Ice fishing with the dog or, where’d the fish go?

How about something lighthearted and silly for a change?

We had plans to go ice fishing Saturday. Our day started at 4:40 am when Ava, our English shepherd, had a seizure. She has epilepsy and we knew it was coming so it wasn’t a surprise. By 6 am she was fine. As we were getting ready to leave for the pond later in the morning Steve suggested we take her with us. Being physically active and mentally stimulated helps control her epilepsy. There probably wouldn’t be anyone else on the pond and we were hiking rather than taking the snowmobile. It was doable. Ava hates change and new situations but leaving her home all day to do nothing after having a seizure wasn’t a good option. We took her.

English shepherds by nature are highly intelligent and very curious. Ava is both. She wants to be in the middle of everything.

What are you doing?

What are you doing?

It was all fine and dandy until she caught the scent of something and flipped to guardian mode. I called her back to me and knew she’d be reluctant to come back if she saw whatever it was she could smell. I snapped the leash on her and let her sniff the air. We paced the bank until she was satisfied that whatever it was had disappeared. It could have been a coyote, there were fresh tracks. Or a snowshoe hare, lots of tracks on the way in. It might have been the moose that crossed the pond when it was slushy a few weeks ago.

"Just look over me."

“Just look over me.”

Ava didn’t get used to the noises coming from the ice. She was nervous about the glug-glugging under the ice. Cracking brought her to our feet. Have you ever tried to lower the bait down the hole with a 58 pound dog between your knees, head sticking out over the hole and looking up at you for reassurance? It doesn’t work.

So it goes down there, and then what happens?

So it goes down there, and then what happens?

Ava watched Steve pull a bass up. It clicked. Pull up the tip-up and you get a fish. Fish are delicious. She sniffed the bass, then quickly licked it so I told her to “back up.” Back up? Chomp! She tried to bite its tail. I leashed her again, reminded of when she dumped the bait bucket onto the kitchen floor last winter and ate the bait fish. Yes, fish are delicious. She was still looking for the fish after it had been released. She went in for a closer look while Steve lowered the new bait down.

You let my fish go! I can't see it! I was gonna EAT it!

You let my fish go! I can’t see it! I was gonna EAT it!

I stopped her twice from pulling up tip-ups on her own. She was hungry and willing to help herself to lunch. I felt bad. I wasn’t planning to take her and hadn’t thought to packed her food. She’ll have a doggy bag next time.

Ave spent five hours on the ice with us, walking in and out a half mile. She chased sticks, chased flags, and laid down for a rest only if she slipped. We weren’t home five minutes before she was sprawled on her pillow, sound asleep. She doesn’t know it yet but she’s going to try kayaking in the tandem this summer.

Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.