Monday, January 8, 2018

Yellow Dog's Last Retrieves

2017 marked full retirement for the yellow dog from hunting.  She was 12 this year, and while in good shape, her muscle mass had decreased substantially, and she showed significant signs of arthritis.  Thus, she logged a lot of nap time in our visits to the duck camp this year.

There were two exceptions.  One Sunday afternoon, my departing partner texted me on his way off the property, stating "Bunch of roosters on the south side of the driveway by wild rice pond.  Counted 4."  I texted back a thanks, and thought maybe those birds might still be around when I departed five minutes later.  If they were, I'd take the yellow dog out for one last quick run.

We drove down the driveway and arrived at the previously identified spot, but saw nothing.  Still, it was a nice day, and I figured we could take a quick five-minute walk and see if anything could be scented.  I loaded up my gun and let out from her crate, and she bolted forward like she was ten years younger.

The dog moved slowly but deliberately, and almost instantly got birdy.  We tracked a bird up twenty yards then across the road.  From there the dog really got excited, and we immediately flushed a hen, then another, then another.  I was disappointed that her hard work had not yielded a rooster, but then the dog hooked a hard left and a lone rooster exploded from the cover.

I knew the gravity of the shot - this would be my dog's last flush - and the last thing I wanted to do was choke.  I took my time getting my barrel in front of the hard-crossing bird, got my lead, and gently squeezed the trigger.  Fortunately, the bird crumpled with my first shot, and the yellow dog was on him like a shot and brought him back to hand.  I was able to capture it on my camera:


Later in the season, I was able to get the dog her last duck retrieve.  Given the late sunrise, I decided to sleep at home and depart at 4:00 AM for my drive to the camp.  I'd be able to sleep one more night in my own bed, but would still be able to get to camp and set up in plenty of time before legal shooting hours.

I took my dog with me but left her in my crate in the truck at the landing, where she'd be able to sleep, warm and dry, while I hunted.

We had a great hunt on our dry land point and dropped a number of birds.  One bird did get away from us, and my partner's dog was unable to retrieve it.  It was floating quickly away on a brisk northeast wind and was floating right toward our landing.  I wanted to the landing to cut off the floating bird and expected to walk out on the dock and simply grab it.  Unfortunately, the trajectory of the bird would make it impossible for me to reach.  What to do?

I remembered my sleeping dog in my nearby vehicle.  Again, I opened up her crate and found a very willing partner, and she ran down to the lake like she already knew what she needed to do.  I pointed to the bobbing bird, commanded "fetch," and out she went.  Agin, I was able to capture it:

The water was near freezing, and by the time I got the dog back into her crate, she was visibly shaking.  As I turned on the vehicle to let the heat warm her up and covered her up with a blanket, I'm pretty sure she smiled at me.

No, after 12 years of bringing birds back to me, there won't be any more opportunities.  While I'll certainly miss that, I am so very grateful for the last two memories she provided me.

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