There are those who consider hunting dogs only a tool to help locate and retrieve game. During the off-season, their dogs sit in kennels. On a good day, they get a pat on the head, a friendly whistle or perhaps some table scraps. They are ready to take to the field in a second, giving their owners every bit of energy they can muster; running, swimming, climbing, jumping or holding rock-solid at the intoxicating scent of a game bird.
My own bird dogs are as much a part of my family as, well, as myself. While attending college, my English setter Winston slept at my feet in the classroom. I had a Gordon setter, Hank (the Tank) that was arguably the best ditch dog in the universe. When the ditch stopped moving, you could almost guarantee that a pheasant was about to explode from the tulles. There have been others and then there was Jack.
Jack was neither the best bird dog I have owned nor the most poised. The classic English setter is lean and mean with a tail held high like a flag on a windy day. Jack’s tail never rose above half-mast. His coat was coarse, yet his head was soft as a baby chick. He was thick, not slick, but he found birds when there were birds, often after others had tried and failed. Jack followed me wherever he could, sleeping under my desk at any hour or curled up on his personal bed next to my own. He was a social buddy, always eager to greet the next visitor. I never had to worry about Jack mixing it up with other dogs or running off at night. He was devoted to my family and me.
Jack had to be put to rest following a brief battle with what probably was a brain tumor. Most people who follow these recipes either have or had great dogs during some part of their lives. Jack’s memory will live on for as long I do. There will be other dogs, but not another Jack. This recipe is for him. We sure loved to hunt quail together.
For Jack…A Quail Recipe
- 4 quail
- salt and pepper
- Season quail with a little salt and pepper. Grill, sauté, bake or broil until done. When cooled, remove meat from bones. Feed meat to dog. Scratch dog liberally around the head, neck, ears and belly. Take him for a ride in the pickup and then a long run. He may not be here tomorrow.