Hurry up Boone, I can’t wait until you get here
There’s this picture in my mind’s eye of my brother, Steve. He’s maybe 7 years old, and he’s perched on the top step of the front porch of our farmhouse looking out toward the road.
On his left is a dog. On his right is a dog.
He was mad at his older brothers. The details have faded. We’d probably told him we didn’t want him trailing around with us. We were 12 and didn’t want the responsibility of a 7-year-old tagging along. Anyway, he stomped out of the house, slammed the screen door and sat down for a good pout.
I don’t know if he called the dogs, but there he sat with an arm around each one. K-9, which he named, was on the right. Lady was on the left.
His brothers might abandon him, but he knew that those dogs never would. Our family grew up with dogs. And as Steve knew, in times of trouble there are few things more loyal, more comforting than a big, warm-hearted dog.
The litter that produced K-9 and Lady was a mistake. But what a lovely mistake it was. The mother, our weimaraner, Grindel, misnamed for the ferocious, man-eating monster from Beowulf, was a gentle hound with a wonderful nose and a sweet disposition. The father was a big block-headed black lab.
The litter was the result of a late-night tryst. While Dad was none too thrilled to find Grindel pregnant, my brothers and I were thrilled. Grindel was getting old. We knew a couple of the pups would end up as “our” dogs.
K-9 inherited his father’s size and persistence. He was not, however, Einstein of the dog world – a fact that rabbits used against him time and again by running through fences.
K-9, hell bent on catching the rabbit would hit the fence headlong, rebound off and end up sprawled out on the grass in a tangle.
If I saw him do it once, I saw him do it a dozen times. Lady was much slimmer and inherited her mother’s sense about birds. Seems like she was pointing sparrows in the garden before she was weaned. And while she’d occasionally chase a rabbit, I never ever saw her run into a fence.
Neither got what you would call classic dog training. They got the kind of training you’d expect from two 12-year-olds and a 7-year old.
The dogs would come when called … if they felt like it. Both would sit when told … if they felt like it. And they would fetch … if they felt like it.
You could pretty much count on them always wanting to play fetch, though you couldn’t count on them bringing back what they fetched.
My brother and I, one armed with single-shot .22 and the other with a single-shot shotgun, roamed the fields with those dogs.
In our imagination, we bagged big game from the American West to the savannas of Africa. In reality, we got the occasional rabbit and woodchuck.
In the fall, there’d be a dove or two and on a rare occasion a quail. There were a couple of coveys about, but we inevitably would shoot and miss, pointing the gun at the covey rise instead of at individual birds. But we always had us a time.
We were playing catch in the front yard the night the woman in the convertible hit Lady. None of us saw it happen, just heard the squeal of the brakes and the high-pitched whelp of the dog.
The woman stopped only briefly, looked toward us, sort of shrugged and then sped off. Later that night I cursed the woman, who we never saw again, in front of my mother.
I remember being surprised that mom didn’t punish me. She looked at me but didn’t say anything. Lately, I realized I’d probably said exactly what she had wanted to say but never would.
Not long after that we moved to town. K-9 became Steve’s dog. Somehow football and basketball and girls seemed to take over my life. Then college. Then jobs. Then a family. For years, I didn’t have a hunting dog. We did have two beagles. A pair of spinster sisters who, while bred as rabbit dogs, were never hunted. Instead they were pampered. For dogs, they lived a good long time.
When the second beagle died, my wife, Becky, suggested that it was time I got my hunting dog. And we did. He’s a block-headed black lab named “Boone” who adores Becky and likes me because I’ve introduced him to ducks and pheasant and quail. Boone is still in Virginia. But come the end of the month, he’ll be with me in Colorado. And I can’t wait for him to be here.
Just like Steve knew years ago, on those days when life isn’t quite what you’d like it to be, he’s as wonderful companion as you can find.
Publisher Jim Morgan writes a Tuesday column. He can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 240, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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