Quail were everywhere. In 30 minutes of hiking we must have seen a dozen coveys, each of 20 birds or more. Only rarely are Gambel's quail so abundant in the heart of Arizona's Sonoran Desert. Three of the last four winters had been above average in precipitation, and what we were seeing was the result of a succession of good hatches.
"We should have brought our shotguns," said my partner, Tim, anxious for action. I had to admit that shooting quail would be a lot more productive than what we were doing—hunting the bura, a type of mule deer that thinly inhabits the ironwood-, paloverde-and mesquite-lined arroyos of northern Sonora and southwest Arizona. For two days we had been trying to find some recent trace of these elusive deer without success.
Receiving no answer to his pronouncement, Tim continued. "I never thought to hunt quail out here. Do you ever do any bird hunting?"
"Not much anymore," I replied. Then, with some hesitation, I added, "I used to hunt birds a lot, but it hasn't been the same since I stopped hunting with Rosie." This ended the discussion. The resigned contemplation on Tim's face showed that further explanation was not immediately necessary. Some other time would do.
The sun was rising over the ridge, casting a marvelous golden-yellow light over the saguaro-studded bajada. We climbed to the top of a rock-strewn ridge, binoculars around our necks, and commenced searching the washes for bura. The trouble was, I no longer could concentrate on the task. I kept thinking of Rosie.
I had never been fond of dogs. Having grown up without one, I considered them bothersome, if not downright obnoxious. Although I often went afield after small game, I avoided fellow hunters with dogs. Too much time was spent searching for the wayward deer chasers, removing cactus from inexperienced paws and yelling a litany of commands and epithets for real and imagined offenses. That time was better spent bird hunting.
Still, I had to admit that my dislike of dogs restricted my actions. Some game, bobwhite and mountain lions for example, cannot be effectively hunted without a dog's services. Other species, such as pheasant, are more efficiently hunted with one, and a retriever comes in mighty handy locating a lost grouse or retrieving ducks from deep water. But it did not seem proper to hunt with someone who had a respectable hunting dog and to share the rewards without putting up with the time and demands required to train one.
It was my job that finally got the better of me. In 1968 I was selected as Small Game Supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. My work would be mostly with game birds. Studies of such species as Mearns' quail and masked bob-white required the services of a bird dog. Given strong incentives from peers and supervisors, I had to put my prejudices aside. But not just any bird dog would do. I didn't want a German shorthair or an English pointer racing about the country out of sight or hearing range; nor would a Labrador retriever that would neither point nor be able to take the desert heat do. If I was to get a dog, it would have to be a Brittany spaniel—one of those compact energizers that work close, point and retrieve.
Wendell Swank, a former director of the Game and Fish Department, had played a major role in getting the Mearns' quail declared legal game in Arizona. Wendell had seen how these birds held for a dog and realized their great sporting potential. As an avid quail fancier, he also knew the various breeds of dogs and had pioneered the introduction of Brittanys to Arizona. Almost all of the state's hunting Brittanys at that time had been imported by Wendell or raised by Ross Manes, a staff writer for the department. The word was out. The next time any descendants of these dogs had pups, I was interested. As luck would have it, one of the best of the line, Steve Gallizioli's Pepe, had sired an impending litter. For a mere $25 I could have the pick of the puppies.
Four of the six pups were squirming in their cardboard box. My boss said to select the most aggressive one. I had already decided on a bitch, having had some experience with the feistier and more hyper males. One pup tipped the box over to come up to me, and she was a good-looking little female. The choice was easy. All that was needed now was a name. My only requirement was that it be limited to two syllables. Because Brittany is a region of France, my wife reasoned that something French was called for. Somehow the selection came out to be Rosie.