Keith returned my husband Steve's call on Sunday morning; they set up a hunt for Monday morning. The goal was to shoot a Wood Duck for Laszlo to retrieve. Laszlo is an intact male black Labrador retriever. He turned twelve last week. In his hunting career with my husband (and his brothers) Laszlo retrieved well over 1000 ducks. A few geese. He gave me my first, and in the foreseeable future, only field trial ribbon - a third in the Cape Fear Qualifyng Stake right about 10 years ago.
Anyone who knows working retrievers understands that there are a few magical events for them; the primary magic is hunting. They KNOW. They learn to watch for birds, and they learn to tell the difference between waterfowl and other birds. Their hunters learn to watch the dog. The finest thing we can do for our old dogs is shoot birds over them, but they certainly know the difference between "flyer" days and the real deal. The last "flyer" day wasin early December. We wanted to give Laszlo one more hunt, a chance to relive his glory days. Keith knew Laszlo from puppyhood as he and his wife were our neighbors for many years. Keith and Steve became hunting partners, shooting birds first over our original Labrador Deidre, and then, Laszlo.
Of course Monday had to be quite possibly the coldest day of what passes for winter here; 24 degrees at the house, 19 a little further inland at the Holly Shelter Game Lands. The waders, the parka, the shotgun and the neoprene dog vest were in the living room, all the *stuff* needed to prepare for the hunt. Laszlo knew what was going on, even though he hadn't been hunting for about two years. Steve and Keith met at 5 a.m., were in the marsh and ready to hunt by 6. The woodies came in, and Keith hit a difficult shot, with the bird landing in thick cover about 15 yards behind where they were set up. Laszlo watched the bird go down, marked its fall,
when sent he went right to the area and then, in true "senile old fart" fashion decided to check out some other stuff before getting down to business. When redirected back to the job at hand, Laszlo picked up the bird, but decided to take the long route back to Steve. I suppose you could call it a victory lap. He was quite puffed up with himself.
This afternoon Steve let Laszlo de-feather and eat his Woodie. He also got him some oysters; this dog did love an oyster roast.
Last summer we found out he had arrhythmia and we have known his kidneys were not his finest feature for about 2 years. When we returned from our fabulous Christmas vacation in Arizona, his vet came to DogTrain and kindly, gently told me he had discovered while we were gone that Laz had oral melanoma. Our options were hack out part of his jawbone or traipse up to Raleigh every week for some newly developed oral melanoma vaccine which
might have bought him/us another 3 to 6 months. Given his age and aforementioned health issues we elected to do nothing except work at quality of life for his remaining time.
That vet, our friend John Killoran, came to our home, and tonight sent Laszlo over the bridge.
Laz is at duck camp forever.