I know it isn’t safe and a lot of dog owners will turn up their noses and say how I can be so irresponsible by putting my dog in such danger. My dog loves truck rides, LOVES truck rides. I’m not talking sitting shotgun, I’m talking the bed of the truck. He can’t get enough. He goes from side to side, smelling and letting his tongue hang out. I’ve tried putting him in the front, but he loves the back. It must be his explorer nature. I always pictured him in a past dog life, right next to Lewis and Clark exploring. He is at his happiest walking through the woods finding new smells and chasing new things. For years we would explore the fields and woods by our house finding new hunting spots, birds or sheds
January 4th 2012 Smitty was born. My brother and I found a Fox Red Lab breeder in Ohio that had the pedigree and look we desired. We made the trip to get one dog each from the same litter, Smith & Wesson were going to be their names. We started training them right away. Pheasants were going to be their specialty for us. They both took to finding them right away. Wesson was more active, Smitty more methodical. On their first pheasant hunt, Smitty did a great job finding a bird, however, he turned out gun shy. I spent months and months trying to fix it. He got better and would hide behind my legs anymore but he would be done for the day after a shot was fired. I was devastated, more for him than me. He loved what he did and so did I. Spending time with a hunting dog in the woods is something few people understand.
Then one day, as if by accident we discovered something new. On a walk, Smitty ran off into the woods and brought back a deer bone. It got me thinking. There has to be something with deer that we can do together. Shed hunting wasn’t heard of at the time, at least around here and in my circles. People would talk about stumbling across some in turkey season, but other than that it wasn’t thought of as an activity. I started doing some research and started retraining him to be a shed hunter. He had a job again. For the next year we practiced. We started in the house, hiding them under beds and behind couches. Then I moved to the yard, then to our normal walk around the field. Every spring, we made trips to camp, neighbor’s fields and familiar woods to look and find shed antlers. He was a proud dog again.
That wasn’t his only job around the house. He helped keep me active by taking a walk with my wife and me almost every day. My wife would take him on runs with her. He would make sure the delivery man wouldn’t make it past the driveway. He helped my son learn to walk by laying there while Emmett tried to stand up. He never looked annoyed or frustrated with him. My son loved him. He would pet Smitty too rough, Smitty didn’t care. He would climb up on his back, Smitty didn’t care. He was just happy to be a part of our family.
This is my guilt paragraph. My son is almost two. The last two years have made it tougher to take those daily walks. It has been tougher to take him shed hunting. It has been tougher to do the things that make Smitty happy. He just waits for those moments and when they come around he lives them to the fullest. I feel guilty for the times that he has thrown up in the house, brought mud into the house or destroyed something in the house. I feel guilty because of things I said to him or how I felt about him at that moment. This morning was one of those moments, before work I had to break out the mop and clean up a nice pile of puke.
The last thoughts and words I had of my dog were not good ones as I cleaned up the puke. I didn’t see him this morning, my wife had already fed him and let him outside for the day. We both left for work. This past year I built a fence around our yard for my son and dog. We wouldn’t have to worry about their safety. In Smitty’s explorer nature, he would constantly test that fence and break out. I would have to fix the fence to make it Smitty proof. He would always be on our front porch or in the garage after a successful escape attempt, almost to tell me, better luck next time! This morning’s escape attempt was his last. I loaded him into my truck this afternoon for one last truck ride. I hope he knows he made our family whole.
I love you Smitty.