Friday, November 13, 2009

Jet's Best Years

It is with a somewhat heavy heart that I write this post. It is about my hunting companion of the four legged variety. It seems that recently when we were out waterfowl hunting that she informed me that she's had enough and her heart just isn't in it anymore. Needless to say I was deeply saddened by her news. The way in which this came about I will share with you now.

We were at Lowlands in S.Oregon's Klamath Basin to be specific. We had hunted ducks the day prior and mostly doing so by walking the many dikes and jump shooting the ditches. In the morning we waited til we had fair light and then went out spending about 3 to 4 hours walking and getting a few ducks. The retrieves Jet made were not difficult, at least not in the typical manner of waterfowling. They were straight forward, easily marked and without heavy cover or long swims required. She was working at her usual pace of "I'll get there when I get there and just hold your horses," all of which I fully understand and have come to respect of her. We had 4 ducks in my vest and headed to the cabin around 11'ish. Time to get a cup of coffee and take a break for both of us. I cleaned the birds and had brunch then we went back out for a short afternoon hunt. With very few birds in the area, all we got was 1 hen N. Shoveller. We called it a day and turned in for the night. Jet was tired and ready for her dinner, followed by her 8 p.m. scooby snack which is the norm and a good nights sleep. Well, and maybe a belly rub or two if I was so inclined. I was all to happy to accommodate as it also gives me a chance to giver her a good looking over for burs or any problems she might be having.

We got up early the next morning and I coffee'ed up followed by a bowl of cereal then out we went. We walked the back ditch first and nothing happening there. We then went to the S. side towards the Klamath Rv. and just as we started down the main road to the river, a Pheasant flushed from beneath a wild rose bush and I dropped it shooting through the bush. Now I knew why Jet was whining while I got ready cause she could smell that the Pheasant was close by. I marked her and sent her on her way for what I figured to be a slam dunk retrieve. Boy was I ever wrong. Firstly she is losing her hearing and second, she didn't follow my mark. My mistake there. So as she went across the shallow water filled ditch and came to the top of the dike she then ran up and down the dike and didn't see the Pheasant splashing in the water only 30 feet further out. There was very little cover on the dike and she had her own agenda which was scenting where the Pheasant had come from. Not so uncommon. As I was walking back to get some rocks to throw in the water to get her attention she winded the Pheasant and was on her way. I shortly heard her whining after she had been searching for the bird amidst the long stem bulrush. I saw her standing belly deep, stationary as a stone with the Pheasant a foot away from her. She had a look of "I'm not liking this and will you please come help me" on her face. I was dumbfounded and tried my best to encourage her to help herself but to no avail. She wasn't really stuck in the bulrush as much as I think she was cold and tired. Her expression was very clear that she wasn't having fun. I was not wearing waders or hip boots so I succumbed to the knee deep water to go help and upon reaching her, I patted her pointy little head and said "come on, lets go sis" then picked up the Pheasant and headed for dry land. I gave her a gentle tug at the top of her shoulders to get her moving and that was all she needed. I guess sometimes we all need a little help and I was glad to oblige her.

I was challenged to manage my emotions and not offend her. Frustration, disappointment and sadness were filling my body. She sat at my side loyal, tired and a bit sad herself I feel. Sad that she wasn't able to do what I asked. Labs are overachievers when it comes to wanting to please their owners. I saw her disappointment in volumes in every wet hair on her body. I loved her up and choked back the tears and decided to make a hunt out of the morning anyhow. I was soaked up to my knees and it didn't matter. What did matter, was giving Jet an enjoyable positive experience before we called it a day. After all we have been a team for many years and I wasn't going to let down my end of the deal. We walked the main river dike and eventually made our way back to the truck. She was pooped and laid down immediately. I was hoping to get an opportunity to let her make a retrieve so we could get her confidence up. It just wasn't meant to be so we headed to the cabin to dry out and got ready to head home.

Every dog is an individual with their own likes, dislikes and tolerances for discomfort. She was a slow starter yet has had many excellent years and still has a few more in her. She will be 10 in March and even though my previous 2 Labradors worked in their 13 th. year not every dog has the same drive, desire or genetics to do so. I have much respect for her and look forward to some easier hunts with her.

The road home was a longer drive than usual. I thought long and hard about what changes I'll make so Jet and I can continue to hunt together. She will get the easy days with mild weather and I'll be thankful for whatever she is willing to do. What's most important to me is that she has fun being in the field. I am beginning my search for a new family member come next spring. With any luck I'd like to find a started dog, preferably a female Yellow Labrador Retriever. Certainly not the high octane American Labrador Field Trial blood lines but rather the English Labrador field hunting lines. Will keep you informed as the search progresses. If anyone has some good leads or positive experiences from a kennel or breeder, I am happy for the recommendations and referrals. Til then we'll keep it simple and fun for Jet and myself.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

13 comments:

Rick Kratzke said...

I honestly have to say I had a tear in my eye while reading this post. I know exactly how you felt and feel.

My dog Sampson and I are so close you would think we were joined at the hip but like Jet he is getting up there in age and just can't do the things he used to do.

You are doing the right thing, keep her close and give her the nice days. Very nice post, sad but very nice.

mdmnm said...

Good writing about a tough time! Hope you and Jet find plenty to do that fits her current speed.

Wandering Owl said...

A person that will tailor a hunting outing to fit their aging friend is what I call "good people". I hope you and Jett can still fit in some good days before she retires. Our family has retired 2 really good golden retrievers - prior to my blogging experience. It's hard, but it's still special.

Terry Scoville said...

Rick, thanks and we will enjoy the easy hunts. They just age so much quicker than us, doesn't seem right.

mdmnm, thanks and I will make sure to find some birds for her, even if I have to dump them out of the back of my hunting vest.

WO, it's tough when you've put in so much time together. Yet how can it be any other way? She's got some years left and we'll make them the best possible for both our sakes. Just feel like I owe her at least that much.

Karen Thomason/Gordon Setter Crossing said...

It always hurts a little to see that first sign of aging in our beloved canine partners. I'm sorry. I've been there more than once. Have you ever considered a Gordon Setter? Not a good duck dog, but excellent for all other birds. Women tend to love the breed. Please take a look at my site, Gordon Setter Crossing. I do not have puppies right now. I just thought a Gordon Setter might be a good pick for you.

Blessed said...

If we lived closer together Jet and Stetson, my oldest lab could play together - Stets is only 8 years old but he is a laid-back, take-life-easy kind of lab and always has been. He tore his ACL right at the top of his prime and it took a good three years for it to heal, after that - he wasn't interested in doing much in the field anymore. But he loves playing with the kids, and he still has a spot in my kennel.

I actually do have some connections - they are all dog people out this way, but I would be happy to get you some names and numbers and they might even have people in your neck of the woods that they would recommend. Just send me an email if you want to know who I know :)

Jennifer Montero said...

Someone smarter than me once said "Age and experience will always beat out youth and enthusiasm".

Jet may not be able to hunt as hard, but all those years of experience will mean she can hunt smart. She'll flush that one pheasant tucked up tight in a bush that all the other dogs missed, or know which reeds are likely to be holding duck. I don't know how they do it, but it's always the old dogs that do. You'll smile in those moments, and think "you clever old soul".

I can keep my eye out for a good working English lab bitch, if you're happy to meet it at the airport (last time I flew a dog to the US it was $75). You can get an exceptional lab for $900 here. If there's a particular line you like, let me know.

I would love another yellow lab like my Pip but the first week we adopted her, she ate her paperwork, so I don't know what line she's from!

Terry Scoville said...

Karen, Blessed and Jenn,
Thanks so much for the offerings and I will be in touch with you all.

Jenn, you are absolutely right about the older wiser dog. I know I still have some great hunts with Jet ahead of me.

Live to Hunt.... said...

Its always such a stark realization when something of this nature happens. We get so accustomed to our fur partners being their for us to do their job, then one day it stops. Just like that. Jet will enjoy and certainly deserves the next few years of easy living.

Shawn K. Wayment, DVM said...

It sure is tough to watch our beloved k9 cohorts age into their twilight years! I hear and feel your pain! Good luck with your search! You might check Bear Point Kennels who also own Black Forrest Kennels!

cocked and loaded said...

Wishing Jet a long and happy
retirement.

Terry Scoville said...

Thanks LTH it is a harsh realization for sure.

Shawn, appreciate the thoughts and references.

C&L, thank you.

Cristina Acosta said...

Jet is such a sweetie. She'll be a good leader for your new puppy.

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