Fish & Feathers: When you lose a hunting buddy

This is Abby, an English yellow Labrador, when she was a pup. She's growing into a great hunting companion.

The death of any creature, be it man or beast, can cause varying degrees of mourning in your soul. Your parents, your wife and relatives — depending on the degree of love you shared — will bring different shades of sadness.

In my world, there is no emotional blow worse than the loss of a hunting dog.

A special bond forms between a person and an animal bred for hunting and assisting the hunter. The dog, having accepted the hunter as their master, becomes totally dedicated to achieving for that master the best they can offer. They show and possess unconditional love and devotion. They want to always be at your side, no matter where you are going or what you are doing.

Eventually, these animals learn to read your every move. Putting on a particular hat, picking up a shotgun, putting on a hunting coat, slipping on your boots — these are all indicators of some activity that they want to participate in. You can see the excitement in their demeanor. This is a special bond that only grows stronger as time goes on.

You must also learn to trust your dog’s instincts. Their nose and hearing are much superior to ours and can reflect characteristics in game animals that we may overlook.

Hunting dogs, although they may not always agree with your decisions, generally obey and never talk back. Although they may not want to go into a certain pile of brush — maybe because it contains a skunk rather a quail — they generally will. They may also want to share the retrieved bird for their lunch, but thats a no-no and they quickly learn to wait for their supper time.

Your dog will share good times and bad with nary a complaint. They will lie by your side in wind, rain, sleet, hail and snow just to be with you and share your adventures. They are truly man’s best friend.

I’ve had the privilege of having maybe seven or eight hunting dogs in my lifetime. Some were better hunters than others, but they were all my friends and I treated them with respect. I have seen many grown men cry over their loss and I am not ashamed to say that I’ve been one.

God bless dogs!

Ron Malast can be reached at 360-665-3573.

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