This past weekend was supposed to be the easiest hunt of the year. A reward for a good dog that performed great all season long. The pup, Beau, and I had already logged plenty of miles in numerous states on essentially nothing but public land. We worked for our birds and we found our birds, but now it was time for our annual pilgrimage to a good friend’s property in South Dakota.
This was supposed to be a cakewalk; what I ended up with was a dog that can’t walk.
By mid-Saturday morning, the action was exactly what I had anticipated. Most birds were flushing wild, but there were enough “heart attack hens” and tight-holding roosters left to keep all four dogs busy. Beau was flying back and forth and a bit hard to control with so much scent wafting through the air, but I was ok with this. After all, this was supposed to be her payday for a season’s worth of work. Her tail was wagging, feathers were stuck to her muzzle and there was a renewed jump in her step – until that jump slowly morphed into a limp.
It started off as barely noticeable, just a small hitch in her giddy-up while walking from field to field, but It quicky escalated to her rear left leg being hoisted to her gut while she hopped along in front of me. As if to say “I’ll just play it off as no big deal, he’ll still let me hunt,” she tried to stay ahead of me as if nothing was wrong. Not so fast pooch.
She was crated for the rest of the trip and with that, my hunt quickly turned into a nature walk. The spark was gone, the interest fleeting. There I was, hunting with some of my best friends, laughing along the way as we got closer to our limits - but with an unsettling emptiness looming within me. An emptiness I hope will be filled by next fall.
This week Beau was diagnosed with a completely torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). She’s not even two years old, she was just beginning to come into her own and now both she and I have to start over. This past evening she looked up at me while sitting awkwardly next to the kitchen table with the easiest expression I’ve ever read on her face: “I’m sorry.” A look of remorse stared me in the eyes and neither of us knew what to do.
She knows something is wrong but not to what extent. I know what’s wrong but not what this means for our future. Both of our hearts are caught in our throats. By the time her second birthday rolls around in February, hopefully I’ll have more answers. For now all I have is an extra bag of bones and ambiguities.
To have surgery, or not to have surgery, that is the question…
All Beau wants for Christmas is the ability to hit the fields running next fall.
The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever’s Marketing Specialist.