What I’m reading: lots of dog books

The stack of books on my bedside chest is full of new books about dogs. I bought the three books on dog behavior and the other two are thoughtful Christmas presents.

Dog Sense, by John Bradshaw, is a very well-done book by an Englishman who specializes in animal welfare and behavior. He debunks some common perceptions and attempts to put dogs in their proper place. I like this sentence from the dust jacket:

…we too often treat dogs like wolves or, just as hazardously, like furry humans. The truth is:  dogs are neither.

The Fragrance of Grass, by Guy de la Valdene, is the third book of his I own now. His two previous—Making Game:  An Essay on Woodcock and For a Handful of Feathers—are among my favorites. In his beautiful prose, de la Valdene reminisces about his early hunting in France, trips to the western U.S. and his 800-acre “farm” outside Tallahassee, Florida. The title of the book comes from Jim Harrison:

Between the four pads of a dog’s foot, the fragrance of grass.

On Talking Terms with Dogs:  Calming Signals, by Turid Rugaas. Rugaas is a famous Norwegian dog trainer and behaviorist who seems, on the surface at least, a bit like our Cesar Milan.

Dogs, being flock animals, have a language for communication with each other…Canine language in general consists of a large variety of signals using body, face, ears, tail, sounds, movement, and expression.

Dog Language, An Encyclopedia of Canine Behavior, by Roger Abrantes, was a popular book when first published in 1986 in Denmark. I have an English version, which was first published in the U.S. in 1996. It is organized dictionary-style—an alphabetical listing of 293 expressions and postures. Very nice black-and-white drawings are included.

Everything in the way you or I, or our dogs, appear to one another is behavior.

What makes a social animal special is its ability to compromise, to win and lose and still get the best out of every situation.

Among these champions of compromise, we find wolves, geese, chimpanzees, humans and their best friends, dogs.

Canine Body Language, Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog, by Brenda Aloff, is a fascinating examination of how dogs communicate through expressions and body language. Hundreds of photographs are included to clearly show each pose. Among the entries are Curiosity, Rolling, Fear, Look Away, Tongue Flick, Yawning, Paw Lifts, Butt Sniff, Pass By, Guarding, Warning, Prey Bow and an entire section on Play.

More fall guiding memories: 2011

Blue Shaquille (Houston x Blue Silk) and hunter.

The 2011 grouse hunting and guiding season is over but not forgotten. For everyone at Bowen Lodge, it was a great fall. The majority of days were sunny and warm and the woods were very dry. The guides definitely needed to know the location of beaver ponds so the dogs could drink and cool off.


There were fewer grouse than last year but plenty to make for good hunting. The dogs did a tremendous job of finding and pointing them–but some were more difficult because there were more old grouse than young. A high note was the good numbers of woodcock we found–more than most years.


All-in-all, we had a wonderful fall with beautiful days, good friends and fine bird dogs. 


Jim DePolo and his veteran, Sam (CH Grouse Hollow Gus x Blue Sapphire).

Northwoods Camembert (Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) owned by guide extraordinaire Bill Heig.


Sam and a friend hunt over Northwoods Camembert and Daisy (Blue Chief x Blue Blossom).

Beautiful birds and a beautiful gun.

Wayne Grayson and his Northwoods Magic (Dashaway x Goodgoing Moxie). This was a "Purdey" grouse.

Bill Heig and his fine brace of setters, Northwoods Camembert (Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) and Daisy (Blue Chief x Blue Blossom).

Soft-mouthed Northwoods Magic (Dashaway x Goodgoing Moxie) and grouse.

Hunters Brad and Andrew with Northwoods Blue Ox (CH Peace Dale Duke x Blue Silk), grouse and woodcock.

Wayne Grayson with "Miss Abby" (Gusty Blue x CH Houston’s Belle) and Mike Powers with Northwoods Blue Ox…and grouse.

Blue Ghost/call name Cotton (2006 – 2011)

Cotton was special from the beginning. She was whelped on Easter Day in 2006 out of Blue Silk bred to the talented I’m Houston’s Image, call name Jake, owned by Paul Hauge. Jerry and I were renting a pole shed that housed both our living quarters and the dog kennels while our own buildings were being constructed.

The facilities were perfect and we loved living there but something strange happened in the kennel area when the litter was about four weeks old. A slight gas leak was ignited by a spark from the water pump and caused a ball of fire to roar down the kennel aisle, past the astonished adult dogs and the temporary kennel we’d created for Silk and her puppies, before it finally died.

Luckily Jerry and I were in the kennel when it happened. We quickly threw dog water buckets on the remaining flames and then calmed all the dogs. Everything turned out fine with the exception of Silk’s eyebrows and whiskers. They were singed.  

The litter was auspicious in other ways. Among Silk’s puppies were two future grouse champions—I’m Blue Gert owned by Dave and Rochelle Moore and Satin From Silk owned by Greg and Diane Gress. Jerry and I kept three outstanding puppies:  two females and a male. The male we named Boomer (in honor of the explosion) and the females became Moxie and Cotton. Moxie was a black-and-white spitfire—aptly named—and the other was Cotton. She was orange and white with almost no ticking and beautiful dark eyes and nose.

We had such fun with Moxie, Cotton and Boomer throughout that summer and fall. We took them for long walks with our Labrador, May. We played with them on the soft green grass of our rental place and we developed them on pigeons and quail. Eventually, all three ended up with great families.

With Cotton, though, Jerry and I wanted rights to one breeding. We valued her talent and temperament and felt she carried characteristics that we wanted passed on. In 2010, Cotton was bred to Blue Riptide, a big, handsome male (Blue Chief x Blue Blossom) owned by Rodney Klimek from Alexandria.  

Among that amazing litter were three females that were bought by three friends who spend their autumns and at a hunting camp in north central Wisconsin. Cotton’s bird-finding ability and sweet disposition are clearly evident in Piper, Sage and Rosie.

Cotton’s family let us know that she died in December.

She will be missed…..but will never be forgotten.

Erin Kennels 2012: training report

Houston’s Blackjack and CH Erin’s Kentucky Gambler.

Frank LaNasa and I spent a few days in late December with Sean Derrig of Erin Kennels. Sean is a serious, very successful amateur all-age field trialer who also holds his own in open competition. Last year, he qualified and ran four dogs in the National Championship.

Sean flushes BIG covey for CH Erin’s Whiskey River. (Click to enlarge.)

Sean breeds, trains and develops his pointers at his farm near Tiskilwa, Illinois. He has 500 acres of land with about 220 acres groomed for running dogs.  These are the most beautifully and intensely managed grounds I’ve ever seen. We worked dogs all day long and every brace had multiple finds on large coveys of good flying bobwhite quail.


It was exciting to see Sean’s string in action including CH Erin’s Stony River, CH Erin’s Whisky River, CH Erin’s Bad River, CH Erin’s Kentucky Gambler and Erin’s Braveheart. Frank worked his champion females, CH Homemade and CH Lil Miss Sunshine, as well as Houston’s Blackjack and True Confidence.

The trip was fun and a learning experience, too!

CH Homemade and CH Erin’s Whiskey River.
Frank flushes for CH Homemade.
CH Lil Miss Sunshine and Erin’s Braveheart.
Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
Follow us:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed
©2018 Northwoods Bird Dogs  |  Website: The Sportsman’s Cabinet