Old Dogs Remember Old Tricks

Kota enjoying a break from hunting.

You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.” Harry S Truman.

Whatever your feelings about the presidential election, our next president will have at least two friends in Washington, as there have been postings on social media of Joe and Jill Biden with a pair of dogs, including a German shepherd that came to the Biden household as a rescue dog. 

As all presidents come to know, there are days when they feel downtrodden and rejected; even betrayed by people they considered best friends. 

Presidents who have dogs can weather a lot more stormy weather when they have a dog that will always greet them with a wagging tail and a happy face.

Dogs are special, and, perhaps, old dogs are even more special. This week’s story is about one of those old dogs that made our annual pheasant trip to North Dakota a little more special.

Our son and daughter in law, Kevin and Jen, had two dogs, a little Yorkie and Tori, a big yellow Labrador a couple years older than our Lab, Kiri. Then, about a year and a half ago, they adopted another Lab, Kota (short for Dakota). The backstory is that a friend of a friend owned Kota but was moving and would be unable to take Kota with him. 

Kevin and Jen decided to adopt Kota, as otherwise he would have been euthanized. Kota made a successful adjustment to his new family and he’s really a sweet dog.

We took our annual family pheasant trip to North Dakota on the last weekend of October, and on my first planned day of hunting, Kevin had to stay in town to work, so Kiri, our black Lab, and I went out and had a successful day. It was damp and chilly, but we finished the hunt with our limit of three nice pheasants. We also discovered, after getting back to Minot, that she’d gotten a nasty cut on her chest, probably from a barbed wire fence. 

I spent the second planned day of hunting getting her to a veterinary clinic to get stitched up. 

On Halloween Day, Kiri was on the injured reserve list, as was Tori, who has a pesky problem with a paw infection. Kota, age 10, was the only dog of three able to hunt.

The surf was rolling on Parshall Bay on Lake Sakakawea

It was a nasty day, with gale force winds roaring across the prairies, and turning Lake Sakakawea, the big impoundment on the Missouri River, into a mass of whitecaps.

It seemed a hopeless day but in the first few minutes of our walk, Kota went on point at the edge of a weedpatch. A pheasant rooster took flight and I had an easy shot and dropped the bird. Kota had an easy retrieve, trotting over to where the bird fell and picking up the dead bird.

I asked Kevin, “Is this his first retrieve for you?” Kevin paused, and affirmed that it was.

With a bird in the bag, Kota had extra bounce in his stride as he resumed the fresh for fresh bird scent. With the wind drowning out other sounds, it was hard to keep track of Kota, as he plowed through tall grasses. In fact, at one point we had no idea where he was. Then we spotted a pheasant flush from the grass and we figured that’s where Kota was.

Sure enough, we found Kota about where the pheasant flew out, and he seemed happy to see Kevin. He was also exhausted—on the verge of collapse. We shared a couple candy bars with him and after a rest he was ready to hunt again. In fact, he’d found his second wind and it was a challenge to keep up with him.

Kota, an old veteran of the pheasant fields.

As it worked out, we didn’t get any more shots at pheasants that day or the next. Still, it was a special time, as Kota stepped in and worked his heart out in search of pheasants. 

Kota is an old dog and we don’t know how many more hunts he has left in his career. But, for a couple days, he showed off, doing what he was born to do.

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