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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
something very special about Brittanys...