The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a large-sized breed of dog. The breed was developed in the United States Chesapeake Bay area during the 19th century. They were used by area market hunters to retrieve waterfowl in the ice cold waters of the Chesapeake Bay area.
My Best Bird Dog.
The best bird dog I ever had was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. She ended up coming to our house under an unusual set of circumstances. We were on a Fourth of July picnic at the Lake, a pickup with some young kids and a liter of Chesapeake puppies drove past us. One of the puppies fell out onto the road and got up limping. My son-in-law picked up the pup and went over to the pickup with the little dog and talked to the pickup driver. He said. “this little dog looks like it has a broken leg, maybe we should take it home and take care of it, the driver agreed with that.That little brown puppy named Suzy went home with us and lived at our house for many years.
Little Suzy had no permanent injuries, she was all dog from the words ‘lets go.’ I have hunted a lot of ducks and pheasants throughout my life. Suzy became the best hunting dog I ever had. I would like to share some of our hunting experiences with you in this story. Dedicated to the memory of Suzy
She was a natural born hunter she didn’t need a lot of training, hunting was in her bloodline. She worked equally well hunting waterfowl or upland game birds. She would even point a pheasant at a very young age, not a retriever trait. As she got older and bigger 75 pounds, the pheasants would flush. I would imagine while she was on point the ground was almost shaking from her excitement over the pheasant in front of her nose. There were times when a pheasant flushed and she jumped and caught it in midair. One opening day I got my three pheasants without firing a shot, a crippled bird rarely was lost.
When she got near water she ran and jumped many feet through the air before she landed, with a huge splash. She loved to swim, water temperature seemed to make no difference to her. As a young dog, one time a diving duck pulled a dirty trick on her. It would dive and swim under water, then come up after 40 or 50 feet. Suzy thinking it was crippled, kept swimming after it. That dirty duck kept repeating this game until it had my little dog almost out of site swimming away from the shore toward the middle of the lake. I could barely see her head, almost out of site in the waves. I thought for sure that was the end of my dog, no way she could swim that far. I waited and waited, Suzy must have decided enough is enough and finally swim back to shore. She learned a lesson about diving ducks that day.
There was another time my brother Harlan shot a teal that was flying about 70 miles an hour, that little teal came down dead in some tall cattails. I told Suzy, dead bird and pointed into the cattails, she immediately jumped out into the tall cattails and came right with a duck, but it wasn’t the teal. It was a young Mallard, didn’t have quite enough feathers to fly with. Suzy repeated this ordeal two more times to my brother’s amazement, each time it was a young Mallard. I sent her in one more time and she brought back my brother’s green wing teal. Truth is much stranger than fiction, I bet Suzy dreamed about that trip a long while.
One time at a road side slough a fellow was trying to get his black Labrador retriever to go after a duck he shot about 50 feet offshore. The Labrador did not want to retrieve that duck. I asked the fellow if he wanted me to have my dog retrieve the duck, ‘sure go ahead.’ I sent Suzy after the bird she brought it back and set it by my feet. I told her this duck belongs to the other fellow. I put her in the pickup and brought the duck to the other hunter. Suzy gave me a real puzzled look with her head cocked sideways when I got in the truck.
There was another outing, very cold November day. The lakes were almost frozen, I visited an old fellow who had been sitting out all morning with the Northwest wind blowing into his face. George said, “You got to shoot the ducks over land, the wind will blow them away if they fall in the water.” I told him go ahead shoot what he wanted, Suzy will go retrieve them. George shot a couple of ducks, Suzy brought him the ducks delivered right to his feet. We were sitting there awhile in the wind, teeth chattering. George took his extra hunting coat and put it over Suzy’s back. Another great memory.
Pheasant hunting one time in the winter after the birds were all bunched up. We had a bad experience. The pheasants were so thick, so much scent, Suzy went completely bonkers. There was a two mile square area of cattail swamp, pheasants everywhere. She flushed birds that got up, flew a little distance and set back down. She would chase them up again. This went on for about an hour, it was getting dark and very cold. Suzy would not come back when I called. I left my hunting coat at the place we entered the huge slough. I went home, about five miles, had supper then went back after a few hours. Suzy was sleeping on my hunting coat, waiting for me.
Another time when I thought she was just getting good at her waterfowl training. She proudly made her running dive to retrieve a duck. She was swimming straight back to me, duck in her mouth, pretty as a picture. She saw a muskrat house and crawled up on it with the duck. She proceeded to eat that duck with me ten feet away, going crazy. I didn’t have my waders on and not wanting to freeze to death, I watched the whole agonizing event. Suzy had a warm duck lunch while I was watching, doing some cussing I would imagine too.
One other time we got to our duck hunting spot early because the place, usually had quite a few hunters. It was still pitch dark, Suzy and I were sitting waiting for the 1/2 hour before sunrise shooting time. Somebody was walking up behind us in the dark, Suzy let out the deepest growl I’ve ever heard in my life, ground shaking type. I talked to the fellow later he said, ‘I made a big long detour around where you and your dog was sitting. I said that might have been a good idea.
This memory isn’t hunting related, I just want to give you an idea on how possessive Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are. I was helping a neighbor do some type of fix up project and I needed my hammer out of the pickup. So I asked him if he would go get my hammer from the pickup. I guess when he put his hand on the pickup door handle he woke Suzy up from her nap. The barking and growling scared the crap out of the guy. He said, “go get your own hammer, sure glad that door didn’t open.”
There is nothing that can take the place of a good, faithful, hunting dog.