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Thread: I Needed To Say Goodbye Today

  1. #1
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    Default I Needed To Say Goodbye Today

    I approached this season knowing in my heart that this might be my old labs last duck season. She had passed the torch to my younger lab a couple of years ago and was just happy to be along. Unfortunately, she passed suddenly in May just shy of 12 years old. It was a tearful, painful goodbye as we all remeberbered what a huge part of our family she had been and all of the adventures she had accompanied us on. We had her cremated and made plans to take her along for her last duck hunt September 1.

    I loaded some of Sage's ash in four 12ga shells this week. I was excited for the opener....looking forward to the dark marsh coming alive, the smells, the changing light, the anticipation of the first birds...but this year all of that was secondary to saying goodbye to Sage. My wife took off from work, my boys skipped school, and we all hiked back to the blind we had shared so many mornings with her. Everyone loaded an ash shell in the chamber and live rounds behind. We agreed that if a single came in we'd send it on its way with an ash cloud and Sage's spirit chasing it. If it was multiple birds one would escape and the rest were fair game.

    Everyone that was out this morning shared a beautiful, calm morning watching the distant sunrise light the clouds from below. LST came and went without anyone in the area shooting early. Eventually the surrounding marsh came alive with occasional shots. Three mallards dropped out of the cool morning air near our set up and I called the shot. The four of us sent ash flying and my boys continued with live rounds dropping a fat mallard in the pond. I looked around taking in the moment.....an amazing sky, ripples on the pond from the mallard hitting hard, my boys turning to men, tears streaming down my wife's face, and knowing I had made my old dog smile and wag her tail.

    The morning continued with a couple of more ups and a couple of more birds in the bag. As the flight slowed I called all of us to the edge of the pond. Our young dog held back knowing something wasn't quite right, or maybe saying goodbye in her own way. We thanked Sage for her time with us, reminded ourselves and her that she'd always be with us in spirit and memory, and asked her to steer a few birds our way or to whisper in the ear of our younger lab if she struggles to find a downed bird. We each took a turn spreading the remaining ash and each tossed a Milkbone into the water as we said goodbye to an incredible bird dog.

    If waterfowlers had the ability to invent anything I'm sure great bird dogs that could live forever would be high on the list. Unfortunately, we all grow older and our dogs lead the way down that path. I feel fortunate to have hunted in many places with Sage and thankful she could accompany us on one last hunt this morning.

  2. #2
    Member AKArcher's Avatar
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    What an appropriate send off for Sage - and I thank you for sharing.... I too have an old lab he's now 11. All too close to home.
    When all else fails...ask your old-man.


    AKArcher

  3. #3
    Member Mr. Grayling's Avatar
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    My labs 9 but turning ten in April. I sit and wonder sometimes what it will be like when he is gone. On a positive note, he just retrieved two ducks about an hour ago. He is happy and drying off in the late evening sunshine. Thanks for sharing your story. I don't have many more years with him, but it's hard to think about what lies down the road. Enjoy the seasons you have because they seem to end way too fast.
    "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." John Muir

  4. #4
    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Birdstrike View Post
    I approached this season knowing in my heart that this might be my old labs last duck season. She had passed the torch to my younger lab a couple of years ago and was just happy to be along. Unfortunately, she passed suddenly in May just shy of 12 years old. It was a tearful, painful goodbye as we all remeberbered what a huge part of our family she had been and all of the adventures she had accompanied us on. We had her cremated and made plans to take her along for her last duck hunt September 1.

    I loaded some of Sage's ash in four 12ga shells this week. I was excited for the opener....looking forward to the dark marsh coming alive, the smells, the changing light, the anticipation of the first birds...but this year all of that was secondary to saying goodbye to Sage. My wife took off from work, my boys skipped school, and we all hiked back to the blind we had shared so many mornings with her. Everyone loaded an ash shell in the chamber and live rounds behind. We agreed that if a single came in we'd send it on its way with an ash cloud and Sage's spirit chasing it. If it was multiple birds one would escape and the rest were fair game.

    Everyone that was out this morning shared a beautiful, calm morning watching the distant sunrise light the clouds from below. LST came and went without anyone in the area shooting early. Eventually the surrounding marsh came alive with occasional shots. Three mallards dropped out of the cool morning air near our set up and I called the shot. The four of us sent ash flying and my boys continued with live rounds dropping a fat mallard in the pond. I looked around taking in the moment.....an amazing sky, ripples on the pond from the mallard hitting hard, my boys turning to men, tears streaming down my wife's face, and knowing I had made my old dog smile and wag her tail.

    The morning continued with a couple of more ups and a couple of more birds in the bag. As the flight slowed I called all of us to the edge of the pond. Our young dog held back knowing something wasn't quite right, or maybe saying goodbye in her own way. We thanked Sage for her time with us, reminded ourselves and her that she'd always be with us in spirit and memory, and asked her to steer a few birds our way or to whisper in the ear of our younger lab if she struggles to find a downed bird. We each took a turn spreading the remaining ash and each tossed a Milkbone into the water as we said goodbye to an incredible bird dog.

    If waterfowlers had the ability to invent anything I'm sure great bird dogs that could live forever would be high on the list. Unfortunately, we all grow older and our dogs lead the way down that path. I feel fortunate to have hunted in many places with Sage and thankful she could accompany us on one last hunt this morning.
    Wow buddy.....that was hard to read (as I can relate) but beautiful none the less.

    Thank God for our precious bird dogs...!!!
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

  5. #5
    Member akblackdawg's Avatar
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    That was a very well written and nice final tribute to a dog that meant a lot to you and your family. I wish I could come up with words that way you do. My old lab passed in Feb, and I plan on taking some of his ashes out to our hunting grounds this fall. Thank you for posting your thoughts and the tribute to your dog. I hope you are on facebook and would like to see this on the Alaska Duck Hunters group also. Thank you, Bud
    Wasilla

  6. #6
    Member Hoss's Avatar
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    That is probably the best way to say goodbye that I can think of. I lost the best dog I have ever had this winter, also named Sage coincidentally, and had a tough time making it though your story with dry eyes. Great job with the post and the tribute.

  7. #7
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    Sorry for your loss. I have been there. Never easy. Like the way your shared her love of the sport. I did it very similar. The first shell out of the gun every year is her ashes, the canvasback decoy with her ashes in it still accompanies me on the hunts. It was her last retrieve and my first Bull.
    President of Alaska Waterfowl Assoc.
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  8. #8
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    My dogs ashes are in a box in my bird bag. Goes with me every time. Sorry for your loss, but good dogs never really leave us.

  9. #9
    Member skybust's Avatar
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    Sorry for your loss but what a great way to pay respect
    Is it opening day of duck season yet
    Member of Alaska Waterfowl Association

  10. #10
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    Wonderful tribute to your hunting partner and member of the family. While some may, I don't think everyone fully understands the bond shared with a waterfowler and his/her dog. I dread the day I have to cross that road. Enjoy the season and cherish those memories from the field.

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