“I’m just going to put it to sleep,” Maurice Lindley says as he swirls the homing pigeon’s head around, tucking it into the downy feathers in the wing. The bird doesn’t resist. Lindley moves a few steps to place it in brush in the clearing, which is scraggy and brown in January’s unrepentant chill, and strides a few paces over to Tinker, a mostly white English pointer. Then, through unspoken commands—a firm hold on leash, a few strokes of the tail upward—and as the bracing west wind sends the scent of the bird into her atmosphere, the dog is suddenly as still as a statue. Setting her gaze, and with practically only her nostrils quavering as she breathes, the pointer hones in on the bird and waits in this determined position until Lindley comes to retrieve her. Next, he hurls a plastic Mountain Dew bottle, and as he’s doing so explains his motivation. “People say pointers don’t retrieve.” Tinker comes bounding directly back, the plastic vessel clenched in her teeth.
Lindley, tall and white-bearded, has been in the dog- training business pretty much since he was old enough to drive. The spark of love for bird dogs started before that. “I went bird hunting one time with my brother and a neighbor when we were 10 or 11 years old, and the first time I saw a dog point to a wild covey of birds, I knew right then what I was going to do.” By the time he was 16 years old, he already had paying clients. “My first client was from West Virginia, and I sold him a puppy and he brought me a German short hair that I trained for him. It was something that was in me from the beginning.”
POINT OF FACT // Although Maurice Lindley is deaf, it hasn’t hindered his ability to connect and train bird dogs like these white English pointers.
His brother Bobby works with Maurice (Mo for short), as well as Mo’s wife Kaye, at Lindley’s Kennels in Piedmont, South Carolina, on a plentiful amount of country acreage dotted with kennels for the boarded dogs, pigeon coops for the birds used in training, and cages with the cutest bunch of pointer puppies you ever did see. Cuter still are the Lindleys’ two granddaughters—Mae and Ella—who help explain how some of the pups earned their names—“Mr. Warmy Pants” among one of the favorites, as he just wanted to snuggle to be warm under the chin of whomever would be lucky enough to hold the new puppy.
Mae and Ella are accompanied by their mother Sonya, who is Lindley’s stepdaughter, as well as his interpreter for this interview. Lindley is deaf, his hearing taken completely since 1994 from Meniere’s Disease, an incurable disorder of the inner ear. He can talk, and though the dog people of the world are assured that the dogs in our lives can understand us, it’s not as though “they speak English,” Lindley has been quoted as saying. He and his bird dog training technique are so lauded, that Martha Greenlee, the owner of Piney Run Kennels in Baskerville, Virginia, wrote Training with Mo, a book about Lindley, and hosts him for yearly seminars on introducing pups to gun re and building up their drive for prey.
“I believe Mo is one of the top pointing-dog trainers in the country for teaching a dog to be steady in the bird eld,” explains Greenlee. “Mo started training dogs as a teenager and has worked over a thousand dogs. Believe me, he knows bird dogs! He knows how to read dogs and how to communicate to them.”
He definitely loves them. Lindley estimates he’s got about 20 “personal dogs,” Tinker among them. (“She’s my baby,” he says.) And if he were still able to hear, the cacophony of yelps and howls—the whines of the new puppies and the chorus of the kenneled German wirehairs and shorthairs, the chocolate labs and the vizsla—would be the soundtrack for his life.
“What I admire most about Mo is he will bring every dog he gets in for training to his or her potential,” says Greenlee. “Not every dog is going to be a national champion, but Mo will develop every dog to be the best he or she can be.” When it comes to his bird dogs, Lindley is definitely on point.