Bayou Outdoors: For the Love of Dogs
Article and photo by Dan Chason
I doubt there are many of us who don’t have memories of that special four legged family member that we love or loved. I am no different. I remember as a kid, my Dad always talked about one special animal that he remembered fondly. His name was Buster and was memorable to my Dad due to his fondness for treeing squirrels. But the one dog that Dad and I shared was a black lab by the name of Smokey. I remember as a child, Smokey could not bear for us to load up to go fishing and leave him at home. Many a time, we would arrive at the lake or pond, only to see Smokey had followed us and was sitting on the bank. That didn’t last long, as sooner or later, he was swimming out to the boat, and we all got wet letting him climb aboard. Smokey made the local paper in Meridian, Mississippi, where my Dad was the pastor of the Central Nazarene Church. You see, Smokey was a thief. He would go to neighborhood houses and steal the dog pans. He would not eat the food there, but rather would gently carry the entire pan back to our house, where he would eat his stolen grub. At times, there would be upwards of 10 pans a week that landed at the preacher’s house. The article showed my Dad pointing his finger at Smokey saying, “Bad Dog.” It was quite humorous as the preacher housed the biggest thief in town.
One of the first dogs that I can say was mine was a lemon beagle that I named “King.” Everywhere I went, King went with me. He could not hunt a biscuit in a kitchen, but I loved him. He would go to the woods with me, but he was pretty much a lap hound. I always loved beagles, but I found out quickly that the smartest, most versatile dog for me was a Labrador retriever.
I was grown with children, when I bought my first labs. There was a classified ad for a “working pair” of black labs. The owners were moving, and I made the deal to bring them home. I was instantly taken with the female named Anna and the greying black male named Ranger. Ranger was an AKC reject. In AKC trials, the lab must mark the bird and run a straight line to the mark, sit on command if the whistle blows and follow hand signals to where the bird is that needs to be retrieved. Ranger didn’t like straight lines. He trusted his nose and instinctively, would go straight down wind and track the mark back and retrieve. He would obey whistle and hand commands, but if you wanted a straight out and straight back retrieve, he was not your dog. One thing I learned about Ranger was that he was a hunter. He was not just a retrieving machine and was the primary reason I stopped worrying about “papers” and how my dog worked according to someone else’s standards.
Anna was a big lab. She weighed over 80 pounds and thought she was still a puppy. She was block headed and jet black. The one thing everyone knew is that Anna had one master. If she was in the truck and there were ducks on a lanyard, those were her ducks. No one but my son, Andy or me could reach in without a growl. Anna thought her place in life was in my recliner. If you opened a door to the house and said, “Kennel,” she would crash straight into the recliner, always leaving me room to join her. She would lay there for hours watching TV, while I scratched her ear. She was a great Mama dog, and I raised some exceptional pups that came from Ranger and her.
One day I received a call from a man who asked if I still trained labs. I told him I pretty much just trained my own. He then said, “I’ve got a high blooded lab I bought for my son. My son went to the Navy ,and I can’t do anything with this dog. If you want him, I will give him to you. It’s a shame this dog isn’t hunting.” I drove over and soon met what soon became the replacement for Ranger. His name was Zack, and he was a handful. Long story short, Zack and I finally bonded and spent years together in the blind with many memorable hunts. He was a beautiful animal but like most labs took some special attention and constant discipline to keep in in line.
I got out of the lab business, when I lost my lease in Little Missouri. I lost interest in pit blinds and pretty much duck hunting and concentrated on fishing. That was until the day I met my current dog, Buddy.
I won’t go into specifics on how I got Buddy, but let’s just say he was in need of attention. Buddy came home with me against the desires of my wife. I just knew the trip would be short term, as Michele had some bad experiences with Labs. However, one day I was sitting in the house as she sat outside on the carport. Buddy sat beside her and when she started rubbing his head, I knew he had a home. I noticed that Buddy would sit on my carport and was fascinated with squirrels. He was 2 years old and would watch squirrels for hours. He would still work on bumpers and commands, but his passion was squirrels. I had only seen one other Lab squirrel dog but decided to see if I could train Buddy. That was 5 years ago, and to this day I have never seen a dog love to squirrel hunt like he does. Buddy has become a valued family member and hunting partner. And as we come full circle, I now have Rowdy, who is Buddy’s 2-month-old son. Many memories to make and many memories to ponder with the wonderful times with our four legged friends.