Stick or Twist

My dog Scout is a Twist sort of dog. If he were playing Pontoon he would definitely Twist. If he were on 16 he’d twist. He’d probably twist on 17. On 18, yes he would twist. If he were on 19… TWIST! Even on 20, TWIST!. Because you can never have too much. In fact because you can never have too much, he just loves to have a bit more, he’d probably twist on 21. No I know. You can’t have another card, Scout. But he’d twist anyway. He’s so excited by the potential for more, he’d want another and another, dropping his original hand in the process. The old adage of a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush means nothing to him. In fact there are some more bushes around the corner so we should probably go see those too. Today I thought we should work on “stick”.

I realise it’s not a good idea to play with sticks. Thrown sticks are dangerous for dogs, so here’s your veterinary health warning. DON’T PLAY WITH STICKS. But to hell with the advice. I don’t know a better way to teach Scout “stick” than with a stick. So out in the woods we get ourselves ready, and armed with a bunch of sticks we are prepared for battle. The game we play is to stick with the right thing, and not fall for twisting. We start with a racing release, giving him a chance to run at full speed and fly at a nice bite tug. It’s a safe grab, taking it mid-air, and the toy reminds me of those hapless pigeons being pummelled by a peregrine falcon. He’s wildly excited with his catch and wants to show it off, but the temptation to twist is already there. I throw a stick. He doesn’t fall for it, sticking with his toy. STICK! I throw another, trying to tempt him again. STICK! No matter how I throw the sticks he won’t budge on his toy. Good boy, for a twisting fool he’s sticking well. The dealer’s out and he wins the round.

In a variation on this game we find the best place in the woods, generally the deepest darkest wooded part, the home of squirrels and deer and bears. Well probably not bears, not in our woods, but it’s a pretty awesome place and there are bound to be bushes with two more birds in. Those bushes are usually worth way more than other bushes. It’s very important to check them all, just to be sure. As the urge builds to run and find more, to seek out what can’t be seen, as his need surges we rush into a down and stay. Off goes another stick, can he stay put?… STICK! He’s holding steady with another volley sent into the bushes. STICK! and then get ready to run. The culmination to weathering the stick storm is to turn that desire towards me and the bite tug. Ready… GO! And back to practising the peregrine pounce, the fastest most agile hunter in the woods today, flying towards me, twisting through the trees to strike the toy.

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