Alfie's First Day on a Shoot

By Colin Elliot 2007

 

Alfie and I turned up on Sat morning not knowing what to expect and found a farm yard full of people and dogs of all ages and breeds, it seem that half the local village was there. There were 8 guns and about 20 Beaters some with dogs and 2 Pickingup teams not including Alfie and myself. When we arrived at the shooting ground I was told to stand with one of the Pickingup teams and watch how Alfie behaves and if he is not happy with the sound of the guns to move further away from the sound of the guns.

There was going to be six drives that day three in the morning and three in the afternoon all at different locations around the area. On the first drive the guns were lined up in an open field with there backs to a large lake, we were told to go to the other side of the lake inside a large wood. While the other Pickingup team moved down the field just inside another wood. While we were standing there waiting Alison and her Black Lab ‘Gunner’ told me it was her second season and that she hated this first drive as if any birds fall into the lake we would have to send the dogs in to retrieve.

On looking closely at the lake I could see why she didn’t like it, the water was very dark and stank, there was fallen tree’s rotting at the edges (not the sort of place to go paddling). I told her that we were only there to get Alfie use to the sound of guns and we would not be of much help to her. The shooting began and the birds were falling in front of the guns so there was no work for us to do. It was just as well as after the first shot Alfie went behind me and laid down with his head tucked under his shaking front legs.

A bird came down into the wood at the other end of the lake and the Alison and Gunner went off to find the bird. This left Alfie and me on are own and hoping that no more birds came down until they returned. But no such luck, down came a bird, straight into the far side of the lake. This made Alfie look up and he showed great interest in what had dropped into the lake. I released him and told him to go and retrieve it. He had forgotten that he was afraid of the guns and was off. He tried for about 5 mins to find a way into the lake but failed, by this time the shooting had stopped and the guns were watching the ‘new dog’ Alfie’s vain attempt to get into the lake. Alison and Gunner were sent around the other side of the lake to try and fetch it from that side thinking that Alfie would not be able to get to the bird. But then Alfie made one last attempt and was in and swimming towards the bird too the cheers of the guns, this was short lived as on reaching the bird he touch it with his nose and returned without it ( he must of thought that this is not a dummy so I will leave it). Gunner was dispatch to retrieve the bird but not having seen it land had no idea were to go Alison (the handler) threw a stick in the right direction to help him on the way, but gunner returned with the stick (he repeated this twice before finally retrieving the bird) this was not a good start. To top it Gunner had not found the bird that they went off to find while leaving Alfie and me to hold the fort. We were told to go and try and find this missing bird deep in the woods, Well Alfie redeemed himself by running into the woods and very quickly returning with the shot bird.

As the day went on Alfie went from strength to strength and has now completed his 3rd full season and has become known as the dog to call when no one else can find the runners……

Colin Elliott