American Field

I’ll Never Own Another

By Robert C. Pettit | Jul 09, 2020
From a painting by Christie

After the death of a beloved canine companion, how many times have we sworn “I’ll never own another?”

The enjoyment a dog brings to our lives gives us a feeling of satisfaction and contentment. We would like to believe they are going to be with us forever and it will never end. Unfortunately it does.

We suffer through puppyhood while the little rascal chews on the leg of the new sofa and tears up that expensive padded dog bed you just bought.

You sacrificed buying a pair of new hunting boots so junior could have his bed. Deciding the comfort of your companion came first, you justify that purchase by thinking you can get one more season out of those old boots.

We tolerate the holes and the flowers dug up in the backyard, all the while swearing that you will kill that little no good x#o% once you catch him. When you finally lay your hands on the little menace, you forgive him as he kisses your face.

Welcome to the world of dog ownership.

As dog owners we soon learn that our canine companion doesn’t see our faults as our human friends do. The dog is forgiving of all transgressions that we as owners sometimes inflict upon their trusting soul.

Does a dog have a soul? I can’t answer that question, but I will share my belief. The King James version of the Holy Bible in Isaiah, chapter 11, verse 6, talks about the wolf dwelling with the lamb. It also speaks about the leopard lying down with the kid (young goat). I can’t vouch for anything to do with leopards or goats, but dogs are believed to be descended from the wolf. Enough said.

Man is the better for having a canine companion. Dogs teach us patience, kindness, and tolerance; all necessary ingredients in being able to maintain a positive relationship with our human counterparts.

Speaking of tolerance I refer back to the puppy digging up the geraniums you just planted. How can you be mad at that little devil? Caught in the act, you give him a swat and immediately feel guilty for doing it.

Have you ever been sad and disheartened when things weren’t going well in your life? If you’re a dog owner your dog will sense that and come to give you comfort. That eases your tension and you come to the realization that things will get better. That’s what dogs do.

Dogs are pack animals and we soon learn that it has to be us that take on the role of pack leader. That means junior has been swatted enough times to understand you won’t tolerate any foolishness. There has to be boundaries and structure in the dog’s life as well as your own. Without that your dog might not be as happy as you had anticipated and neither will you.

Let me tell you about my experiences with dogs.

My first dog was a border collie named Lucky. You may read about her in the story “Lucky’s Boy,” published in my book “Dog Tales & Hunter Trails.”

What a great experience for a little boy to own his first dog. That dog is the smartest, the bravest, the most beautiful, the most of everything. The adventures we shared had a positive impact on me. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same feelings, if you’re a dog person.

How did I get to this point in my life where I don’t want to own another dog? I love dogs and they reciprocate. So, why don’t I want another? Simply put, it’s the sadness you feel when you lose one. Dog owners can equate that with losing a member of the family, because they are members of our family.

I’m remembering my last hunting dog, and a master quail dog she turned out to be. A pointer, I bought her sight unseen and a friend brought her to me in Mexico. As she matured it was exciting watching her develop; however, mammary cancer overtook her at the age of eight which forced me to sacrifice her a year later.

At seventy-five years of age, and still excited about hunting with her for another two or three years, regrettably, it didn’t turn out that way. The cards that were dealt didn’t take into consideration my feelings.

I’ve been in contact with a friend who lost one of her favorite German shorthaired pointers. A single woman, she had four that lived with her in the house, but her favorite was the one that passed. It’s been a heartbreaking emotional time for her and as I write this she’s still having trouble coping with her loss. As a dog owner I understand her pain.

Who do we turn to in our time of grief? Our friends all give the standard platitudes, but that only brings up emotions that you’re trying to forget. Nothing is worse than meeting old friends and they express how sorry they are about your loss. That brings memories flooding back. Your friends mean well, so you thank them and put on a big smile, but inside you’re hurting.

Speaking for myself, I unburden my woes to God who listens to what I have to say and I feel relieved after sharing my burden. But this also strengthens my resolve to never buy another dog. The heartbreak is just too hard on this old man.

As a professional trainer for more than fifty years I’ve trained many hundreds of client dogs, but usually for a short period of time, not the lifetime of the dog. Bonds with animals and humans strengthen over time. A trainer will usually keep his or her pupil in a training course for one to three months. Then the finished dog is returned to the owner. During that length of time a strong bond doesn’t usually develop between dog and trainer, although there are exceptions.

For me there were four. I offered to buy and have bought certain dogs from their owners due to becoming emotionally attached.

My favorite of all time was a dog named Skip. A pointer, this dog protected me when called upon, was a skillful trick dog, a master retriever and a superb quail dog. Skip was also honored in the story “The Greatest Dog” in the previously mentioned book.

I’m often asked to give advice on rehabilitating a problem dog.  I sense that the person asking for help has come to the realization that somewhere during the dog’s training they have committed errors. I admire those novice trainers for wanting to repair the damage because their dog is usually considered a family member they love. How could I not help them, more for the sake of the dog?

I scan different magazines daily looking for well-bred puppies from different breeds of hunting dogs. I read about this sire and dam that have produced world beaters. Their offspring are hunting dogs without equal. It has to be true; it says so in the ad.

Of course I’ve learned long ago that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Another reason for selling at that cheap price is because the breeder has too many dogs. Why didn’t he think of that before he bred the litter? Am I tempted to buy one or more? Of course I am, but due to my age and the rigors of training a young puppy, I’m not going to buy another dog.

My wife tells me that I should buy another. I think it’s because she wants me out of the house so she can do her projects without interruption.

I haven’t picked up a shotgun since the death of my last hunting dog. That’s been over two years. I recognize the fact that it’s a detriment to my health not roaming the fields and getting the exercise that goes with it. Maybe it’s time to reconsider and buy another dog. With luck maybe that one will outlive me.

What the hell, I’ve convinced myself. I’m going to buy another dog. I’m a dog man, after all.

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