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Hey Gov. Inslee: Where’s my medal for saving dog from well?

FOR THE DOGS — I'm suffering a little medal envy after reading today's news of the latest hero in Washington.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has given one of his Washingtonian of the Day medals to a dog. What yanks my leash is that the dog performed the same heroic service as little ol' me, who got nothing in return but a ribbing from my wife about how much I stunk.

Tillie, an Irish setter-spaniel mix, led helpers to save her Basset hound friend after it wandered away from their Vashon Island home last month. and fell into a cistern.

Good dog!

But where's my medal, Mr. Governor, for going into a well to save my English setter after a long, gut-wrenching search? 

  • Click through all the photos above and see which hero made the biggest sacrifice!

To save my favorite hunting companion, I had to jump into a stew of water, mud and the organic matter of other critters that had succumbed in the ranch-country pit.

The dog and I both scratched our way out mucked up from head to toe. 

My wife gave our setter, Scout, TWO baths.

I had to strip in the garage and promise to spend the big bucks I'd been saving for political candidate campaigns on a GPS collar before taking the dog hunting again.

Despite my ordeal — not even a pat on the back from the Guv.

I'm getting a bumper sticker:  I save dogs, and I vote.

Well, well — guess where I found my lost hunting dog?

HUNTING DOGS — A short pre-season bird-dog workout session turned into a marathon when my English setter ran out of sight and never came back this morning. 

I was trying to take advantage of the after-dawn coolness before the predicted 80-degree high temps. But my dog Scout lost me in rugged Eastern Washington scablands.   I looked and looked. Even though he had a beeper collar, I couldn't hear him or see him.

I left my phone number with a farmer plowing his field and with rural residents and two other hunters working their dogs.

Then my heart sank when I came upon three healthy-looking coyotes together.  I approached to 20 yards and they didn't seem to want to leave. They walked away 5 yards and stopped. Repeat.  I didn't have a gun, but finally threw rocks and chased them away. 

I looked for blood…. hoping for the best but fearing for the worst.

My friends Dan and Zach came to help.  We combed several square miles. It was getting hot and I knew Scout would be looking for water at all costs, but there was no open water in the area.

I was getting desperate after nearly four hours.   Walking down a trail I saw quail tracks in the dust.  If Scout had been in this area at all, he'd be on those quail, I thought.

I continued down the trail into thick brush and sure enough, I heard the faint beep of Scout's collar. 

I called as I walked toward the sound.  He seemed to be getting closer, but stalled in the brush.  Maybe he's on point, I thought.

I went into the very thick cover. The collar beeper was getting very loud.  I heard a whimper. I busted through the brush to the brink of steep muddy slopes leading down about 10 feet to a 6-foot-square board-sided well.

Scout, desperate for water, had slipped in while trying to drink and couldn't get out. He had churned up the muddy bottom trying to get out. He was exhausted.

I slipped in, too, making the rescue, but we both clawed our way out — black with mud from toe to head.

I'd have never found my best hunting partner if I hadn't heard his beeper.

I walked a very tired Scout back a half mile to the vehicle, stopping twice as he pointed the tell-tale quail along the way.

Rattlesnake aversion clinic offered for dogs

HUNTING DOGS — A rattlesnake aversion clinic for dogs is being offered June 26 in Lewiston by California-based Natural Solutions.

Natural Solutions will conduct a similar clinic June 27 in Winthrop through Methow Valley Veterinary Hospital, (509) 996-3231.

The Lewiston clinic is promoted by Lewiston-area resident Shelly DeAtley, who lost her dog to a rattlesnake bite two years ago.

"This is the second year I've hosted these trainers and we've had a great response from owners whose dogs went through the training last year," DeAtley said. "This is the only stop the trainers will make in Idaho." 

After researching several outfits offering the aversion clinics – including some that do not use live snakes – she said she found good reviews for Natural Solutions. "What really sold me was that they care for their snakes as part of their team."

She talked the company into coming to Lewiston. Permits had to be obtained to bring their snakes into the state.

"We had 28 dogs, mostly sporting dogs, go through the stations and successfully complete training last year," she said. "I'm hoping for 60 dogs this year.

"Natural Solutions again gave us a discounted rate of $70 per dog and I am donating my time and space so the costs stay as low as possible."

Sign up: DeAtley, (208) 413-3032, email shellyd181@gmail.com.

End of upland bird seasons tough day for hunting dogs

HUNTING — Eastern Washington's upland bird hunting seasons for partridge and quail ended at 5:15 p.m. today.

That means my English setter is going to be a little less than fulfilled every day from now until the mountain grouse seasons open on Sept. 1.

Even the Seahawks' Richard Sherman could take a lesson from Scout on the disciplines of focus and determination in the field.

Scout would rather hunt than eat, as you can see from the photo. When I've had the privilege of owning a good hunting dog, my goal has always been to get it out on birds twice a week during the seasons. I fulfilled that commitment to his blood line pretty well this year with brief exceptions for elk season and a New Years break for skiing.

By the end of the hunting seasons, Scout is lean and hard like the basalt cliffs he contours in pursuit of chukar scent.

He'll get an unwanted chance to fatten up for a few months. We'll both have to chew on the taunting but promising memory of a flock of chukars cackling from a rock band above us as we descended from their haunts for the last time this season.

Dogs can inflict tough love on poor-gun-handling hunters

HUNTING — Abiding by the laws and never putting a loaded gun into a vehicle prevents countless firearms accidents.

Beyond that, a hunter who's around children or animals must be especially vigilant to firearms safety, often beyond the law.

I like the actions-open approach to any dealing with a bird dog in the field, as the photo above shows.

The story below illustrates the consequences of ignoring basic firearms safety, especially around pets.

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) – Police in northern Wyoming say a rifle discharged after a dog apparently stepped on it, injuring a 46-year-old man.

Johnson County Sheriff Steve Kozisek says the bullet struck Richard L. Fipps, of Sheridan, in the arm on Monday.

The injury is not life-threatening but Fipps is being treated in a hospital in Billings.

Kozisek said Fipps and two others were in a remote area trying to move a vehicle that had become stuck. Fipps was standing beside his truck when he told his dog to move from the front seat to the back seat.

The sheriff says a rifle was on the back seat and it discharged toward Fipps.

Read about another incident in which a dog shot its hunting partner.


Rain, wind, mud… time to let the bird dogs loose!

HUNTING — Soaking wet, heading into a brisk wind with two pounds of Palouse mud on each boot — today could have been a miserable hunting experience until this "double your pleasure" moment with Zuni and Scout.

Dog, pheasant season, work: Setting priorities

HUNTING — A successful morning hunt.

Time to get back to the other office.

Opening day report: Pheasant hunting better behind a dog

HUNTING — Following a bird dog's nose through pheasant country is one of the most vigorous, intense, satisfying and rewarding forms of hiking. And the results can be delicious.

Clinic prepares dogs for rattlesnake encounters

HUNTING – A rattlesnake aversion clinic for dogs, using live adult and juvenile snakes, put on by Natural Solutions of California is set for June 27 in Lewiston. Cost: $70.

Pre-register to schedule individual time slot: (208) 413-3032 or email shellyd181@gmail.com.

Bird dog club invites public to training day

HUNTING — The Spokane Bird Dog Association is inviting hunters to bring their dogs to a training day, which includes expert help for all breeds, starting Saturday at 8 a.m., at the Espanola training grounds managed by the club west of Medical Lake. 

This session will be geared more to pointers, but retrievers are welcome. Pointers and retrievers will be split into separate groups.

The public is invited to bring hunting dogs of any age or level of training. Cost: $5.

Some wives are partners in hunters’ financial woes

HUNTING — I'm getting few messages from wives of hunters after they read my outdoors column today, "Hunters need financial planning to cover expenses."

They're pointing out that more and more women are going hunting, too. In fact, a survey last year found that about 11 percent of the hunting licenses sold across the country were sold to women.  Cool.

But the women giving me a buzz today are chuckling with me.

"Thanks for reminding me how much money we put into hunting this year," said Robin, who says she hunts big game with and without her husband. "Problem is, I spent most of it."

Tough hunting for Snake Canyon chukars

HUNTING — Eastern Washington's pheasant season ended Sunday in a weekend of winds gusting to 70 mph at the top of the 49 Degrees North ski area where they toppled a cell phone tower. 

I figured I had a better shot at chukars in the Snake River canyon where I could loop into bowls out of the wind.  

Indeed, I found some pleasant hunting interspersed with high-wind exposure as I hiked around basalt bands on the ridges.

But I was surprised that in 4.5 hours of covering a lot of ground, my English setter, Scout,  found only two coveys of chukars. The dog locked up solid 80 yards away from the first cover as the strong winds telegraphed their scent to his nose. But the covey flushed wild as I approached, caught the wind, and appeared to be setting wings for a wind-assisted flight to Montana.

The other covey cooperated in making my hunt successful.

But that was it.  I covered some great private land where I've hunted with permission numerous times and never have found fewer than three coveys. 

So now I'm wondering: Should I have been hunting the highest slopes that were open to the high winds?  Is that where the chukars were hanging out?

The hunting season for partridge and quail runs through Jan. 20.

Taking the high route for chukars

HUNTING — I started low along the Snake River and climbed high into the basalt cliffs for chukars on Saturday.

It was a perfectly sunny but cool day for working my English setter, Scout, who was on his game.

Landers is always on the hunt for fowl weather

HUNTING — When I heard the weather report calling for nasty weather today I looked at Scout and said, "Sounds like a perfect day to call in sick and go hunting!"

I was right.  Perfect morning, except for the roads on the return trip.

My advice now:  It's a perfect day to stay home!

Bird dog makes point on figure of speech

HUNTING — While hunting pheasants on Sunday, this is how my English setter, Scout, defined the idiom, "Got 'em dead to rights."

‘Hunt by Reservation’ acreages include a lot of filler

HUNTING — I've been exploring some of the properties in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Private Lands Access Program this week.

While there's some good habitat holding upland birds on these lands, the thing that strikes me is how much "filler" there is in the acreage listings. I hunted a property on Monday that lists a sizable acreage, but 90 percent of it is cultivated, and recently plowed so that there's no holding cover.

Just be warned.   All the properties listed aren't winners. 


Bird dog surveys the harvest

HUNTING — My English setter, Scout, had six consecutive points on hens, then one solid find on a solo rooster.  

Stir-fry dinner coming up.

Bird dogs get to the point of idom

HUNTING — This is how Scout, my English setter, defines the idiom "Got 'em dead to rights."

Family seeks shorthair pointer lost near Medical Lake

HUNTING DOGS — Even if the pheasant hunting season weren't days away, Jack Dolan and his wife would be sick that their six-month old German shorthair pointer has gone missing.

The dog ran off after it was lightly struck by a vehicle late Sunday afternoon just west of Medical Lake and the Veteran's Cemetery near the Dolan's driveway at Hallet and Espanola roads

The dog's name is Chip. His collar was broken off by the impact. He panicked and ran across a field and out of sight.   Although there's no collar on him now, he has been micro-chipped and can be identified by a veterinarian.

The family points out that Chip could have covered a lot of ground, so they're posting signs in Reardan, Airway Heights and around the region.

If anyone sees, finds or hears anything that could lead to this dog, please call Dolan at (509) 389-8481.

Dolan, 72, was featured this summer in an S-R story about the extraordinary hunter education course he's been teaching as a volunteer leader for 26 years.  This dog, shown in the photo above, is his prized possession.

Give bird dog attention before the hunt

HUNTING — My Outdoors column today bags some tips from pro trainer Dan Hoke of Dunfur Kennel for easing bird dogs into the seasons safely and efficiently.

Many hunters get all excited about opening days — forest grouse and mourning doves open Sunday.

But the best and safest hunting for a bird dog is later in the seasons, when the field is cooler, damper and there's been more opportunity to get in tip-top shape after the dog days of summer.

Higher calling: hunter strives to follow dog’s example

HUNTING — I marvel at my English setter, and all the various faithful breeds preferred by my friends.  Here's one angle on why.

If you can…

  • Start the day without caffeine.
  • Always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains.
  • Resist complaining and boring people with your troubles.
  • Eat the same food every day and be grateful for it.
  • Understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time
  • Overlook it when those you love take it out on you when through no fault of yours, something goes wrong.
  • Take criticism and blame without resentment.
  • Ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him/her.
  • Resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend
  • Face the world without lies and deceit.
  • Conquer tension without medical help.
  • Relax without liquor.
  • Sleep without the aid of drugs.
  • Honestly say deep in your heart that you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion or politics.

….Then, you are ALMOST as good as your dog.

High alert for bird dog owners: Cheatgrass in full bloom

HUNTING DOGS — The national plant of veterinarians across the West is in full bloom.

Cheatgrass that was only a spotty problem two weeks ago has been cured by the recent heat wave and I can tell you from personal experience that it's at full capacity to inflict harm on your dog's ears, toes, nose and other body parts.

I'm plugging my dogs' ears with cotton for even the shortest romp, and checking them thoroughly afterward, especially between the toes.

I'll be suspending most field dog training and doing most of my dog's physical conditioning by taking him hiking in the mountains and throwing retrieving dummies into lakes.

The extreme danger to dogs will continue until some point in August when wind and pounding thunderstorms drive most of the seed spears to the ground.

Americans love their dogs; not so in Iran

HUNTING — I had some interesting conversations over meals with a professor from Iran a few years ago centered on our common love for hunting chukars. We don't hear much about that part of Middle Eastern culture, but he was a solid enthusiast for walking the steep river canyons and swinging a shotgun for sport.

I made my gaffe when I expressed dismay that he hunted alone without a bird dog.  He winced a bit but was polite.

Still clueless, I invited him to hunt with me and experience the excitement of hunting behind a pointing dog.

He respectfully declined and that was that.

Later I learned that buying and selling dogs is illegal in Iran. Iran’s parliament also passed a bill to criminalize dog ownership, declaring the phenomenon a sign of “vulgar Western values.” 

Pursuing birds without a dog would leave a huge hole in my experience, so I'll be hunting my chukars here in the United States of America, which has the highest dog population in the world.


France has the second highest and some South American countries may rival our country for dog populations, except  nobody seems to own all the strays that roam the streets.

Singles ad catches bird hunter’s attention

HUNTING — An Internet oldie from the singles ads. 

SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant. I'm a very good girl who LOVES to play. I love long walks in the woods, riding in your pickup truck, hunting, camping and fishing trips, cozy winter nights lying by the fire. Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand. I'll be at the front door when you get home from work, wearing only what nature gave me.

Call (509) 467-5235 and ask for Annie, I'll be waiting….

Phone number is for the Spokane Humane Society in case you're interested in adopting a dog.

Upland birds getting weather break for nesting

HUNTING — I don't want to jinx the odds, but a lot of upland bird hunters are noticing this is the driest weather we've had in several years for the peak period of the wild quail, chukar and pheasant hatching season. 

Upland bird chicks are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia if cool, wet weather persists in early June.  

Last year's season was boosted by a good second hatch of birds.

This could be the year the first hatch blossoms.  


Sign up: Spring training for bird dogs

HUNTING — A clinic for owners of pointing dogs of all ages and abilities is set by the Spokane Bird Dog Association for 8 a.m.-noon on June 8 at the club's Espanola training grounds west of Medical Lake.

Pro trainer Dan Hoke of Dunfur Kennels will present a clinic, after which participants can work their own dogs on pigeons and chukars provided by the club.

Cost: $20. Bring a lunch.

Preregister with Bill Colyar to assure enough birds are ordered, (509) 953-8682.

Every bird dog owner needs a skunk kit

HUNTING DOGS — It's easy to be prepared for the unexpected but inevitable day your hunting dog is sprayed by a skunk.

And you should ALWAYS be ready. Even at home, as I experienced this week when my dog was sprayed in the backyard just before I was to leave for work.

Since an Eastern Washington University chemistry professor tipped me off to the formula in the 1980s, I've kept a skunk kit in my pickup and in my bird hunting gear basket. I've given the kits as holiday gifts to my hunting buddies.

(See my dog, Scout, above, looking at the kit as though he knows it's his only ticket back into the house.)

I once took a midnight call from a friend who was in Montana with his daughter and dog. They were in a pickle. They were camping with his wife's new SUV and she'd warned them they'd better take care of it in her absence. But their dog got sprayed by a skunk 300 miles from Spokane and father-daughter needed the recipe or they'd be in the dog house with the dog.

I gave them the recipe and two days later I found a thank you note and a bottle of wine on my door step.

THE RECIPE is simple: One quart of hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap.

THE KIT makes it easy to apply. Buy a small Tupperware-type container just big enough to hold two quart bottles of hydrogen peroxide, two plastic zipper bags with measured amounts of baking soda and a small plastic bottle with dish soap.

(I like this "double" recipe approach just in case two dogs get too friendly with a skunk at one time. You don't have to make choice on which dog "gets lost" on the way home.)

Also in the container, include one or two pairs of Latex or rubber gloves, a wash rag and a small drying towel. You're set.

Should your dog get sprayed, you can remove the skunk odor in the field (if you have rinse water) without stinking up your rig.

Mix the ingredients at the time they are needed, NOT BEFORE. Wash the dog with all of the solution. Having the washcloth helps you keep it out of the dog's eyes.

Rinse thoroughly. You may want to do a second wash with dog shampoo, but a thorough rinse seems to work fine and prevents the peroxide from changing the color of your dog's fur.

Done. Whew!

By the way, when I came to work Monday and mentioned that my dog had been sprayed by a skunk, a colleague came over with her wallet and pulled out the de-skunking recipe I'd published in the S-R Outdoors section years ago. "It saved me once, and I wanted to make sure I always had it just in case," she said.

Best things about hunting dogs revisited

BIRD DOGGING — A Facebook friend recently sent me several poignant quotations regarding dogs, which made me think fondly back over the German shorthairs, Brittanys and English setters I've been privileged to own, know, love and hunt.

But honestly, I couldn't help but make a few reality checks after thinking about these Dog Wisdoms for a moment.  I've added my two cents from decades of experience in bold face.

*Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful. Indeed, the tail wagging may be a devious attempt to delay you from discovering the chewed up bamboo fly rod.  - Ann Landers

*If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went, unless it's into the barnyard to roll in cow pies.  - Will Rogers

*There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face, and that's a good thing because a psychiatrist is much more likely than a puppy to have been licking something icky before it licked you. - Ben Williams

*A neutered dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. - Robert Benchley

*If your dog is fat, you aren't getting enough exercise and you clearly aren't a chukar hunter. - Unknown

Better days will come this season for bird hunters

HUNTING — I took Scout, my English setter, out for two, short, early morning hunts this weekend to celebrate the opening of the quail and partridge seasons.   Emphasis on short.

It's simply too dry and warm out there to be working a dog too hard.

In case you missed it in the Sunday Outdoors section, dog trainer Dan Hoke of Dunfur Kennel near Cheney has some excellent early-season tips for hunting with bird dogs.

But I did see enough birds on my short hunts to be optimistic that late hatches produced a decent crop of quail, Huns —  and even pheasants.  (I saw two young roosters that still weren't feathered out.)

November and December will be prime time.