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We've all lost dogs but the truest love for one's gun dog was told to me, first hand...
Carroll and Shirley are dear friends of mine. They are long time German Shorthaired Pointer owners but I don't hold that against them ;-). One of their GSP's was the National Field Champion but this story is about another GSP of theirs, Teddy.
When stationed in Maryland 12 years ago, I met Carroll through a boss of mine who is now a Navy Admiral. She is an avid Brittany owner/fan and a great wing shot but that's another story or two.
I was invited by Carroll and Shirley to join their private pheasant club after hunting with him several times as a guest. The pheasant preserve is near the town of Gettysburg, PA.
Carroll and Shirley had an old GSP named Teddy when we first started hunting with them regularly. (Yes, Shirley is an avid bird hunter too!)
I enjoyed hunting with Teddy and had seen pictures of him in his youth. Teddy had once been great in his prime. He pointed with great style and intensity in his youth but my first observation of him was as a 14-year-old with a lot of heart and a great nose.
Carroll would always put Teddy out first to hunt so that he could find birds fairly quick. Carroll, an outstanding wing shot and gunner for many field trials, would quickly dispatch the birds for Teddy, then almost toothless, and Teddy would make the slow retrieve. Teddy was old but his drive, nose, and bird work was still good.
After a short while, when Teddy would become too tired (body, not mind), Teddy would be placed in his nice padded crate in the back of Carrols' Suburban to rest. Then we would all turn out the young dogs to hunt.
TEDDY WOULD CRY UNMERCIFULLY!
Teddy had always been the dog that would hunt all day according to Carroll and it just killed Teddy's' soul to observe the other dogs hunting.
We hunted with Teddy for 2 or 3 years. Each year, the bitter cold and snow of PA would exact its toll on Teddy and his arthritis. Shirley became increasingly worried over Teddy's health.
By the time Teddy was 16 he could barely hunt 5 minutes yet he would still cry unmercifully after being put in his crate. He could still howl ALL DAY! We would try to console the old boy and give him love on rest breaks.
Later in his sixteenth year, Carroll and Shirley told me how Teddy was beginning to have 'accidents' on himself (stool). He was becoming incontinent. I knew they were facing that gut wrenching final decision about Teddy.
The next hunt, when we met, Shirley was obviously shaken. She told me the story of how they had hunted at the preserve the day before...
Carroll, Shirley and Teddy arrived on that bright, clear, and cold morning as they had always done. This time, Teddy didn't have to compete. Teddy had the whole hunt and affection to himself!
Only able to walk a short distance at this point, Carroll had pre-arranged for the preserve operator to set some beautiful cock pheasants in a 'special' place. Carroll opened the back of the suburban and carefully reached in to get Teddy from his crate. Teddy was gingerly placed on the ground to begin his hunt. Within yards, and barely able to walk, Teddy located his quarry.
Trembling, he held his point. Carroll flushed the beautiful glistening ring neck cock pheasant and downed it with a single shot from his favorite SxS 28 GA. Teddy had used all his energy to hold point so Carroll helped him to the downed pheasant for the retrieve. Teddy was taken back to the suburban with his pheasant and placed in his crate once more...
Carroll and Shirley held Teddy and loved him in the tiny office of their long time family Veterinarian. Teddy, now lying down on the cold stainless steel table, was given the still warm, beautiful ring neck pheasant. His nose close to the breast of the pheasant, he smelled for the final time that heavenly scent that had driven he and his masters all his life.
The IV was started and Teddy slipped into a deep sleep knowing he had a successful day afield and the tender love of his companions...
A companion gun dog is more than just a huntin' dog.
Carroll, Teddy, my Chief, and another GSP.