Each time, when I pull into my driveway, I would glance over towards the dog kennel in my backyard, as there has always been one of my hunting dogs waiting for me.
I cannot describe how I felt last week, coming home, looking towards the kennel and the kennel was empty after I lost my dog, it was a tough deal and I felt lost.
Ever since I came to Nebraska from Watertown, S.D., I have always had a hunting dog and loved hunting behind them.
My first dog an A.K.C. registered Brittney spaniel, a pup I received in payment for working at a part-time job. When it came to pay day, the owner informed me he did not have the money to pay me and told me to take one of his dog’s pup and an old 53 GMC pickup setting out in his trees as payment.
It seemed to me that a dog and an old ugly pickup were better than nothing was, so I returned the following afternoon after work to see if I could pick up a pup and get the pickup to start.
My wife was not too keen on the idea when I came home with a puppy, an old pickup and no cash, as the extra money was something we had counted on.
We named the pup “Calico” who was a little high-spirited, and there were days when I wondered if he knew what a bird was, while at other times, he amazed me with his ability to locate and retrieve whatever I knocked down.
Back then, habitat was sparse and about the only habitat in the county where I lived were the unpicked corn and the terrace rows. Back then, the cornrows were wide with grass and weeds growing between the rows and because of the hilly ground many of the fields were terraced. We hunted together for over ten years and my first experience hunting with a dog and the only way I wanted to hunt after that.
I had a couple of dogs in between, when we had our kids and these dogs were more of a pet for the kids than full-fledged hunting dogs.
A friend of mine gave me my last dog and just a year old when he came to live with. This friend of mine had several dogs, including this partially trained A.K.C. registered black Lab named “Bay’s Doolin Moe Joe” that he was looking to give to someone who would give it a good home.
I wondered why anyone would be looking for a home for a hunting dog, but figured I would take the chance. Because calling him “Bay’s Doolin Moe Joe” was a mouthful, we just called him “Moe”.
At the time, I had older yellow lab “Duke, and I thought having “Moe” hunt with the older dog would be a good learning experience. The two dogs really worked well together, backing each other up and getting along well in the kennel.
Duke died a few years later from congestive heart disease; it was hard on my family, as that Lab had been my kids play friend, my hunting partner and at times my best friend for almost 13 years.
Having “Moe” there helped to deaden the pain, but losing a dog, which was a member of the family for such a long time was still terribly hard on both my younger children and myself.
Originally, “Moe” was trained to hunt waterfowl hunting, he was an excellent hunter and it did not matter what species we were pursuing, as he was always game.
He loved to hunt and to retrieve and it did not matter if we were hunting doves, grouse, prairie chickens, pheasant, waterfowl or just messing around in the yard playing with a retrieving dummy.
“Moe” seemed to know when the fall hunting seasons were coming up, as when he heard my pickup coming, he would get excited and as I pulled in the yard would do his dance, spinning around and jumping high into the air until I went to him. If I did not acknowledge him and headed into the house, he would bark, just in case I had not seen him. At times, after he barked, I would tell him. “I will be out in a minute; he then would set down by the kennel doors and wait for me to come and let him out for his run.
As summer headed into the fall, in September we would begin our season hunting doves, grouse and prairie chicken. In late fall, we would be in the field chasing pheasants and from time to time waterfowl.
“Moe” had an unbelievable nose and it seemed as if he knew what we were after when hunting pheasants. He would amaze me and I was proud to know that I taught him a few things and I learned a lot from him.
The first year he was with me, we hunted hard and he did an excellent job. It was the second year when he really came on and seemed to understand that we were after the brightly colored birds, the roosters, not the drab looking hens.
If he could see the bird and it was a rooster, his tail would start to swing slowly, pick up speed, spinning in tight circles. If it were a hen, his tail would just swing from side to side, as he seemed to know that those were not what we were after.
His papers did not indicate he came from a line of pointing labs, but when he scented or got close to a bird, he would pause. If I would tell him to “whoa”, he would look my way, moves forward a step or two, pause again on “Whoa” until he got the command “get em out of there”, then he would charge in and flush the bird.
“Moe” and I hunted in numerous states, with hundreds and hundreds of hours spent in the field and on the water.
As it happened in many states, when the price of corns and beans went up, much of the CRP habitat and shelterbelts in northeast Nebraska, places where we did a lot of hunting and places in years past we could always find birds ended up in going into crop production.
You take away wildlife habitat, your wildlife numbers decline, which cut down our hunting opportunities and our hours in the field.
On some of the hunting trips into South Dakota to hunt, I ride with another hunter and have to leave “Moe” at home, which is something I regret to this day as each trip with him made that trip so much more enjoyable.
We still hunted around home during late season on the weekends, just the two of us, I didn’t shoot at many birds, the ones I did, took a little longer to find if. If “Moe” had not seen the bird go down, I would have to move him to the spot where the bird dropped, it took a little more time, but eventually together, we would find them.
As the years slipped by, “Moe” slowed down, his hearing was not as good and his eyes were not as sharp, but neither was mine.
He still loved to get out and the hunting we did was for doves or on weekend hunts looking for an occasional pheasant in small CRP tracts that were still around.
The majority of our time spent together would be around home as “Moe” loved to ride in the four-wheeler with me down to the creek road. Once there, he would jump out, work his way through the ditches, looking for birds, and when convinced there were none, would race me up the hill. Then we would go down to the creek where he would splash around in the water, retrieving anything that went floating by.
He was a great dog and taught me many things, as he trained “Me” very well!
This has been one of the toughest for me to write, as “Moe” and I were best pals for over thirteen years, and this last week, “Moe” left us.
His kennel sets empty, a reminder of “Moe” who is no longer with us, however, as time goes by, that sad feeling I got when I looked at the empty kennel will fade with the kennel becoming a remembrance of the many great times that my dog and I had together.
As one of my daughters said, do not feel sad pop, “Moe’s” in good hands, as you know, he’s in heaven hunting to his heart’s content!