The pictures and stories that follow are testament to the faithful life of Bones...
On leap day, 1992, I flew back from a business trip and was met at the airport by a 7 week old Chesapeake Bay Retriever. As we made our way home, my new friend fell asleep, his small body nestled in one of my hands. We were together night and day ever since. There's a picture of Bones on the right taken when he was just a youngster, playing the bumper game along the Bear River not too far from our home. He can also be seen in many of the pictures on this web site as he was never far from my side.
Since I am certain he has taught me more than I have taught him, I think I should start by retelling a couple of stories that I related in a Christmas letter a some years ago.
I continually tell myself "Hey stupid! Trust your dog." Time and time again, with little variation, it goes like this. I wing a chukar (or a pheasant or a Hun, it doesn't really matter) and see it go running down a ridge line. Bones bails over some cliff and with much hollering and disgust, I dash off to make the retrieve myself. I look around futilely, but can't find the bird. Just for good measure, I holler at Bones again to get his skinny butt over here. It's usually right about this time that he comes back over the hill with a big grin and my bird. I eat a lot of crow.
You say you want to hear about our first duck hunt together. I knew you would. Its Bones' second season. He's a very accomplished upland bird dog by this time but hasn't done any waterfowling. All right, it's o'dark thirty and we've got weather (wind and rain). I put the blocks on my back and trudge through the muck for a couple of miles to a bend on the Sacramento river. We're having fun now. Someday, I'm gonna get me a duck boat. Sun up in an hour, 30 minutes till prime time. I'll have the decoys in the water in no time and drink a hot cup of brew before the birds arrive.
Bones knows his job well. He flushes the birds, I try my best to knock one down and he retrieves them. So, as I start putting the plastic ducks in the water, Bones dutifully retrieves each and every one of them. No amount of imploring, begging or pleading will make him stop. As dawn arrives it is truly a Kodak moment; I'm a hollerin' at the top of my lungs and my poor dog is just doing his job; too bad I don't know that we're not supposed to let them go.
Suffice it to say that eventually Bones sees the situation my way and I get the fakes out. I have no sooner set my butt on the ground than I notice that one of my decoys has broken free and is racing toward the river's tongue. How it does this, I do not know. As I have no wish to die trying to save an errant decoy, I'm forced to send Bones to fetch it after all of the shenanigans we just went through.
In his prime, Bones tipped the scales at 72 pounds at the start of the hunting season and by the end would be 68 pounds of lean, mean hunting machine. By his 11th hunting season, Bones had "fattened" up to 78 pounds with my wife's love and pampering. Still going in his 13th hunting season, Bones scans the skies for ducks while hunting with me on a northern California river.