It has been said that a dog is man’s best friend. Never has this adage been more true than with the relationship between an angler and his/her dog. Fishing dogs are loyal, willing partakers of the adventures we pursue as anglers. The connection is deep enough to wonder if dogs inherently understand angling. Most love the water, are seemingly oblivious to inclement weather, and are perfectly happy when wet, cold and hungry regardless of the fish count. When I begin packing for a fishing trip, my dog exhibits behavior that can only be described as sincere hope that her name and gear are on the packing list. If she gets to go she expresses something rare and precious in this world; pure joy. If she is left home she creates a list of her own, household items that must be destroyed before I return. Upon arrival at our angling location she will scout the immediate area while impatiently waiting for me to prep my gear. I must admit that I am a bit slow in getting ready to hit the water. My dog always gives me the look that says “c’mon buddy let’s go already!” When I sense that particular gaze upon me, I always reassure her that the better prepared I am now, the longer we can stay. She then sets about occupying herself with predatory preparations. Rolling in the nearest cow pie in order to disguise her scent is a favorite. The fact that trout don’t smell cow pies is somehow irrelevant.
The connection between man and dog runs so deep that we are inclined to anthropomorphize their thoughts. Below are some examples of “thoughts” that I’m sure have occupied my dog’s brain between squirrel sightings and manure anointings:
- You – Snag a tree branch on a back cast., Dog – Fishing a little high don’t you think?
- You – Snag and reel in a piece of driftwood., Dog – Nice catch. Can I keep it?
- You – Kerplunk, gasp! Followed by lying on your back, feet in the air, draining the water from your waders., Dog – Hey, now you smell like me. Now, shake off like this.
- You – Staring a a fly box trying to select the perfect fly for the situation., Dog – Who are you trying to fool? Just pick one and go!
- You – See a muskrat swim through the seam you are fishing., Dog – Did you see THAT?!!
- You – Another angler approaches., Dog – Shall I bite him? Swim through his drift? Go find his lunch?
- You – If approaching angler is female., Dog – Time to break out the puppy dog eyes.
Some people believe that the blank stare is all there is to a dog. Those of us with fishing dogs know better. Note, there is no such thing as a fishing cat, goldfish notwithstanding.
We enjoy our canine companions in nearly everything we do. We share our experiences, our food, our accommodations, our feelings, indeed our very souls. This connection runs so deep that when the tragic day we lose them arrives, we experience a profound sense of loss. We have truly lost something that is irreplaceable. When the editor of my favorite publication lost is four legged companion of 15 years, he wrote a wonderful tribute that touched the hearts of all who read it. He ended the piece with the words “We had a snowstorm a couple of weeks after his death. When I looked out the window that morning, there were no paw prints leading away from his doggie door. No paw prints at all, just perfect untouched snow in a suddenly empty world.” I’m confident that Tom will see Trask again, just as I believe I will see Boscoe, Sam, Jed and Maggie again. I have always said that if dogs don’t go to heaven, I don’t want to go either. After a time we start again, obtain a puppy, lose some furniture legs, boot linings, cork, and begin to embark on new adventures, despite knowing where it will ultimately lead. Why? Because it is worth it, totally worth it.