February 26, 2009
A Toast to a Good Bird Dog
By Nate Matthews
A guest post by Online Editor Nate Matthews
One of the privileges of being the online editor is that I can occasionally indulge in personal reflection of the kind I would never assign anyone else. Hence this post.
A good friend of my father's has spent many years living in northern Michigan, where he retired to raise English pointers and hunt grouse and woodcock. I've been honored to hunt with this man, and his dogs, nearly every fall since my second year of college. One dog I remember in particular. His name was Nash, after Nash Buckingham, and he pointed the first grouse I ever shot.
Nash passed away last month, and I thought it appropriate to remember him in this space, using the words of his owner. This one's for all the bird hunters out there who've ever lost a dog. May he rest in peace.
by Ned Caveney
For 14 seasons my dog Nash, who I named after Nash Buckingham, has been my companion in the grouse woods and the western plains. Nash was whelped in July of 1995 and I remember his puppy season, when he pointed seven woodcock at less than four months old. Over his career as a grouse and woodcock dog he pointed 521 grouse and 479 woodcock. He retrieved 187 grouse and 136 woodcock.
Starting in November I knew he had hunted his last season. I was hoping this trip to Arizona would be good for him - not that he would be able to hunt, but that he could enjoy the sun and paw the bare ground. But it was not to be. In Missouri on January 26th he passed away.
That morning he was unconscious, I petted his slowly breathing side until all went still. We drove on through freezing rain in Oklahoma and Texas and it fit my mood. The next day we got into New Mexico and found sun and warmer temperatures. In the small town of Corona I found a man that would sell me a shovel for $30.
South of Corona there is an area of National Forest. I found a place under an old and knarled juniper. The south side will get good sun. I dug the hole and gathered rocks. My friend Bill Boswell helped.
We got out the bottle of scotch in honor of a good friend, and I sat alone for a while and listened to the wind play through the juniper and over the grass, and thought, "Nash, this a good place. It is close to the sun, so it will be warmer. The wind will play you a tune and I expect there are quail around that will be by on occasion. It is high, wild and lonely and will stay that way. I thought I'd bury you with Aldo, Dawn and Kaleigh back home where the grouse would drum in the woods beside your grave. But you got your own special place. Thanks pal. I'll remember you well when the Juneberry is in bloom and a grouse is drumming."
One last note. Ned keeps his dogs in kennels, except for the oldest, which he allows to sleep in the house, next to the wood stove. I expect old Nash will appreciate the sunshine. -NM