Bird Dogs & Training  |  01/29/2014

Bumpers Where They Don't Belong

Gazing at the small black and white Avery bumper hanging in the very top of a pear tree in front of our house, I started thinking of all the places our dog training bumpers have gone where they shouldn’t have gone.

Several years ago, a bumper shot from a dummy launcher flew over our barn and landed on the flat lower roof of the barn addition. I didn’t realize what was going on until I discovered my husband stuffing my German shorthair out of the window in the barn’s upstairs office, so he could make the retrieve.

Another time, I discovered a Dokken Dead Fowl Trainer – the one that looks like a ruffed grouse – torn to shreds in our upper field. I’d been rubbing liquid grouse scent on the body for training purposes. The dummy got left outside and picked up (most likely) by a coyote looking for a snack. No doubt that coyote was mighty disappointed as he picked shreds of foam out of his teeth.

Last summer, while practicing double marks at a big pond, I woke up a skunk with my starting pistol. Doing what skunks do, he or she filled the air with a guaranteed gag smell close enough and bad enough that I called – well, screamed actually – my swimming dog off the retrieve. We high-tailed it out of town, abandoning the bumper floating nearby. No bumper is worth a 45 minute ride home inside a Jeep with a freshly anointed bird dog. Fortunately, two weeks later a friend found the bumper and guessed it might be ours.

When we drained our backyard pond, I found three bumpers in the bottom. They were the kind that float of course, unless my not-so-soft-mouthed older shorthair gets hold of them. Forever hungry, he loves to slink off into the high grass for a good gnaw. He eventually chews through and the bumper slowly takes on water until it sinks.

Outside, we’ve had bumpers lodged against the chimney, impaled in a thicket of buckthorn, and flattened in the driveway. Inside, they materialize under the bed or in the kitchen sink. They disappear; we replace them. They reappear; we lose them. My guess is that with five dogs, we go through an average of two dozen bumpers per year. That estimate has a plus-or-minus range of at least three bumpers on any given day depending on whether they’re in appearance or disappearance mode. And that, no doubt, has a lot to do with canine intervention.