I returned from SHOT relieved to find my old setter, Ike, still alive and even able to rouse himself to wag his tail and give me a nuzzle when I came in the door. For a while after he first went blind, I took him to the field with me and let him run around before and after the hunt as he’s doing in the picture above. But he has been fading since mid-December. He can walk a little but mostly I carry him from place to place.
Years ago I decided on the spot for Ike’s ashes. The day I scatter them there is coming soon. The place I picked is the site of one of my very favorite moments with Ike in the 13 years I’ve had him. I told this story in the magazine when it first happened, but that was a long time ago, right after Ike’s puppy season.
That first year, when he was just six months old, Ike would point at the slightest whiff of bird scent, often at very long range. Later, he learned it was a lot more fun to get right up in their faces, but as a puppy, he was cautious. One afternoon my cousin Shaun and I were hunting across the road from my old house. We followed Ike up a hill along a fenceline. He topped the hill and dropped out of sight on the other side. We came over the hill to find Ike standing on a very tentative point with a light breeze in his face.
At least I thought he was on point.
“Ike’s got one,” I said.
Shaun studied him . “He’s not pointing,”
“What’s he doing then?”
“He’s admiring the view,” said Shaun. Admittedly, it was a good view. The hill overlooked a tree-lined creek bottom spanned by an iron bridge on a gravel road. The harvest was in. Corn stubble lit golden by the late afternoon sun covered the rolling fields. Ike stood, head high, the tip of his tail flagging slightly, as if taking it all in.
The first rule of upland hunting is “always believe the dog,” so we walked past Ike, at the ready. He didn’t move. We kept walking. We must have been 30 yards past Ike when a flock of pheasants flushed out of a brushpile in front of us. There were 20 birds in the air. Shaun and I each picked a rooster out of the flock, shot, and both hit the ground dead at the same time. Ike pointed a lot of birds for me over the years, but he never again pointed so many birds at once from so far away.
So that will be the place. Where he can admire the view.