ARTICLE: TIPPY by David L. Falconer
I reckon I was wanting a hunting dog for some time, but when we got Tippy she didn’t look like much more than the house dog she was supposed to be. She was a puppy, barely weaned and unlike her older sibling Dale, we were not going to keep her in the house. My grandma and grandpa always believed animals belonged outside. Dale belonged to my great-aunt and uncle and he was a playful light brown dog that my brother and I loved. So when Dale’s momma had puppies again we ended up with one.
We named her Tippy because she had a white belly, but the rest of her was light brown all the way out to the tips of her paws and these were white. Grandpa named her and since she was going to be a yard dog, I didn’t really care.
I was excited because we got a slightly older German Short-hair pup named Fraulein and I was looking forward to taking her hunting and shooting over her. At the age of 12, I was ready to shoot or hunt over just about anything.
My grandpa and grandma Falconer lived out in the country and I had free roam of several hundred acres owned by them, my uncle and CA Overstreet. Mr. Overstreet’s land was posted, but Grandpa would make me call him every fall and get permission to hunt.
Grandpa would tell me, “Son, don’t ever assume you have permission just because you did last year. No one ever gets mad about being asked permission again if they let you go hunting the first time.” So I kept up good neighborly relations and I kept Mr. Overstreet’s property from being overcrowded by squirrels, rabbits, quail, ducks and the occasional bullfrog along the sloughs.
Before Tippy was a year old she was hunting the meadow and the fence rows for rabbits and rats. She would sit in the yard for an hour watching a mole-hill and when that mole popped his head up, she would kill him. Sometimes she would miss and have to dig, but if that mole wasn’t into marathon digging, he lost the race.
Tippy was scared to death of guns. We would shoot clay pigeons on the meadow and she hated the guns, heading to the back of the house. If I walked out of the house with a gun, away she went.
I knew Tippy was a good dog and hunter and I was determined to teach her to hunt with me. Now I ain’t claiming any secret to training a dog, but I know what happened and how it happened. Jerry Richardson and I took Tippy hunting with us near his place over in Cartersville. Well, she was scared to death and at the first shot of the shotguns she was gone. I mean GONE! We couldn’t find her.
I was mad and a little ashamed of myself for not putting her on a leash. I remember telling grandma and grandpa that she wasn’t worth anything anyway cause she was gun shy. Grandpa suggested I did not take her anywhere strange again if we got her back. Some of grandpa’s suggestions were more ominous than others and I filed this one in the pay attention file that is really small in a 13 year old’s mind.
One of my grandpa’s friends from Cartersville called us and Tippy had showed up at their house. We went and got her. She was happy to see us and I was pretty happy to see her too. We sit on the porch and I done some hugging on her and she would tuck her tail between her legs and run this little circle that was her way of saying, “Man, I am glad to see you!!”
Well, I sit there and petted her and told her, “Tippy there has to be a way for me to show you that gun isn’t something you have to be scared of.”
A few Saturdays later, I figured out what I was going to do. I got out Grandpa’s Browning 16 gauge and a few purple hulled #6’s for it. I loaded two in the gun and set it inside the door. Calling Tippy she came to me and I got one of grandpa’s long training leashes and a thin chain hooked together.
Connecting the catch to her collar, I got Grandpa’s shotgun and she started cowering. Well we sit on the porch with me petting her and talking to her until she forgot about that shotgun. We heading across the back yard and crossed the gate into CA’s property.
Tippy and I made a big circle around the strip pit and then along Cache Creek. We went up the little branch into Grandpa’s land and she was bouncing along at the end of the chain. We hadn’t seen a single rabbit or squirrel, but I knew where we would jump some rabbits. I also knew I wanted her to be bounced out before we got there.
We crossed the old crossing on the creek that was still paved with rock from when it was the main road from Ft. Smith to Webbers Falls back in horse and wagon days. We hunted down the meandering creek among the post and red oaks, crossing back and heading toward a thicket of honeysuckle covered elms, oaks and ash. As we got close I saw Mr. Cottontail standing on his back haunches, sniffing the air as we approached.
Tippy saw him too.
The rabbit took off at an amble. I knelt beside Tippy and petted, telling her that was what we were looking for. I took off the leash and dropped it right there. I knew I could find it again.
We both walked up to where the rabbit had been and she put that sniffer of hers to work. That whip-cord tail went into overdrive and I knew she was trailing that rabbit. I was moving pretty quickly to keep up when she gave a yelp and the rabbit was off and running. Little brown dog was hot on its trail. I seen the rabbit heading for the honeysuckle and I knew he would lose us both in it.
I saw the rabbit blur through one opening, raising my shotgun toward the second and final opening and when the blur appeared, I shot once. The 16 gauge roared and I raced around to the other side of the thicket, but the rabbit hadn’t emerged. I walked back to where I’d shot at him and there he lay on the far side. Tippy was sitting beside him panting.
She looked at me and looked at the gun and I swear I could see her saying to herself. “So THAT”S what those things are good for!”
Tippy was a smart dog and she knew what a gun was, but she was no longer scared of them. That day started a friendship that became as close as any two humans could have. We hunted and fished and snake hunted together, going into mortal combat more than once with big thick-headed cottonmouths. We were always victorious!
After the first time I made her stay when I crawled up on a pond to shoot ducks, she would walk beside my shoulders. She didn’t crawl, but she was short enough that she never spooked anything.
She wanted to be there when the shooting took place, even though she would look at me like I was crazy when I tried to get her to retrieve ducks in ice cold water.
You could touch a tree and say squirrel and she knew we were squirrel hunting. You could kick your feet in the grass and say rabbit and she knew we were rabbit hunting and she would start hitting the brush.
You can call me a liar and I don’t really give a damn cause I seen her do it. A good friend of mine, Gerald Lovell, was at my grandparents one day and grandpa looked at Tippy and said, “Hey, there’s a squirrel in the corn!” Tippy immediately ran to the garden and ran the rogue corn-eating squirrel up a tree. Grandpa killed it for her and Gerald witnessed my four-legged friend in action.
I have lots of stories I am going to write about Tippy and this one is just the first. She was one of my best friends and anyone that tells you dogs ain’t got a soul don’t know what they are talking about. She died when I was 28 years old at the age of 15. I cried pretty much all evening. Hell, I have a few tears in my eyes now.