Steve Meurett/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
It was time. A long sought after rainy afternoon- a rare day this summer, cool and wet “forced” me into the garage for a 3 hour date with organizing and cleaning the man cave. My garage has racks for bikes, space for gardening, a corner for straps, bungies and extension cords and plenty of car and truck oil to be recycled.
Rearranging the location of various items proceeded, screws and nails of various sized snuggled into jars, bike and auto cleaning supplies lined up by cleaning process. But there is also the “dog corner.” It was time.
In THAT corner were the collars of dogs I’ve loved. The township and rabies metal tags long since silent hanging on a hook. Hanging there quietly since the day I needed to say good bye to each one of them. Max, my first Golden, back in 1987 was maybe the toughest. My first dog not under my parents roof, a retriever of my very own. No formal training as in hunting, but he did well and I remember vividly his final retrieve on my dads land late in a November-a grouse I’d miraculously shot at …and hit, and he had little trouble finding. I remember his slow trot back, wings still flapping in his muzzle, and knowing his cancer already sapping every stride back to me.
Weeks later, we needed to say good bye.
Dewey, the “recovery” dog, a black lab from a family in Marshfield, the first dog the children grew up with, although they very young at the time. He developed from a mere family dog to a suitable hunter as well. He learned to sniff out timber doodles and ‘partridge with the best of them in his younger years, but later, sadly, the report of a gun or rumble of thunder, sent him scurrying to safer locations. He was well loved, even with the premature graying snout and white hair between his toes.
A puppy arrived before Dewey left us, Ruger, a fur ball of a golden retriever puppy. The two dogs played, and more than tolerated each other, eventually becoming buddies and comrades in cahoots. It house became a bit quieter after the sad farewell to salt and pepper “Dew”…another victim of the too-present cancers in large retrieving breeds.
Ruger became THE dog for the kids-fuzzy and full of life, he too picked up the hunting bug with ease. Maybe the best of our ‘pups’ as a game dog, he could tarry thru the thickest cover-just knowing a bird was in there-and always confident was his retrieving- sniff ‘em out and bring them back….abet, a touch unwillingly at times. In water “The Ruugs” was great-he’s swim like an otter and if he had his way, would stay dripping and wet-dog-smelling whenever he could. Nothing tugged at our hears like when we found out he too had a cancer and would have few months to live that winter.
Like before, another dog found her way here-seemed the right thing to do-have the second dog for companionship, maybe extending Rugers life. Molly was already full grown, but had spent her life in a breeding kennel. Her pedigree and natural instincts were top notch and it was obvious she would be a keeper. Ruger and Molly hung out for a half a year until our daily snowshoe hikes began to take it’s toll on the elder dog. My heart ached when I had to encourage him to keep trudging thru the snow-something he’d lept at before, just to make it back home. When the time came, we knew. His collar hung up by the rest in the garage on an old rusty nail. Tags dangling motionless.
So this day, it was time. Molly vigorously wagging her tail to go out and do anything….sadly realizing I was just cleaning, not heading to the lake to retrieve with her. I realized it was time to unhook all those collars, slide the rusty scratched up tags off them and get them washed up. Maybe a good cleaning would be the acceptable thing-not for Molly, she would never wear them, they weren’t hers. Just to have them clean and maybe on a new hook in the garage in the “dog corner.” That would just be the right thing to do…..it was time.
Steve Meurett lives, works and plays in West Central Wisconsin and spends about every free moment outdoors where his passions lie. His outdoor interests take him on and off trail, pursuing mountain biking and skinny skiing, photography and hunting, while keeping an eye on wild mushrooms and the next fruit for craft wine. Steve is the Trail Director at The Levis Mound Trail System and member of the Clark County Trails Advisory Committee. He resides, teaches and is a photographer in Neillsville. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.