Let us first establish that Pete was born unique. He opened his puppy eyes to the fuzzy faces and butts of his kindred yet his view was unimpeded by hair of his own. Pete was a smooth little pup in a field of thatch–a recessive wirehair without the hair but all the wire and then some. Hard-wired one might say.
His new owner, a friend who was at the time doing a stint guarding an embassy somewhere in Afghanistan on a contract from the United States Government, was urged to never breed him, a plea to which my pal complied. The girlfriend stateside watched the pup while my friend did his time bored out of his mind in a desert building fly rods, dreaming of bugling elk and thinking Pete might be a bird dog if he ever became a bird hunter. Montana was all headspace and concept. Occasionally, my pal would hop in a convoy and follow a high-ranking someone somewhere. Then he flew back to the high plains and big mountains where he belonged.
Life has its twists and turns and my buddy came home to a young Pete and a girlfriend who became his wife. The dreams of bugling elk were realized and the fly rods were wiped clean of Afghanistan sand and bent on Rocky Mountain rainbows. Pete tore across pastures and busted skylines but somehow the upland bird hunting never became reality. Instead, Pete became a ranch dog.
No one told Pete that he should have been born a blue heeler instead of a smooth wirehair, so Pete jumped right into ranch life which is a mixture of hard work and what some–including myself–would call damned good fun. Like you get paid to ride four wheelers, drive pickups, shoot gophers, play in the water. Set aside all the other hard stuff. And Pete had fun. There were Huns and pheasants on the place my amigo managed and it’s likely that old Pete got into a few. Somewhere in there, Pete put it together that he was a gopher dog. You’d see him out there on the skyline, hard on point, a gopher twenty feet away chirping his alarm and Pete frozen as if pinning down the biggest cock rooster in all the realm and saying Get the hell up here boss. You’d go back to irrigating and look back up and there was old Pete, frozen on point, but somehow 15 feet closer to the chirping gopher and the next thing you knew, here came Pete carrying a dead gopher and dropping it at my buddy’s feet.
Maybe Pete was taking revenge on all the world’s gophers for the time he got his ass kicked by a gopher as a young pup. Turns out my pal, though a trained sniper, didn’t do the job completely on one gopher with his .17 and when Pete sprinted out to retrieve the gopher, it was still very much alive and proceeded to beat the living shit out of a bird dog/ranch pup. Pete developed a keen taste for gopher meat thereafter.
Which led Pete to use up the first of his many lives when he ate a poisoned gopher and got poisoned. Pete recovered from that one, only to try a gopher-popper on the neighbor’s poisoned field yet again. Life number two. Felis catus has nothing on Peteus Smooth Wirehairus.
Between pointing and sneaking and killing gophers, Pete galloped out on cattle roundups, too far out ahead to be much of a cow dog, but out there anyway and without a whole lot of street-sense one might say. Life number three was beneath the tires of a stock trailer pulled behind a pickup truck. Recovery. Life number four was a beneath the frame of a four-wheeler chasing a calf back to his momma. Life number five was beneath the hooves of maybe even that same momma cow. Did I mention that a mutual good friend of ours is also a veterinarian?
Life moved on and my pal and his lovely wife had a beautiful baby girl and another and then another. They went from one ranch, to a higher country ranch that didn’t have rattlesnakes (Pete life number six was a snake bite to the snout while frozen on point of said snake). And while my buddy killed many a big beautiful elk or mule deer with rifle and bow, and caught many a trout on fly rod and reel, he never took up shotgunning for birds. So Pete kept on being the uniquest bird dog in all Montana, pointing his snakes and gophers and living the ranch life.
One fine fall morning, Pete hopped into the pickup and accompanied our ranch friend to the high country pines where dead lodgepole after dead lodgepole was felled by an ex-sniper wielding a chainsaw. Along came Pete when an especially dandy big lodgepole was yielding to gravity in the cracking, popping boom of falling timber that you only have to hear once. Pete somehow didn’t hear it and the tree centered him squarely. Life number eight. Our animal doctor comrade thought Pete might never walk again, but in a couple of weeks, he was staggering around weak-legged but game as hell, moving like a 90-year-old on a walker but without the walker.
A year or two passed. Pete somehow made it into old dog-dom with plenty of gray and lots of wobble, but the hard-wire still there in his heart. The other day, my homie came by to help me install a woodburner in my shop on the farm and Pete came with along with a couple of his little girls. They know me as “Buddy.” First thing Pete did was turn over a trashcan full of two week old Chinese take out and various detritus of country living (not that city living produces any less disgusting garbage, but there’s likely to be plenty of animal parts in country trash). Pete ate it all up, including the aluminum foil on the left-over egg rolls.
While we were in the crux move of attaching the chimney pipe brace, my pal’s little girls came running over with some news: “Buddy, Buddy, Pete killed one of your turkeys!!!”
We don’t have turkeys, but we do own five of the stupidest birds on the planet to help with grasshopper control on our organic farm, http://www.goodmamafarm.com, guinea fowl. Turns out old Pete, all of 12 or 13, somehow found the steam to point, creep and pounce on one of the guinea hens. We ran over and here was Pete, wagging his tail to beat the band and delivering a still-live, but seriously wounded guinea hen to hand. Happy as hell and doing his job as he saw it. The guinea didn’t make it and Pete got a whuppin’ but for a moment there, the bird-dog-who-never-was thought he was in tall cotton. Maybe a bit hard-mouthed, but hey, it was a retrieve.
Something tells me old Pete would have been one hell of a bird dog.