Friday, July 1, 2011

Reina Loba

Reina Loba, 02/07/99 – 06/22/11

Last week, I lost a good friend. My friend would accompany me on my wing shooting and fishing trips until hip dysplasia didn’t permit it any more. Also, because of my friend, I developed a love for hunting over well trained dogs and in that process, I learned quite a bit about this world that I have become to love.

My friend’s name was Reina Loba; she was my Labrador Retriever. She lived quite a long life for a Labrador. I first got her when she was only seven weeks old – I got her from a back yard breeder. Since I couldn’t afford to have someone train her, I did it myself and I am glad I did. I gleaned the internet for information on training retrievers, libraries on any information and bought a few books on the subject. Even with the mistakes I did when training her, she developed into a fine bird dog. She hunted both upland and waterfowl equally well. In fact, I started to put her in HRC hunt tests and she did well. Even in her later life with I judged HRC hunt tests, she would be the test dog to show the participants how the tests was to be run.

We decided that maybe she may be a candidate for breeding; she was a good looking field dog and large in bone. So, in the desire to do things correctly; I got her hips tested. The vet who reviewed the X-rays was frank, “She has got severe hip dysplasia”. My heart sank. He also mentioned that Reina didn’t show yet because of her excellent physical condition. I knew it was a matter of time before she couldn’t hit the fields with me and I had no other recourse than to spay her. That evening, I wept silently in bed thinking everyone was deep in sleep; my wife next to me reached for my hand and said, “I am so sorry.” I can admit that I sobbed a bit after that. It was the first time that I had ever cried for a creature.

Our first hunt was after Blue Grouse which now called Dusky Grouse. She was just over a year old. The first couple of birds she did okay on being that she hadn’t ever picked up a grouse. The last bird of the day and the limit, she hunted like a pro. I saw her get birdy and was going to go over a ridge line in front of me and I stopped her with a whistle blast. I got next to her and in front of us on the slope was an open meadow the size of a baseball diamond. I told her, “Caza” and she took off quartering the field until her route got smaller and tighter towards the center. She jumped and with a sharp bark flushed two grouse in the knee high grass. One went hard to the left into the conifers while the other went straight up and away. I hit the second one; it locked its wings and flew in the dark forest. Reina broke and took off after it. A couple of moments later Reina was running up the slope with a grouse in her mouth. She came around to heel and dropped the bird on command. The total time of our hunt was one hour and ten minutes. As we made our way down the mountain, she flushed two more grouse for good measure, my gun was resting on shoulder and I enjoyed the show. Needless to say, my feet never touched the ground heading back to the campsite.

She touched quite a few people in her life. She thought of my eldest daughter as her own as my daughter was just one year old when I got Reina. The rest of my kids were born after she arrived and she was very protective and loving to them. My mother in law once asked me to give Reina to her for company and protection after my father in law died. I was flattered but couldn’t bear the thought of giving her away. When, my mom moved into a little studio flat on my property; Reina would lie on her porch and would stay with her during my hunting and fishing excursions when she didn’t go.

The last time we went hunting; we were hunting ducks along the Rio Grande. The morning was cold but with a bright sky. One lone duck came down the river, I called a couple of times and the duck cupped its wings to come into the decoys. Once in range, I hit it with one shot and down it went. I lined up Reina to go and gave the command. She took off to retrieve but seemed to stumble into the water. She went out to the duck and picked it up and started back. Normally, I would say that Reina was the “USS Reina”, her swimming was so strong. But, this time the current got ahold of her and took her to the back side of the little island in front of us. I wanted a few minutes and thought, “What’s up?”. I crossed over to the island see what was wrong. I found Reina at the bank; her front feet were on the bank and she was to get the back legs under her. She couldn’t pull herself up the slight bank with the front and her back legs didn’t seem to work. The duck was on the bank which she would never do, she always brought the birds to hand. If there were any way to describe her expression as she stared back me was shame or embarrassment as she labored to get on the bank. I felt bad for my dog. I pulled her up on the bank and picked up the duck. She tried to shake the water off but her back legs looked like they weren’t connected to her. She hobbled back to the Bronco and I lifted her onto the back. I picked up my decoys, packed my gear and called it a season.

The last day of her life was not very pleasant; for me and I know definitely for her. She wouldn’t drink any water but was throwing up. She had a glazed look over her eyes. When I tried to sit next to her and comfort her, she would slowly get up and limp away. Finally, she went into the porch where it was a little cooler and took a nap. Her breathing was rapid and short but at least she was resting a bit. That evening when I went to check on her, she had gone. I sobbed; the second time I cried for her. She is resting in the yard under the shade of an elm.
Hasta Siempre.

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