I could order Millie and Berry to rise in the morning and take up their station alongside the farm pond.
Or I suspect I could bribe them, or maybe coax them, or simply say “let's go, girls. Kennel up.”
They'd go, of course, my eight-year-old Berry as well as my four-year-old Millie.
I could do any of these things and the response would be the same; the two Labrador retrievers would eagerly hop into the back of the SUV and take to the 45-minute ride to the farm pond the way you'd expect any goose-fetching-fool-of-a-dog would act.
With eager anticipation.
But I won't. Not tomorrow morning anyway.
The girls played hard today. They always do when it comes to a waterfowl-hunting outing.
That today marked the opener of Ohio's early Canada goose-only hunting season was more a matter of my interest than a concern for either of the two black Labradors.
It is said that dogs can't mark the passing of time and I suspect that is correct.
Still, Millie and Berry seem to know when a trip to the pond is for fun or when it is a business trip.
Perhaps that is because they understand that what's removed from the gun vault, stuffed into a case is more than just a training dummy.
And when we do get to the farm pond and they hear the lock up of the Franchi semi-auto along with a testing of the goose calls, well, son, Berry and Millie just know this morning is going to be unlike those summer P.T. sessions with the whistle, the harness and the training dummy.
Oh, yeah, they know; my Millie and Berry. They're ready, too. Eager to a fault, if truth be told.
Today was no different, expect that this time Berry was more out of line than was Millie.
Berry needed more corralling, a switch of previous times when the younger Millie would want to play by her own rules.
I guess that was my mistake during all of those training sessions. My focus was on correcting Millie's faults more than being concerned that Berry would be the one to step out of line.
That's unfair, though, the step-out-of-line thing, I mean.
Yeah, Berry needed a tug and a tie to the tethered dog lead but, whoa, how can I be too critical of a senior citizen retriever who jumps out of a boat in order to retrieve a 10-pound goose I had to chase down and then polish off?
Don't want to forget Millie, either.
She did her part in ensuring that a second goose that hit the water at the same time as the other bird wasn't going anywhere except for the game bag.
So we went three for three in the first few sparks of the season opener. A good finish to a good beginning, if you ask me.
Even when the morning melted in the unseasonable mugginess and nearly all the birds stopped flying the dogs were always a watchful distance from the farm pond's watery hem. They would periodically stop in some silly dog-play game to stand chest-deep in the water; eyeballing the pond in case a goose had somehow slipped in whilst they were not looking.
It was all very tiring. For dog and man.
After nearly six hours of hunting we packed it in and made our way home. Sanctuary, and dinner and a comfortable bed for each of us.
And though tomorrow morning would surely offer another go-round with the geese I won't be ordering, bribing, coaxing, or encouraging Berry or Millie.
They earned their paycheck today. There will be other days and other birds. None of us have anything to prove, least of all Berry and Millie.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn