My outdoor companion and hunting dog, Leather, a chocolate Labrador retriever, missed out on the hunting seasons this last year.
While we have regular playtime around the yard to keep her mind and nose occupied, I nearly broke down as I watched her play in the snow recently. I was saddened by the fact that she missed out on the duck and upland bird seasons that brought us so much joy together.
With the passing of time and a new place to call home, we began some new, short adventures together. Of course, these adventures included the rest of the pack of dogs that are also a part of the family -- a boxer named Zoey, a blue heeler named Dusty, and a mixed-breed we call Louie.
Venturing into the wild areas around our new home there is a multitude of entertainment. We have pheasants, quail, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, skunks, and cats -- all of which provide entertainment for our dogs.
Of course, Leather seems to ignore nearly all of them with the exception of pheasants and quail. She has a keen ability to focus in on those two species, since we spent so much time in the past chasing them. While the other dogs seem to wander off chasing the other critters, Leather begs me to let her chase those upland birds.
After a heavy snow, Leather and I managed to wander away from the pack as her nose was working hard. I went along with her as she has guided me on so many good hunts before. As I followed her, carrying a walking stick instead of a gun, she led me to a spot where she locked down, as good as a pointing Lab can, and to my amazement, flushed a rooster pheasant right below my feet.
I was so excited for her, that I nearly fell down. She chased the flying rooster for about 50 yards. Then she turned back, spinning around with excitement, and smiled at me.
I could hear her say, "let's do it again, let's do it again."
As I wandered back to the house after this short adventure, I was happy to have helped her fulfill something that had been missing during this past hunting season. It was something that I missed too.
I made her a promise. This will never happen again.
As I looked into her eyes, I could see the sadness beneath her snow-covered face, that we had missed out completely on an entire upland bird season.
But, beneath was an excited expectation and a promise from me that we will do it again -- soon.
Steven Hausler is photo editor at The Hays Daily News.