Queenie

A few years ago my guiding trips increased significantly and I was just hammerin' my Brittanys.  Since my Brittanys are my buddies, I just couldn't do that to 'em so I began a search for some immediate reinforcements.

It's always hard to find a good bird dog in the middle of hunting season, especially one worth it's salt so I knew I had quite a job on my hands.

Time after time I would drive down the dusty country road in Callahan county by the little farm with a mobile home set out front.  I had noticed on several occasions a liver and white pointer tied to makeshift dog run.  Her dog house was an old pick-up camper shell placed on the ground with the rear hatch opened for her easy entrance/exit.

The thought really never occurred to me to consider a pointer.  I had my fill of pointers from days gone by and certainly didn't need the extra hassle of chasing down a huge runnin' pointer. 

But that day, I stopped.  I figured "what the heck?", anything is better than nothing.

As I eased my F-350 in to the front yard, I observed a cur looking dog behind a not so trustworthy looking fence so I honked my horn and waited in my truck - safety first!  I knew the owner of the dog, George, through my two boys who went to school with his two boys. 

"Howdy George" how's it goin'?", George replied in the usual West Texas drawl "Aw rahht, I reckon'."  I proceeded to ask George if the old pointer he had tied up out front was any good at huntin' and he filled me in on her abilities.  He mentioned that he thought she might be 9 or 10 years old, that no more than 2 guns can shoot over her or she'll run off and that sometimes she busts and chases birds.  He also mentioned that she was no good on "gittin' out there".  "What do you mean George?".   "Wail, she don't run out very far front of the hunter and she ain't fancy trained the way you train' 'em".  To my hearts delight (I didn't let him see that I was excited) I told George I'd give 'er a look if he didn't mind.  George agreed and the deal was set!

I approached Queenie gingerly as I've known a few angry pointers in my life.  Sure 'nuff, she growled a bit but shut-up immediately when George yelled at her.  She was sure enough a Texas dog as she loaded up in the truck like she'd been doing that all her life - which she had.

I kept thinking the rest of the day and all night "If she will hunt and has short range for a foot handler, I'm in luck!"

The next day I took Queenie out and gave her a bird in a launcher.  Sure enough, she broke and chased.  So I gave her another bird, checked her on a cord and styled her up...she looked pretty good.  On the third bird, I let her run free but with an e-collar.  She pointed briefly again, broke and chased.  I let her chase that bird a long ways then nicked her for chasing.  She assumed the flying bird got her which was exactly what I wanted.

On the next bird she hit the scent cone at about 40 yards and locked down tight with her tail at twelve o'clock.  She looked great!  Time to shoot a bird over her.

She repeated her last performance as well and I shot a quail for her.  She picked it up and brought it to me.  Wonderful!  Did she honor too?  Yep.  This was fantastic.

A few days later George stopped by and asked me how I liked ole Queenie.  I told him I thought she would work out fine and offered to buy her.  "How much do you want?"  George replied "heck, I don't know whut she's worth".  "How about 75 dollars?  After all, she's old."  "I'll take it!" replied George.

I immediately put Queenie into service being careful not to hunt her around large hunting parties as George had warned me.  It was funny though, she never found a bird for the first month.

I was growing tired of Queenie after about of month of staunch honors and no finds.  How can a dog find planted birds so well in the training field and not be able to find a covey in the wild?  But I never gave up on her as she was quite beautiful honoring my Brittanys on point.

After about 2 months of hunting, one day Queenie found her own bird.  The hunter killed it for her and as they often say, "The rest was history".

Queenie's learning curve lasted about another month before she really began to find birds like a pro.  She never showed signs of being afraid of too many guns and she never ran off.  She never broke on another bird either.

Queenie did have one odd habit.  Every year she would eat her first retrieve.  I would raise h!!! and that would be it for the entire season.

One day, early in the season, I had a gentleman hunting wild birds with me.  He was from Colorado.  He had never hunted wild quail or been on a guided hunt.  We had flushed 8 coveys in just over half a day with my Brittanys but in spite of shooting a lot, he had only killed one bird.  It was unseasonably warm that afternoon and so I was hunting Queenie a bit since she could tolerate the heat fairly well.

Finally, after 2 boxes of shotgun shells, he kills his second bird but it fell thirty yards deep into some very thick cactus and mesquite.  Queenie plows through the thorns and locates the bird.  I couldn't see her very well but she seemed to be just standing there.  I yelled for her but she wouldn't come so I kneeled down to see her better...she was just licking her lips with a tell tale sign on her lips, a single quail feather..."Awe crap!" I uttered before thinking to which my client says "WHAT???".  So with a bit of disappoinŽent in my voice I said "Sir, I'm really sorry to say this and I apologize for ole Queenie's manners, but she just ate half your daily kill."  He was visibly upset but what could I do?  It was Queenie's first retrieve of the year! 

Queenie thrilled us all for 3 seasons.  She would find birds in the darndest of places and she would hold her point forever.  Once, a friend of mine and I lost her near a creek that was bordered by a thick CRP field.  We searched for 20 minutes.  We called, whistled, cussed, shot our guns several times and could not find her.  Finally we ventured away from the creeks edge where we last saw her and found her about 75 yards out on point.  Her head was flattened out down low to the ground with her back up thus thrusting her butt and twelve o'clock tail straight up into the blowing Indian grass.

I told my customers, "Queenie thinks she's a Brittany!  See how she hunts so great to the foot handler?"  Queenie loved to be petted too which I found to be odd as most pointers that I'd ever met didn't care about it much.

One day this past hunting season, I noticed Queenie was off her feed .  I began to worry.  I started to feed her nothing but canned food to encourage her to eat but she was losing weight.  I had loaded her up to hunt with me early one morning to go on a guided hunt.  I had hoped she was feeling better.  At noon, I decided to see if she wanted to hunt.  She wanted to but walked gingerly and couldn't go far.  It was obvious that this was serious.

My wife (Debbie) had stopped by for lunch out at the ranch and I told her that I thought Queenie was really sick.  I called the Vet on my cell phone and made arrangements for Debbie to take her straight over to be seen .  I picked up Queenie carefully in my arms and she groaned.  It was a deep groan and at that moment, I knew it was over. 

I placed her on my hunting jacket in the back of our suburban very carefully.  She moaned a bit more, curled up and looked pitifully at me as if saying "Is this it daddy?".  It was hard to fight back my tears in front of my customers and wife.  I had to walk to the rear of the barn to cry so that no one would observe me.  I wept for my pointer. 

The pointer that started out as a 75 dollar walk-on extra hand had stolen my heart.  My wife returned a couple hours later with the news.  She didn't have to say it, I knew.

Dr. Swening had to lay her to rest as she was having congestive heart failure.  He said that there wasn't much that we could do considering her age of 13 years.  My wife bore the responsibility of having my one and only favorite pointer die in her arms because I had customers and had continue on my hunt.

Rusty helped me bury Queenie that evening.  It was hard, real hard.  Rusty owned Zeb who had died just a month earlier.  Zeb died in October unexpectedly then Queenie in November of old age. We both wept for Queenie then again for Zeb.  We spoke of how the two dogs worked so well together.

Rusty said "Dave, I don't know if I can take another dog passing away.  It's too hard" to which I told him "Rusty, dogs don't live as long as us and sometimes, even the special ones, die unexpectedly and too early for us (I had immediate thoughts of my beloved Missy that I wrote a memorial to on this website) .  The overwhelming sadness we feel now is only a small price that we pay for the gift of great dogs."

Now Queenie has a special resting place in my personal gun dog hall of fame cemetery located here on my ranch.  She is just downwind of Zeb who rests there too.  I buried her downwind of Zeb because one of my favorite memories is of Queenie staunchly honoring Zeb on a wild quail hunt here in Texas (pictured below).  They worked well together as Zebs' nose was outstanding too.  If there were birds to be found, you could bet good money that one of those two would find 'em.

Queenie's tombstone is a large flat stone left over from building our house.  It's shaped like a heart and it stands tall marking the spot of one, just one, pointer that I truly loved.

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Y'all take care and give your dog a fancy treat for me.

 

 

A Client's and friend's comments about Queenie:

Dave,
A nice tribute to one we all loved.  I always have 3 images in mind when I think of Queen: First, the relentless search for birds - always on the move, second, her locked down and holding as long as it took and third, her curled up in Christopher's lap when we stopped for lunch or breaks.  Most dogs are easy to love and give love easily, this one just seemed to have a special gift for bringing joy and giving love.  I know I'm preaching to the choir but we who hunted over her will never forget the smooth and tireless way she did her job.  Asking for nothing but the wind in her face, the tall grass, the elusive smell of birds and the love of her fellow hunters.  She was all that God meant a dog to be gracious, loyal and loving. How could we ask for more?
Thanks for the note, I know Christopher will want to read the commentary. I also forwarded it to Kid.
Buck
 

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