As most of you know, my 11 year old lab Kwik has been battling liver failure and was given a very bleak outlook just two short weeks ago. The vet explained that his life would probably last a few more months, but that his quality of life would be pretty good. So for obvious reasons as long as he could hack it, I wanted to get him out a few more times to hunt his favorite bird.
The meteorologist explained that this was going to be a very rainy weekend for us, so I decided to head up to grouse camp early. None of my cohorts could make it up early, so Kwik, Dottie, and myself left early on Friday morning in hopes of getting some dry weather grousing in.
I'm not sure why, but I decided to grab my old 20 ga Citori this trip, a gift given to me from my father as the death of my first hunting dog (Learch) was ridiculously hard on my at the tender years of 14 years. This gun was my pride and joy for my childhood and young adulthood, taking everything from grouse to ducks, but was being used less and less because it meant a lot to me to keep in it good shape.
Much to the dismay of my GSP Dottie, I decided to give Kwik the nod for the afternoon. It wasn't to hot or to cold, and I figured I would try and find some logging trail that both him and I could take an easy stroll down. This type of hunting usually doesn't produce anywhere near what busting brush does, but at his decreased capacity, it's about all he can handle.
One whining German short hair in a Tahoe was the only disturbance in an otherwise beautiful afternoon. We had probably walked about 15 minutes, and the cover on the trail that I had picked was looking suspect. I decided to give it just a little bit more as I wanted to see what was over the next hill. I was pleasantly surprised to see a decent mix of Aspen, Pine, and scrub brush that might hold a bird.
One thunderous flush out of a pine tree offered us no shot, but a little bit of scent left on the ground from that bird really perked up both Kwiks and my attitude of getting a shot at another bird.
We strolled along this swamp bottom and had three more birds rocket out of pine trees offering little or no shot. I gazed ahead on the trail and saw a bird walking in front of us 30 yards or so, and while I really wanted to get the taste of feathers in his mouth one last time, I didn't want it to be on the ground.
So we took a pass, and that bird strolled into the tangled mess never to be seen or heard from again.
We then came upon a very gorgeous, but very eerie beaver pond. I paused for a second because it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
I decided we should turn around, as I was expecting a wolf, bear, or ghost to appear. Except it wasn't any of those things, it was a grouse. No more than 5 feet from Kwiks nose on the trail a the bird flew from right to left and then made a sharp angled turn right when I shot. I folded the bird, but its momentum and distance from me took it about 40 feet right into the beaver pond.
Kwiks head was still down at the flush and his hearing has gotten pretty bad , and I'm not sure he could see the direction of the bird and didn't see it fall into the water. I was sitting there for a second wondering weather I could send him on a blind retrieve that far (considering his already exhausted condition), when he slowly raised his nose in the air, closed his eyes and began to scent the bird on the water. I've seen him do this many times on waterfowl, but never on an upland bird.
I watched him back up to the end of the trail, take a quick look at me, and launch himself in the water. I was as happy as I was scared. This was along way for him to swim, but I figured if he went this way, so be it.
He eventually found the bird behind some driftwood and started his way back. I couldn't help but notice the slow manner in which he swam back, almost as if he knew this was probably going to be his last water retrieve and wanted to cherish every moment. Such a strong swimmer in his prime, it was a little hard to watch. The tears welled up in my eyes as this dog never ceases to amaze me. He got to shore, shook all sorts of muddy swamp water on me and my Citori, and licked the salty tears from my face.
I walked the entire way back on the trail with my gun open, and let Kwik carry the bird all the way back to the car (pic on top of post). A truly great way to celebrate a great life. I said thanks to God for blessing me with this last event, and letting him be a part of my life. I now KNOW that he got his last wish this season.