A dog’s nose knows

Published 6:23 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Anyone with a canine companion knows the nose drives a dog. Everything a dog needs to know is just a whiff away. Sometimes the whiff is inappropriate, but decency is an afterthought for the super sleuth’s snout.
There is a reason for this super hero smelling ability. Dogs were once wolves, and wolves needed to get their own food. It was much more advantageous to the wolf to follow an increasing scent trail rather than just look around.
Our dogs, though a long way from wolves, keep their scenting ability for better or for worse.
Our new pup to the pack, Junior, has shown his bona fides with his nose early in his journey. His favorite smell right now is the tennis ball. When he comes in the house, it sounds like a vacuum cleaner. Quickly he locates the yellow sphere of delight.
Pretty soon, his new favorite smell will be gunpowder and feathers. Sage, our eleven year old Golden Retriever, lives for this precious scent.
Retrievers are some of the sharpest tools for the conservationist. Hunters without a dog are likely to lose many game birds that did not fall immediately.
One occasion, a group of ducks fell unlucky to our hunting groups poor shooting and flew away four birds less. Three fell within sight and Sage made quick work of the muck and bog to retrieve them.
The fourth fell near a beaver dam and I sent Sage on the hunt with the command “dead bird”.
When Sage hears this command, his nose goes on overdrive. Instinctively, he circled downwind of the area and methodically followed the scent trail to the beaver dam. No bird was present to the eye, but the nose knows.
Sage began dismantling the beavers’ hard work with his jaw and paws. Sticks were flying, and before long, the telltale sound of a dog breathing with feathers in its mouth ended the scene. The duck had swam under the dam. Without Sage’s nose, there would have been one less duck on our dinner table.
This weekend, Sage’s nose was put to the test again. Due to poor planning and poor shooting, only one duck fell throughout the hunt. After the volley, the duck set its wings and landed in a dove out of sight. Being 600 yards away, we decided to walk around the lake to begin our search.
My friend arrived first and was hopelessly searching the flooded grass and shoreline for the duck. We arrived shortly after and the command “dead bird” released Sage.
A minute later, Sage was digging at an undercut bank. The proud retriever stuck his head under the water and came up with a Black Duck in his mouth.
Relief and joy swept our hunting party as Sage saved the day. Black Ducks are a prized species whose numbers are somewhat improving thanks to hunters and the conservation groups they fund.
Arriving home after the hunt, Sage’s nose found some leftover crumbs and a dirty sock. I wanted to be mad at him, but I can’t punish him for using a tool that helps in the field. His nose knows no off switch.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox