_by Chad Love


If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then I’m sincerely flattering (or “ripping off” if you’re a plainspoken sort) Joe Cermele’s most recent Honest Angler blog post. In it Joe asks what were his readers’ most memorable catches of 2011. (Mine? I’ve recently taken up the fly rod in a serious but comically flailing way, and the big sow largemouth I somehow managed to catch this spring on a six-weight, while not my biggest catch of the year, was definitely my most memorable.)

It’s a great question, which is why I’m going to borrow it whole cloth and ask MBF readers what their most memorable 2011 gundog moment was. It could be a first retrieve of a new pup, the last retrieve of a gray-muzzled senior, a particularly intense point, a quiet moment of affection between you and your dog, pretty much anything that was worthy enough to stay with you long after the moment itself.

The picture above represents one of those moments–not from 2011–but from years past, 1996 to be exact. The dog in the photograph was my first pointer, DP, who was just about the most sweet-natured, gentle and affectionate dog I’ve ever owned. In the picture, DP, who was 16 months old at the time, had just gotten her first nosefull of wild, western Oklahoma quail, a special covey–my “home” covey that inhabited my wife’s family’s homestead. I managed to get a picture of the moment, then the covey broke (OK, I admit: the pup broke first.) before I could drop the camera and pick up the gun. It was magical, anyway, and I whooped like a young boy as the birds exploded into the air around us.

Fast forward to 2011, and here I am again with a young, raw and untested dog in similar circumstances. Both of my dogs have provided me with quite a few memorable moments this past year (some good, some bad, some comical) but the topper for me was finally getting my young setter on her first wild bird point during a Kansas quail hunt.

Much like that moment years ago with another dog now long gone, to witness that sudden transformation from a live, fluid animal into a piece of sculpture was a special moment that I’ll always remember, not only as the culmination of a lot of work, hope and no small measure of doubt and frustration (as it always is with a young dog), but the first step of what will hopefully be a long journey together. I didn’t manage to get the moment on film, but the image was burned indelibly into my conscience. And that’s where it will stay until I shuffle off this mortal coil.

What was your most memorable 2011 moment with your dog (or dogs)?