Monday, March 13, 2017

Retired Hunter

However white and fluffy Lady Claire may be in her retirement, throned in her armchair and benignly watching the world go by, she is at heart a hunter. I know city life has less to offer in the way of a thrill, no freedom from the leash, the dull repetition of limited pathways, the tame pigeons in the park a mere shadow of a wily mountain pheasant or grouse...she is however content, as stamina, eyesight and focus lessen. I do my best to vary the paths we walk, and let her take the lead as she would in the wild. Meeting doggie friends and getting treats from acquaintances give the day some sparkle.
I don't see the need to take her (or me!) to the dangers of actual hunting, or the stress of performing in field trials, although Japan has those options available for younger dogs and more ambitious owners. We are happy with dog runs and walks, and the occasional jaunt to the north for a family holiday. English setters are indeed the perfect family dog. But from Claire I have learned to appreciate the beauty and talent of a hunting breed. I thrill to my soul vicariously recognizing her prowess and focus when I read Brian Koch's prose describing his beautiful English setter hunting in the wild:
I can tell by her stance, even on this awkward angle, there is a bird here. There’s no style, no high-head, no raised-foot or flagging tail. She’s just one solid muscle strained against the scent of this grouse, the first bird she’s marked in over 20 miles of running. It must be close to her because she won’t even sneak a look in my direction, afraid that even the shift of an eye might spook this elusive foe.
 Ultimate Upland  is simply as its title states, the ultimate place to go to enjoy pictures and poetic loving descriptions of birddogs, the rugged experience of the land, the artful survival of birds and of course enthusiastic description of the tools...even though I'm not a fan of weapons, the craftsmanship on some of the guns, the pictures and descriptions of wood and etchings, are sublime. 
I'm a town mouse with my kimonos and elegance, but I do love the country, the hunting, the birds, the ancient stories, the primeval existence, not least because it's my Claire who leads me there by that invisible leash which clips onto the collar round my heart.

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