|A special pup.|
Sometimes we are really lucky and in 2001 I certainly was. Stumbling around looking for a German wirehaired pointer, I came upon a breeder in New York who introduced me to Weidenhugel Chardonnay, a predominately white German wirehaired pointer pup. It was love at first sight.
By then more than a dozen years had passed since a bird dog had been part of my life. Chara was smart, learned quickly, loved to hunt, and became more than a dog, much like a best friend. When I worked in my shop she hung around, always ready for a two or five minute lesson. Heal, stay, whoa all came easily to her. Pigeons and quail became part of my life, for without birds you will never have a bird dog.
The first hunt, at five months of age, was in a state run wildlife management
She pointed a pair of quail and brought back the one that fell to the shot. I
never felt prouder. And throughout her entire life, her hunting enthusiasm
I could go to the post office in our busy town and ask her to sit outside by the door and know she would be there when I came back out. Walking unleashed, she would heal through the sidewalks as people passing patted her head. I beamed.
Exiting the post office one day a car’s tires screeched. A scared young golden retriever dashed across the street not twenty feet away, narrowly dodging the skidding vehicle. Good Samaritans tried to catch the dog, but it was too scared to trust anyone and dashed hither and yon, eyes big as golf balls. I walked to my truck and let out Chara. She trotted over to the frightened dog and the two sniffed noses. Slipping my finger into the collar of the golden retriever, then I walked the dog back to its owner. Never did I feel prouder of Chara.
|As a young dog.|
Our first duck hunt together confused poor Chara. Why weren’t we walking and looking for birds? After all, we had a gun with us? Forcing her to sit, we sat in the weeds behind a few decays that I had carved years earlier. If it wasn’t for my hand on her neck and finger inside her collar, she would have dashed off looking for upland birds. Not long after legal shooting time a pair of mallards fell out of the sky and I stood to shoot, causing one to tumble into the water.
About to give the retrieve command, she was already in the water and halfway out to the duck. Duck hunting was a piece of cake after that. One cold January she even retrieved a golden eye.= that fell a hundred yards from our duck boat.
I learned to trust her nose and never doubt when she worked bird scent. Sometimes it wasn’t pretty in the classic sense, but with the nose to the ground she always found the bird. Grouse have always walked and now woodcock seem to also, but with Chara it didn’t matter, she would always find them. Point, think, wait, re-point, think, move, re-locate…it would continue, and I could always tell when the bird was pinned.
The memories go on…the day where we must have found a hundred woodcock,
or the woodcock
that fell into the river, or the crippled Canada goose that paddled out over a
hundred yards from shore. Or the grouse pointed on opening day one year while her
fourteen month old sibling honored, only to have the each retrieve one wing of
the bird while the breast stayed where it fallen. Or the time she pointed
straight up at the bird in a softwood tree? Or the day we hunted all day from
the house and moved so many birds, but none really offered a shot. When I broke
open my gun back at the house I had forgotten to load it. We laughed, at least
I think she did too. Those things will stay with me.
|Hard on a point.|
So many times, when her bell went silent and I knew she was on a point yet I couldn’t find her, I would call her name. It’s a mystery how she figured it out, or even how she did it, but Chara would move just enough that her bell would ding once, letting me know where she was without frightening the bird.
So many other dogs passed through Camp Grouse, but Chara was always the Grande Dame. In the alder thickets or grouse coverts, she never seemed to notice the other dog’s presence. Dogs hunting with her learned a lot, of that I am sure, and I wish our young pup had had a season or two with her.
But that wasn’t to be and last week Chara left us. It was her time, with fifteen hunting seasons behind her. It was more than I could ask and a life that most dogs would dream of, never tethered and in the woods almost every day.
|In her last years she loved the cool stream.|
The last few bird seasons were easy hunts, but some that I will remember forever. Hunting over an older dog is very civilized, with a slower pace and avoiding the nastier thickets. She stayed determined and hunted hard until the end. We hunted the cream coverts the last couple of years, flat with few thorny thickets.
Now she is buried beside the apple tree behind the house and I hope the grouse come out to visit her. I am sure they can share stories and have a few laughs. Come spring time she certainly will be able to hear them drumming.
Chara, I will never forget you.
|As I will always remember her.|