The past couple of weeks the Anglin family has shrunk a bit as “our” litter of puppies left to live with their new families. It’s all about socialization and I’m quite certain all of these puppies will contribute positively to society, canine and otherwise.
I’ll never forget a few Saturdays ago when the entire La Porte High School cross country team came over to the house and spent hours with the litter. Exhausted after the morning meet, boys, girls and coaches collapsed into a pile of tiny puppies and Slicer orange in the yard. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.
The extra socialization works. From the Edlund family’s Chica in rural Northern Minnesota and my buddy, Adam Carpenter, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with his new best friend Roadie, to the Land family of La Porte and their sweetheart Charlie, I get positive feedback daily. It makes it all worthwhile.
We weren’t in it for the money. In fact, we were in it for a puppy. And it wasn’t even ours. Horse trader of worldwide notoriety, simply put, I owed a guy puppy. Now the Kepplin family have what is sure to become a stallion-like male black Labrador in “Kong." I see, baseballs in his future. Lots of chewed-up baseballs. Same with Charlie Land, of course.
We couldn’t resist the urge to add another canine to our stable of working dogs, and as I type this, there is a black lab puppy chewing on my Croc. Her name is Takoda, which means “friend to everyone” in Sioux. According to my research, it’s a boys name, but hey, so is Charlie, and that’s what Jackson Land named Takoda’s sister.
I love hunting dogs, and even though some of these puppies will never hold a mallard or a pheasant in their mouth, they are all perfectly capable of it just like their parents. Deuce and Trix are exceptional hunting dogs, but nothing lasts forever. Deuce’s hardcore days are definitely past him.
I always feel bad for veteran hunting dogs because I know they want to keep going. And I want them to keep going, too, but frankly it isn’t fair to them. The pain is too much. Deuce was hit by a car a couple years ago and almost lost a leg. Thanks to our good friend and veterinarian Erin Sako’s unwavering efforts late one Friday night, Deuce kept his leg. We knew he’d have long-lasting effects, but at least he has four paws.
Sadly, the arthritis associated with a dislocated elbow is catching up to him. I can see it in his eyes – the way he looks at me. I know a little something about joint pain as I too was hit by a car when I was 10 years old. A Cadillac doing 45 mph smacked me dead-center and I flew 90 feet before rolling into a lifeless heap of twisted skin and bone, wrapped in khaki corduroy pants and a velour shirt. It’s an absolute miracle that I survived as it is that Deuce did.
His wife, Trix, is in the prime of her career, but these litters do a number on the females. She’s lost roughly 30 pounds, so I don’t expect much out of her in the field for a while. Of course, Takoda will have her day, but for now it’s all about chewing up old tennies and sparring with the old man, which she does regularly. I hope he’s up to the challenge for one more season.
Last weekend, my boys Mitchell and RJ loaded up the Suburban and we headed north to Petoskey, Michigan, where my buddy Adam Carpenter’s bluegrass band Chasin’ Steel was playing a gig. Adam also hosts his popular afternoon radio show “Adam Carpenter’s Outdoor Show” on WXFD 103 in Marquette, Michigan. He’s been talking-up his puppy during the show for weeks, and I’ve been giving weekly updates on the air, which has been fun. All the years I’ve known the guy, he’s wanted a lab pup and his dream has finally come true. I couldn’t be happier for him.
We pulled into town just before the show started and Adam raced out to the parking lot to see his new pup. He had never seen Roadie and it was clear he was taken with emotion. During the show, Mitch and I ran some video behind the sound booth and watched as the crowd enjoyed a superb show in the intimate setting of the amazing Crooked Tree Arts Center in downtown Petoskey. During the second set, Adam had RJ brought Roadie up on stage and introduced him to the crowd. It was pretty neat to say the least.
The boys tucked in for the night and I met the band across the street for post-show refreshments. I couldn’t believe how many people walked up and asked us about Roadie. This puppy was already a legend at 8 weeks of age.
Sunday morning we said goodbye to Adam and Roadie and headed east. I was bound and determined to find some Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock for Deuce and the boys. When I lived in Marquette, Michigan, I’d hunt these birds nearly every day of the season. It’s truly amazing that I ever made the Dean’s list in college with the all distraction of hunting and skiing. For the record, after I met Angie my name never made the list again.
I know “bird cover." It’s something you don’t forget, like riding a bike. It didn’t take long and I found some good stuff off the highway in a state forest. I hurriedly explained to the boys how it was going to go down. Grouse hunting ain’t kickin’ brush piles for rabbits folks; heavy cover, shotguns and rocket fast birds add an air of danger to the hunt.
We had a blast, literally. Deuce flushed 26 woodcock and eight grouse over the course of a few hours. We ended up with a nice pile of birds, and given our time limitations, I couldn’t have been happier. On the way home, as the boys snored on the ride, I stopped to fuel-up in Gaylord. I had to help Deuce out of the truck because he could barely stand up. He slowly drank water from a bowl next to the gas pump. A guy in a dirty truck pulled up to the adjacent pump. He walked over, looked at me and said, “That’s a good hunting dog right there. Bless his heart.”
Jay Anglin writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Argus. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.