Written by: Mark Reese
Looking at the picture with my storyline you can tell that I am a bird dog man. My dogs take me hunting more than I take them. Champ, Jenny, Danny Boy, Choo Choo, Red and Lucky are my constant companions at home or in the field. The bond forged with a dog you hunt with is one that is unbreakable and certainly very meaningfull.
For my recent birthday, yes, I am undeniably getting older, my wife compiled a very special book for me that comprised a big portion of my life. The book was filled with pictures, stories, letters from hunting friends, and other gems that highlighted years of hunting with seventeen special bird dogs with the majority of them being English setters. This was probably the best birthday present I ever received.
As I reminisced about all these special dogs and the memories of hunts they gave me I began to think about where it all began. I have a great rapport with my canine companions and their friendship means more to me than you can imagine.
But it all began with Lady. When I was five years old my parents sensed how much I loved dogs, and presented me with a German Shepherd-Collie mix dog. I don’t know how the name came about but Lady turned out to be appropriate.
From the time I started grade school Lady walked with me every day. At the end of the day she would be waiting to walk me home. In today’s world she would probably be picked up and hauled away but it sure was nice having your buddy go to and from school with you. When I started junior high and had to ride the bus it became a problem for Lady as she would follow the bus across busy roads to follow me again. Somehow we would get her home and soon she safely learned that this part of her journey was over.
Lady was my ” everything” dog. She wandered the fields with me as I lived in the surrounding farms in summer and after school. When I would get in boyhood fights she would try to pull me away. Sometimes, though, this was a hindrance. Several times she would bark an errant bull or cow away from me as we picked blackberries to sell to neighbors.
Lady became my rabbit dog as I began to hunt and she became pretty good at it. And she always tried to help the family with meat by bringing possums or ground hogs that she had caught to our doorstep.
She was my dog in every sense of the word and I guess you could say she was my guardian protector as well. Everyone in the area knew Lady and knew she could be counted on to be at my side. And at my side she was for fourteen years. From age five to age nineteen Lady was my best friend. Then the time came she could be my protector no more. I remember the morning very well. Lady was really starting to struggle getting up and down and that morning on the snow it seemed too much for her to rise and I told my mom it was time. A trip to the local vet gave Lady the rest that she richly deserved. Lady was the dog that began my hunts and my long love affair with bird dogs. There were many more to come and hopefully to continue as I age along with my pack of friends.
I came across a saying that I don’t know who to attribute it to but it goes like this, “Dogs come into our hearts to teach us about love. They depart to teach us about loss. New dogs can never replace old ones—they merely expand the heart. If you have loved many dogs your heart is very big.”
Lady opened my heart and my ensuing bird dogs have helped to keep it open, I hope, for now and forever.