Luck was on my retrievers’ side

Fire and Ruby are my sixth and seventh golden retrievers over a period of 36 years in which I have always had a golden retriever.

Back in March I wrote about a serious problem that I have where if both of them are loose together they vanish like snow in July and may be as much as five miles away in no time at all.

I had a lot of feedback to that column and to really understand my situation there are two key components. My dogs travel with me a lot with my job, and really add to the quality of my outdoor adventures.

In our home life I frequently have them loose in the yard with or without me as I live a work oriented, hobby farming way of independent living.

When the dogs took off in heavily wolf oriented country back in early March I made a point of keeping Ruby on the chain at all times if Fire was loose or keep Fire in the house if I let Ruby off the chain.

As deceptive as this may sound, Ruby loves the forested area where her chain and dog house are and about a third of the time hangs out in that area even when she is loose. What Ruby does when she is on the chain is watch the world as she is incredibly observant.

So here is the gist of this week’s column. I am on a remote turkey hunt and camping trip near Mather in an area that is well over 200 square miles of marsh, forest and wolf country.

On day one I pounded a stake into the ground, put Ruby on a chain, left Fire loose and drove my truck a couple of miles to where I was going to hunt.

Now before you think I am really foolish you have to realize that I have never had dogs that run and Ruby does not fight a chain and until recently I could leave my dogs free, leave camp and they would always be there when I returned.

So here is where things get really ugly. I come back to camp, the stake is knocked over and Ruby and Fire are gone. After two hours I knew I had a problem. At 2:09 a.m. I was woken up by a wolf howling very close to camp. I did what I could do by calling for the dogs.

So here is the reality, Fire is getting older and Ruby is dragging a 15-foot chain. Wolves, or my dogs getting snagged up on a tree or brush and perishing from dehydration in country where the sand/gravel roads have miles of forest and swamp between them is what I was looking at.

The following day I did section sweeps both calling and looking for what might be a live, snagged- up dog or the head of a dog on a chain and the rest of her body consumed by wolves.

My daughter, Selina, is in Atlanta. It is prom week and when she arrived home I picked her up two days later and thankfully she was staying at her mom’s that night. Selina is very close with Fire and losing her was not an option, especially in prom week.

That night I went back to the woods and slept on the forest floor where the pups had last been seen. Altogether they had been missing three nights and for the most part everyone that was familiar with this story assumed they were in heaven. The chain was the key element in the reality of this bad situation.

I called and hollered and howled until I had to sleep at 2:30 a.m. My turkey season had been over for two days, so I was simply there to at least have closure, and it was really looking like that would not happen.

At 5:12 a.m. I was woken by something approaching camp at a fast pace. It was now the start of day four of this really bad story.

Just like that I had two golden retrievers rolling, hugging and loving life as they had made it back to camp. There was no sign of Ruby’s chain and I had to be really careful as she had what would turn out to be 40 porcupine quills inside of her mouth and 35 on the outside. Fire did not have a one.

Later in the morning I used a pliers and removed every one and Ruby took it like the incredibly tough dog that she is.

I am in a first-class conundrum. I do not want to get rid of these dogs. Ruby is probably the smartest, prettiest, toughest and most observant golden retriever that I have ever had.

Fire is the queen of our neighborhood! Everyone loves Fire, she is kind, tough and loves life.

The simple fact is that these dogs are pure, hunting-stock golden retrievers and like their master, outdoor adventures are a part of their lives.

I am learning to only-one-loose at-a-time rule and with this crazy story you just read I have made the decision that I am going to have pups with Ruby this fall, her bloodline is healthy, tough as nails and full of love.

If you want a pup, get a hold of me!


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