Bourjaily: Learning to Swim

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I’ve been taking advantage of our warm fall to get my puppy Jed into the water whenever I can. He’s not sure about swimming yet, but he will do almost anything for a dog biscuit. I’ve been luring him into deeper and deeper water by wading in and tossing pieces of biscuit in front of him. He follows, snapping them up until he gets far enough out where he should start swimming. Then he stands straight up on his back legs and sort of treads water with his front legs and tries to walk to the next biscuit. Once or twice I’ve taken him out to where has to swim and let him paddle in, then given him a treat right away. That works, but I don’t want to overdo it and frighten him. Since I am training Jed by Gun Nut committee, your suggestions are welcome.

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I’m not going to rush Jed into swimming, but having made my share of water retrieves, I’m ready for a dog to take over that duty. Ike swims but doesn’t fetch. My first shorthair, Sam, was a great retriever, but couldn’t tolerate getting wet and cold.

One winter day I shot a rooster that fell onto a slushy pond. Sam ran to the edge, tested the surface with a paw, and pulled it back as if he had touched an electric fence. He sat down and looked at me like

“You’re on your own, boss.”

I called the dog and walked back down the gravel road to the farmhouse where I had parked. I put Sam and my gun in the truck, knocked on the door and asked if I might borrow a fishing rod. Looking through the farmer’s tackle box, I found a Creek Chub Injured Minnow, a wooden plug with propellers and big treble hooks at each end. At the pond I cast the Injured Minnow over the pheasant, snagged it and reeled it in. Walking back down the road with no gun, no dog, a fat rooster in one hand and a fishing rod in the other, I hoped someone would drive by and see me. Alas, no one did. I was dying to tell somebody that the pheasants were hitting surface lures.