If you can recall daily limits of five woodcock and three black ducks, chances are you’re now annoyed by aches and pains that make you wish you owned stock in Advil. But given that you’re incurably addicted to dogs that point, flush and fetch, you’ll suffer more soreness and lameness in the days ahead by tramping through bird covers thick with alder and thorn apple or slogging in potholed marshes to reach duck blinds before daylight. All well and good, you say. If you want to dance, you have to pay the fiddler, and a little discomfort is a small price for the pleasures of the season at hand.
Consider, though, the aches and pains an aging bird dog or retriever brings home from a day’s hunting. Think about it. Unless your dog comes in limping, you wouldn’t know it had wrenched an ankle or shoulder or pulled a muscle or stretched a ligament, all of which are painful and slow to heal and strengthen. Nevertheless, owing to nurtured instinct and rabid desire instilled by years of hunting experience, “Jake” or “Soot” will soldier on undaunted by an injury unbeknown to you.
To avoid compounding injuries not immediately noticeable, hunters must, of course, be watchful for signs that their canine counterparts aren’t feeling up to snuff. Naturally, preseason exercise and posthunt examinations are essential to keeping your dog, young or old, healthy during hunting season. Equally important, keep a First-Aid kit, water and a bowl for the dog to drink from in your vehicle. All told, I have to say there are times now when, because of ailments common to the aging process — the so-called “golden years” tarnish quickly — I don’t feel like hunting. Likewise, I’m sure there are days when gun dogs that are getting long in the tooth would just as soon stay home and let a pup prove it can run with the big guys.
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