I had a bird dog in the 1970’s – a Llewellin Setter. She was a pretty little thing and a good hunter. In Ohio, there were wide open fields with short grass and fencerows, so it was a pleasure to watch her seeking the scent of a covey of quail and then go on point.
Then I moved to Wisconsin where there were few open fields. The field grass was four feet tall. I couldn’t see her when she was more than twenty feet away. She was accustomed to hunting 50-100 yards away from me.
I was afraid she wouldn’t find her way back to me. If I couldn’t see her, she couldn’t see me. (No jokes please about her being able to smell me a hundred yards away.)
The truth is, she wasn’t worried about where I was because she was focused on doing what she was bred to do – hunt. She just expected me to be there whenever she needed me to flush the birds.
That was a frustrating time. I loved her. My fear was that I’d lose her. I didn’t want her to starve or suffer through a cold night if she strayed too far away. I wanted to keep her close to me.
But she wanted to hunt. It was in her DNA. She loved the freedom to do her work and bring home the bacon (quail or pheasant) for her master. Her reward was getting the job done.
I tried to control her by yelling at her. That probably confused her more than it helped to keep her close. I even punished her in my frustration and anger. She was working her little heart out to find the prize for me, and then I’d scold her, and threaten her, and tell her to obey me, and sometimes I’d lay my hand on her in a less than loving way.
One time I made the mistake of taking her duck hunting. Never take a bird dog duck hunting. She wasn’t born to sit in a boat and wait for the prize to come to her. When I gave her the opportunity to get out of the boat, she did what came naturally. And I chased her through the swampy, knee-deep water in chestwaders for an hour. The ducks could hear and see me ranting and raving a mile away.
Talk about confusing. A master who feeds you, loves you, cares for you, and sets you free to do what you are born to do. Sometimes he praises you and sometimes he’s angry with you. And there are growing rumors he’ll punish you even more after you die if you don’t obey him.
At some point, it would get so frustrating that even a bird dog might say, “Screw it. I’m tired of always being in trouble. I’m not enjoying this anymore. Just put me in a cage, give me some milk bones, and leave me alone. Go find someone else to yell at. Just stop complaining if no bird dogs are beating down your doors wanting to hunt for you.”
The apostle Paul said we were created for good works (Eph. 2:10). He also said because one man sinned, that made the rest of us sinners (Rom. 5:12, 19). Which would be a better doctrine to teach children?
“You were created for good works.” OR “You were born in sin.”
What were you born to do?
Probably the biggest difference between bird dogs and humans is that bird dogs don’t get to choose who they will follow. Humans have a choice to follow a loving/punishing-forgiving/just humanistic God, or a God who is Love, or multiple gods, or the absence of any controlling Force, or the Unknown.
Choose the one who encourages and helps you and gives you the freedom to do what you were created to do.
And then go out and do what you do naturally.