I guess that’s why he’s called a Retriever!

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2-19-13 oliver1

So, here’s the story… I’m in a familiar place on a cold but bright late afternoon. I’m walking with Oliver at the local golf course, and as is usually the case, I let him off the leash when we get deep into the property so he can run free and explore. Oliver rarely strays too far, and as he wanders, he never takes his eye off me – nor I him. As we walk, every now and again we’ll practice our recall training, and that’s also when I take the phone/camera out and shoot him as he runs toward me to get his treat. The iPhone camera doesn’t have an A1 Servo mode (Canon thing – not sure what the Nikon equivalent is) where it can focus automatically and track a fast-moving subject, but when Oliver is barreling down on me from a head-on angle, it actually does OK, even in so-so light. I can usually count on at least one or two photographs from each burst being somewhat in focus, and as per usual on this particular afternoon… I was going for that elusive “perfect” photograph of him in mid-air bounding toward me with a big smile on his face.

2-19-13 oliver3

Anyway… Oliver’s off about forty yards or so in a thicket of trees, totally engrossed in his latest discovery. I’m not sure what it was he found that was so fascinating, but it was probably an already half-chewed stick, some wet and stinky leaves revealed by the melting snow, or perhaps his favorite find… a poopsicle. I figured this was a great opportunity to practice our recall, so I did my standard whistle to get his attention and then hollered for him to come. Good boy that he is, he looked up to see where I was, and immediately came charging toward me. Though pleased to see him respond so well, my first thought was of course to take out the phone/camera and start shooting. After all, the light was getting good, and the background behind him was pretty clean and free from power lines etc. Oliver is getting bigger and quicker, so I usually only have a few seconds to get the phone out, swipe my finger to unlock it, open the camera app, and crouch down to compose… better hurry. I reached into my jacket pocket, and that’s when I realized my phone wasn’t where I usually kept it. I quickly searched every pocket I had, but a sick feeling had already starting growing in the pit of my stomach… there was no phone.

2-19-13 oliver2

Meanwhile, Oliver was charging across the snowy ground toward me, and even though I knew that losing my phone was pretty serious, I couldn’t help but think about the missed opportunity for a cool photograph of him. Then, all of a sudden, maybe halfway to where I was standing, he stopped dead in his tracks and and started digging furiously deep into the snow. I reinforced his recall command… but nothing. I tried again… still nothing. He had obviously hit pay dirt, and no amount of me yelling “Come” was going to get him back to me. Bummed about losing my phone, and bummed that Oliver wasn’t listening like he usually does, I took a couple of steps forward to go see what he was up to, and that’s when he popped back up and started running toward me again. My mind was racing, thinking about how was I ever going to find my phone, or worse still, replace it? What if I couldn’t find it? I was already doing the mental math on how much a new phone was going to cost, especially since I was only a couple of months into this contract. Instinctively, and although somewhat in a fog, I dug into my pocket for a little bit of cheese to give Oliver – one of his favorite treats – for finally following my command to come, and that’s when he gently and carefully delivered – right into my hand – what he had been doing all the digging for… it was my phone! He genuinely seemed very proud of himself, and needless to say, I was very appreciative of what my little guy had done… and I guess that’s why he’s called a Retriever!

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30 thoughts on “I guess that’s why he’s called a Retriever!

  1. Wow! I’ve never heard of such a thing. He actually knew what the phone was (so to speak), that it was yours, and that he should bring it to you. I hope you made it worth his while with a steak or a roast! ๐Ÿ™‚ Maybe he should be called Sherlock!

    • David Patterson

      I know… without sounding too melodramatic, it was almost surreal as it happened. When he brings sticks or anything else to me he’ll usually want to play, and he’ll not want to give them up – but after finding the phone, he carried it a good 25-30 yards and was incredibly gentle as he laid it in my hand. Good boy!

  2. Terrific story, David! Keep ’em coming, OK? And lots of pics. Absolutely nothing surprises me anymore when I hear dog tales. It’s almost scary how bright and intuitive they can be when well connected with their people. Enjoy!

    • David Patterson

      Thanks. He totally amazed me with what he did. The way he found the phone and brought it to me was pretty cool… but what sticks with me most is the way he ever so gently dropped it off in my hands too.

  3. Beth Buechler

    I love this, as I love ALL Oliver stories and pictures! I guess you have a good case for you iPhone if it was still fine after being buried in the snow. I want you to know, your whistle by mouth works for him, but there is a wonderful iPhone app (free) for dog whistle. I think it’s called “Dog Whistle.” It comes up with five different sounds, and the one that works best for Duke is yellow, and 10 kHz. Works GREAT, he comes RIGHT back!

    • David Patterson

      You know, it’s funny, because the case I have for my iPhone is one of those flimsy little Belkin “rubber” ones. I liked the feel of it in my hand, and besides, living here in northern-ish Maine there wasn’t much to choose from at the local stores. I know I could order a better case online, but without knowing what it felt like, I thought I’d be disappointed. Anyway, the iPhone fell into about a foot of snow, so I guess that helped cushion the fall. There are two tiny punctures in the little sheet of plastic I had placed over the screen… the only signs that it had been in a (very gentle) dog’s mouth!

    • David Patterson

      I’d say 90% of the photographs I take of Oliver are with my iPhone, and since it’s really just a point-and-shoot, there are no “settings” in play. There are a couple of things I do to increase the chances of taking a decent photograph though… I hold the camera steady, I crouch down to his level rather than standing up, I wait patiently for him to cooperate and stand still, or for the action shots I usually always have him running directly toward me – that way, even though he is moving pretty fast, the camera doesn’t necessarily see it that way and if I take several shots in a row, I’m more likely to get one that is a) in focus, and b) flattering to him and his big floppy ears ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. David, JUST because of Oliver, I decided to use my own “Blog” site again, and had to change my last name on it. In the process, I saw more of your entries and watched the Vimeo of Oliver. I’m disappointed that I can only hit “LIKE” and not “LOVE” on your postings! — Beth

    • David Patterson

      Beth… thanks. Good to hear you are blogging again! Oliver and Chester (the cat) are chasing each other around the house as I write this. Crazy.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Carol. He sure did earn his keep. When he and I go walking at the golf course he finds our tracks from the day before and spends some time investigating. Not sure if he’s recognizing himself or me, but I believe this is a dog with a pretty keen sense of smell.

  5. This wonderful story is proof of how connected you both are. The time you have invested in him early — and I know will continue — is playing off, not just in a well-mannered dog, but a treasured family member who will care for you just as you have cared for him.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks. We’re really starting to get to know each other… it’s fun to see Oliver make connections. He’s a good boy ๐Ÿ™‚

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