One of my favorite books is “Go Dog Go” by P.D. Eastman.
A children’s book, it has marvelous illustrations of comic-character dogs exhibiting all kinds of zany behavior, with accompanying humorous dialogue. Our kids, and then grandkids, would squeal in delight when we read this page-turner so many times that the back-binding is worn out.
As it happens, this book inspired recollection of one of my favorite real-life dog stories.
For several years, back in the 60s and 70s, I crewed with Olaf Gildnes seining on Prince William Sound. Olaf was a great skipper, and we had several good seasons. Dick Renner was our skiff man, also excellent at his craft. It turns out Olaf and Dick were good friends, gill netting the Copper River Delta before seining kicked into gear.
They both wintered down in Washington state, and each fall after fishing season was over they would get together and take their wives out motoring over to eastern Washington for some pheasant hunting.
For years, Dick had a well-trained golden retriever that they relied on to do the pointing, but on this particular trip, Olaf informed Dick he had a new dog just fit for the task.
So, Dick brought along his four-month-old golden retriever named Omar to get some experience by observing the fine art.
Olaf’s dog, named Jake, was a pure-bred English Pointer that Dick described as “really hyper, hard to control.” In fact, it had been at a kennel in Washington for training in obedience and pointing while Olaf had been in Cordova all summer.
On a sunny September morning they found a vast sugar beet field in the Columbia River Basin and gained permission to hunt it. The field was covered with big green leaves and extended far off in the distance. Jake was straining in excitement at the leash, and Dick said something to the effect of “Well, Olaf, let’s see what Jake can do.”
As the wives looked on, Jake, who had some white in his coat, took off bounding away.
“Every now and then we would see a white flash when he crossed over a ridge,” said Dick. “After three ridges, he was a white dot on the horizon last seen still leaping away at full throttle a mile and a half away.”
Go dog, go.
They drove around until dusk looking for Jake with no success. That night they stayed in their camper near where Jake had been released. At dawn there was no sign of Jake.
Finally at midday, they drove to nearby Royal City, a small town of 1700, for breakfast.
Needless to say, Olaf was pretty disgusted with the situation.
While sitting in a small restaurant, Olaf’s wife Gayle saw a Royal City police car pull up. Gayle, who loved to needle Olaf, said brightly “Why, Olaf, why not go up and talk with him? Maybe he knows where Jake is.”
Olaf reluctantly approached the officer, describing Jake plus the circumstances of his disappearance.
The officer said: “You know, I think I know where your dog is.”
Olaf said: “Thanks. I’ll go get him.”
The officer replied: “Finish your breakfast. He’s in the back seat of my car.”
Jake had ventured into Royal City, three miles from where he had gone rogue, jumped a neighborhood fence, had a nice dinner, and camped out with some friendly locals who finally reported him to the police.
Sure enough there was Jake, sitting in the back seat, looking quite pleased with himself, and ready to go dog go again.
Which he did. A month later Gayle and Olaf invited Dick and Vicki over for dinner. No Jake was in sight. Dick didn’t ask why.
Perhaps it had something to do with an ad he had noticed in the Skagit Valley Herald: “For Sale: Well-trained pure-bred English Pointer,” with a phone number listed – a number that just happened to be Olaf’s.