By David DiBenedetto

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’m guilty of Dog Envy. See that Boykin spaniel in the above photo? It belongs to my friend Jason. The dog, a male, is named Fripp. (Purely by coincidence the pup is named after the barrier island that’s just north of Pritchards.) Fripp and Pritchard were born within a week of each other, and have met for a few romps in the field but have never trained together until this past week.

It was the last day of deer season here in South Carolina, so Jason and I decided to spend some time running the dogs before we took to the woods. As soon as Fripp hit the ground I knew Pritch and I were outclassed. He was a dog with a singular focus…he wanted to retrieve the dummy. And he was obedient. “I’ll do anything,” he seemed to say, “as long as you toss the bumper. Again.” And so it went. Fripp ran a few doubles. Did some blinds. And wanted more.

When Pritch hit the ground she took up on some deer tracks and started nosing her way into the field. She eventually came back and noticed the dummy I was waving in front of her as if it were a polish sausage. “Cool,” she seemed to say, “wear yourself out with that thing…I’ll be working some fresh buck tracks.” I gave her no choice and lined her up for some singles. She did okay. Held steady. Came back. Circled me a few times. Dropped the bumper and started sniffing some upturned dirt.

“She’s a beautiful dog,” said Jason, as if her looks would make up for her lack luster performance.

“Wanna trade?” I asked jokingly.

Would I really trade her? You know the answer. I taught her everything she knows and failed to teach her what she doesn’t. Within the last year alone, she’s the reason I’ve been to Arkansas for ducks and spent time in the Lowcountry marsh for rails. Two things I’d never done before. I can’t shoot and she seems to have no problem with that. And I’m an amateur trainer bumbling my way down gun dog road. We’re made for each other. Or so I like to think.