I have been crying a lot lately. Not from another dismal showing by the Vikings in the big game, but from something much more meaningful. Part of the family is gone, 12 years of my life or 26% of it, has officially been written. Marriage, loss of a grandparent, the start of a new business, the sale of a business, a new career, a new house, another new career and the birth of my son, occurred in that life span. The recent breakdown originated this weekend as I grabbed a package of blue grouse out of the freezer. It was marked September 3rd and brought me back to a day when both of my girls were with me, hunting near timberline, on a mountain ridge in central Montana. I was enjoying a meal without them, one they had a big part in.
I lost my English setter Abby in September. Heart-attack or stroke, ten minutes into a quick Montana sharptail hunt. Not the worst way to go, but still sudden and painful. She was my younger hunting partner and at age 11, she was going to get me through one more season, before a pup joined the team. Tess, she was 13 heading into this season and was mostly retired. Heck, she was slowing down in the fall of 2015.
Shortly after Abby died, the vet said the cause for Tess' lack of appetite and constant cough was a combination of a mass in the lungs and lymphoma. He might have said more, but I was numb. I wasn't really listening, too busy feeling sorry for myself and for Tess. One to six months was the best guess. Some steroids and some love were my only hope.
Tess made it longer than she should have. I went from trying to shoot one bird over her in September to being able to enjoy her hunting blue grouse, ruffed grouse, valley quail, pheasants, chukar, sharptail and Huns, albeit at a slower pace, for just a few hours per outing. But, I would take it. We had a great fall together, chasing daylight in her career, appreciating every minute of her life.
Losing two beloved bird dogs in less than six months isn't something that I would wish on anyone. But, it almost needed it to be that way. They were a team for the past decade. Man, did we hunt. 45 days a fall, in a number of states, on a number of upland bird species. We fished mountain lakes together and trail ran in the summer. Tess and Abby waited patiently every morning to share my leftover milk from my cereal. Like a couple that had been married for decades, when one passes, the other soon follows.
Thanks girls. You are making me cry again.
The girls on their one-and-only bobwhite hunting trip to Kansas.