By Chad Love
The dog comes trotting up to the car as soon as I pull into the parking area, a rangy-looking orange belton setter that looks like he hasn't eaten in a few days. He's dirty, his coat is full of cockleburs, his paws are full of sandburs, his ribs stick out from his side and he isn't wearing a collar. That's telling. No one hunts their dog without a collar and tags. This setter wasn't lost, some sonofa**** had abandoned him, left him to die. Dumped him out in the middle of nowhere with no food, no water and no chance.
He looks tired, hungry, scared and lonely. It's mid-week during the last half of the Kansas pheasant season, I'm 30 miles from the nearest town and I haven't seen another hunter all day.
Who knows how long he's been out here, hiding from coyotes and waiting for someone, anyone, to come along. He stands off a few feet and eyes me, but when I kneel and give him a soft whistle he walks up, gives my hand a raspy lick and then presents his head for scratching, tail beating a staccato rhythm against the car. I pour him a bowl of water and give him some of my dog's food. Both disappear almost instantly. When I let my dog out of the car he bounces around like a pup, playing and chasing. But when I grab my gun and try to whistle him up to go hunting he just sits his haunches by the car and looks at me as I walk off. "Sorry nice man," the look says, "but I've had my fill of this place. I just wanna get the hell outta here."