In this life of dogs and birds and the march of boots across the uplands, we are often struck by the unfortunate irony of losing a good dog after only a dozen years. It is unfair, we dog lovers think, that we humans are awarded with such long lives and such a wonderful animal as the canine is cheated with a short one. This past April, I put another good dog into the soil after a baker’s dozen years on this blue marble and I thought to myself, “that was the dog.” One good dog, one good woman, one good horse, one man once said.
Twenty years ago, on a hot June day, I put a good dog into the sand at the base of a chukar cliff in the middle of nowhere and as the sweat ran into my eyes and the tears ran out, I thought to myself, “that was the dog.”
And while it is true there will never be another Hank or another Sage, that old maxim of “one good and that’s all you get” is as false as the twinkle of pyrite in a prospector’s pan. The truth of this comes home to me this season as I try to rein in another amazing soul that has come into my life. She is fire and charge and zip and zing. She is faster than I can remember any of the others before her. She is smarter than them too. Or at least as I remember them. And therein is the secret: memory is a trickster. And another truth: there will be another one; it won’t be the same, but it will be different in some ways, better in some ways, and a gift. A true gift.
From the dog’s perspective, perhaps a dozen years is a cheat. But on this day in deep autumn in the full throat of another season of following the perfume of the uplands, I vow to myself to make her years varied and spectacular. I promise to grind the tires off my pickup and the soles from my boots in pursuit of her ultimate joy. And mine. There will be more moments of spectacular glory and pure puppy chaos and I will walk on, shotgun in hand, thinking about what a fortunate man I am, have been, and will be.