Cherished dogs and their stories
Dec. 14, 2001
I'm not certain what got me to thinking about dogs but it occurred to me that a modest tribute to a few of them would be in order. In the outdoor world, where incidentally I believe that most dogs should live their lives, they are often eager partners to loads of fun. In fact, they sometimes provide the lion's share of adventure and enjoyment.
As I mentally listed a few "top dogs" in my past, I suddenly realized I had written about each of them already, so much was their impressions upon me. Maybe the reader likewise will pause to remember the great dogs in his or her past and be rewarded with recurring admiration that will foster a smile or a nostalgic tear.
Bulger is afforded top billing here not because he was the greatest dog on my list, but because he was a partner in one of the most memorable few minutes in my life. Unlike the other unforgettable canines, Bulger's was a case of just him and me. And, coincidentally, the biggest whitetail buck of my life and likely his. It's personal.
Bulger had chased the great buck to me and I had wounded it. To allow it to lie down and thus be found, I had to stop Bulger as he came by, hot on the scent trail. The dog was too big and mean and tough and determined for me to stop him. He ran over me. He pushed the deer far away where it died slower than I had wished, one of only a few wounded deer that got away during 50 years of hunting. A tragic loss.
The image of the giant buck has not faded after thousands of visits to my consciousness. Nor has the esteem I have for a deer dog that did his job so well that neither I, nor anything short of shooting him, could intervene.
Like each of us, dogs have a life story. All are noteworthy, but some dogs' stories are captivating. Kate is a young setter owned by Dr. Tim Ivey's family. She was special from the beginning because she was chosen as a family pet and to accompany Ivey in his search for the rewards of bygone quail hunting days.
Two things in Kate's story move me. First is that she ran away from home on her first night at the Iveys' and spent weeks lost, far from her birthplace and perhaps seeking to find it. The family searched and elicited help in locating Kate. She was dangerously ill when she was finally found and returned. Weeks of good health and critical training lost forever, she nevertheless grew strong and learned her hunting lessons rapidly. She is on her way to becoming a premier quail dog.
The other inspiring thing here is that Tim Ivey now follows Kate through the quail covers of his youth where they both heed an ancient calling that engenders individual fulfillment. Kate is gracing her image in her master's memory that will last a lifetime.(More on special dogs to follow in a future column.)
Note: Autographed copies of Otha Barham's book of 55 true outdoor stories, "Here Where We Belong," are available for $11.22 each from Old Ben Publications, 3100 38th Street, Meridian, MS 39305. Add $1.85 shipping – 50 cents each additional copy. Mississippi residents add 78 cents tax. Phone orders 482-4440.