He turned three this year. Where did those three years go? During that time, I have watched our daughter graduate from college and start graduate school, watched our son graduate from high school and start college, and watched our family try to cope with and adjust to life without the giant of a man we had all come to call Pop. As a family, we also lost four wonderful dogs during that time and gained two new ones, but those are stories for another day.
I vividly remember coming home with him three years ago. About the time we crossed the Yalobusha River, my wife asked what I was thinking. I was lost in thought, staring at a fisherman and his boat silhouetted in the evening gloam.
I was running down the list of things that could happen to him, remembering the things that had happened to those that came before him, looking past the joy to the inevitable pain. I came back to the joy. I always do with dogs. The joy is why I have never been without one, and why I never will. T.S. Eliot said, “...I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” I have measured mine with dogs and I am all the better for it.
My proclivity to worry has waned over the years, but as we made our way home down a moonlit I-55 that night, I found myself imagining worst case scenarios for a young man (or a middle-aged man) and his dog and reliving a lifetime of experiences outdoors with my canine companions.
He is special. I knew he would be when I first saw the picture of his parents. From the moment the puppies were born, we lived for the pictures and videos that our friend Caleb Bryson sent us. We counted the days until we would travel to Labadie, Missouri, to Bryson’s Box A Kennels to pick him up and bring him home.
“He” is a German shorthaired pointer, a breed my son had dreamed about since hunting with an outfitter’s GSPs during our yearly Thanksgiving quail hunts near the family farm in Louisville. I still remember Caleb’s response when I asked him why he loved the breed so much. In his words, “If God has a dog, it’s a shorthair.”
I have always loved watching bird dogs work. As a child, I remember watching my neighbor, Mr. Pete Bridges, working his English setters and Pointers along the hedgerows, ditches, and field edges near our farm. The intensity and focus of those dogs always amazed me. They were moving works of art, focused bundles of striated muscle meticulously working every inch of the sage, cedar, and privet, their nostrils flaring constantly while pushing forward toward a hidden quail and locking on point before the explosion of bird in flight.
Often, I hunted those same areas, occasionally lucky enough to jump shoot a quail without a dog, but the experience was not the same, and I always wondered how it would feel to shoot a bird over a pointing dog. Now I know.
After contemplating various options for names, Dan settled on a name based on one of our favorite family vacations – a trip to Jackson, Wyoming. The name he chose was a perfect fit – Moose. It is a reference to the map dot community of Moose, Wyoming, that lies just north of Jackson. During our vacation, we made several trips down Moose Wilson Road to take in the scenic vistas of the Tetons and glimpses of the wildlife, including moose, that the route offered. The name has proven a fit on all levels for Moose from his more uncommon solid liver color to his unique personality.
There is an innocence that exists in our youth that is stripped away as we age. Worn down by the rigors and pace of work and everyday life, we often become jaded, blind to the beauty and robbed of the joy of the simple experiences we loved as a child. I think our dogs help us regain that innocence. Moose has certainly helped me.
At times, I am a boy again, watching him chase squirrels, splashing in the creek with him, watching him point birds, and somehow I am no longer bothered if my feet get wet, soggy wet, squishing-in-my-running-shoes wet. I look forward to our daily walks and our hikes and hunts at the farm and I miss them when plans require me to be other places – Moose does, too! Look for us when you are out and about on your daily adventures. I look forward to seeing you out there in our great outdoors.
Email Outdoors columnist Brad Dye at email@example.com.