Under the Open Sky: Dual-Purpose Dog

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.

First year hunter and Laborador retriever Lucie, keeps a close eye on her duck hunting companion, Jay Pattee of Salkum as he paddles his canoe across the water to fetch a downed duck. Lucie has mastered patience in the duck blind, but is in no rush to master the water retrieve — and neither is Pattee. "I don't believe in forcing a dog," said Pattee, "she'll swim when she's ready." Lucie made her first water retrieve on Lake Mayfield last week, Pattee said, "she's coming along just fine."

“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.

Shells start to fly, but Labrador Lucie remains calm and in her place at Jay Pattee's side in the blind as she watches the first duck drop and Pattee takes aim at another.

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.

Jim Pattee of Salkum plucks an American Wigeon drake from a pond near Cinebar. Pattee and his dog Lucie went home just one duck short of their limit. Pattee and Lucie frequently hunt the Lake Mayfield blinds with his duck dog in training, Lucie. "It's been a pretty rough duck season, there just haven't been a lot of birds out there. Now I see where they all are," Pattee said with a grin, commenting on the flock of 80 American Wigeon that jumped up from the ponds Tuesday afternoon, "they're all right here."

“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.

American Wigeon, commonly known as "Baldpate," are seen from coast to coast and as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico, but the Pacific Northwest holds the highest concentration of these dabbling ducks during the winter. Wigeon are a tasty bird because their diet consists mainly of plant material, but they're small so you'll need at least one bird for each diner.

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 kim@almostdailynews.com.