Dress Rehearsal

Grouse season is still two weeks away. But there’s no telling her that this is a dress rehearsal. “Scrimmage” doesn’t compute. I make room for gradients, progressions and half-measures, but she lives in a world of absolutes. There either are feathers, or there are not. And there happen to be some feathers very nearby. She knows it. That’s all she needs to know.

She says as much when her head jerks around, mid-bound, the motion violent in its suddenness, as though she’s been snared at full sprint by the scent. She wheels behind her snout without losing speed, coils into the turn, and lunges after the smell.

“Good!” I holler. “Find it! Find it!”

She doesn’t need the encouragement, or the information. Grasshoppers and dust fly in every direction as she plows through the tall grass, quartering like a cutting horse, accelerating through each change of direction. Her nose is down. Her tail is high and frantic. From fifty yards, she appears to be vibrating, probably because she is. She circles once, adds a last bit of speed, circles again, and she has it.

“Good! Good dog! Here.”

Not bad, I think, as she pushes the bumper with its slobbery chukar wings into my hand. Now if I could just get her to sit to whistle…

Not bad, she thinks. Now if I could just get him throw more of them…

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