My dog chewed my Peterson’s Field Guide!

Remnants Roger Tory Peterson's Field Guide

Yeller, my Australian Shepherd-Labrador mix, chewed and swallowed several color plates of my Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to Western Birds, ninth printing of the 1969 edition.

Here is Yeller with snow several winters ago.  He’s a good dog!  Yeller has a habit pattern of wanting to play at about 6:30 p.m. in the evening.  Sedate most of the day, when that time rolls around he will seek me out in the office and pester me until I play with him.  He is most fond of me wrestling with him on his huge pad, a 3×4 foot mattress-like dog pad, until I give up.  Yeller will lead me to his pad, pick up a toy and challenge me to play, “Take Away!”

I am not always a good play companion for I get too busy with very important things like writing a blog and will command, “Lay down.”

Yeller retrieves 25 lb. sacks of dehydrated goat milk and children’s toys from about the countryside when I used to let him run uncontrolled.  I’ve found rubber Daffy Ducks and Pluto the dogs in my front yard, carefully placed by Yeller after rambling through neighboring pastures and juniper groves.  I keep him indoors now and will let him out on a “field leash,” a twenty-five foot yacht rope leash I used to train bird dogs.  In most cases, the toys he brought back to the ranchito were abandoned by insensitive little primates in the veld.  He is a rescue dog, sort of St. Bernard-like.

This fine, courageous dog chewed my Peterson’s one night last week.  When I arose at 5:00 a.m., I found my field book that I have carried in field packs, backpacks and floorboards of many pickups scattered into hundreds of pieces on the floor of my office.  Many of the color plates had been consumed.  He was especially hungry for the quail and duck color plates.

Punishment?  No way.  The act of destruction occurred in the middle of the night and if I had chastised Yeller he would not have connected the “event” with my scolding voice that I hardly ever use because he is such a fine dog, good dog.  Besides with all the scents attached to that field book, carried in my sweaty hands, dropped in a bog, stuffed in field bags with Trail Mix and held in my possession since 1972, I could hardly blame him.  My fondest remembrance of referring to the Peterson was when I was up in the Sangre de Cristos, near Truchas, New Mexico, and I identified my first Black-billed Magpie (Pica pica) that flew about the trail I ascended into the Pecos Wilderness.

That’s okay, Yeller, I understand you.  I can always get another Peterson’s from, but there never be another dog like you.  Now, go fetch your toy!  It’s playtime!

Yeller is looking for Peterson.




Filed under Dogs

24 responses to “My dog chewed my Peterson’s Field Guide!

  1. I can so relate to this post. I love my Buddy and know that I cannot be even annoyed with him for more than a few seconds. He cannot make the connections even a few minutes later, and he loves me so much I cannot get angry nor chastise him. I’m trying to teach him with loving repetition. right now, he wants me to throw the ball an awful lot, or anything else he can retrieve.

    I couldn’t help but laugh when you said he was “especially hungry for the quail and duck color plates.” But, of course. And dogs know their world by smell, so I can imagine it was a real smorgasbord, given your description.

    I’m sorry you will have to replace your field guide. Old guides are so nice to have, but maybe a new one will bring new adventures and Yeller is expediting things.

    Love this post.

    • I wondered if this post would hit a chord with your Buddy. Yes, we cannot chastise our companions with the lag time and even then I am reticent. New field guide; new experiences — I like that.

  2. Kittie Howard

    Awwww, such a faithful “dog” – amazing how they work their way into our hearts – we had Charlie in Africa – still moan his passing (tick fever) – You remind me of Dick, Jack, with your field books – folded and bent – real treasures!

  3. Sorry Jack, I have laughed so much, I had to fetch some water. Cool, clear water! But it’s also the way you tell it. It’s so funny. Yeller migh be wise on birds now! I cannot stop laughing, sorry. that picture of the eye! What a dog! Like Teresa’s Buddy he shall also have a nosehug from me! Tell him Bon Appetite! What book next? You and Yeller have saved my evening!
    Grethe `)

  4. Cowboy

    Sorry to hear about the destruction of your field guide – if these guys had thumbs to help hold the books when they read, there might not be so many destroyed. 🙂

    • I laughed at your comment, Cowboy. I see on your blog that you write about a Great Dane. Don’t we love these dogs? Yes.

      • Cowboy

        Yep Jack – I have owned, trained, shown, bred, and fostered Great Danes for 30 years. Sadly, I’m down to just one now but these dogs not only become our best friend, but keep us on our toes to see who can outwit who. 🙂

        Take care!

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  6. As always you write with acceptance and good humor, but I know there must also be a little grief at losing a companion that has seen you through so many adventures. My field guides to Australian and Costa Rican birds are still stacked among the others on my shelf, even though I never may have cause to use them again, because of the memories they evoke.

    • Rebecca, yes there is a little grief. I really became attached to that tattered book. Oh, yes, the memories they evoke. And, you have some from those far away places. Must have seen some beautiful sights.

  7. Kay Malone

    Jack, you have a well educated dog, one who is hungry for knowledge. Do you think if you read to him more he would not eat your books–or would he just consume more? The lab in him is what causes him to eat! My Daisy ate a artificial fire log with no dire consequences, chewed thru a can of green beans, coke, a prescription plastic bottle and half the prescription. The last earned her a trip to the vet for a few days, But she lived 7 more years after that. She died at the ripe old age of 14.

    I enjoy each and every blog.

    Affectionately, Kay

    • Thank you, cousin. Your Daisy had a stomach liked cast iron! I probably should read to the old boy. He would enjoy stories like Wild Bill writes about up in New England about his companions. I wish I had met your Daisy. Take care, cousin.

  8. He’s part bird dog and this is the closest he could come to his instinctual behavior. He must be able to read. It’s clear he was hiding this fact from you as it took place in the middle of the night.

    A good run will help. Tired, he will be less rebellious.

    All in all, from my perspective, pretty darned funny.

    • Wild Bill! It takes a careful look at the story to find that out! Clearly I have a very smart dog that reads and tries to hide it from us. Yes, I need to give him a good run. He’s been cooped up with the air conditioner.

  9. It’s sad about the old book: old books are like old dogs. But funny none-the-less! I’m sure some of the old “my dog ate my homework” stories are true at that!

    • Yes, it is sad. I loved that book. I’ve not had the heart to go through the debris and determine if my Life List of birds is in there. My thinking is that he did not eat that. But after seeing the oriole a few days ago, I want to get the Life List out and check it off!

  10. There are some wonderful words I rarely have reason to use: “baleful” comes to mind. That’s the expression in that dog’s eye. Are you sure he’s looking for the field guide? Or might he be plotting how to increase his playtime?

    Isn’t it amazing how much life a simple object like your Peterson’s can contain? I have a copper basket filled with rocks and fossils from here and there that evacuates with me every hurricane. They’re not “just rocks” – every one I pick up is a specific time and place. I suspect your field guides are like that, too. They aren’t “just pictures” – they revivify times and places made special by the sight of the birds.

    Speaking of fieldbooks, have you seen The Smithsonian’s Field Book Project?

    • No, I have not seen the Field Book Project. I will follow your link to it. That copper basket with rocks and fossils takes you places. Yes, my field guides are like your copper basket rocks and fossils. Every page nearly has data and memory. I think Yeller is trying to get me to pay more attention to him and I have. He loves children and will stand and look at them playing, whining to go join in on their fun. I must spend more time with him.

  11. A sorry ending for your treasured book! Yeller sounds like a great fellow. I can only hope he enjoyed himself thoroughly while savaging your guide.

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