One Last Hunt

Yesterday and today, I’m at the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club on an annual outing hosted by my uncle. My dad had knee surgery last week, so he’s absent, as is my brother, Andrew. But my brother, Ted, is here, as well as a dozen other guys who are somehow related to me via marriage. We spend a couple days shooting pheasants, eating steaks, smoking cigars, and chewing the fat.

Most importantly, however, Beaumont is here. Beaumont has been my trusty hunting companion for a dozen years, and this will be his last hunt.

Beaumont is a yellow lab, and a big one. He weighs in at about 85 pounds. I bought him, for $150, from a farmer in New Auburn, Minnesota, in 1997. His father, King Kahlua, was a stocky, square-headed yellow with massive front shoulders.

As that old farmer promised, Beaumont (officially, “Beaumont, Prince of Windsor”) took to hunting right away. It’s not uncommon for avid hunters to pay ten times or more what I paid for Beaumont, and then that much again to send them to hunting dog school.  Beaumont’s school was my backyard, and together we learned what it meant to train a hunting dog.

As it turned out, he had the three qualities necessary for a great retriever: an excellent nose, a tireless spirit, and an indefatigable desire to please his master. I’ve not hunted with him a lot — usually just three or four times a season, but it’s been enough to keep him keen on it.

Yesterday, as usual, Beaumont became enormously excited when he saw me pack my Mossberg shotgun and blaze orange vest in the car. And when we got to the field to search for pheasants and chuckers, he hit the ground running.

But within 30 minutes, he was out of gas. After an hour, he could barely make it to the car. I lifted him into the back and he panted like I’d never seen him before as his body tried to cool itself. He has diabetes now, and he drinks, pants, and pees incessantly. Truth be told, Beaumont has just a few more weeks before he journeys to doggy heaven.

But this morning, he’s back on his feet, following guys around the lodge, hoping they’ll drop some food for him (I gave him half my steak last night).

And in a couple hours, we’ll go afield one last time. He’ll flush a few pheasants and, if my aim is true, get to retrieve them and lay them at my feet.

For a lab, that is heaven.

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  • Paul Berry

    Sounds like you got a good one, Tony. Our golden, Bella, gets the same look on ther face each time I pick up my backpack and head for the door. She runs ahead of me, sits obediently and begins to whine until I pick up her leash. Once we get past the first stop light, it’s a full out sprint (or at least as much as she can manage with me playing the slow moving anchor). Two blocks later she settles into a trot. Two miles in, he’s content to walk. By the time our four mile loop is over, she walks into the house, panting heavily, ready to spend the rest of the evening laying on the floor.
    She’ll be two next month and, while I know the day will come, I can’t imagine our family without her. Reading things like this and William Wegman’s account of the last days of Fay Ray’s life simultaneously make me wonder why I ever got a dog and why I would ever think of not.

  • Poor pup. It’s hard to loose a friend that way. I just had to put down one of my dogs about month or so ago and I still miss him. I always wondered why God made their life spans so short.

  • Hunting. Seems to be a great American pastime. And yet, I (a 3-tenths South African, 7-tenths Aussie) would just love to shoot a duck, one day. Especially one that looks like Daffy Duck.

  • Great post and beautiful dog. We have had three Labradors over the years. Now we have a Pug – not the same thing as a good hunting dog, but still a good dog. I know you’ll miss Beaumont when he is gone. Dogs are a gift from God.

  • I definitely know the joy that a really good dog can bring. I’ve got a three year old foxhound named tucker who’s the most beautiful tricolor hound I’ve ever seen. Alas, he’s a rescued hound who was abused as a puppy so he’s very gun shy and will likely never be a hunting dog (much too old to start now). But he’s a wonderful companion for reading and smoking the pipe on the back porch. Beaumont looks to be a beautiful companion as well.

  • Carla

    good boy, Beaumont.
    We’ve got a dumb basset with a great nose who wouldn’t know what to do with a bird if it bit her. But if you get bored and need someone to train, we’ve got the girl for you.

  • Our dog was an anabaptist: loved everyone, couldn’t hurt a soul, didn’t even know what violence would mean, and Beaumont could have learned from our Webster that guns and shooting are non-kingdom activities!
    But, alas, I forget: Tony’s a realist!
    Great to see this post.

  • really sucks that you will lose your buddy shortly. you speak of him so well that i feel i will be losing him too!
    unrelated techy, arty question. who took the photos and with what?

  • sarah

    he is so cute! great photos also..

  • Sarah

    Tony – I saw your FB status note last night about saying goodbye to Beaumont – I’d read this post earlier in the day – I’m sad for you and your family and so very glad that you had this bit of space and time together. The photos are such memory-keepers – just wonderful