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Peanut stopped abruptly, turned into the wind, raised her head to a 45-degree angle, and glanced at me while pumping her nostrils. She gave me that sideways look that said, “Daddy, something is definitely worth investigating here!”
Nostrils flaring widely, she carefully quartered, nose up at a gentle 'walking on eggshells' pace into the hot, dry, gusting West Texas wind. 60 yards later she locked down tight. She was down hard near some small live-oaks. Her tail was up at 90 degrees and head pointing the direction of the birds. She was as if sculpted from marble.
It was near mid-day, the hunters were tired, and so we had not been too fast to follow. In fact, we switched from foot hunting to following her and 2 other Brittanys in my F-350 crew cab truck. Imagine grown men noisily bailing out of a truck at break neck speed to get to the dog! All guns were breached, so quick and safe loading had to be done as well.
Peanut glanced back at us as if she were puzzled with our inability to keep up. She moved, carefully tiptoeing then froze once more. The pasture was scalded and the birds weren't holdin' 'cause there was nothin' to hold IN. She repeated this several times. Each time she was very careful to not frighten her quarry. It was the last week of quail season and fur, feather, and man had harassed this covey.
Peanut finally nailed 'em down near some prickly pear and was solid! The hunters approached her gingerly. I reminded them that the quail were running and to walk out front of Peanut to flush the birds. At that moment, the other two dogs that were working forward earlier, realized we were on to something elsewhere. They circled back and honored Peanut with due respect for the precious find. 18 to 20 birds flushed wildly and the hunters quickly shot 1 bird. One hunter had missed and was disappointed, the other proud that he had gotten a late season - overtly skittish bird.
Peanut steals the heart of every hunter and once again, had done so. Immediately one hunter remarks, "that is the most awesome bird work I've ever seen!" Thinking to myself, "Yes, I've been told this many times."
(Trainers note: This is the one time when a dog that creeps and follows is good as long as they don't pressure and flush. IF the birds Hold, your dog must be steady and hold. Sorry field trialers, hunters think steady to wing/shot is pretty, just not practical on runnin' birds)
Peanut made quite the impression on experienced dog handlers at a local hunting preserve where I started her a year ago...I knew then, I had something special. Yeah, I'm proud of her. It feels good when your dog makes good. The breeding was there and I knew it. Only thing is that out of a litter of well-bred dogs, maybe one will be exceptional.
Peanut is a very small orange and white Brittany female
With an exceptional nose. She was my pick and she turned out to be undersized, which just goes to prove the breeder doesn't know it all.
Peanut was my pick of her litter and looked to be the same size as all the other dogs in her litter. Unfortunately, I thought, she never grew up! After house training and coddling for 6 months I decided that I would at least give her a chance to prove herself. I had been so disappointed with her size that I hadn't even taught her to come to her name. She was potty trained and that was it.
Half-heartedly, I put a pigeon out in my remote control launcher and took Peanut out on a 6-foot lead to my large training pasture here on the farm. Changing my mind, I thought, "Heck, I'll just let her run - I sure ain't got nothin' to lose" So I let her go. Never looking back, she swept beautifully into the wind and quartered naturally. The moment she hit the scent cone, she skidded to a halt and pointed intensely - statuesque. I thought to myself "hmmm?!?" and launched the bird. She was steady to wing so I fired my blank pistol. She remained steady to the flying bird. SUDDENLY I WAS EXCITED and hurriedly took her to a tie-out stake so I could put out another bird!
I quickly put the next bird in the launcher in a different location with breathless anticipation. I retrieved my sweet premium grade o/u Beretta that I had purchased in Italy when stationed there in the Navy. (I reserve the Beretta for special occasions)
I retrieved Peanut once more - then known as Molly - later named Peanut by myself/customers while guiding with her due to her small size.
Off Peanut swept, so graceful was her small body in fluid motion. She possesses what we trainers call "pop". Once again, the untrained Peanut located the bird with high style. The bird to her right, she hooked onto a point as if metal bent around a pole. Tail at 12:00 o'clock and head leaning forward, I gently spoke "goood girrrlll", flushed the bird and quickly dropped it with a single shot. Peanut bolted to her first fallen bird and picked it up in her tiny mouth. Because she didn't know her name, I knelt on the ground with tears of pride and excitedly whistled and sweet-talked her. She ran straight on a line to me with her bird. I PRAISED THE LITTLE DOG LIKE CRAZY! Yes she was a sweet companion dog but her natural abilities, small size, and big heart has forever stolen my heart.
What's the point Dave? My point is this, don't sell your dog short till you give 'em a chance. While the average dog won't perform like Peanut without training, they will eventually if the breeding and proper training is there.
I have finally been faced with choosing between dogs as to which one can stay in the house from week to week (We use to keep 4 in the house!). So when Peanut is in the kennel, she can't stand to go unnoticed. She will hop up on her doghouse and gently nudge me with her cold, moist nose while I pressure wash the kennel floor. I find myself petting her and sweet-talking her as I work. I think, "God, I love this dog. Thank you lord for giving me the honor to hunt with this fine companion!" Maybe I'm a sentimental old fool, but you know what? I live for my Brittanys.
And what did I do to deserve such a special friend? I just don't know.
P.S. Update to this story, which was written March 13th, 2000. Peanut will be featured on Animal Planet’s “Breed All About It” episode about Brittanys. She will be demonstrating how we teach honoring using a remote controlled backing dummy. It airs July 16th at 2:00 p.m. ET, and July 28th 10:00 a.m. ET.