Thursday, May 23, 2024

The worst duck hunting dog I ever loved


Georgia was an unlikely addition to our family. It was 2014 and I was looking for a dog that could hunt both upland birds and ducks. I settled on the springer spaniel as the breed I was going to get and found one just a few miles from where I live. My daughter Faith and I went over and met the dog who would soon be named, Georgia. She was a year old and the runt of the litter. She was very timid and even growled a little at Faith. I was less than impressed. We went home without her but I couldn’t get that dog out of my mind.

The next day I called the owner and asked if I could bring the dog over to my house and see what kind of retrieving instinct she had. Georgia was very excited to see me again.  She hopped into my truck without hesitation and upon arriving at our home, started racing and leaping around our yard with pure joy!

Faith was home and begged me to keep her. When Georgia calmed down, I started throwing dummies for her to retrieve.  In the fourteen times I threw the dummy the response was the same. She would charge to the dummy, look down at it, and then run around the yard until I called her back.

My son David came home from school while this was going on and asked what I was doing.  I explained I was giving the dog a tryout and it wasn’t going well.  David, who had just been cut at tryouts for the high school baseball team for the second year in a row said, “Are you going to cut her like my coaches cut me?”  And that was the moment I made the decision to keep that dog.

Georgia had a lot of energy and was very athletic. She loved to go on long hikes with me and she loved pheasant and quail hunting, flushing her fair share over the 8 ½ years we had together. When it came to duck hunting though, she was the absolute worst.

First off, she was impatient. She wouldn’t stay still in the blind and when I put her on a leash. she would whine, bark occasionally, give you dirty looks and start digging a hole into the ground that she would eventually writhe around in as a way to express her displeasure.

When she was let off the leash she would immediately charge into the water, and it didn’t matter to her whether there were birds there or not. She would swim, and swim, and swim some more. She loved the water and would completely ignore all commands to come out of the water until she was good and ready to do so, usually about 10 to 15 minutes after she went in.

She did occasionally retrieve ducks for me, but the final straw was the time my daughter and I took her hunting to a place I like to go to in the Columbia Basin.  The small pond is an early season hot spot for teal, and it lived up to its promise.  I actually kept Georgia in the truck until mid-morning.  By this time, we had several ducks in hand but there were three floating in the pond we couldn’t retrieve.  I brought Georgia from the truck to the pond, pointed out the dead floating ducks, and set her loose.

She immediately swam to the first duck and continued past it, swimming with reckless abandon. Eventually she ran across one of the other ducks and she grabbed it in her mouth. I praised her and told her to bring me the bird, blowing the whistle to come back as I did. Instead, she went to a small island and dropped it off before reentering the water to swim some more. Eventually, she came across the other two ducks and again, took them to the island. At this point I was begging Georgia to bring me the birds. Her response? She would pick each dead duck, wag her tail, and put them back down on the island. She was like a little girl playing with three Barbie dolls. Finally, I waded out to the island, retrieved the ducks (dolls), and took Georgia back to the truck.

Georgia continued going with me on hunting trips for upland birds, but her duck hunting career essentially ended that day. Despite her poor performance in the marsh, she was a loyal companion. She was well known by kids and adults alike in the small town of Cashmere I live in where countless people would pet the “pretty puppy” I took for walks with me. She loved to go for rides whether it be to the store or to a trailhead for a hike. She followed me downstairs every morning to my office to spend the day with me at work and every night she slept on the bed with me. She was a wonderful family dog and faithful companion with a ton of personality.

Unfortunately, two weeks ago we noticed she had developed a wheezy cough and she had very little stamina, not even able to walk a mile with me. I took her to Cascade Veterinary Clinic in Leavenworth and got bad news…Cancer. She had a large mass that had grown around her lungs and there were numerous smaller masses visible in the x-ray as well. I was given some pills to reduce pain and the inflammation around her lungs. They helped for a week and my daughter, wife and I spoiled Georgia rotten. We took her on rides to bark at deer from the truck window, fed her plain McDonald’s hamburgers which she loved, let her swim in a lake one last time and more. It was a good week but on the 8th day Georgia’s breathing became labored and it was time to let her go. We did so at the veterinary clinic, all telling her what a good dog she was and what a blessing she had been to our family. The veterinarian, Dr. Warmenhoven, was very kind. He gave her a shot and she left the world in a very peaceful way.

I’ve never seen a worse duck dog but I’m also so glad I had her in my life. We loved her very much and she brought our family much happiness. RIP Georgia. I hope to see you on the other side.


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