Title: Dog on the Water
Author: John Taintor Foote
Genre: Short Story
Original Publisher/Date: D. Appleton-Century Co., Inc./1946
Current Publisher/Date: The Lyons Press/2000
Dates read: 8/1/17/ - 8/9/17
In an effort to read a second work by this author I waited too long to get the library book of short stories I wanted. Then I found another book instead with this story in with 28 other unforgettable hunting tales, entitled The Greatest Hunting Stories Ever Told, edited by Lamar Underwood. It almost makes me want to read the other stories by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and Theodore Roosevelt.
In this eight pager, we meet Myrtle a pointer without a master until a lucky hunter spends $40 and buys her. They go hunting with a group of four other guys and their dogs. Myrtle’s new owner does everything in his power to win Myrtle over – feeding her sandwiches, calling her or blowing a whistle to get her to bring him the downed game. She seemed more content to just gaze off into space or taking it to another hunter.
One day while out hunting with the group she pointed a bird within inches of the river’s bank. “The bird came down in the backwater just at the edge of the current. Myrtle was in the river swimming for the bird the moment it fell. She got to it quickly, but an eddy or the wind had carried it out into the current. As she turned to come back with the bird in her mouth, the force of the river took her, and downstream she went.”
He called for her to drop it but she didn’t obey and “struggled on until she came at last to the backwater with the bird still in her mouth.” Thinking she was home free, matters worsened and “trouble swiftly met that small swimmer.” Before he knew it the guy had doffed his hunting coat and in he went. But he didn’t have to swim as the water was less than armpit deep. He scooped up Myrt and brought her, quail and all, to shore.
He was finally able to get her to drop the bird, and her eyes brimmed with pride of work well done. It was a combination of love, faith and companionship, “characteristic of a shooting dog as a bird is brought to the master’s hand. ‘Here it is, boss!’ that look seemed to say. ‘It’s yours. And I am yours – to slave for you, to adore you, as long as I shall live.’ Although my teeth were chattering, I was warmed suddenly from within. Myrtle rode back to Atlanta that night, curled in my lap, a weary but contented little dog.”