Tales of a Bird Dog

“I love my old bird dog. I like to watch him run.” ~ Crossin Dixon

A few months back, I blogged a story about my bird dog, Ryah. I shared the story on a hunting forum, Utah Wildlife Network. Others shared stories about their furry, four legged friends. A lot of the stories touched my heart, and this was one that stood out to me. I asked Craig O’Banion if I could share the story on my blog, and he agreed to it. So, here it is, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Back in the fall of 2000, my son Nate was 12 years old and wanted a Labrador retriever. I had always been a dog owner and an outdoorsman but had never combined the two into owning and training hunting dogs. One of Nate’s teachers was going to be having a litter in February and offered him a good price on one of the pups. Little Annie came to live with us 7 weeks after her February birth.

What a whirl wind, aren’t puppies supposed to sleep at night? A very good friend of mine had been training labs for years and offered me a book to read that he said was a step by step plan on how to train a water dog. Nate and I both read the book and went to work training. We are both pretty stubborn and so we often butted heads as we interpreted things differently on how we should be training.

All in all things turned out well and over the years Annie became an excellent hunting dog. I started guiding at a duck hunting club and Annie was my partner. I have to be honest and admit that she was never the best trained dog, she would often break at the shot and have to be called back on the rare occasion (ha ha) that I or my client missed. She was never patient enough to sit in the boat while I put out or retrieved decoys, instead she would swim around and drive me crazy. She also earned an unprintable nickname out at the club for leaving the occasion deposit in the boat on the ride out to the blind. Annie lived to retrieve birds. I can recall a couple of times when motoring in or out that she actually jumped out of the boat to go retrieve a duck that some other hunter had shot when she just happened to hear the shot and see a splash.

Annie was never just a hunting dog, she was a part of our family, and she was my friend. There is an old joke that says lock your wife and your dog in the trunk for an hour and when you let them out see which one is happy to see you. Annie loved everyone and would have come out with her tail wagging.

Dog ownership also comes with it pitfalls. This past February Annie stopped eating, this was not initially a concern as over the years she would have times that she would not want to eat or would eat very little. After about three days we became pretty concerned so my wife took her to the vet .My world kind of crashed around me when Colleen called with the news. Annie had developed a very bad infection. The vet said he could do surgery but it was very expensive and her chances were not good. I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life but ultimately took the advice of the vet and Annie was put to sleep while I held her in my arms and cried like a baby. I got permission from the manager of the duck club where I guide and was able to bury Annie out there. She is overlooking one of the ponds where she can forever watch the birds come in.

I have been told by many that pets just don’t live long enough and the pain of one passing is just too great so they choose not to go through it again. I am not of that mind set, while it still brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye to even write this down I have already jumped back in.

As I thought about what I would do for a dog this fall I really was torn but felt the need to start training and building that relationship once again. I began a list of possible names and one I thought of was Abby.

I noticed an advertisement for the last of a litter and contacted the breeder. He told me the cost (more than I felt I could afford) and I politely told him thanks and wished him well. I told my wife about this pup and while she too was concerned about the cost she encouraged me to go for it. I got back in touch with the breeder and was told I was third on the list. Looking at the pedigree and with the reputation this breeder has, I just felt there was no way I would get this pup. Well maybe Annie pulled some strings but a few days later I got a call saying the other buyers had backed out and Abby was mine if I wanted her.

Abby was what the breeders daughter had been calling this pup and because it was on my list I felt again that maybe Annie had pulled some strings and so kept the name.

The cycle has started again. I went for a couple of weeks with very little sleep, a couple of nights I actually “slept” on the laundry room floor trying to get Abby to be quiet so the rest of the family could sleep. Potty training came pretty quickly, a good thing because we are in a new home and my wife’s patience was wearing thin. It will be an interesting hunting season this fall, sad without Annie but full of new promise and adventure with my new best friend Abby.

I can’t imagine life without a dog.

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