I turned 58 about two weeks ago, and in another week or two I’ll get one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten: My son’s 8-month-old Labrador retriever puppy will come home after five weeks with a trainer.
My first hunt involving dogs was 46 years ago — two days after Christmas — behind a brace of pointers and setters on the family farm in middle Georgia. I couldn’t sleep nights waiting for that first morning’s hunt, and I can take you to the exact spot where we crossed the lane and found the dogs on point, where I killed a bird that got up out of a scattered covey — my first quail — with my grandmother’s 20-gauge Foxx.
The next hunt I take with a dog will be to a waterfowl impoundment about 10 miles away that my son helped clear and plant in sorghum this past summer. He helped build a box blind that’s covered with about 1,000 stalks of sorghum I cut down last month with the pair of clippers I keep in my turkey-hunting vest.
The owner of the land said he went down the other day just after daylight for a peek, and the impoundment was almost full, its surface holding about 50 wood ducks.
But back to the dog.
A year or so ago, my wife and I told our son that we had a certain amount of money budgeted to buy him a present for his college graduation. He wanted a Lab puppy. Seems that he didn’t like leaving a few doves he shot on Labor Day in the bushes, and on a trip to one of those nice permit-only state impoundments, somebody shot a duck they couldn’t find. He figured that, since he was starting to enjoy dove and duck hunting, he might as well have a dog to recover all the cripples.
I looked him in the eyes and spoke the words many a father has said: “Go ask your mom.”
It was OK with Mom. I found a guy I knew who was going to breed his female yellow Lab to a male chocolate Lab, negotiated a price and got first pick of the puppies, which arrived April 1. We brought “Buckshot” home on May 23.
My son has had a steady girlfriend for several years, but there’s no question Buckshot is the love of his life. Watching them roll around in the backyard is like watching a couple of kids playing king of the hill — the brother he’s never had.
Buckshot retrieved a few doves on Labor Day morning, and had done pretty well with his obedience training before my son sent him off for some advanced retriever training the day after he turned 7 months old, at a hefty but sleek 70 pounds.
Training will be finished just about the time the last segment of duck season cranks up. It will be worth every dollar I paid for him the first time he comes swimming back across the pond with a woody in his mouth and deposits it in my son’s hand.
I might just stay up nights waiting for that moment.