Last week closed the chapter on Lily; my best ever hunting dog/family pet. An English Springer spaniel who would have been 15 this July. Up until the day before she died she would let my 2-year old grandson do all the things that 2-year old boys do to dogs without complaint. She was a sweetheart.
In her hunting career, she saw some good pheasant cover and even more marginal cover (it was mostly Illinois, after all.) Watching her bounce through a field always warmed my heart.
Have great memories of her time with our family and our times afield. Here is a blog I first posted in August 2008:
I have said I wouldn’t pheasant hunt if I didn’t have a dog. That is true.
While the birds are exciting and trying to comb the cover and find them is a challenge, it doesn’t work for me without a pooch. I am not a great trainer. I make lots of mistakes. I have never had the chance to work closely with an experienced trainer so all of my dogs have been “home grown.” But even a mediocre dog brings a new element of optimism and excitement to what could otherwise be a fairly dull hunt. They add another dimension to the chase.
My current cohort is a 9-year old English Springer Spaniel (field type, not one of the show dogs) named Lil. She is also known as: Lilbert, @!**#, fuzzy dog, furball, Lilienthal (ask my daughter about this one) . . . you get the idea. Prior to Lil we had another springer, an English pointer, a Brittany, an English setter and a beagle.
Lil is first and foremost a member of the family. She sleeps in the house, demands attention, will clown for treats and is ever vigilant against the chipmunks and moles that threaten our yard. She is a “soft” dog and her feelings can be hurt easily. However, when she catches sight of birds, any birds, she transforms into something else altogether.
Lil is birdy and a natural retriever. Without these two qualities, I would never have been able to get her to her current level of bird dogness. Springers are known for having “on” switches and Lil hits hers when you release her in the field. She is the picture of excitement, bouncing through cover, searching for scent, wagging her tail. She is driven to find something and her enthusiasm is contagious. That spark is what I enjoy and why I spend the time to make it happen.
We bought Lil in southern Iowa. I made the classic mistake of bringing the family along. We had waited a few years since the death of our first springer Teddy who was also a dearly loved family member. I had analyzed all of Teddy’s shortcomings and was ready to clinically pick the proper successor. The breeder had a few options to show us and we watched started dogs that quartered nicely, hupped on whistle, etc. The last dog was Lil. She came out of the barn and the breeder called her. She took one look at him, grabbed an empty sack of dog food that was twice her size and streaked off directly away from us. Daughter Sara instantly said, “That’s the one I want.”
Life with Lily is interesting. She wouldn’t eat meat for several years. She hates swimming—our previous springer would swim for hours behind a canoe. Her biggest joy in life is rolling in a fresh pile of cow manure or a carcass. I couldn’t get her to obey the most elementary obedience commands. I paid the breeder quite a bit of money to get her started and she learned absolutely nothing while she was there. Don’t pay for training if you can’t be directly involved in the process. Gradually, she has gotten me more or less on the same page with her. We are something of a team now and have had some great days in the field together. We’ve both learned a lot.