The first order of business after getting him home was to name him. The breeder’s kids called him “Stash” because he had a brown ring covering his upper lip. It seemed appropriate but just didn’t seem to fit my expectations of the new grouse go-getter. He did seem like a “Fritz”, short for Sniklefritz, a German name for a rascal. Remembering a conversation I had with my son-in-law who informed me he wanted to name his first son, my grandson, Seamus….. well, I decided the new pup would save the boy some torment growing up, so the pup became Seamus.
After a while, the name Seamus just seemed to fit. The only problem I ran into was people not knowing how to pronounce it. Most people pronounced it Seemus, leaving out the “sh” and “a” sound. I’d counter that Sean Connary isn’t called “Seen Connary”. Gradually, it caught on.
Preliminaries out of the way, it was time to begin his training. Seamus was here for one thing, or so I thought. He was here to hunt and nothing else. I paid more money for him than I had for any other dog I owned and his lineage was well documented. But as with all plans laid by mice and men, things would soon take a slightly different turn.
From the beginning, it was obvious that Seamus wasn’t the run of the mill dog. He looked like a normal Brittany, he exhibited all the characteristics of a normal dog, but there wasn’t one gene in his body that told him he was anything but his own dog. He was the alpha male.
There was a time, when I would have rolled up a newspaper and wacked him when he became defiant, but age mellows, at least it had me. In fact, the more stubborn he became the bigger the grin on my face became. After some time of feeling each other out, we settled on a routine that eventually resulted in Seamus acknowledging me as the boss ….at least I was the one driving the truck to where he could hunt.
The only part of his training that went better than I had a right to expect was his taking to finding and pointing birds. I brought him home in October and by the end of January I took him to Trapper Jim’s Hunt Club and had pheasants planted to see his reaction.
The hour and a half trip was the first foray of many Seamus and I would make to places we’d search for birds. But this one was special because he was only 20 weeks old and a puppy in every sense. It was also the trip where he developed his understanding of his place in the truck. He took over the passenger half of the front seat and to this day hasn’t relinquished it. If anyone else comes along, Seamus makes it clear they are sitting in his spot.
I had made arraignments to have birds planted in a stubble field that would cause him to work to get around in, but not so thick to discourage him. As it turned out, discouragement never entered his mind. Playfully at first he investigated the strange new smell of everything. He dug after a field mouse but gave up on it when all he got was a face full of snow. The fellow that planted the birds stayed to watch and as I turned to ask where he planted the first bird, he told me right where the dog is pointing. About ten feet ahead, there was Seamus, body erect, head and nose down, frozen in place looking at a hen pheasant. I don’t think I grinned that wide since I discovered girls. Praising him and softly repeating “whoa” I made my way along side and in front of him causing the bird to take flight. I dropped it with the second barrel of my 20 gauge and headed to retrieve it with Seamus at my heels. A mouth full of feathers later, I took the bird from him and we continued.
Seamus found and pointed all of the birds that were planted that morning. Though my shooting instinct wasn’t as good as his scenting instinct, I found out what I wanted to know. Seamus not only had the instinct to hunt, he loved it.
The ride home was less noisy than the ride there. Instead of whining and climbing over anything he could to see what was new, he was now stretched out across the passenger seat, wet to the bone, sound asleep. He passed his first test afield and he put a smile on my face that returns every time I relive the morning in my mind.