Two weeks ago we got the bad news about Penny’s inoperable cancer. She had about a dozen good days after that including two out in the pheasant fields where she seemed satisfied with a few short walks to check out some promising cover.
Unfortunately, this week she went downhill again so when her breathing started to get too difficult, we let her slip away. The whole family is going to miss her.
Let’s be frank, Penny was a house pet first and foremost. She loved her family and followed us (especially Bethany) around the house all day. She was a lab through and through and would fetch anything for as long as you’d throw it.
She did love to hunt but it just wasn’t her forte. Still, there was that one day…
It was maybe the third of fourth time she’d been out pheasant hunting. She learned that the best way to find birds was to watch Ripley, Ron’s experienced Britney. When he got birdy she’d move right in.
The birds were running. They wouldn’t hold tight so it was no organized and controlled gentleman’s hunt. There were no leisurely strolls up to the pointing dogs with double-guns open. No, this was more like a track meet turned street fight and that suited Penny just fine.
Ripley would catch some scent and point but when Penny came crashing over, the rooster would be running. Ripley would try to re-position himself but that just fueled Penny’s competitive spirits. The big bird was sprinting for his life with the dogs right behind, running for glory. It’s bred in the bone. Ron and I stumbled along behind, running only for pride, or at least to avoid shame.
It was like a NASCAR event up front with both dogs trying to take the same line following a single scent trail. “Rubbin’ is racin’,” someone famous once said. Penny would get off line for a second and Ripley would take over. Then Penny would barge back in and they’d be bumping shoulders for a bit until Ripley veered off into the infield. Repeat.
When they’d separate for a few seconds Ron and I had to choose which dog to follow. On any other day we’d have defaulted to Ripley every time but today was different. Even Ron felt it, today was Penny’s big day and we bet on her. She was Hoovering up the scent like we’d never seen before, taking in great snorts. It might have been the first time this hunting thing really kicked in for her. What a pleasure it was to see her like that.
Eventually the exhausted pheasant would take to the air. Two panting hunters would fire into clear air behind and below and around the escaping bird, barely able to mount the guns, let alone swing them steady.
But nobody cared that day. We had our flusher Penny on the ground.