Serenickity Part II – the incredible true story behind how we came to own Who-Dey Nick, an English Setter

Nick_On_Point2

Nick holds tight to a bird that’s buried in the grass.

This is an extended version of Serenickity. It includes the full, hard-to-believe-but-totally-true, background on Who-Dey Nick.

Bob was an avid field trialer. He kept a kennel of about 5-6 English Setters at his farm, only few miles down the road from my place, but we never met. Like a lot of field trialers he trained his dogs and sold them to other field trailers or hunters. The the hunters got the ok dogs, trialers got the good dogs, and Bob kept the great dogs for himself. Bob was a serious trainer and trained his dogs well. But Bob was having some marital issues. He and his wife each had reciprocal restraining orders against each other. According to police reports there was history of domestic disturbances at their farm. They were getting a divorce and it was messy. He had moved out of his house and was living in an old hospital that had been converted into apartments and happened to be just down the street from my parent’s house. A person would have to be pretty desperate to live there, each apartment used to be a wing of patient rooms and rent was paid by the week. There wasn’t a creepier place to live in town, but it was cheap and available when he needed it. Consequently Bob had no place to keep his dogs, so he adopted them out to his buddies. One of the dog’s, Nick, ended up with Frank, who told Bob he would watch him until Sid found a found a better place to stay and got through with the divorce. Bob’s wife had apparently threatened to shoot all of his dogs on multiple occasions. Bob’s farm, where she was living, was not a safe place for the dogs.

Six months went by and one brisk spring day Bob’s wife showed up and knocked on his apartment door, apparently wanting to make up. The details of what happened next we will never know, but the outcome we can be certain of. Bob ended up lying in the parking lot with bullet in his head. His soon to be ex-wife shot him the face with a .38 special. After the shooting she got in her mini-van and drove to the next town over. She pulled into a gas station and went inside. There she reportedly told the clerk what happened, walked out and got back in her minivan, but didn’t drive away. She sat there and stared out the window. She was, no doubt, pondering her future, for those brief moments. The clerk called the police. The police arrived at the gas station and Bob’s soon to be ex-wife sat as still as a statue in the locked minivan. They knocked on the window and tried to talk her out of the car, but she just sat there. She ended her own life there in the parking lot, in front of the police officers. Nick and the other dogs were orphaned in their foster homes.

Meanwhile, our 13 year old yellow Labra-mutt Lucy had been on the decline in recent years, and things were looking bleak for her. My wife and I had been discussing what we might do when the time came, and since we have two young children we thought a puppy would only increase the level of maddness in our little household. A puppy was out of the question until our own little pups became a little more self sufficient. My heart was set on deutsch drahthaar because my experience was that they have the versatility to handle all the kinds of things I love to do. Drahthaars are the perfect combination of traits, and on top of the that the breeding and testing regime required to be a registered drahthaar means that the bloodlines don’t get all mucked up with show dog and back yard breeding. So we were leaning in the drahthaar direction.

Over the last few seasons, however, I had the chance to hunt with a spectacular English setter named Tippy. For some reason I couldn’t get her little spotty tail out of my mind. She pointed birds at twenty to thirty feet. Found them in record time. Held point like a statue and had the cheerful demeanor of a Tuesday night at the local pub. She was quiet, enjoyable, friendly, and somehow — comfortable. After hunting with Tippy, those sharp all-too-serious drathaars just didn’t seem like my kind of dogs anymore. I was thinking maybe a Setter was the right choice, when the time came.

Unfortunately “the time” for my old Lucy girl came faster than we were thinking. I entered my vet’s office with the notion that maybe I could have them patch her back together. I was hoping they would tell me that they could buy her a couple more months, perhaps even a whole summer.

We had recently purchased a house with quite a lovely backyard, and Lucy had not yet, in my opinion, fulfilled her duties of patrolling the perimeter and dispatching invasive vermin. However the good doctor told me that the procedures required to restore the old girl, to her old self, were out of reach and past due. The fair thing to do was let her go and end her suffering. We’ve all seen Old Yeller and Marley and Me right? We know how the story ends. We know that the dogs life is 7 times faster than ours. Yet we string ourselves along with the notion that modern health care can defy the laws of the natural world and buy us another summer with a friend. But it was not to be. My hopes were dashed, the fair option was to end her suffering. Its only fair. They lack the ability to comprehend. They know not why they suffer. We string them along, helping them, when nature would have long ago seized the opportunity to reclaim the nutrients locked inside their flesh. In the wild she would have been coyote bait years ago, and yet, here she was, needing us to make it a clean exit. We made the tough choice. It wasn’t easy. It never is.

I was in the vets office on the phone with my wife when we made the decision. I told her I would see her later and was about to hang up, when call waiting rang in. It was a friend of mine who is an avid bird hunter, fly fisherman, etc. He usually sends me photos of trophy fish or a bag full of birds while I’m at work and he’s out doing the good stuff. I wasn’t sure this was the best time to talk about any of that but for some reason I decided to answer.

“What’gs going on,” he said.

“My dog is going to be put down man, I’m at the vets right now”, my voice cracked trying not to sound like a blubbering idiot but failing miserably.

He went on to tell me that his Dad was at a different vet and heard about someone with an almost finished English Setter with championship quality, field trial bloodlines, needing to be adopted. His name is Nick. He gave me the contact information for Walt Nick’s now permanent foster owner and we set up a time to see Nick that Saturday. Lucy was buried by the old grape arbor, near the hole where the raccoons used to sneak in thorough the fence. Now she can guard it forever.

Frank, Nick’s foster owner, was walking Nick on the road when we pulled up to his house. I stepped out of my Jeep and Nick came running over wagging his entire body. Nick seemed very excited to see us. He promptly sat down and waited for me to reach out and pet his head. When I did, his proud English Setter posture with upright head beamed with confidence as he wore a calm gentleman’s smirk. We were off to a good start.

At about that same time as Bob’s death Frank started having some serious trouble with his knees and joints. He said couldn’t hunt like he used to, some days he had trouble getting out of bed. Frank said Nick was four years old and needed a more active home, he needs to run, a lot. Like many of us Frank’s passion was for the greatest of all game birds, the ruffed grouse. He hunted primarily in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Nick had accompanied him to the UP many times. Frank’s other setter was ten years old, and hunted at a slower pace which accommodated Frank’s condition better. Frank said Nick needed to go to a more active home. Nick is a dragster, he goes as fast as he can, right out of the gate. He can really cover ground. His nose is sharp, and he locks up on point from a dead run. It didn’t take long to figure out that Nick and I would get along great.

Fortunately Bob gave all the appropriate paper work for the dogs to their adoptive homes. Nick’s registration in the Field Dog Stud book remained un-filed and Frank had it all ready to go. We went home that Saturday to ready the house and picked Nick up the next day. He and I have hunted together one complete season and while we both are learning from each other I think I will learn more from him than he will from me. He is everything advertised and more. He is still a fairly young and very active dog, but he is a great fit for our little corner of the world. Our house was without a dog for a grand total of about 4 days and nights, but those were four long days and nights. To some this might not seem like long enough to grieve.

To some it might seem cavalier and frought with indifference towards our recently departed dear friend. But the void in our house without old Lucy-girl was cavernous.  I wasn’t sure how it would ever be filled. I doubt it ever will be filled entirely. But sometimes things just fall into place. Some may call it divine intervention or mysterious ways. Some may call it dumb luck or coincidence, but I’ve come up with a new name for it — sereNICKity.

SereNICKity – How we ended up with a cool bird dog, after the death of our best friend Lucy.

This one goes out to my friend Blammo, who’s losing his best friend. I wrote this a few years ago for a regional outdoors publication (one of those old fashioned printed ones) that is no longer in circulation and I’ve never run it here before. Hang in there Dude, it ain’t easy.

Nick_On_Point

Nick, pointing a Chukar, with his crooked tail in full effect.

Serenickity.

I always try to be positive. My outlook, at times, has been described as, overly optimistic, excessively exuberant, hopeful, sanguine, bullish, upbeat, auspicious, propitious even! And so it was, that I entered my vets office last Thursday with the notion that I could have them patch together my 12 year old dog. I was hoping they would tell me that they could buy her a couple more months, perhaps even a whole summer.

We had recently purchased a house with quite a lovely backyard, and she had not yet, in my opinion, fulfilled her duties patrolling the perimeter and dispatching invasive vermin. However the good doctor told me in that the procedures required to even have a hope of restoring the old girl to her old self were out of reach and past due. The fair thing to do was let her go and end her suffering. We’ve all seen Old Yeller and Marley and Me right? We know how the story ends. We know that the dogs life is 7 times faster than ours. Yet we string ourselves along with the notion that modern health care can defy the laws of the natural world and buy us another summer with a friend. But it was not to be. My hopes were dashed, the fair option was to end her suffering. Its only fair. They lack the ability to comprehend. They know not why they suffer. We string them along, helping them, when nature would have long ago seized the opportunity to reclaim the nutrients locked inside their flesh. In the wild she would have been coyote bait years ago, and yet, here she was, needing us to make it a clean exit. We made the tough choice. It wasn’t easy. It never is.

I was in the vets office, on the phone with my wife when we made the decision. I told her I would talk to her later and was about to hang up, when call waiting rang in. It was a friend of mine who is an avid bird hunter, fly fisherman, etc. I wasn’t sure this was the best time to talk about any of that but for some reason I decided to answer.

“What’gs going on,” he said.

“My dog is going to be put down man, I’m at the vets right now”, my voice cracked trying not to sound like too much of a blubbering idiot but failing miserably.

He told me that his Dad had been at a different vet and heard about someone with an almost fully trained English Setter, with championship quality, field trial, registered bloodlines, needing to be adopted. His name is Nick. We went to visit Nick at his then owners house that Saturday. He was a perfect match for our family and he came home with us on Sunday.

To some it might seem like too soon. To some it might seem cavalier and frought with indifference towards our recently departed dear friend. But the void in our house without old Lucy girl was cavernous.  I wasn’t sure how that void would ever be filled. I doubt it ever will be filled entirely. But the Lord works in mysterious ways, right? For those of us of a religious persuasion the phrase “mysterious ways” gets bandied about often. The idea being that often times we know not how the good lord will guide us, just that he will. But sometimes he walks right into the room and hits us over the head with a new chapter in life so amazing and obvious that we can’t help but open that chapter and start reading right away. I’ve come up with a new name for this, sereNICKity.

Since I wrote that a few years ago, Nick has gone totally blind due to Sudden Acute Retinal Degeneration which is a side effect of Cushing’s disease.
So he doesn’t hunt much any more, but I hope to get him out on some planted birds this year. I think he’ll do fine.

Ocular Histoplasmosis, if you are a bird hunter, you should read this.

So it’s been a little weird around here lately. The SmithFly stuff is taking off and getting crazy in a good way. That’s awesome, 2012 looks GREAT, thanks for all the support. Most of my stuff is now SOLD OUT which is a good thing. I’ve been working some crazy overtime at my day job, no complaints.

But the other day I went to the eye doctor for a random check-up, I hadn’t been in over ten years. My eyes and my vision were fine, or so I thought.

Upon closer inspection the Optometrist noticed what she called a “swollen optic nerve”. She was cagey about what that might mean, but Google is brutal and revealed a list of causes that ranged from BAD to REALLY REALLY BAD! Needless to say the Smith house was a little freaked out.

The optometrist referred me right away to a specialist called a neuro-opthamologist, any time you have to go see someone with “neuro” in the title it isn’t fun right?

So with trepidation I went this Tuesday morning to see the  neuro-opthamologist. After a tense few minutes in his office he revealed that it was NOT in-fact a swollen optic nerve, it was ocular  histoplasmosis.

Histoplasmosis is a disease caused when airborne spores of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum are inhaled into the lungs, the primary infection site. This microscopic fungus, which is found throughout the world in river valleys and soil where bird or bat droppings accumulate, is released into the air when soil is disturbed by plowing fields, sweeping chicken coops, or digging holes.

Histoplasmosis is often so mild that it produces no apparent symptoms. Any symptoms that might occur are often similar to those from a common cold. In fact, if you had histoplasmosis symptoms, you might dismiss them as those from a cold or flu, since the body’s immune system normally overcomes the infection in a few days without treatment.


Ok so now that we have the technical crap out of the way basically at some point in my life, who knows when, I’ve been infected with the histoplasmosis spore and it moved to my eyes creating scarring. The mold and spore that causes histoplasmosis is endemic to the area I live. They call it the histo-belt, as its basically a belt around the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. However it also happens to be present in bird droppings. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you might have seen some posts about the birds that I’ve bought over the past few years to train my lovely English Setter Nick. I cleaned up a lot of poop, from quail and chukars over the past few years.

The Doctors all agreed that there is no way to tell if my infection was recent or from a while ago, aka if it was from the birds or just growing up around here. The mold just lives int the dirt. So just playing around and getting into stuff can give you this issue.

Anyway, if you buy birds, or if you shoot birds, or you raise birds, be careful with the poop and handling of the birds, it might make you sick and permanently hurt your vision. And if you are a bird hunter like me, get your eyes checked sooner rather than later. The docs can catch it and they can save your vision.

Apparently Histoplasmosis is the leading cause of blindness in 20-40 year olds in this country. For the rest of my life I’m going to have to have laser scans of my retinas to make sure new blood vessels aren’t growing behind my scar tissue and threatening my ability to see.

For now my sight remains 20-20 and I don’t need glasses, but we’ll be watching it closely.

Shoot straight and wear mask if you’re cleaning up poop.

Where to order a good turkey this Thanksgiving

If you aren’t going to eat a wild turkey or goose this Thanksgiving, I highly recommend you check into Bowman and Landes. They are a local for me, but ship all over the US, great turkeys, and worth a look. Just look at those ugly SOB’s wandering around like idiots in the corn, they look TASTY, and oh so free range!

Unless I can find some pheasants this weekend, not likely, the only pointed, shot and retrieved birds we will be having on turkey day at the Smith household will be some chukars we shot on a training day a month or so ago.

More proof that Gun Dogs are the best dogs ever.

Its not easy to watch but check out the video below of a Brittany watching over his Setter friend who was injured in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Amazing video, and proof positive that Gun Dogs RULE!

I’ll give away the ending that the dog lying on the ground is alive and its a Setter. If you don’t need your hanky at the end of this, you need to check your pulse.

A tribute to Jenny Lynn

Today Jeffrey L. Frischkorn of Willoughby, Ohio writes of his departed friend Jenny Lynn. With a dog name like Jenny Lynn  you gotta think he is into some Bluegrass and we like that. Whatever the reason for the name there is a heck of a pay-off at the end see quote below. GREAT STUFF.

When that commitment is finished, you can expect me to drop two shotshells into the awaiting chambers of my Browning over/under shotgun. The Browning, with its timeless grace but aging bluing, will come to my shoulder and I will fire the two rounds — one by one, sending tokens of Jenny Lynn’s ashes out over the water.

Around my neck will be draped the duel-dog-whistle lanyard. The first and loudest of the two will summon the ghosts, all of them. The lighter-sounding whistle will echo its notes.

Only at that point will I know with certainty that Jenny Lynn and I are together once more.

Before that he even mentioned Corey Ford’s “Road to Thinkhamtown” one of our favorite essays.

Hawk Bait – Bobwhite Quail Released Along the Stillwater River

Well as a person with a growing interest in all things upland I was pleased to see news this morning that ODNR is releasing quail not too far from my home. Good stuff, I think.

To me this sounds like an exercise in futility but, I’m not a biologist. Based on my limited experience, like driving on my road everyday, I’d say our healthy population of red tail hawks will have these things hunted down and munched in about a week. But again, I’m not a biologist. So bring it on, if we can get a healthy enough population going maybe we’ll be able to hunt someday. We can only hope.

LUDLOW FALLS, OH– As part of an ongoing initiative to increase the range of bobwhite quail, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife biologists released 35 bobwhite quail in Miami County’s Newton Township this week.

The partnership between private landowners and the Division of Wildlife make this program possible. For nine years Wildlife management staff in the southwestern portion of the state have trapped and transferred quail from areas with abundant populations to areas with good quail habitat and few quail. The quail were originally trapped in Brown, Preble, Highland, and Butler counties where the quail populations are stable. In recent years quail have been released in Clark, Darke, Shelby, and Miami counties.

The release took place on January 18th and was the first of the 2010-2011 season. “We originally planned to release 31 birds but continued trapping efforts up to the day of the release resulting in the 35 quail total” said Diana Malas, Private Lands Biologist for Wildlife District Five.

Quail coveys will naturally expand their range a quarter of a mile per year which means it may take several years for the population to spread out.  The trap-and-transfer program speeds up this process.

Quail were once very common throughout the area; blizzards of the late 1970s and ultimately the loss of habitat decimated their populations in many counties.  The overall goal of the quail project is to increase Ohio’s biodiversity.

 

Grouse hunt photos

We headed for the hills this Saturday in search of Grouse. I’m new to the world of Grouse, and most other bird related activities, but I’m taking it all in and learning as much as possible. Pics below.

Mark and Nick survey what ended up being the remnants of recent fire, move on.

Donnie, Nick and Boo looking for birds.

Here comes Nick.

Bird's eye view.

Tippy on the road.

Nick gets into a hot spot.

Some interesting lichens.

A Partridge Poops on my carpet? Yes.

A Chukar on the Wing captured dunring last year's preserve hunt.

So this may seem obvious to most, but it was a learning experience for me. When cleaning birds, make sure they are completely dead before leaving them on the floor in your kitchen. How do I know this? I learned it the hard way this weekend.

Based on my last two excursions with my “new to me” 4-year-old skinny as a whip setter Nick, I wasn’t convinced that he was capable of preforming the duties he was assigned, e.g. pointing and retrieving upland game. So I set out this Saturday for hunting a preserve with the expressed intent of purchasing and planting birds for him to point.

We accomplished that goal, and did it with style. He honored the other Setter on a few birds, he pointed planted birds and birds that were released on the wing and allowed to settle in wherever. All-in-all I would call it a huge success, and I ended with a nice bag of Chukars to take home. What a great and admirable bird, tough and flighty even when raised in a pen.

It was bit nippy out and getting dark so I decided to clean the birds in my kitchen in stead of the usual garage workbench routine.

I put my vest full of birds on the floor and went about the business of rendering them into edible bits.

When all of a sudden the dog shows up at my feet with his ears perked staring at the bird bag. Move along I told him, all dead, nothing to see here.

As you might expect, Nick knows more about this stuff than I do, and right then a bird jumps out the bag, runs across the kitchen floor into the living room leaving a streak of white poop on the carpet as it went. The bird was follwed by a clambering parade of me, the dog and my five year old son scrambling after it in a cloud of knees and elbows.

We cornered it on its way to the bedroom before it left us anymore presents on the carpet and I quickly ended it’s short career as family pet. CHUK-that.