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Sage the Dove Dog

Tales of the Hunts

Sage, the dove dog

The bright September sun lost a fight with a cedar tree as I sat in the shade Sunday afternoon. A light breeze rustled the stalks of sunflowers past their prime. Their seeds fell to the ground creating a smorgasbord for wrens, finches, and doves. Besides the occasional report of a shotgun, it was quiet except for a constant panting to my left. Sage, my ten year old Golden Retriever, focused on the sky looking for the next retrieve. 

This is Sage’s eleventh dove season. He is no longer the wild red pup that had to be tied to a fence post to keep from retrieving every bird that fell. He also isn’t the naive young retriever that ran away when a mostly expired dove flapped in his mouth. 

Sage has turned into a seasoned hunter. By that, I mean a gambling addict. He will put up with hot dove fields and cold, wet swamps for a chance to get a bird. Sage always believes a retrieve is a moment away. While the rest of the hunting party is snoozing, his eyes are on the sky waiting for his next big payout. 

Retrieves are everything for a retriever. If I throw a ball while Sage is eating, he will leave his food bowl to get the ball. Some think dogs dream of big bones to chew. Sage dreams of being on a all you can retrieve hunt, or better yet, a ball boy at a tennis match. 

Retrieving desire is hard to manage in a young dog. Whether it is through time or training, an old dog learns that patience pays on a hunt. Sometimes Sage’s patience runs thin when my aim is off. 

Usually, the first sign of impatience is a judging side glance. The type your mom would give you when you were acting up at church. 

Next, it’s a disapproving “harumph” paired with a side eye. This is the point I know I need to start shooting better. 

On Sunday, after experiencing the side glance and the “harumph”, a dove flew through the dove field unscathed and landed ten feet in front of Sage. His muscles rippled under red coat as he tensed at heel. With my bad shooting spree I figured he may have better luck. 

 “Sage, get out!” 

At the sound of this command, he crept up slowly and as the bird started to fly he leapt into the air and dispatched the bird in an instant. 

Immediately I hear jeers from the other hunters in the field. “Your dog is a better hunter than you!”

 “Might as well put your shotgun up and let your dog make you look good.”

“That dove counts to your limit, not the dogs!”

Some might be embarrassed. I on the other hand took it in stride. It is, after all, Sage’s eleventh season. I’m just surprised it took him this long to realize I was the one holding him back.