National Geographic : 1937 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Photograph from the Kansas City )tar NINE LITTLE IRISHMEN, BUT ONLY EIGHT ARE IN SIGHT "Patsy's Valentines," these puppies were dubbed, as they were born on St. Valentine's Day, 1936, to Patsy, an Irish Setter owned by a Kansas City resident. This breed is so everlastingly active that the photographer, though he tried for hours, was never able to get the whole litter in view at the same time above the top of their packing-box bed. and is supposed to make them less steady on the point. Specialists in this work of delivering the goods on both land and water are the re trievers (Plates IV, V, VII). Their place is not ahead, but at the heel of their master. All have large, sensible, and sagacious heads and possess what might be called a kindly expression. The brain box and the seat of the powers of scent are well devel oped. They have wonderful noses. A Labrador Retriever, for instance, will run on the line of a "winged" pheasant over all kinds of land, even over rocks or pave ment. The "marking" faculty also is highly developed. This is the ability to note the exact spot where a bird has fallen. A good retriever may be kept "down" for some time after a bird has been shot, but he will carry that location in his doggy brain and go there without hesitation when the command "Fetch!" is given. If two birds have fallen, he will remember both, getting first one, then the other. For duck shooting a retriever or a water spaniel is almost indispensable. It is won derful the amount of cold they can stand. I have seen retrievers coming out of the water in near-zero weather, their coats fes tooned with icicles. My companions and I were all muffled up, with fur caps on our heads, flaps over our ears, and our hands in thick fur gloves. Yet those dogs would go in again and again, breaking the thin ice along the edge and swimming out through the black, icy water. After bringing in a bird, they would shake themselves and be ready for another ad venture. A heavy supply of oil in the skin protects these dogs from the cold. You can readily smell it when your retriever is drying before the fire. RETRIEVERS HAVE WEBBED FEET Strangely enough, some of these re trievers-water dogs for untold generations -have developed a suggestion of webbed feet. Between the toes is a bit of mem brane, a partial webbing, which undoubt edly helps them in their life work.