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.

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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.

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.

Chasing Phez.

A Ditch CHicken from last year's successful trip.

So today is opening day for Pheasants in Ohio. I didn’t plan very well and couldn’t take today off to go chase them on opening day. So it will have to wait until tomorrow. This year I have a new, to me, Setter named Nick, and we will see how he does on Pheasants. My plan is to go hunt the thickets for woodcock and hopefully not play out the missing dog scenario that we had a few weeks ago, and with any luck it will be the places that the majority of the folks out hunting the grasslands will avoid, and will find some roosters hiding out from the madness. That’s pretty much how it went last year.

Who Dey Nick, gets on the Doves.

The view of Glenn's Pond.

Well, this is my first season with the legendary Who Dey Nick. We adopted him at the end of February of last year, which is of course about as far away from a bird season as you can get. We missed the end of Grouse season by a few weeks then, and it seemed like September was an eternity away.

Sure, I had him on quail in my little patch of overgrown grass that I call a training ground, but it’s not like full on hunting.

Today I got him out in the field and he ran hard. We walked the fence rows, tree-lines and grassy patches that weren’t planted this year.

Its my wife’s Great Uncle Glenn’s old farm. He is no longer with us but I’m sure he would have loved Nick. His wife Helen met me out there and did some yard work while we hunted. The morning started off slow while we walked the likely places looking for birds. After an hour or so of pounding the brush we got a few shots off and landed a bird smack in the middle of the beans. This is exactly why we have dogs. He found it in no time flat, one bird in the bag.

We headed back to the truck to get some water and a chair. After walking the entire perimeter of the farm we were both looking for a rest. So we each slurped some water down, truck leaned, and headed back out, this time to the pond.

I set the chair up by some tall weeds up around the high bank of the pond and waited. Sure enough we had some Dove action. I missed a few and dropped one on the side of the pond, but it didn’t seem like it was totally down for the count. So we walked over there, Nick decided to take the path that involved him getting shoulder deep in the muck around the pond. The bird jumped up and it took another shot to finish it off. It dropped twenty yards into the field and again Nick came through.

Two birds in the bag.

On the way back to my chair with an empty chamber three flew right over the pond not twenty feet over my head, oh well.

We waited it out for another hour longer, missed a few more birds and decided to head in. We each had a good covering of cockleburs on us, Nick’s of course adorning his ears in thick dreadlock like clumps.

I wasn’t quite sure how the dog would do. You always hear about hunting dogs that are up for adoption having some Shakespearean character flaw, like being gun shy. But not Nick. He is an amazing bird dog and I can’t wait to get into the Grouse woods up north!

Two Doves isn’t exactly what most would call a successful day out, but hey, its makes for a good appetizer right?

Classics: The Road to Tinkhamtown

One of the things I’m trying to do here at the Fiddle and Creel is feature good art, especially stuff that may be overlooked by the modern short attention span world we live in. Stuff that makes you pause and take notice of the little things, and reflect on the world we live in. We need a little more of that today. WIth all the noise and clutter in our lives today, meetings, email, cell phones, TXT messages, its all just clutter that gets in the way of doing the good work that we need to do. Below is a good example what the folks over at Field and Stream call The Greatest Outdoor Story Ever Written.

First published in an edited version by Field & Stream in October 1969. This is the original version, written in 1964 (returned in 1993 by Laurie Morrow from Corey Ford’s handwritten manuscript). Reprinted with permission of Dartmouth College.

The road was long, but he knew where he was going. He would follow the old road through the swamp and up over the ridge and down to a deep ravine, and cross the sagging timbers of the bridge, and on the other side would be the place called Tinkhamtown.  He was going back to Tinkhamtown.

He walked slowly, for his legs were dragging, and he had not been walking for a long time.  He had not walked for almost a year, and his flanks had shriveled and wasted away from lying in bed so long; he could fit his fingers around his thigh.  Doc Towle had said he would never walk again, but that was Doc for you, always on the pessimistic side.  Why, here he was walking quite easily, once he had started.  The strength was coming back into his legs, and he did not have to stop for breath so often.  He tried jogging a few steps, just to show he could, but he slowed again because he had a long way to go.

It was hard to make out the old road, choked with young alders and drifted over with matted leaves, and he shut his eyes so he could see it better.  He could always see it whenever he shut his eyes.  Yes, here was the beaver dam on the right, just as he remembered it, and the flooded stretch where he had to wade, picking his way from hummock to hummock while the dog splashed unconcernedly in front of him.  The water had been over his boottops in one place, and sure enough as he waded it now, his left boot filled with water again, the same warm, squidgy feeling.  Everything was the way it had been that afternoon.  Nothing had changed.  Here was the blowdown across the road that he had clambered over and here on a knoll was the clump of thornapples where Cider had put up a grouse – he remembered the sudden road as the grouse thundered out, and the easy shot that he missed – they had not taken time to go after it.  Cider had wanted to look for it, but he had whistled him back.  They were looking for Tinkhamtown. (Read More)

NY Times article about Field Trialing

My (New to me) English Setter Nick - Not on Point

Interesting article on field trialing in the NY Times.

GRAND JUNCTION, Tenn. — The competitors arrived at the historic Ames Plantation in pickup trucks with built-in dog kennels, pulling gooseneck trailers hauling saddle horses. After a year of crisscrossing the country, the holy grail of their sport was at last in reach for the owners of 39 of the best bird-hunting dogs in North America.