May/June 2017

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Editor’s Note by Ralph Stuart
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Text arrived. “There’s something wrong with Max. He couldn’t get up this morning. We had to carry him to the car, and I took him to the vet. I stayed for as long as I could, but I had to go to work.” It was my ex-wife, and Max was our lovable six-year-old black-mouth cur. I called immediately and learned that Max had been on a long hike two days earlier, and then had acted sluggish the following day. Nothing else had seemed odd.

When my flight landed, there were two texts waiting. “Max started having seizures. I’m heading back to the vet’s.” And then simply: “He’s gone.”

I was told through tears that Max had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and that his platelet level had dropped to zero. He had been bleeding internally, and nothing could be done except to hasten the end. The ordeal had lasted only two hours.

The following week I returned home and went to see Max’s ashes. As I was leaving, my ex-wife looked at me and said, “You’ve been through this before. How could you do it? How could you get another dog if you knew you’d have to go through this again?”

At first I was taken aback, but then I remembered that Max had been her first dog. I could see where she was coming from. Why would someone do something that they knew was going to end in sorrow? I thought about it for a minute and said, “I know it sounds weird, but the way I look at it is: How could I not do it? I have had dogs all my life, and I have accepted that this is part of it. I guess I would rather go through the pain than not have had a dog at all.”

Since then I have thought more about it, and I believe this holds true for many of us. The sad fact is that when we bring home a dog, odds are that we’re going to end up burying it. A steep price to pay? Certainly. But the joys we get from dog ownership far outweigh the heartache.

This applies even more with hunting dogs, which become partners working toward a common goal. The bonds formed through training and in the field are strong. I have logged many dogless miles in pursuit of birds, and the pleasures of that pale in comparison to having four-footed companions. If having a dog in the kennel means that I inevitably will shed a few tears, I am willing to bear that burden.

In this issue we celebrate the hunting dogs that warm our hearts. Features include a look at the feisty English cocker and an interesting comparison between training gundogs and “war dogs”.
If you have a dog in your kennel—or on your couch—I hope that you make the most of it and enjoy a productive training season. And don’t forget to give him or her a hug . . . .

Ralph P. Stuart
[email protected]

Features

The Cocker Craze

The growing popularity of English cocker spaniels
By Roger Catchpole

Of Gundogs & War Dogs

Training dogs to find birds & bite bad guys
By George Hickox

The Short-Shell 12

A short history of 2″ guns & loads
By Vic Venters

The Adventurous Life

High Adventure Company’s John Burrell has been there, done that
By Ralph P. Stuart

A Cut Above

The sharp look of custom art knives
By T. Edward Nickens

Pheasants in All Weather

How climate change turned my Lab into a pointer
By George W. Calef


Departments

From the Editor

Weighing the emotional price of owning dogs

Letters

Simple fun, a photo fan, choke confusion, etc.

Game & Gun Gazette

Arrieta, Beretta, Dickson’s, new books & more

Shooting

Celebrating the staying power of the 16 gauge
By Chris Batha

From the Bench

Restoring a Westley Richards droplock
By James Flynn

Shot Talk

Testing nontoxic versus lead shot for doves
By Tom Roster

Gun Review

The Zoli Pernice: an attractive gun that is a serious shooter
By Bruce Buck

Field Gear

Great new gear to add to the kennel
By David Draper

Going Places

To Meemo’s Farm for game, clays and good times
By Tom Huggler

To the Point

Getting over—and through—the loss of a gundog
By Tom Huggler

On the cover:

English cocker “Lani,” winner of the 2015 National Cocker Championship. Photograph by Mike Morgan

Additional photos: Chip Laughton, Courtesy of Beretta USA, Ralph P. Stuart,


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