Quincy has nice style when pointing a bird. This Brittany is co-owned by Julie Harris of Hermon and John Short Sr. of Acton, and the photo was taken in October 2016, when Quincy was 2. Credit: Julie Harris

Bird dogs are special to me.

I have seen different breeds of bird dogs in action, primarily pointing breeds because that’s my preference, but I am especially partial to Brittanys. I share my home and my life with three of them.

Brittanys are medium-sized and very intelligent, agile, versatile, trainable hunting and house dogs. They are focused, fun-loving, hard-working, sometimes intense, happy animals. Brittanys can go directly from the show ring to the woods or vice versa. They can do any other dog sport offered to them.

But where you really see a Brittany shine is in the quest for game birds. I often see their hunting patterns as a form of canine ballet. They adeptly maneuver rock walls, fallen trees, thick brush and other obstacles in their quests for their feathered quarry.

My appreciation for the beauty of the graceful movement of a well-bred Brittany can stop me in my tracks. I say well-bred because careful breeding yields the structure bird dogs need to do their jobs well and with less risk of injury. A well-bred Brittany in good condition paces itself and can work hard for several hours with minimal rest stops. It has natural instinct and ability.

But even with the best breeding, dogs do get injured. There are many hazards, from porcupines, skunks, coyotes and bears to old dumps full of broken glass and rusty metal. There are also ticks that can carry deadly diseases and thorny bushes that can rip skin or injure eyes.

A dog first aid kit is a must for handlers and needs to include pliers. Did I mention porcupines?

Credit: Julie Harris

My Brittanys also are my housemates. My little pack is part of my family, and I think they love my two daughters and their husbands, and several close friends, as much as I do. Having Brittanys has led me to involvement in dog clubs and has expanded my circle of friends and acquaintances well beyond Maine’s borders.

But living with Brittanys can be a challenge. When they are not using those finely tuned hunting skills for the purpose intended, they find other ways to keep their lives interesting. I find myself constantly being challenged by their intelligence.

Life is never dull.

I will share some of my stories about living with bird dogs, from field to couch, from birth to grave, from puppyhood to finished gun dog. I am not a professional trainer, but have learned some cool things through personal experience about living and hunting with Brittanys. I am a hobby hunter, not a sharpshooter — just ask my dogs. And my dogs’ physical and mental well-being is always my top priority in my life.

Truly, I think I have learned as much from them as they have from me — maybe more. They have taught me lessons of love and loyalty, of grieving and healing, of redefining my expectations so that I can live in the moment and not constantly worry about the future. They have shown me true friendship and blind faith. And forgiveness.

But whatever else they are in my life, they are wired for finding game birds. You will find us in the Maine woods doing just that during bird season.

Julie Murchison Harris is community editor at Bangor Daily News. She is widowed and currently shares her life with three Brittanys — Sassy, age 12, Bullet, age 10, and Quincy, age 4 — in an old farmhouse in Hermon.

Julie Harris has served in many roles at Bangor Daily News since she joined the staff in 1979, but is now on its senior editor team and editor of five of BDN's weeklies and their associated websites, including...