BOB MERCER: Dog season in South Dakota
PIERRE — We are now in dog season in South Dakota. Also known by some as retriever season, it falls between walleye-boat season and roads-closure season.
These few months when South Dakotans hunt pheasants (and ducks and geese and sharp-tailed grouse) are why so many households have dogs.
Those pleasant spaniels and wiry pointers and big retrievers are good companions all year long. This time of year, they get to do their real stuff.
And with pheasants scarce in many places, the dogs will be at their most valuable.
One of my friends is a lumbering older Lab named Yukon. We looked in on him a few times last weekend while his owners were away seeing their daughter at college. It’s a treat for me to take Yukon for a walk. He sets the pace, which at his age happens to match mine at my age. He listens so well and behaves so well, there’s never been a need for a leash. Last Sunday morning I sat on the front steps of their house with a hot cup of coffee in my hands and watched Yukon make his checks of the yard. Life was pretty good. Back home, we had another dog for the weekend. Scout is a puppy with all of the energy and joy of a good West Highland terrier. Westies were bred as hunting dogs for small ground animals. Now they mostly serve as companions. They look sharp and often will want to chase almost anything that moves. Scout’s owners were away for the weekend, too, visiting their daughter. It was wonderful to have a dog in our house again. In June we lost our 10-year-old Westie. I ran Scooter over on the way to the ball field for a run one evening.
I routinely let him ride on my lap to look out the window. He liked that sense of being in charge and being on the edge. I should have been smarter.
He slipped and fell out as I made a turn that night. He was on the window ledge checking out the driver in another car. I grabbed his leash and had an instant to make a decision.
I let go, fearing he would break his neck. In the next instant came the sickening thump of the tire as I couldn’t stop in time. I took him in my arms and could see there was no way to save his life. He died because of my carelessness.
We had to leave early the next morning to help our daughter move. I wrapped him in his blankets and kissed him goodbye. Four friends buried Scooter later that morning for us.
Our neighborhood has dogs in about half of the houses. All happen to be well-behaved hunting dogs that never seem to bark.
As I pulled up at our house after visiting Yukon, I saw beautiful Sadie come loping down her family’s driveway across the street. She retrieved the newspaper. I didn’t see anyone else and wondered what happens next.
The front door at her house opened a crack and in she went.
Man’s best friend? Indeed.