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After she retrieved that goose, I could handle her to a retrieve as far away as she could see or hear me. One day, just out of interest, I took three dummies and placed them at the far ends of the pasture by the kennels. I threw one dummy over the wall and into the woods at the far end of the field. All of the retrieves were from 200 to 300 yards. She made them all remarkably easy. It was the only time I remember doing blind retrieves in an artificial way with Spitfire.

I only remember once that I could not handle Spitfire to where I wanted her to hunt for a retrieve. It must have been the farm managers annual shoot day, as Talbot was one of the guns. We were shooting by the lake on the estate. The lake was a fabulous wildlife area with a large part of it being marsh. Talbot suggested that I stand with him and give my young dogs some water retrieves. They got some water retrieves, but the pheasants fell a bit quicker than they could keep up with. I got them to pick up one or two of the leftover birds by throwing a stone to the fall. There was one pheasant still missing, so I sent Spitfire. She swam about 40 or 50 yards into the marsh. She was down wind of the fall, but started going left instead of right into the area of the fall. I stopped her and sent her right. She went right a little ways and than turned left again. I kept pushing her right and she kept wanting to go left. I was getting quite annoyed with her. I couldn't understand why she was not winding the fall. Eventually totally frustrated, I let her go. She swam left about 10 or 20 yards and disappeared into some reeds. Much to my surprise she soon reappeared with a live cock pheasant. Talbot said, " She has just tracked a downwind swimming pheasant". I guess Talbot's shooting eye was going off a bit with his age, as pheasants normally fell dead if he shot them. I felt rather silly thinking I knew better than Spitfire.

When Spitfire was about eight years old she performed a most remarkable feat of courage. It was after the last drive of a bitterly cold shooting day. We were near the lake. I had been picking up a few pheasants with my young dogs when a shout went out, "Bring Spitfire over here." Whenever other dogs could not find a bird or make a retrieve it was standard practise to try Spitfire before calling it a lost bird. More often than not, Spitfire would disappear into some cover and eventually come out with the lost bird. She had an uncanny game savvy that went far beyond just having a good nose.

As I approached the area to where I was called I saw the beaters dogs packed up, shivering, and looking totally miserable. The lake had started to freeze. There were two pheasants on the ice about 20 to 30 yards in the marsh. The ice was only thick enough to momentarily hold a dog. To make matters worse, the retrieves were downwind. As soon as a dog would get all four feet on the ice, it would break underneath them. The dog would have to struggle and claw its way back onto the ice only to have the ice break again. A few of the beaters dogs had a go at getting into the marsh, but hadn't gotten very far before packing up utterly frozen. I sent Spitfire into the marsh. Every time the ice broke, I told her to go back. It seemed a monumental struggle just for Spitfire to claw her way back up onto the ice. After what must have been ten or fifteen minutes, Spitfire got to the first bird. By this time, everyone in the shooting party was watching and a cheer went out. After she brought the bird in, I let her shake off and run around as we walked to the point to give her the shortest distance to the second pheasant. I sat her down and told her to go back. Spitfire sat there shivering and looked at me as if to say, "Is one **** pheasant worth me breaking through ice, and half freezing to death?" I think it was about the third time I asked her to go back that I convinced Spitfire it was worthwhile and she went. Another monumental struggle of ten minutes or so and she was back with the second pheasant.

If she was fresh when I asked her to make those retrieves I would have been very impressed. To do them after a hard week of work at the end of a bitterly cold day was remarkable. It would have been impossible to get most dogs I have known to do it. Spitfire had a tremendous overriding desire to do what was asked of her. A number of times I asked her to do things that I would consider impossible for most dogs. She usually completed the task. If she didn't, then I expect it really was impossible.

Often dogs that can do these types of things have a bit of "bird craziness" in them. This was not the case with Spitfire. I will always remember one day a few years into her career when we were beating through a narrow belt of conifers. Spitfire had gone off with Talbot that morning.

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