SOMETIMES IT PAYS TO read the Sunday comics section of the newspaper. Last Sunday, in “Pickles,” Grampa, who was reading about dogs, remarked to his grandson that “Petting a dog for 15 minutes can lower blood pressure by 10%.”

Truer words were never spoken. I oftentimes think that the best thing God ever gave mankind was dogs. Having grown up from the very beginning with hunting dogs, they are the only kind I could think of having. Some of those hunting dogs were spectacular hunters; some, mostly those I trained, have been somewhat less than that.

Of all of them, I can say there are very few things I have done in life that were better for body, soul and mind than walking through the woods, over hills, through valleys, swamps and cattails with my dogs.

I say walking, though in reality, I generally am the only one walking. My dogs, sniffing and snorting, are in constant motion all over the place; checking out this bush and that tree, taking time to pee on each in leaving their own personal message.

I walked with mine last Sunday, enjoying an early winter jaunt through trees and brush sagging under a fresh load of wet snow. As we rambled, I thought of all the dogs who have shared a home and hearth with me in the house I grew up in and the home I live in now.

It began with a springer named Pup. We lost him in 1956, but fortunately for a 7-year-old boy with a broken heart, he had already been joined by a young pup named Ike, named after a greatly admired President Dwight Eisenhower.

Ike, a Chesapeake retriever, was the best of all the dogs I have hunted with. He taught me more than any human mentor could have as we roamed the woods for ruffed grouse and sat in duck blinds for the 12 years of his life.

Then came Sid, short for Obsidian, a black lab who arrived a little late for me to spend much time with him. I was off to college when we got him so for the next two or three years, we were able to share just a very few weekends hunting together. I loved him nevertheless.

The first dog of my own was the second-best dog I’ve ever hunted with. A springer named Timber, he had perhaps the best nose of any dog I’ve ever seen. He was a hard worker for grouse at least for an hour or so, but then, showing a hint of laziness nearly equalling that of his master, he would walk two steps in front of me down a logging road, turning around now and then with a sneer on his face seemingly saying “All right, buddy, I busted my ‘tuchis’ back in the brush long enough. It’s your turn to get your lazy butt in there now.”

His saving grace was that his nose was so good he could prance down a logging road, seemingly paying no attention to the business at hand, when suddenly, his stub tail would go into waggling overdrive, his nose would come up and he would dash into the adjoining cover; invariably putting a bird up in close proximity to my position. I learned quickly that I’d better be ready when he went into that gear. I also learned quickly that he could really display a devastating sneer if I missed the bird he put up.

Since Timber, I have had three dogs. Snuffy came to my wife and I at the age of 9 months, given away by a “yooper” family moving to California. He loved to run; oh, how he loved to run. He was a good flusher of grouse, but once he put one up, the game was over. “Forget about it,” was his favorite saying, yelling it immediately after the flush as he tore off into the brush at breakneck speed, utter joy in his heart at running free and fast.

Molly, a gift to us when she was 3, has a good nose; but like Snuffy, no interest in actual hunting. Yes, she would get excited about going with me and if I killed a duck or grouse she would willingly sniff it approvingly, but retrieve such a bird? Not on your life. From her attitude, I ascertained that she figured she was just too much of a lady for such nonsense.

The newest dog in my life is Gordie. A yellow lab, he has the biggest, widest head of any dog I’ve ever known, but in his 21⁄2 years, I have concluded that there is very little in it.

He is wild in his enthusiasm for the hunt or for that matter any foray into the wild whether with gun or without. Between my liabilities as a trainer and his goofiness, we seldom come to agreement on what his duties as a hunting dog are. I guess he just mirrors me too much to ever be considered an elite hunter. Maybe that’s why we get along together so well.

I have loved all my dogs. Along the way I’ve found that many people, some of them profound writers, had much love for hunting dogs as well. Following are what a few of them said at one time or another.

“You might be a redneck if your favorite hunting dog has a bigger tombstone than your grandfather.” —Jeff Foxworthy. How did he know Snuffy has a bigger tombstone than my grandfather?

“When a man is proud of his dog and shows it, I like him. When a dog is proud of him and shows it, I deeply respect him.” —Gene Hill. A beloved writer, Hill adored his dogs.

“Watch how a man’s dog feels about him and you’ll know a lot about the man.” — Richard Wolters, dog trainer and author.

As we know, with all of our dogs, there will come a time when we must say goodbye. Many wonderful writers have penned their thoughts and tributes about facing that time.

“The price of a good gun dog is a broken heart at the end.” — Rudyard Kipling

“It’s a sad day when a hunting man has to leave his favorite dog.” — Gordon MacQuarrie. How true these last two quotes are.

And finally, something all my favorite dogs have done to me. “I hate it when my dog farts and blames it on me.” — Steve Reider