The brown pointer trembled as I reached down to release her from the leash. The wind was coming up pretty good and her ears tousled back as she leaned forward and tested the air with that reddish nose. In a leap she was the young dog that I had often looked on in wonder as she plowed through the autumn woods. Once again a brawny, muscular, bulldozer of a dog that hunted with abandon and didn’t worry about obstacles since she could smash through anything. As vividly as the morning sun I saw the hunting light come into her eyes, she was two years old again and a being with a single purpose as she swept the woods.
Then just as quickly as she raced away the years seemed to fall upon her, the years and all the infirmities and pains that follow. She slowed at the top of a little rise, stopped and tested the wind again. The brown dog turned as if slightly embarrassed, but shot me a look that said as plain as day, “Once upon a time I could really tear it up, couldn’t I ol’ buddy?”
Somehow I have an old dog again, I have no idea how this happened, having vowed when I buried the last one that I would never do it again. Where did the years go? Most of us go through a momentary loss of our sanity when we acquire a puppy. We endure all that goes with it and we never once pause to consider what is coming down the road.
Old dogs love to be taken for a hunt, included in the day, thought of as part of the crew. Please remember it was not so long ago that they were the crew! They hate to sit at home and watch you load up the young dogs and drive away. They know exactly where you are going.
As hunters and outdoorsman we all know another kind of old dog. There are Dads, uncles, cousins, neighbors, or just a brother in camo that we know who would love to just get in the truck and go. They may sit there and never say a word as you load up with other young dogs and drive off. Stop and take a close look sometime, you will see the hunting light come up in their eyes.
They were the great hunters one time, they were the ones that told you stories about walking across Cheat Mountain and champion hunting dogs long gone. They were the ones that finally relented to your pleas to be included in the hunt, even when they feared you were not old enough. They saw the hunting light in your eyes and they took you into the fold.
The old dogs may not be able to follow you on every step of the hunt. They don’t care. They just want to go with you. They just want to be included. They may sit in the truck and wait for your stories when you return, or maybe just go to camp with you and be part of the crew. They just want to go!
One day you may remember this as you stop to pick up an old dog and take him to the mountains. You may look over and he will shoot you a look that says as plain as day, “Once upon a time I could really tear it up, couldn’t I ol’ buddy?”