Springer came to me when she was about 1 year old. It’s kind of a long story how I came to buy Springer. The short version is, I went to buy a beagle from a guy for rabbit hunting and he also had this black and white springer spaniel that was just sooo damn happy to see me.
If there is such a thing as love at first sight between a man and a dog, well it happened to Springer and I. That dog knew what I was thinking before I did, and never let me down. She was the kind of friend that every man should have at least once in a lifetime.
I brought her home, (along with the beagle) and in no time she and I became best friends. It didn’t matter what I was doing, that dog was with me, beside me, never out of sight of me. When I came home from work, she was there, waiting for me, her short, stubby tail wagging and her mouth open, teeth showing, grinning, I swear that dog would look at me and grin. In fact, in hindsight, I probably should have named her “Smiley” because she seemed to be always smiling at me no matter what we were doing.
On the weekends and vacations, we fished together, we hunted together, we roamed the woods together and we roamed through life together. In the evenings we walked together, usually somewhere that there were some woods or trails to follow.
She was a natural de-stressor, always happy, always in a good mood. When we went anywhere in my old Ford truck, she sat up in the middle of the seat, like she was my girlfriend. She particularly enjoyed our infrequent trips to McDonald’s.
I taught her to fetch, to retrieve the occasional duck or partridge I managed to get lucky and shoot, and she was a natural. She became quite used to my poor aim and would look kind of surprised if I actually managed to get off a good shot. Most of the time after one of my all too frequent misses, she would stop and look back at me as if to say, “You need target practice.”
Eventually she learned to help me land a trout or salmon, picking it up ever so gently when I said, “fetch-er-up” as I brought it into the shore.
When I say she knew what I was thinking, I am not kidding. I could go in and out of our boat house shed a hundred times a day and she wouldn’t move, but when I went in to get my fishing rod to head across the lake fishing, she invariably headed for the boat before I appeared with the fishing rod.
Springers are supposed to be bird dogs, but Springer, well she was more of a fish dog. She watched the water like a pro, and often her ears would twitch if she saw a trout or salmon rise in the pool, often alerting me to a fish I had not seen. She would get excited when I hooked a big fish, but not too excited, she seemed to know it was better if we all stayed cool until the fish was landed.
When it was time to head for the boat and home, she would lead the way up the path, pausing occasionally to look back, as if to say, “Are you coming?”
Crossing fast rising deep water one night in St Mary’s River during a surprise summer thunder and lightening storm, Springer saved me from a surefire dunking by swimming along beside me while I held her collar for balance in the rushing water, she swam hard to keep me going, but she did it.
Springer Spaniels are long haired dogs, and as such they shed a lot of hair, in her case, much of it was white. I spent our 10 years together covered in black and white dog hair, sometimes I think it must have been tough to tell us apart. Everything I owned was covered in black and white dog hair. That was in part because whenever I took one of my typical morning, afternoon or evening naps, she would lay on top of me on the couch and nap too.
I think of Springer often, and even now, close to 20 years after she died, I still occasionally see her sitting on the rock watching the river as I cast a fly over our favorite pool, or see her black and white colors slipping through the trees around me, always my shadow, always there when I say her name. Fishing and hunting for me, has never been the same without Springer.
Springer is buried at the cottage, along with our other much loved dogs who have moved on to that higher place, waiting for me to join her someday on the salmon river or the hardwood hill to chase a partridge together.
When you hear the long lonesome call of a loon drifting across the lake on a foggy night, I will be listening too.
When the campfire is burning and the laughter of good friends is flowing, I will be there laying by your side watching the flickering flames.
When the sound of water splashing and children laughing echoes across the cove as they chase minnows with little cheesecloth dipnets in the shallow waters, I will be there, chasing minnows with them, never successful, but always willing to give it a try.
When an atlantic salmon rises to a badger hackle dryfly, and turns away at the last second, I will be there to help you choose a fly he will like. And when you lose a fish, I will look at you in disgust, and then take my place on the pool again, and look for another one.
When you sit beside the lakeshore on a calm summer evening, watching the water and thinking about life, I will be sitting beside you.
When you find deer tracks in the woods or in the garden and look on them in wonder, as if you had never seen deer tracks before in your life, I will be there looking at them with you.
When life gets you down, and you wonder if you can go on, I will be there, tail wagging, pushing you forward and giving you strength. Whenever you think of me, I will be there with you.
When you turn up the throttle on the 15 horsepower outboard and start skimming and bouncing across a rough lake in an aluminum boat, I will be there, hanging on for dear life, and I will be smiling….guaranteed.
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