Friday, May 7, 2010

A Dog Story

While I was out and about the other day I spotted a hawk patrolling the area from a nearby tree.  The other birds had successfully harried him and driven him out of one yard, and he came to rest some distance away.


For some reason this picture put me in mind of the famous hunting dog, Killer Butch.  Those of you who follow pointer bloodlines and champion dogs, and who are old enough to remember the sixties without slipping a cog will naturally recognize the dog I'm referring to here as the original Killer Butch.  For those who do not, allow me to enlighten you.

Hillbilly Red and Pollack Joe used to go out hunting and fishing on a regular basis.  They hunted pheasant, rabbit and squirrel, with the occasional raccoon thrown in as opportunity presented.  Red owned several bird dogs including a large German shorthair pointer whom he named Butch.  Butch had a lot of endurance, was selectively deaf and if you wanted him to hang around you attached one end of a heavy chain to Butch and got a very firm grip on the other end.  Butch would retrieve better than most and Red liked him, so during upland game or waterfowl season Butch was an important part of the group.

One fine day in the field Red spied a hawk sitting in a tree, and after some consideration Red let fly with a red hot load of number six shot which knocked mister hawk right out of the air.  True to form, Butch went to retrieve the bird. The thing was, the hawk wasn't dead and deeply resented being retrieved.  A battle royal started up out in the brush and by the time Red could make his way over to the dog, Butch came out with a chewed up hawk and a few battle scars around his muzzle.

Butch was a smart dog and he learned something important that day, namely that whatever you retrieve you'd better make damn sure it's dead, or at least too far gone to put up a fight.  The very next bird Butch retrieved got a thorough field dressing before being delivered to Red, as did the next rabbit and the next whatever else the dog went after.  Shortly thereafter Joe christened him Killer Butch and the moniker stuck.

Joe had his own dog, another German shorthair pointer who was well trained.  Joe's dog Susie would sit quietly, would work closely with the hunters and would come when called.  When Susie retrieved a bird she would make her way over to Joe and stylishly deliver the bird to his hand, just like she was trained to do.  Joe spent a lot of time training Susie, and would work with her every afternoon.  The first time Joe took Susie out with Red and Butch, Susie pointed, Joe knocked down the bird, Susie picked it up, and Butch promptly took the bird away from her and gave it a good field dressing before bringing whatever was left back to Red.  Joe was somewhat incensed over this behavior.  Thereafter, whenever Joe knocked down a pheasant he would take to his heels so as to beat Killer Butch to the bird, the same bird that Susie was trying to retrieve, and grab the bird ahead of Butch.  I remember seeing Joe run over and snatch up his pheasant just ahead of Butch, then hold the bird up as high as he could and keep turning away from the dog as Butch jumped and tried to get the bird.  The two would keep up their little dance until Red could get over and get hold of Butch and make him quit.

Needless to say the episode with the hawk pretty much spoiled Butch as a retriever, but Red liked him so he ended up spending many more years in the field, happily making sure everything was dead on arrival for Red.

And that's how Killer Butch got his name.

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