The Power Of The Dog

Stronger Than A .44 Magnum, Tender As A Momma’s Heart
; .

Dave’s family just got bigger with the addition of this little guy.
“Cooper” symbolizes why shooters and hunters have pets.
They mend melancholy and take the tired away.

He entered the world on March 17, and eight weeks later, he entered our family as the liveliest, most loving little mutt one might imagine. My younger son named him Cooper.

He’s got quite a pedigree, and the place we got him had all the papers to prove it. It was 584-miles round trip to pick him up from the breeder north of Spokane, and I didn’t mind doing all the driving. I once drove all the way from Terry, Montana, to my home in North Bend, Washington (about 1,100 miles in 15 hours) after a successful mule deer hunt back in 2003, and again from Cody, Wyoming, about seven years ago when a flu bug hit me on the second day of a deer hunt with my pal, Jim Zumbo. (I discovered on that trip you can get about 200 miles per barf and/or headache.)

Cooper is a “Cavapoo,” with emphasis on the “poo” while taking a long ride to a new home with strangers, but show me a “gun guy” who doesn’t warm right up to a puppy, and I’ll show you somebody who probably wouldn’t be much fun at the campfire. He’s not a hunting dog, though he’s certainly got the heart for it. He’s not a “gun dog” either, though the smell of gun oil and Hoppe’s No. 9 doesn’t seem to bother him, and he took to chewing on one of my leather work gloves like a trooper. He better, however, stay away from my holsters, cartridge belts and hunting boots, however.

Many of my shooting pals have small dogs, and they’re no less attached to those pets than my other friends who have hounds or various breeds of bird dogs. I have yet to meet one of these guys with whom I would not go through a door, it’s just that “family” dogs do add something to everybody’s life. It’s rather hard to explain, beyond the ability of a rambunctious canine to just fill a hole in someone’s life.

It’s their ability to show unconditional love and loyalty, and bring out the gentleness we miss from our childhood. When they pass, it hits us harder than a .44 Magnum.

Most outdoor and gun writers of my acquaintance own, or have owned, dogs, sometimes more than one. I’ve enjoyed their published adventures together, and occasionally shed a tear when they had to say “goodbye.”

So, what’s on the agenda for Cooper? First off, when I posted on social media that he was joining the family, the response was overwhelming, so it appears he already has a fan club.

We had a cat once, and she lasted just shy of 20 years. But she passed, and it had been about seven years since the house had a pet, so I guess it was time. The little guy doesn’t get invited to my workshop for a while — he’s not big enough to work a reloading press — and besides, he probably wouldn’t get along too well with the family of cottontails that moved in underneath the structure about three generations ago.

He also won’t be helping me lay in the winter firewood, not that he doesn’t seem to have the spunk. Maybe I should try a bowl full of whatever he’s eating.

You want to know the real power of the dog? It’s not in some movie script. It’s in those big dark eyes and little squeaky yelps when they are puppies, and the chin and nose licks, the wagging tail and the endless energy they seem to have and want so much to share. For “people of the outdoors” who hunt, fish and shoot, hike the trails and spend time in the High Lonesome, and write about it, it’s the power to distract us with invitations to play while we should be working.


Dogs have a habit of tugging on one’s heart strings even harder than they tug on a towel. When others may forget your name in times of need, a dog will stick with you no matter what.

Puppies may not understand English, but they do understand affection, and I think they also understand us humans better than we think. Pats on the head, treats for piddling on “pee pads,” and just making these little guys feel welcome and safe does something spiritual for all of us, and if we didn’t have dogs, we might all be a little the worse for it. And I’ve always concurred with a piece of advice from long ago: If a dog doesn’t like somebody, it’s a signal to just keep an eye on that person.


Bryan Zielinski is one of many Washingtonians who have
fled the state because of restrictive gun laws. He has
opened a gun store in Post Falls, Idaho.

The Detour

On our trek to pick up Cooper, I took the opportunity to spend an extra 30 minutes on the road through Spokane and over to Post Falls, Idaho, where I got a quick tour of North Idaho Arms.

It’s the fairly new gun shop opened about five months ago by native Washington expat Bryan Zielinski, who worked in an Evergreen State gun store and indoor range until about a year ago, before picking up and moving his family — and making something of a big change in life — heading to the Panhandle to literally escape Washington’s increasingly restrictive gun control laws.

I first met Zielinski maybe four years ago when he was working at Wade’s, within walking distance of my office in Bellevue. He told me the move was the biggest decision he’d ever made, and it has turned out to be one of the best. He is within close enough proximity to the Washington border to still wave a finger goodbye, and during our brief chat, he said people in his native state need to vote in November and turn the government around. Perhaps his message will resonate.

As gun shops go, it is not the grandest, but certainly one of the cleanest operations I’ve ever seen. The store is literally clean top to bottom, end to end. He’s got a good inventory of handguns, rifles and shotguns, original-capacity magazines, and accessories, including suppressors, gun safes, holsters and more. Call it a work in progress; a start of something which could turn out pretty good.


Zielinski’s shop, North Idaho Arms, opened earlier this year.
He’s already made national news for literally taking his
business elsewhere.

Like California, Washington is losing lots of good citizens who are fleeing because of high taxes, high prices, rising crime and, by their own admission, erosive gun control. Zielinski tells me he chats with dozens of people on a weekly basis who are either moving or planning to move out of Washington.

Zielinski’s story made national headlines on Fox News a while back, which helped me track him down. There’s a moral to his story anti-gun politicians never seem to grasp. When laws they pass make a place unlivable for good people, they move away, and what is left are the kinds of people who don’t obey the laws and, therefore, become kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Not that Tender, Maybe

Years ago, at an NRA convention, I believe it was in Kansas City in 2001, I was having dinner with the late Joaquin Jackson, the famous retired Texas Ranger whose memoir, “One Ranger,” became popular with everyone I know.

Kansas City is known for its steaks, and Jackson had found this place the previous night, so I joined him and a couple of other NRA board members. As we were looking over the menu, I simply asked his advice about the steaks we were ordering.

“They’re as tender as your momma’s heart,” he said with his low Texas accent and a smile.

I simply couldn’t resist. “Tender as my momma’s heart?” He nodded and kind of winked, to which I quickly replied, “Damn! We’re gonna need chainsaws to cut these things!”

He was still laughing when we made it back to the hotel.

Therein lies the difference between a journalist and a puppy.

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