As we approach the Christmas holiday I’m dusting off and updating one of my favorite columns. I wrote this column 3 years ago. Last year another pup, Barnaby MacRhuster, came under our tree. Barney was 5 months old then and just as gregarious as Spot and Archie were at that age.
Here’s the story of puppies past and present; I hope you enjoy it.
Christmas 1984 brought a new member to our family. Flapper’s Jakespot was born on November 7, 1984. I first saw him two days later. Spotter was a purebred English Springer Spaniel. He was without doubt the finest gun dog I ever had the privilege to hunt over, not because he was my dog, but because he was simply the best.
When Spot was 6 weeks old, I tossed a small furry Christmas toy for him to chase; he did just that, and then to my amazement he picked it up and returned it to my feet. I tossed it again, and again he retrieved it to my feet. Thus his retriever training was basically complete. We worked together over the winter, spring, and summer until September of ’85 when the upland bird season began. The excitement I felt on opening day when my 10 month pup accompanied me on his first real hunt might be analogous to that felt by a four-year old on Christmas eve. Giddy would be understatement. Early on we found some Ruff grouse and a shot from my trusty old “Sweet Sixteen” filled the air with feathers as the bird fell dead. Spotter was fast to the bird and brought it, like the fluffy Christmas toy, back to my feet.
Over the years, many more birds fell to my gun and my dog. Spot was indomitable when it came to flushing pheasants; he was a real pro. He would dive into a cattail patch and flog through the thick, heavy bog until every bird was flushed. His lips and nose oft time would bleed from the work he did. He never quit, he had the biggest heart of any dog I have ever met, and he was my friend, my partner, my pal, always. He left a bit over twenty-four years ago; I miss him and the heartache I feel has been so strong that getting another dog just wasn’t an option for me.
However, 31 Christmases later, another springer arrived under our tree. Archibald MacRhuster was born on November 4,, 2015 and on December 22nd he became part of our family. We call him “Archie”, although at that time “Pooper” might have been more appropriate. He is a bit smaller and a lot more vocal than Spot was at his age, and he is really demanding. That happens when one is quite spoiled.
Archie is now 13 months old and although we did some bird hunting this year, I still don’t yet know if he will be a great gun dog; if he will quarter closely, retrieve with speed, or hunt with the steadfast determination that Spot Doggie had. I do know that he has already given us new Christmas memories that will last for our lifetimes. Archie has stolen our hearts, and if he should become a great gun dog like Spot, well, I’ll consider that another fine Christmas gift.
And this Christmas; Barney is Archie’s full brother, born from the same parents, but with about 2 ½ years difference in age. Barney has matured, and now at 16 months is a bit smaller that both Archie and Spot, but he hunts with the resolve that I remember Spot had. The little black and white springer is a bit of a goof ball, but when we go to the field he is all business. He works closely, dives into the heaviest brush, and always follows commands. As you can tell, I’m obviously very attached and proud of this brace of spaniels.
As I’ve grown older, simple things have become more important to me. Many of those things are experiences and one of the experiences that gives me the most pleasure is walking with the boys as they hunt, tails constantly in a wagging blur, and seeing the joy in their every step.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, be safe, and good shooting.