The Would-Be Bird Dog
©2002 Stuart B Baum
Illustration by Zoë Baum
Ages: 6 and up
It’s hard to blame the poor thing. After all, Rolluf was a dog and dogs can easily become confused by things people say.
Here’s the first confusing thing he heard: “Oh, Rolluf, there? He’s a sheep dog not a bird dog.”
This was said by Rolluf’s master, Ed. And it’s true that Rolluf was a sheep dog. About as true as it can get, since Rolluf’s job was to guard the town’s sheep on the hill.
Rolluf was a good sheep dog. It was his job to make sure the sheep stayed on top of the hill and didn’t wander down the hill and into the street where they might get hit by a car. Or into the town where they might cause some trouble. So far, not one sheep had gotten way.
But back to the “bird dog” comment.
When his master sad that Rolluf was not a bird dog, Rolluf got confused. While we know that a bird dog is another name for a hunting dog, Rolluf thought that a bird dog was a dog that could fly. As I said, it’s hard to blame poor Rolluf.
While Rolluf did have some dog friends, they, too, were sheep dogs, so he didn’t know that bird dogs were just regular dogs. He really thought that bird dogs had wings or some other way of flying.
So Rolluf ran around the sheep on the hill day after day wondering what it would be like to fly like a bird dog. When he circled the sheep he pretended they were clouds and that he was soaring around in the sky.
If you were Rolluf, you might play this game as well.
A few days later, when Rolluf was getting his hair shampooed and cut, the groomer said the second confusing thing. He said: “You can have him in just a minute, Ed. I have to comb out his feathers first. Won’t take but a sec.”
Now you might know that some people call the long hairs on the back of a dog’s legs ‘feathers.’ Or you might not. But either way, when the groomer spoke about Rolluf’s feathers, he was talking about these long hairs. But Rolluf, of course, thought he was talking about real feathers. Rolluf thought he was finally turning into a bird dog. Imagine how happy you would be if you believed, really believed, that you were growing wings and would soon be able to fly.
The next day, Rolluf decided he would try to fly. He ran across the top of the hill and when he got to the edge he jumped. It was a gently-sloped hill so he would not fall far if he didn’t succeed. And of course he didn’t fly. But he did believe that he went further than just a normal jump. Rolluf really believed he flew – even if just for a little bit.
Day after day, Rolluf jumped and jumped, trying and trying to teach himself how to fly.
His dog friends thought he was crazy, jumping around all day, but Rolluf said, “Just you wait. One day I will become a bird dog and fly away.” The other dogs just laughed.
Ed, Rolluf’s master, did not think that Rolluf was crazy. He simply thought Rolluf was jumping at bees or wasps or something. So long as no sheep got away, Rolluf’s master didn’t much care what else Rolluf might do.
The next afternoon – just a few minutes before dark – Ed (Rolluf’s master) slowly trudged up the hill and when he got to the top …
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