Life without a dog is missing something

Jeffs Lab Molly

It’s called the “beach” only as an identifier in the broader context of the “Oxbow,” a self-described place where seasonally I fish a small creek, itself something of a misnomer.

In truth the beach is a wide spit of land between forest and cliff, filled with cobblestone, some boulders, and a patch of gravel here and there. The creek is only a creek during a few months a year or when the rains or snows raise its level. Otherwise it’s barely a brook.

Anyway, the creek and the beach serve duel purposes around this time of year. If the water is up and the trout are in, I fish it. In-between those periods of moderate water flow my wife Bev and I use it as a training ground for our Labrador retriever, Empress Molly, as we did this afternoon.

Molly thinks she is playing with the rubber ball and ball tosser, and that the pencil whistle hanging around my neck is just my way of saying “hello there.” We let her think that way.

In fact, it’s part of the ongoing training any bird-dog or retriever owner does (or is supposed to do) during the off-season.

I guess in some respects I envy dedicated deer and turkey hunters. They’ve turned their passions into successful obsessions. And it shows up in their social media posts or in the pages of Ohio Outdoor News with their photographs of big bucks and monster toms.

Yet I also pity them. Except for the rare owner who has trained a dog to find shed deer antlers or break up flocks of turkeys in the fall they are missing out on one of the most fundamental beginning elements of human hunting: Man in partnership with a dog.

I could no more go afield to hunt ducks and geese without my Labrador retriever than I could hit the creek for steelhead without a fly rod.

A dog adds so much to the whole that it is sometimes the entirety of the day itself. And that goes for the guy with the coon hound, the bunny buster with his beagle, and the huntress with a kennel of Brittany bird dogs, like my niece in Montana.

Now I’ll never honestly admit that Molly has the same bird sense as did my late Rebel or Jenny Lynn, or the water-fetching compulsion as did Miss Daisy, though she does come close. But she’s still our Empress Molly.

In any event, that’s why you find us a couple of times a week at the beach at the Oxbow along the creek. Or at our friend’s small lake in Ashtabula County.

Molly may be having fun but Bev and I are enjoying the teaching even more. I’ll keep you posted as to how things are going.

Categories: Ohio – Jeffrey Frischkorn

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