I’m forced to sneak about my own property like a burglar, held captive by bird dogs trying to secure their place in the truck. Regardless whether the destination is a wild place or the tame grocery, they are not willing to wager their spot.
A few short weeks ago I could announce my exit to the entire house with a slight possibility of one lazy eyelid being raised in acknowledgement. Not now.
I can’t pickup the keys with the slightest jingle; I can’t put on a pair of shoes once worn afield; and I sure as hell can’t put hands on a shotgun without there being a full-blown dog riot.
I have little doubt that there are other signals, the subtlety lost on those not tuned to the hunting calendars. But these two bird dogs are tuned. They have come through months of off-season depression and lethargy interrupted only by bowls of kibble or the occasional visitor bearing new scents. The first cool evenings of late summer and a pause in the drone of air conditioners ushers in an end to hunting-hibernation.
Physiologist Ivan Pavlov believed he had dogs figured out, conditioned reflexes with salivating jowls and running for the dinner bell. But I’ve begun to wonder whether these bird dogs are the ones ringing bells.
I’m now conditioned to tiptoe on wooden floors and sneak down back stairs to reach exits without arousing suspicion. It’s getting more and more difficult to make it to the garage unmolested and slobber free.
I hope I’ve not become the Pavlovian subject of some genius bird dog experiments.
One thing is certain: Our attitudes have changed. Who leads that shift or identifying the catalyst is academic and likely unimportant. I think these bird dogs are smarter than Pavlov’s salivators. Hell, they might be smarter than Pavlov. They are convinced they can prove it if I’d just let them in the damn truck.