Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

January 10, 2014

Bob Gwizdz: A farewell to Phoebe

The Woman I Live With called me at work a couple of days before Christmas. She sounded distressed from the start. Phoebe, our aging Brittany, was lying on the floor, unable to get to her feet, her legs splaying out whenever she tried to stand, she said. I told her I’d call the vet.

So it was time, finally. We’d struggled with this for a while. Although she’d been in decline for the last couple of years she’d suffer with neurologic symptoms periodically, she still seemed to have a pretty good quality of life, far as we could tell. She enjoyed her daily walk, almost prancing around the neighborhood when on leash despite her slow, tentative gate around the house. And she still never missed a meal.

I’d retired Phoebe from bird hunting a couple of seasons earlier after I’d noticed, on an Upper Peninsula grouse hunt, that she seemed almost totally deaf. She was in some thick stuff, not far away, obviously looking for me, but unable to locate me despite my hollers and whistles. She’d always had selective hearing to a degree; even to the end, it seemed like she would always hear the kibble hitting her metal food dish no matter where she was in the house. But later that fall, when I took her pheasant hunting and she got lost several times in the tall grass, I knew her career was over. She was not happy about it.

Phoeb was a good dog. She picked it up quickly. She had faults, of course, but she was my first pointing dog — before that I’d had a big, boneheaded Lab — and I ascribed many of her shortcomings to my own as a trainer. She was always kind of a soft dog; even as a puppy, in basic obedience, all I’d have to do when she misbehaved was tell her how disappointed I was in her and she’d hang her head. I didn’t want risk using an e-collar.

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