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The Last Windrow: Dogs deserv longer lives

I’ve come to the conclusion that dogs don’t live long enough. There’s nothing much I can do about that, but I can have an opinion. Dogs just deserve to have a longer lifespan. 

Our family lost our latest family friend a couple of weeks ago. Looking into possible causes, I think our Jada succumbed to what is called the “twisted stomach syndrome.” 

Simply put, large, deep-chested dogs are at risk of this malady. Jada was approaching her 11th year and that put her directly in the path of this illness. The stomach in such situations twists 180 degrees, which basically shuts off blood flow to the stomach. The result is usually not good. Surgery is an option, but even then it is a long road back.

But, I’m not writing this column to describe the end of a great dog’s life, but instead to revel in the good days that she spent with our family and friends. She was probably the best hunting dog I ever owned and one of the best house dogs ever to share our back deck on a warm morning or a summer day. 

I was in the market for a hunting partner 11 years ago when I spied an ad in a local paper. It said “Black Labs For Sale.” The timing couldn’t have been better. Our daughter was just graduating from high school and she could be in on the selection process. 

A hoard of black-coated puppies greeted us as we drove in the owner’s yard. They were all over the place, all 12 of them. We were given our choice. I picked a smaller-framed female that looked like it had potential. 

Then my daughter called out, “Dad, here’s the one you want!” Around the corner of the barn came Jada, carrying a kitten softly between her jaws. She gently put the cat to the ground and she was ours. It was a great choice!

Jada was trained and from the start retrieved anything one could throw. And, she would retrieve items tossed into the deepest woods and swamp. Never did she come back without the training dummy. That nose was almost magical. 

Many trips to the fields of South Dakota followed and Jada became somewhat of a legend among our hunting friends. If a bird went down in the middle of a cattail swamp, we all knew if Jada went in, the bird would usually come out.

I cringed when she once plowed into an ice-covered, heavily weeded swamp in search of a rooster I had knocked down over it. I could hear ice breaking and an unseen struggle was taking place. I feared she might not make it back to the shore where I awaited. 

But, she did and with a fully feathered rooster pheasant grasped gently between her jaws. Good dog! 

On another hunting sojourn, my daughter and I were heading back to my pickup a mile distant. We were visiting as we walked along the grassy field when suddenly Jada poked me in the back of my knee. Not looking, I told her to “Cut it out!”

She proceeded to keep poking me behind the knee and when I turned to scold her, I saw her sitting there with a rooster pheasant gently placed between her jaws. Somewhere she had found a previously wounded bird and dutifully brought it to us. We hadn’t fired a shot, but we had one more bird in the bag. 

There was the pheasant drive near a farm pond. High grass and cattails waved around us as we made our push, Jada out front. One of my hunting party suddenly blurted out, “Jada’s coming your way and she’s got something.” 

When she arrived at my boot tops, she had a live hen mallard duck gently clasped between her jaws. The duck was quacking and unhurt. I asked for the bird and Jada gave it to me and I set it free to fly away. 

Ten minutes later, Jada brought back the same hen mallard, still unhurt and quacking. We still laugh about the experience. On that same hunt, she also retrieved a very alive rooster pheasant to my hand. One of the party said, “What did we bring shells for? Let Jada do it!” 

There were many such experiences with this dog that should have lived another 20 years. But, I’ve had enough canine friends to know that it just doesn’t happen that way. 

All our dog friends should last longer, don’t you think? 

Enjoy them while you may. Good friends aren’t around forever. Good dogs, like Jada, don’t come around everyday, if ever. 

See you next time. Okay?