Goodbye Old Friend
|General Hunting - Hunting Dogs|
Our family has recently lost one of our most beloved hunting partners. You could count on this one to always be willing and ready to go on anykind of hunt. And as for a better companion while out in the field, you would not find one. One that was so keen in the field that everyonearound was envious of their success.
I am not speaking of a man that is a sharp shooter, or a woman that can hang with most men, or even a child that always wants to be at mom or dad's side. I am talking about our Belle, an 8-year-old Golden Lab that lived to be with us. As much as we love these animals and hunting partners, I still don't know that we ever really know what we have until it is gone.
For years there has been some debate among Christians about animals going to heaven when they die. Some believe that their souls do not get lifted heavenly and others believe that if God put them on earth for our enjoyment and use, why he wouldn't carry those animals that have brought so much joy and even meaning to a person's life to the glorious destination Christians live for.
Everyday as I pulled in the drive after a long day of work, she was always there to greet me, if I sat down at her level; her nose was immediately in my lap looking for the affection that she so willing gave all of us. If we would take our hand away before she was satisfied, she would continue to place her face under it until we gave in and continued to love on her. We recently moved out to a rural area and live about 200-yards from a trophy fishing river. While working outside we would notice that she and the other dogs would just disappear. Not knowing what they were doing we would panic, looking everywhere for them until we figured it all out. After a couple hours, they would all come back home soaking wet from playing in the river on a hot day and muddy from the walk or run home. She would be leading the way with a smile that only dogs can have.
My husband would go on a Pheasant hunt in the Dakotas every fall with several friends from work including some of his superiors. As a lab, most would not expect her to out hunt and retrieve the pointers and setters that others have paid thousands of dollars for, but Belle would not let her human down. She would bump and retrieve birds that other dogs had run over the top of. She would come out of the corn fields with a bloody nose and face from burrowing to get the bird she knew was still in there. And don't think that you can out smart her when she bumps a hen that needs to be left in the wild. She had been known to catch them flying in mid air if they were low enough! Several times she would bring one to my husband very proud of herself. Of course he would have to let it go and she would bring it back again!
She was papered, but she didn't have any field trials or championships,but clients and friends from across the nation were so impressed with her hunting abilities and many wanted her off spring. My husband's boss even made a comment in my husband's yearly performance appraisal that my husband was not willing to share his bird dog!
Although my husband will tell you that "she took him hunting", she was not just a bird dog. She would hunt anything if she thought it would make us happy. We took her on a lion hunt once just as a buddy, not realizing that she would try to tree a lion right with the hounds. Not because they were doing it, but because she thought that it was what we wanted her to do. It didn't matter if we were sitting in the back yard, shooting ground squirrels, hunting jack rabbits, riding into deer camp, or fishing on the shore or in a boat, she was happy to just be with us. I don't know that many of us really appreciate anything that we have when we have it. We know we love it and know how useful it is, but do we really know? Belle had a heart attack in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, we had to witness the struggling she went through before the end. It was 1:00 a.m. and living at least 30-minutes from the closest vet, we knew there was nothing we could do to help her. As I sat and watched her die, I was troubled that I had not really played with her that day. She followed me to the arena and stayed by my side as I watched my son ride his horse, and she did go to the river that evening with my husband and got to play in it one last time, but had I known that it would be her last night with me, would I have done something differently? I didn't write this story to make everyone sad or to stir up spiritual debate, but to remind everyone to live each day like it is your last and to treat each person and loved one in your life like it will be the last time you have with them.
In the 1946 classic film, It's a Wonderful Life, the characters reference the ringing of a bell as a sign that another angel has gotten their wings. My Belle was ringing even when she was alive; because I am sure God put her in our lives for more then just hunting. She will be long remembered and loved.
© September 2007
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