remain in the house.  Heaven forbid if you were sitting in the Rocker/recliner and someone on the other side of the house called him...Rocket would leap directly over you rather than run around the chair!  His exuberance and desire to 'get there' in a hurry is what propels him in the field too.

Rocket's first Christmas relaxing with 'Dad'.

My wife and I had to rethink the 'baby proofing' situation with Rocket in the house.  No longer were breakable (or perishable) items safe with Rocket near.  We raised the 'baby proofing' line from waist high clear up to the ceiling fans!  What-nots, knick-knacks, etc. had to be moved!  But our love for Rocket was greater than worrying about broken personal items.  He was unanimously approved by all to remain in the house.

We didn't name Rocket for a while until we figured out his personality...thus he is Rocket!  It was at about 4 or 5 months of age that I took Rocket to my beloved Pheasant hunting Club near Gettysburg, PA.   He immediately knew what the game was all about.  He found/pointed and retrieved his first pheasant to me naturally.  His desire to hunt the toughest conditions and cover at such a young age made me so very proud.  

I began to get serious about Rocket's yard work after his introduction to birds.  In fact, I use to take my family camping a good bit back then and of course we would take the dogs.  Rocket had some of his best yard work at campsites scattered across America.

Rocket had a couple years hunting experience prior to my retirement from the US Navy and moving back to Texas.  He had hunted Bobwhite Quail on a somewhat limited basis on Maryland's Eastern Shore so he was in for the thrill of his lifetime once I started getting him to lots of wild coveys of Bobwhite Quail.  His abilities to run hard and find birds developed rapidly.  He went from the close working dog hunting thickets for woodcock, grouse, and pheasant, to a big running dog hunting the wide open plains of Texas.  It was fun to see him mature.

Rocket is the sort of Brittany that will hunt the size of the cover to the gun.  I call his sort of hunting "Edge Hunting".  It's a term that I thought up to mean something different than what it is usually meant to imply.  An edge hunting dog to me is not a dog that hunts just edges of cover but also hunts the edge of your visual and physical abilities.  If you are foot handling in tight cover, he will be hunting almost out of sight all the time, even if the visual field is 30 yards.  If hunting wide open plains, he will be on the edge of your visual field there too, even if that is 500 yards.  But always, he will check with the guns.  Climb up in a truck or on a horse, and he stretches out even further.

I enjoy hunting quail with Scott and Steve.  The good natured harassment never ends and their love for good dog work is only exceeded by their desire to have a good time.  Their first observation of Rockets solid work was hunting quail here in Texas a couple years ago..

It was a warm afternoon when I guided Steve, Scott, and Robert on a hunt for wild quail.  We were walking the bottom land at the foot of some hills.   Rocket was, as usual, running hard out front.  As we approached the hills, Rocket disappeared up the side of a hill and did not check back soon as he customarily does.  It was Steve's first hunt with me so he was not really sure what to expect out of the dogs.

We continued our walk towards the base of the hill at which point I told Steve that if Rocket didn't show soon, then he's probably standing birds up top.  Steve had that 'riiight' look on his face.  After about 10 minutes total, I asked Steve to stay down at the base of the hill just in case Rocket didn't have birds.  I climbed the hill and stepped through the line of Mesquites that traced the edges of the hills.  There stood Rocket, head/tail high, intensely pointing.

I stepped back through the Mesquite to see Steve and motioned for him to come up top to shoot.  Steve, ever so excited with his new Berretta, quickly scaled the stone covered hillside.  I directed Steve through the brush towards Rockets location.  Steve exited the brush on top of the grass covered hill, at which point, as if on cue, Rocket looked back very slowly then slowly returned his head in the direction of birds while simultaneously taking one step towards the birds and stiffening ever so hard.  It was as if he were saying "I've got the birds and they are right here!".  The covey was flushed and Steve shot a nice double.

On another occasion, I was hunting with Rocket who had disappeared in the tall CRP grasses near a tank (Texas lingo for a pond).  Rocket was wearing a 'silent mode' beeper collar that only beeps when the dog goes on point.  Soon I heard the beep-beep indicating his position.  "ROCKET'S DOWN!"  Someone had yelled that now all too familiar phrase indicating yet another find by Rocket.  We moved in and flushed a very nice covey.  I doubled but winged the latter.  Rocket made a swift retrieve on the first and quickly located the cripple.  With a cripple and a dead bird in his mouth, he began the retrieve to hand when suddenly the cripple struggled free.  Rocket turned to pick him up but then placed his right foot on top of the cripple to hold him then peered off into wind.  I tried desperately to get a picture but couldn't.  I went to assist Rocket only to find out he was on point with bird in mouth and cripple underfoot!

"Where's Rocket?" is another familiar line when hunting with Rocket.  Not because he runs off like a far ranging Pointer but because he has left us for more than 5 minutes.  Almost always, he is nearby, on the edge, holding birds which is exactly why I switched from a bell to a silent beeper!  If you've ever hunted the tall native grasses of Texas, you know what I mean about losing a dog on point!

Rocket holds a covey tight.  He is reliable and solid!

There are many other stories like that about Rocket.  Scott once said, "Dave, for a dog with that kind of run and drive, it's incredible how much control you have over him".  He made the comment after seeing me successfully handle Rocket numerous times using voice/whistle/hand signals at great distances and under difficult situations.  My reply was "It all starts with yard work but then it takes a special dog to find birds like Rocket".  Rocket is truly a "hunting machine" but with Brittany personality.

I'm told by some that Rocket should 'prove' himself in field trialing.  I've told friends, family and those who know him that he proves himself to me every hunting season and that's all that matters.  I did let him compete officially one time in a NSTRA field trial where he was braced with a Field Champion English Pointer.  All the while before Rocket ran against the Pointer folks would say, "Oh, that pointer is awesome.  Too bad you couldn't have had a better draw for a brace mate".  Rocket had 5 finds the pointer had 1.  Rocket may have won the trial except that three of the flushes involved gun safety situations and the first time novice handler didn't know to call "SAFETY" to be scored.

Rocket hunts cover like he clears recliners in the house.  With enthusiasm and love, he is there for me.  There are those that say a bird dog only hunts for himself.  REALLY?  Someone needs to tell Rocket, for year in and year out he proves his selfless devotion to his master.  He does what he does for me and if he wasn't doing it for me, why would he gently cradle birds in his mouth, return them to hand, stand point for what must seem like forever to him, and then lick my face all over when the day is done?  Why did he want to do this from the first day he started hunting, instinct alone?  Nope, I just can't believe it's instinct alone.  I dread the day that Rocket leaves me and shudder at the thought.

There's something very special about Brittanys...

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