Charlie on point – Quail dead ahead!
Mitch showing Orso what a Quail is and smells like
Orso spots a Quail in the grass
One more project down and only a gazillion to go. I gave Mitch two weeks off from home improvement projects and threw in a weekend hunting trip to boot to relax him before tackling the latest project, new kitchen countertops. Should have been a cakewalk right, especially since both countertops were only six feet long and no corners. Wrong, never is in this house.
First surprise of the day was when I just pulled the one side off by myself, shocking Mitch that the old countertop was not anchored to the cabinets. Not surprising to me, by now nothing surprises me about this house. We switched out the old countertop for the new one, done easy peasy. I thought that the second would be almost as quick, unhook the drains, garbage disposal and faucet, and lift off. That part went fairly fast so things were looking hopeful.
Cutting the new hole and fitting the sink was a bit more challenging. Many measurements with the tape measure were taken, just to be sure that the hole wasn’t cut too big. You can always make a hole bigger, but you can’t make a hole smaller. I walked into the kitchen to find Mitch drawing the outline of the sink in permanent marker on the top of the new countertop. I rubbed the center line he had drawn to the edge of the countertop that would be exposed, it didn’t come off. I looked at him and said that this will not work having a black line across my new countertop, oh no. He turned and left to find something that would remove the marker and thus would get to reside on the planet another day. Luckily, Windex worked like a champ. Mitch is off the endangered species list for now.
The jigsaw wouldn’t get quite close enough to the back splash to make the back side cut, so that took different blades, cutting angles and eventually a different saw to get a close cut. Next came the fitting of the sink into the new hole. It didn’t, surprise. How can you measure, measure and measure again and then it doesn’t fit? That caused Meltdown number one. Out came the rubber mallet, at least it wasn’t the sledgehammer. Two new dents to the stainless steel sink and it fit. Woo hoo.
The container of plumbers putty was dried up and hard, so Mitch had to add water to soften it up. Meltdown number two came when he asked for my help holding the sink in the hole so he could attach the fasteners that clamp onto the underside of the sink and secure it to the countertop. I walked to the backside of the countertop which was sitting on blocks in the dining room and waited for direction. Evidently I had turned off my mental telepathy switch and didn’t know that I was to immediately grab the countertop and sink in a death grip to hold it in place. Mitch bent down and flipped up the front side causing the sink to slip. Huge meltdown. I told him he needed to use his words. Not very smart on my part, using sarcasm in the face of unmitigated rage. At least he didn’t toss me across the room, just sent the dust brush flying. Second attempt and this time I grabbed the sink but it slipped again, causing Mitch to say that he would just secure the sink to the countertop on his back in the kitchen with the countertop supported by the cabinets, among other more colorful words.
We carried the countertop sans sink to the kitchen and placed it on the cabinets. He set the sink in the hole in the countertop and I thought that maybe it wouldn’t be very long before this would be finished. Wrong again, I should be used to being wrong a lot. I made myself scarce when I heard the comment, “If one more thing goes wrong, I’m lighting a match.”
The third meltdown was almost anticlimactic compared to meltdown number two, sort of like an aftershock. Mitch decided there weren’t enough sink clips to secure the sink to the countertop. That set off a string of ranting and raving about why nothing is ever simple and easy about the house. I wisely chose not to remind him that the house was in his family long before I came into the picture.
Ten o’clock at night and the new countertop project was finally finished. It only took fourteen hours and three meltdowns, a new record somewhere I’m sure.
How do you write a love story without loss and tears? I don’t know of any love story ever told where there is no loss, no tears. This one is no different.
When I first looked into his soft brown eyes, I fell in love. I felt an over whelming urge to stroke his head and keep him safe from all manner of threats. I first met AJ, our black lab, on a hunting trip ten years ago, when I began a quest to find a hunting partner for our aging yellow lab, Buddy.
AJ was 2 years old at the time and afraid of just about everything that didn’t pertain to hunting. He was and still is the most beautiful dog in the field I’ve ever seen. He moved with grace and speed in search of the elusive scent of a pheasant. He was truly alive and in his element in the field. When he locked on the bird he would go on point and hold the bird until we could get set for the shot. We didn’t deserve such a magnificent hunting dog.
We soon learned that when not in the field, AJ was terrified of most everything else. He didn’t know how to go up or down stairs had never been inside and had no idea how to walk on tile or wood floors. Mitch had to carry him down the steps the day we brought him home and I had to run a path of throw rugs and towels through the house in order to get him to go to the kitchen. AJ suffered from severe separation anxiety to the point of mass destruction throughout the house when left alone. Storms and fireworks would send him into a panic. He would tremble and shake violently; the only relief would come from touch. As long as he could touch me, he would find some comfort and sense of protection.
Looking in those soft hooded brown eyes, I always saw total trust and devotion. AJ became my constant companion, looking to me before listening to anyone else, Mitch included. Mitch constantly complained that he was chopped liver when I was around.
AJ seemed ageless until this year. He had an eternal youth about him, ready for a wrestling match or a game of tag with Orso and Charlie. This year at twelve years he started feeling his age. First it was his eyes, his peripheral vision starting to fail. He struggled with dark rooms and doorways. Going from the bright light of outside or another room to the dimmer room became a challenge. Depth perception was the next to go. AJ would linger at doorways not sure if the floor was really there. He started becoming tired quickly not able to stand for very long, preferring to lay down on something soft.
The heartbreaking next stage of aging came rather suddenly with his sudden refusal to eat his usual diet of Science Diet dog food and carrots for snacks. When he first starting to refuse carrots, I thought maybe the carrots were too hard, maybe he had a broken tooth. But a quick inspection of his mouth revealed perfect teeth. I even soaked his food longer to soften it more, but he just turned away and refused the food. This from a dog that we had to put a rock in his dish in order to slow down the hoover vacuum force food inhalation. He even turned away from pumpkin. Now I was getting really worried. I have never known a Labrador retriever to turn away from food. Especially our dogs.
I was able to deal with the eyesight problems and I could rationalize the tired bones. My brain understood that AJ was growing old and had lived a wonderfully long life, but my heart was breaking watching the rapid physical deterioration. Not knowing how it would turn out, we took AJ with us on our hunting trip last weekend. He seemed like the AJ I’ve always known doing what he was bred for, most alive in the field searching for the ever elusive scent of the bird.
Once we got back from the trip he became shakier in his stride and refused almost all food, even hamburger. We took him to the vet for tests, hoping for the best and trying to prepare for the worst, but you never do. The test results and X-rays showed a massive tumor the size of a football in his abdomen pressing against his ribs. Considering the surgery was high risk with a very slim chance that the vet could even get it out and his age, we made the decision to have him put to sleep. My head knows that this was for the best but my heart is broken, knowing that I will never know the absolute love and devotion from a dog ever again.
AJ was special and has gone to a special place that only the great dogs can go to.
While Saturday was cold and raw, Sunday was just brutal. The high temperature for the day was at 4:30 in the morning when I took the dogs outside after they ate. It went downhill from there. By the time we got out of the car to start the morning hunt, the temperature had dropped to about twenty degrees with twenty-five mile an hour winds out of the northwest. I seriously doubted our sanity. I had on a turtleneck, button up shirt, insulated vest and an insulated field coat on top and pants and insulated over-pants on the bottom. I also was wearing silk glove liners and insulated shooting gloves. It wasn’t enough. That wind just cut right through me.
Shaking my head at our insanity, I grabbed my camera and headed out with Mitch and the dogs. Trying to catch a scent of any birds in this wind was going to be sheer luck on the dogs’ part. AJ flushed the first bird which Mitch shot and AJ retrieved it with Orso in hot pursuit. Maybe there would be birds in spite of the bitter conditions.
As we rounded an out cropping of trees that opened up to a small field of knee high prairie grass. I walked on the outer rim while Mitch walked along the tree line. As I got to the middle of the field I noticed that all of the dogs were with me (sans gun) and Mitch was nowhere to be seen. I thought to myself, what was the number one rule of hunting? Stay with the dogs. I hoped that the dogs wouldn’t find any birds, because I sure wasn’t going to kill a bird with my mind. I kept calling the dogs back to me hoping to stall and Mitch would miraculously show up just as the dogs flushed some birds. But no such luck. Charlie flushed one into the tree line at the edge of the field and I found myself running to where the quail flew despite the fact that I only carried a camera. Old habits. Mitch finally showed up just as AJ flushed a small covey of about five quail. Mitch shot two into the trees when a third one flew out over my head and as Mitch swung around for the shot I quickly dropped to the ground to avoid either being shot or slapped in the head with the gun barrel. He got the bird, by the way.
So far the day was shaping up to be a very fruitful harvest. The only drawback was the bitter cold. I headed down into the draw to try to escape the wind, but by then my hands were too cold. They hurt so bad even with the gloves on I was afraid that I could cause some permanent damage so I told Mitch that I was going to head back to the car and warm up. Walking back to the car I heard a noise behind me so I turned to look back and there was AJ, who lives to hunt, walking along with me. He had had enough too.
I think that AJ and I are the wiser of the bunch. But that’s not saying much since we all went out there to begin with.
We went hunting in Central Nebraska this past weekend. The original plan was to hunt pheasant but there were no pheasant, so it was decided that we would hunt quail instead. Pheasant are not an especially hardy bird at the best of circumstances and with the severe drought have not fared well at all. Now since it was determined that quail was the only option to hunt I decided to forgo carrying a shotgun and carry a camera instead. I am not fast enough to shoot quail. On the occasions we have flushed a covey of quail in past hunting trips, I was always startled at the delicate fluttering of birds and as soon as I realized that I could shoot at them, the birds were way out of gun range. So I figured I would stand a better chance of getting some shots of the dogs and Mitch with my camera than hitting a quail with my gun.
Saturday was cold and cloudy, with temperatures in the forties with a mild breeze, making day seem pretty raw. The dogs headed out with Charlie ranging a bit too far in front as always. We have to call him back often otherwise he’ll flush a bird three counties away. AJ wandered a lot slower and more methodically this year, his age showing. Orso as usual headed off lumbering along just happy to be out with everybody bumping into the closest body to wherever he ended up in the field. Charlie was the first to flush a bird and Mitch actually shot it. I was shocked. I didn’t really think that any birds would get shot the entire weekend. Charlie fetched the bird up with Orso sniffing away at this new creature. He has shown no interest in pheasants at all. But this new one smelled pretty good to him.
Orso started off and actually put head down and used his nose to search for a likely scent. This was a bird he liked and wanted to find. Who knew? Orso wandered farther into the field head down, stopped for a brief moment then lunged forward catching a bird in his mouth before it could fly. He came trotting up to Mitch with the bird in his mouth, its’ little white head poking out to the side. He did this not once but three times. Orso had great success at quail hunting. He only needed us to carry the birds after he caught them.
Maybe there is hope for him yet.
Oh wait; I don’t have any night vision goggles. I really needed them this morning on our “normal” pre-dawn walk, though. As always, the dogs will walk and sniff sedately for most of the walk, to lull me into a false sense of security that nothing will happen. Surprise! You would think that I would learn by now that something always happens when I am least prepared to deal with an unpleasant surprise, such as being the boat anchor behind three charging dogs.
We were walking on the long dark stretch of road that I refer to as “The Lake Road”. That’s not what the road is actually called, but that’s what I call it. It’s the road that leads to the lake, hence “The Lake Road”. There are no houses on either side of that particular stretch of road, just a ravine on one side and a hill on the other side of the road. Anyway I digress; we were on our way back home when the dogs all converged on one spot for a group sniff. Nothing unusual about that, they do this all the time, we call it huffing. The group sniff lasted for a few seconds when all three lunged at something in the underbrush with Charlie and Orso growling at the unseen threat. I jerked back on the leashes not seeing anything and hoping that whatever was hidden in the dark would stay hidden in the dark.
As soon as my heart returned to normal rhythm I looked back to make sure we were not being followed by whatever it was that they wanted to eat. I picked up the pace just in case. I really was curious as to what made them act that aggressive toward the unseen “whatever” it was.
Now I know what I want for Christmas.