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Old-fashioned gun dogs They always get their DUCK

By FRANCIE HEALY What man in his lifetime hasn’t met or

loved a truly wonderful dog? You know – the kind of dog that is pal, protector, keeper of secrets; the kind of dog who lies by your chair and loves you unconditionally? The one who deserves to be called “Man’s best friend”? Imagine that same dog in the form of a

magnificent “fox red” Labrador Retriever who will not only be the best family pet you can imagine but who will also go into a blind and bring out a duck, without fail, each and every time you go hunting. That dog, and many others – yellow, brown

and black as well as red -- live nearby in Lanark County, at a kennel called Culandubh (pronounced cool-ann-doo, meaning “little dark dog”).

These are

happy dogs. They are, perhaps, the happiest dogs you’ll ever see. At least

10 of them live

in the clean, tidy, fresh-smelling, quiet house of Ross Mclaughlin and Laurel Cook, Culandubh owners. Others spend their “inside time” in immaculate, spacious kennels on the property’s 38 acres. These are dogs who live for two things:

people and hunting. They’re smart dogs – beyond smart, really.

If they were children in elementary school, you’d call them “gifted”. But their smarts aren’t just accidental. Ross and Laurel breed, raise, and train

the dogs with dedication, patience, and the determination to produce the best hunting and family-pet dogs anywhere. Several of their dogs are Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) Grand Master Hunters. As Laurel says, “A good working dog is

always also a good pet.” Such a dog has to be a fine companion. It has to be well-trained and even-tempered.

14 BOUNDER MAGAZINE BOUNDER MAGAZINE “We aim to raise the ‘old fashioned gun

dog’,” says Ross. “You know… it’s the family pet until Dad goes hunting with it.” Although Ross and Laurel’s passion is

raising hunting dogs, probably three-quarters of their litters end up just being pets. The others go to serious hunters who want a dog who won’t let them down either at home or in the swamp. And they’re willing to pay for it. The dogs themselves, just to buy, aren’t

as expensive as you would expect them to be, given their quality. But if you want to spend the money and have them trained for hunting by Ross, a first-class expert and Canadian Kennel Club qualified judge, you can buy a puppy, return it weekly for obedience lessons, and then at six months turn it over to Ross. He keeps the dog every day for months for intensive training. His training produces a dog who is instantly, perfectly, responsive to whistle commands and hand signals. Of course, while this training goes on,

you are welcome to visit your dog and to take it home for weekends. But during the week, the dog is Ross’s student, and his training is remarkable. He’ll take his dogs out to the fields to show

you. Moments earlier, the dogs were sleeping in the house, moving only to wag their tails at you now and then. But the moment they’re outside, they’re at full attention. They don’t see you. They don’t see squirrels or cats or chipmunks or anything else. Their focus is on Ross and what is to come. When Ross throws the decoys, in different

places out of sight, the dogs sit. They wait. Their body language says they’re DYING to go, but they stay, unmoving. They seem not to be breathing. And then. And then! Ross points the direction, calls a dog’s

name, and the dog is gone like a shot, in line for the decoy. If the dog gets off track, Ross blows a whistle – not just once, but a certain number of tweets. Each tweet means something. The dog stops, almost mid-air. It turns and looks at him. Ross gives a hand signal. Depending

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