Duck Hunting and Dog Training Takes Time and Patience
By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
Six months ago Lucie the Labrador retriever was found alone and near death from starvation, wandering the streets of Yakima.
At the same time in Salkum, Jay Pattee was sitting in his home, looking for a dog on the Internet.
“I hit this site called Res Q Angels (www.resqangels.com/). They’re in Yakima. I saw Lucie’s picture and called right away,” said Pattee. “I didn’t know if they’d let me have her if I told them she would be a hunting dog, but I was honest with them.”
“They called back in half an hour and said ‘Come get her.’ We’ve been together ever since. She never leaves me,” he added. “She even goes into Walmart with me to buy shotgun shells.”
Lucie is a dual purpose dog, Pattee explained.
“I’m a Vietnam veteran. Because of my injuries and the PTSD, the VA decided I could use a service dog,” he said. “She’s a registered, working dog.”
Lucie knows when she’s on the job, Pattee said.
“When she has her leash and her vest on she’s a different animal,” he said. “She knows she’s working.”
Lucie started going fishing with Pattee as soon as he brought her home.
“Her first time in a boat she acted like she’d been doing it her whole life,” Pattee said.
This fall Lucie and Pattee hunted for pheasants in the Kosmos release site near Morton.
Now it’s duck season and the pair have been haunting the Lake Mayfield duck blinds. Lucie made her first retrieve from the water last week.
Shooting Ducks, Shooting Photos
Pattee, Lucie and I spent the day on my ponds on Tuesday afternoon. Pattee shot at ducks with his shotgun, I took shots at Lucie with my camera.
As constant companions, Lucie and Jay have made a great difference in each other’s life, all for the better.
“She is much more in command of herself now, she’s confident,” Pattee said of Lucie. “And she gets me out more, being more social and keeps me active.”
And although Lucie has gained confidence in the social arena, she has yet to consistently master the challenge of the icy cold waters of the duck ponds.
But Pattee isn’t concerned about Lucie’s progress as a duck dog. This is Lucie’s first season, she’s just over a year old, and Pattee doesn’t believe you need to push a dog into doing anything they’re not ready to do.
“You don’t really have to train a dog to hunt, that comes pretty naturally,” he said, and then laughed, “It’s training them to come back to you — when you need them to — that’s the hard part.”
Lucie has already mastered the art of hiding in the blind.
“She has learned to sit in the duck blind and hide, she stays pretty steady,” he said. “She’s pretty patient and she watches everything. She knows what we’re there for.”
Pattee would like to find a neoprene vest for Lucie to wear in the blinds.
“She gets kinda cold out there, but she snuggles up while we wait for the ducks. I guess that makes her a tri-purpose dog — she keeps me warm too,” he laughed.
The pair ended the day just one duck short of a limit, Pattee was still berating himself for missing one of two prime opportunities that afternoon as we walked back to my house where Lucie met my own Labrador retriever, Buddy the WonderDog.
The two met and made friends within a just a few minutes.
Suddenly the pair of coal black hunting dogs took off together on a dead run, hunting the fence lines and they headed for the duck ponds. We called, but they were deaf to our cries.
Pattee said laughing, “That’s the furthest she’s ever been away from me since I got her.”
The next day Pattee carried a photograph Lucie in the water I taken that afternoon to his appointment at the VA hospital.
“They’d look at Lucie and look at the picture and say ‘That’s her?’ They couldn’t believe it was the same dog,” Pattee said.
Lucie: a devil on duck work and an angel at social work. I think they make a pretty good team.
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website at almostdailynews.com, find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason – The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email email@example.com.