Traveling for my job has countless benefits, but I was often on the road for more than 320 days of the year, often by myself. I decided I needed a canine traveling companion, and Pork Chop was the answer. Nearly seven years later, we have been inseparable.
Pork Chop’s first hunting trip was to accompany me on a hog and axis deer hunt. I had no clue how to train a dog, but I started with some tasty treats, offering them to her only when we were hunting. She slept on my chest in my coat while we sat in a blind, and when it was time to make a shot, I put her down in a blanket. After the gunshot, I immediately gave her treats, acted excited and took her out of the blind to run and play. I wanted her to always associate a gunshot with something fun, and not to be frightened. This tactic worked, and she was instantly hooked on joining me on hunts.
It was on this trip that I captured two of my favorite photos of Pork Chop with her first two animals, a hog and an axis deer. From that day forward she stepped up for her photo when we got to the animal. I continued to reward her with treats, so she quickly learned what to do. Pork Chop continued to travel to many locations with me as I took a variety of game: black bear in Alaska, mule deer, antelope, whitetails, alligator, turkey, even bowfishing trips for monster alligator gar and shark, shed hunting and more—and she’s only managed to spook one animal.
We were turkey hunting and a big gobbler was beating up our decoy. The sound of him hitting and pecking the decoy was just too much, and she let out a bark. Fortunately, we were still able to make the shot, as her bark caused the turkey’s head to pop up, providing us with a great shot opportunity. That was the only time while hunting with me she’s ever made a noise.
Over the years I’ve tried to explain to people the benefit of having a little dog along. She’s my best friend and makes every single trip better. My love for this little dog is incredibly strong and I’m always worried about her. Eagles make me nervous; an owl once swooped at her in Colorado. In places where rattlesnakes are common I try to keep her close. And once while we were checking out a dead mule deer we walked up on a bear, but luckily Pork Chop stayed right by my side. I would gladly jump in front of a rattlesnake to keep her from getting bit anyday and would do anything for this little pup.
Over the years I think Pork Chop has helped me send a couple of very important messages. One is that hunters have a sincere, deep love and compassion for animals. So often the anti-hunting messages I receive contain a misconception that hunters hate animals and want to see them suffer. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I want to help show that hunters are animal lovers too; we just know and understand where our meat comes from.
Another thing I believe Pork Chop has helped with is sending the message to hunters that it should be about having fun. Sometimes people take things too seriously when it comes to hunting, and I try to remind people we need to all kick back and enjoy the outdoors. At trade shows, kids loves seeing Pork Chop. She represents common ground for many people, and can be a conversation starter with strangers. Pork Chop makes it seem like you’ve been friends for years. Dogs help everyone be more social, and if you’re a dog lover, you know how hard it is to resist a friendly dog wagging its tail, trying to give you a little lick!
If I can hunt with a little dog by my side, you can surely take a kid along or maybe your dog and a kid to make it fun for everyone. Sure, there are challenges, but that’s OK, as they simply add to the memories.
There is a real bond between a dog and its human. They never judge, they love to just be near you, and are always excited to see you. In my mind, dogs make every single second better and I truly believe Pork Chop has made every hunt and every day better, and I’m so thankful to have her and the many cute photos to remind me of our adventures together.