by Rick Giermata
As I looked out the window at 6am, I thought to myself what a terrible day to hunt. Cold, wind, and light freezing rain pelted my kitchen window making me want nothing more than to crawl back into my warm bed and catch up on some sleep. Just as I was about to turn the kitchen light off and do just that, I felt a set of eyes upon me. As I looked back out towards the kennel, a familiar set of brown eyes were starring back. I almost forgot that last night at feed time I made a promise to an old friend of mine. A promise to my old dog that today was going to be the day that we spent hunting bunnies, just he and I. Just like so many years before, before the other dogs came around, before the pups, and long before any trials were ever attended.
At one time it was just the two of us. Teaching each other all we could about rabbit hunting, and spending every spare moment together. We both learned more than any book written, or video on the market could offer. We learned through experience, mistakes, and hard countless hours of working as a team. The knowledge that we acquired was passed on to the new dogs and young pups which started to arrive over the next few years. And before long those young dogs had become quite an impact on the trial circuit and in front of the gun. Together, we learned what to look for in a hound, and how to pick out a fault. And once in a while how to correct one. He became a measuring stick for the new dogs that came to try out for the team. And he would come and tell me when one of those pups decided to run off game. What a team, I as the manager, and he as the head coach! Over the years, our team built its offense, and many ribbons were stuck up on the kennel walls.
But something else had happened also, he grew old. His face turned gray, and his built was not as impressive as it was years earlier. I'm sure he may have lost a little speed too. But his heart and desire to run for me grew as big as the kennel did. For he knew, and never forgot our friendship. No matter how many pups came and went, no matter how many times he sat at home cause the young dogs needed time, he never forgot the bond between us that was made many years before. How could I break a promise to such a good old friend, who had been so loyal over the years.
By the time I had loaded the gun after casting him in a old scrub brush field, that old familiar chop bark rang loud upon the wind, and for a brief moment time seemed to stand still. It was as if the clocked had rolled back, and like in the beginning it was just us again. Two old buddies spending a day rabbit hunting. After the shot, the old boy came to me with that rabbit in his mouth and as I was patting him and giving him praise for a nice run, he looked back at me and with his eyes thanked me for not letting him down. While watching him head back to the brush as he had done so many times in the past, I couldn't help but to feel so lucky to have been fortunate to have him for a hunting partner. The countless memories that we shared together brought a tear of joy to my eye's. Just about the time his chop filled the air again signaling to me that another bunny was up, I realized that even with the bad weather, it was truly a beautiful day, and another memory was being added to the list.
Till next time, good hounds and good hunting!