Missing my bird dog more than usual today

Fifteen years ago today, I went to Hunters Trace Kennel in Albin to pick up the best dog I’ve ever had. She’s been gone for several years now, but the memories of the great hunts we shared will remain with me for the rest of my days.

On a cold morning 15 years ago, I made the trip out to Albin to bring home the best bird dog I’ve ever had. She wasn’t the best bird dog ever – don’t think I’m trying to claim that. She was a Golden Retriever, and I know there are a number of you out there who just groaned. Goldens have been bred to be excellent family dogs for the last hundred years or so, and many of the breed have lost their inherent hunting characteristics.

I’ve hunted with some high-power Labs, spaniels, shorthairs and Vizslas over the years, and any of those dogs would have out-hunted Cricket even on Cricket’s best day. But at the end of the day, those other dog owners went home with their dogs, and I went home with Cricket. She was everything I ever could have asked for in a dog.

Many of the other dog owners I’ve hunted with have spent much of the hunt yelling for their dog to come back, or searching for the dog with their GPS collar. I never had that problem with Cricket. In fact, the opposite was true. It always took some time to get Cricket to get far enough out from me for her to do any effective hunting. She was happy just hanging out right by my side.

That all changed when she hit on a bird scent, though. Once she caught wind of a pheasant or a grouse, she’d forget about me and start trying to track that bird down. And it usually didn’t take her long to find one, so once she started moving more than six feet away from me, I knew I needed to be ready. She was a flusher, not a pointer, so when she found the bird, things happened quickly.

We lost Cricket four years ago, and we’ve felt the void ever since. I’ve started the process of finding a new Golden, but it’ll be a while. Until then, my memories of those great hunts and good times with Cricket will have to suffice.

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