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.
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.
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!