Saying goodbye is the hardest part

Pets are hard to lose. To have spent years training a work dog, and then he leaves you unexpectedly, you will experience nearly indescribable pain. But to know that the cause could have been prevented just makes things worse.

Everyone who knows me will tell you how much I love my dogs and the amount of time I spend training them. Not many people know why I always have a bird dog and why I feel incomplete without one though. Anyone who has lost a pet knows the pain, but a rare few will experience it tenfold. The flashbacks and sightings of the same breed you had can bring a tear to your eye months after losing your friend and only seems to get a little better once you get a new buddy. Now find yourself to blame for your animalís death and things get much harder. Properly vaccinating your pet can save its life and I highly recommend everyone do so. I just wish I had known.

I have had three work dogs up to this point and am preparing for a fourth. When I replace a work dog, it means my previous one has passed. I will probably never overlap dogs even though some say itís easier to train your new one while it watches your experienced retriever. I have seen too many young dogs pick up bad habits from watching older animals and would rather start with a clean slate.

I live for training and seeing them progress to the point of finally becoming a full-fledged work dog. I only hunted waterfowl for one season without a dog. My reason for this is ethics. I feel it wrong to hunt game and not give you, and the animal shot, the best chance of its retrieval.

I am guilty of shooting a bird and not being able to recover it. I was out hunting on the river my first season as a group of mallards flew overhead. I shot and downed my first bird that ended up landing in the water only feet in front of me. I was in a shallow spot so I just stepped into the ankle deep water to grab it. Thinking everything was going well another flock approached. I shot three times and downed two birds. The problem was one of them was just winged and made its way into the fast current. It was gone before I could shoot again or catch it. I ended up coming home one short of a limit, knowing I had probably mortally wounded the getaway bird. To this day, that single lost duck is why I work so hard to train my dogs.

I had to experience the loss of my hunting partner once again this past Friday. My buddy Chester hadnít been eating well for a few days and continued to go downhill fast. By the time we realized something was wrong and he was not eating because of something other than the summer heat, it was too late.

The vet told us he was experiencing kidney failure due to Lyme disease. He was infected as a pup and before Lyme was common in this area. I hadnít heard of a single case the time he was bitten, but wish I had vaccinated against it anyway. My mistake cost me at least a year without my dog and pain I wouldnít wish on anyone.

From now on, I will and recommend that everyone have their dogs vaccinated for Lyme and Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a bacterium which is transmitted through infected animal urine and can be found in ponds, puddles, or back yards where animals pass through. Leptospirosis can be transmitted from animal to person, causing respiratory problems, kidney and liver damage, and meningitis.

Itís also very important to use heartworm, flea and tick prevention. IĎve heard that itís being considered that fleas and mosquitos may also transmit Lyme. Mosquitos carry heartworm and then pass it on to your pet by biting them, and if you donít know much about heartworm, look it up. Heartworm disease is deadly and keeping up with prevention is by far less expensive than the treatment for heartworm.

I wonít be getting a new pup for this season since I have a newborn at home and not enough time to train a new dog before it opens. If there is anyone out there that has a young lab under 6 months old and needs some help training it, I would be happy to do so and include you in our waterfowl crew. Itís going to be a hard season for us if we canít find a dog and hard enough just missing our hunting buddy Chester. If you have a pup that needs some training you may contact me by phone at 607-316-2936.

Good wishes and hug your pet when you get home; you never know when it may be the last time you can.

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