Jan 19, 2016 4:05 PM
Post #1 of 7
In the fall of 1983 the Mighty Layout Boys took a trip to do some layout boat hunting for divers on Houton lake Michigan. After one of the days successful shoots My buddy Greg took a picture of me and my golden retriever, Strider, sitting in the layout boat on the shore. It was one of those photos that you realize is a one in a million pictures.
The picture shows the dark rough water lapping the shore where the layout boat rests. In the boat sit Strider and I surrounded by a myriad of scaup, redheads and the lordly canvasback. Some years later my wife had it made into a five by seven and framed. I hung it in the den (my room) I like that name, "the den", kinda fitting for us outdoorsmen, we don't have a family room(as my wife calls it, we gotta den! It's full of hunting memorabilia, has several mounts sitting around, a shotgun over the mantle & a Chet Reneson print over the fireplace. I think every duck hunter should have one, they make great coping mechanisms.
When the season is over & Iím heading into hunting withdrawal I go into the den, Build a fire, open the sliding glass door to the screen house a little ( it needs to be a little chilly), grab a comforter & a book,(like stories of the old duck hunters) & jump into the recliner next to the fire. A cup of hot coffee & maybe a cinnamon roll & your almost there back in that blind waiting for mornings first flight!
There is one stipulation to having your own room & that is there better be one that your wife calls her room (the kitchen doesnít count!) My wifeís room is the living room, it has beautiful pottery in it, framed Monet prints, bookshelves with poetry by Robert Frost & contemporary furniture.
Old Strider wasnít allowed in that room, when someone came to the front door Strider would bark at them from the kitchen! But he didnít mind to much because he preferred the den. On the days I would be in the den, my faithful companion would trot in & lay next to my seat much like he would in the duck blind. After about an hour both of us would be sound asleep dreaming about braces of birds cupped in front of us, occasionally an arm would twitch reaching for an invisible gun or a paw would jerk leaping from a boat to retrieve a phantom bluebill.
There, late at night, the wife would find the two of us to which she would send one to bed & the other to the back yard. No finer hunting partner could I ever have asked for, this soldier of the sport, his mind was always focused on duck hunting. When my children were young & Strider was a pup, they would romp for hours in the yard. Deep in the middle of tug of war with an old piece of rope or a tree branch & soundly winning, he would stop abruptly & stare into the sky, searching for what caused the sound that may have been a mallard passing overhead or maybe he thought he heard a hen quacking in the distance.
But whatever the circumstance Strider was always hunting! As far as disposition, I couldnít have asked for a gentler dog. In all the years we spent together I donít remember him ever starting a fight with another dog or even growling, but When appointed to watch the children, no better guard could I have posted as attested to by a friend of mine who was rough housing with my daughter in the living room one day. When Strider heard the commotion he came trotting in to investigate, he immediately roared into the room, drove himself in between the two of them & forced my friend to the floor! Confrontation now complete & the foe not willing to see what other action this golden titan would levy, Strider walked over to my daughter & licked her face.
As a retriever I couldnít have asked for a better dog. He wasnít as fast as some dogs & he never charged the water like so many labs do. Some times he would cheat & swim the shore line instead of the straight line but he vary rarely missed the retrieve. Many times my buddies & I would be amazed by some of the retrieves Strider would make. Iím very glad to have had such a good hunter but I think the thing I will always remember about this stately looking dog was the gentle spirit he had.
When the day came after extended illnesses & not wanting to watch my old friend suffer anymore I made the phone call to the local vet who had cared for Strider since he was a pup. His name was Chris & was a good friend besides being my dogs vet. Knowing how close I was to my dog he volunteered to come to my house. I accepted thinking it would be a little easier to cope with. Chris arrived shortly there after & sat with us for a while, then when I gathered the strength I held my old friend in my arms as the shot was administered. I held him close to me but soon he was gone. The cancer & the hip pain could no longer hurt this veteran hunter. Slowly I realized no longer would I have the privilege of accepting a bird retrieved by this fine dog.
Chris helped me lay Srider to rest in the backyard between two oak trees where I watched him sleep on many a summer day. As we walked back to the house Chris said to me "There are two dogs that I have known in my career that I would say were the nicest dogs Iíve met & Strider was one of them" We talked for a while then Chris had to get back to the clinic so we said goodbye & I went into the house.
Several years have passed since my pup (as I always called him) left but the memories that he left me will last for ever. I believe God allowed me to walk the same path with Strider in part to learn some lessons about how we ourselves should act, things like patience, kindness, slow to anger, quick to forgive. If dogs are allowed in heaven I know my old hunting buddy is up there laying by a warm fire with a friend he has made, all the while watching the gate patiently awaiting the arrival of his master.