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Requiem for a Retriever - Chesapeake Bay Retriever Hunting Dog Pictures
Breed: Chesapeake Bay Retriever
From: Julie Reardon
Posted: Apr 21, 2009
REQUIEM FOR A RETRIEVER by Julie Reardon
If she was a person, she'd have a police record. That's how we described our middle dog Jib, a regally bred and talented but prankish Chesapeake Bay Retriever. We wanted to be honest when people called about buying one of her 10 puppies born earlier this year; to make sure people knew what they were getting into. Chessie puppyhood is not for the faint of heart in a best case scenario but like many dogs bred to hunt, if our Jib wasn't trained and worked regularly she would invent her own pastimes. Many involved chewing and digging and other forms of mayhem.
A Chesapeake, you know, is not as common or as popular as its distant cousins the Labrador and Golden retrievers. Never achieving their pet popularity, it remains truer to its hunting origins as the only true American retriever. Developed on the waters of the mighty Chesapeake Bay in the first decade of the 1800s, they all descend from a pair of dogs rescued from a shipwrecked brig. All the descendants of these two dogs showed exceptional retrieving ability and toughness and were highly prized for their ability to handle the roughest conditions of retrieving ducks and geese in the winter waters. They were also expected to guard the crab shacks of their owners, the taciturn watermen of the era and eventually formed the breed we now know as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
On the morning of that bright March day, Jib took off after her dam Puffin on a fast hunt: a squirrel, a groundhog, who knows. Our dogs are homebodies; they rarely leave our 30 acres and in fact are usually 10 feet from the mudroom door. But in a quirky set of circumstances this hunt/run for joy took them across the street by the church at the head of our driveway. A neighbor on his way to work struck Jib, in the lead. It wasn't his fault; fast as as jet she'd barreled out of the woods leaving him no time to even brake. But even a big strong bitch like Jib was no match for an SUV. He ran to get me and said it looked bad, but hurry because she was still alive.
He helped me pick her up and I loaded her in the front seat of my truck. So much blood and entrails, but she was alive. Her head was in my lap, her yellow eyes fixed on mine. One hand on the wheel and the other on the towel covering her side, I raced to the Marshall veterinary clinic 10 hairy, curvy miles away driving 70 mph and taking corners on two wheels. I was sure she'd die en route, but she is a fighter, my Jib and as they unloaded her she struggled, looking back at me. She wants to live so bad, I told the vet; we just had to try and save her. They took her back and gave her fluids and pain meds and said it was grave, but she had a chance if I took her to the state of the art emergency clinic an hour away.
With no guarantees she'd survive the trip, they loaded her back in my truck, wrapped up, her head back on my leg again, with an oxygen mask over her muzzle, and the tank behind the seat. Above the cone of the oxygen mask, her eyes still looked steadfastly at me and I again sped off, white knuckles gripping the wheel. Every so often I'd glance down, expecting the worst, but seeing the regular rise and fall of her sides as the great yellow eyes never left mine. I do think God made his creatures for us and looks out after them as well as us, so I prayed she wasn't in horrible pain and that she'd hang on.
At the fancy Animal Emergency Clinic in Leesburg, the vets and staff were waiting and gave her a slim chance: they unloaded her and went right to work. I began to hope. My girl was young and healthy, a fighter and she just never ever quit, whether it was a tough long open water retrieve or learning a complicated field trial concept. Or even a prank she would try only under judgment as she learned early that at a hunt test or trial, a judge would shield her from my full wrath for disobedience.
But alas this was one battle she could not win, and she died on the operating table. Fortunately they'd thoughtfully let us see her as Doug arrived frantically at the hospital just before they put her under for the surgery; we'd each given her a hug and a prayer as they wheeled her in. But it was a heavy hearted caravan that returned home to bury her poor broken body.
On March 24th, we buried our prankish and beloved Jib, aka Dibs or formally as she was registered, Hope Springs Rufsail JH**WDX. We who love our dogs wholeheartedly as friend, companion and confidant know a special pain when they die, as their lives are way too short. But we also cannot imagine a life without them and so we start the cycle again.
We said a graveside prayer with Jib's 10 week old daughter and 8 year old dam nearby. Another daughter, this one 13 months, would come back a friend's shortly. They still look for their mother, daughter and playmate, who is buried up on the hill next to her granddam. We miss her. RIP Jib: Jan. 14, 2004---March 24, 2009.
Don't look on my cold form in pity;
Don't think of me as one dead.
It will just be the house I once lived in,
My spirit by then will have fled.
I'll have finished my time here alloted,
but I won't be in darkness alone,
I will have heard from heaven,
The summons to come on home.
And when my body is in the grave,
Don't think that I'll be there;
I won't be dead but living
In the place that your heart will prepare.
Adapted from”Someday,” Olive Stokes' eulogy as sung by the bluegrass band Blue Highway