Murphy at Seven
Last year I wrote about our lab, Murphy. Just a few days ago he had another birthday and it’s hard to believe he is seven this year. I could have attached a great picture of Murphy in the field, bird in mouth or wet from a swim. There are still lots of images like that because he is still active and has at least a couple more years before retirement. We have plans for a dove hunt together on Labor Day and of course he will be with me when duck season opens in November, but Murphy’s career as a hunter is slowing down and the picture here, of him comfortably resting on the couch, is often how I think of him these days.
As I have told people many times, Murphy has always been a pet first and a hunting companion second. He is a member of our family. He sleeps with our daughters when they ask for his company and he always seems to know when you could use a bit of affection that comes with no strings attached. As a hunting dog he has performed as well as could be expected when trained by an amateur like myself. He is not polished but he is steady and fearless, two qualities that make me proud.
Last winter Murphy had a couple of setbacks in the field. He was confronted with his first crippled duck and let her fly off rather than making a retrieve. He also had another day where he left his nose at home and wasn’t much help in finding a downed goose. I benched him for a few weeks, mostly out of embarrassment and then felt terrible about it when the season ended. I decided that for the rest of his hunting career I will take him into the field whenever possible, so long as I can keep him safe and he wants to go. This dog who has endured whatever conditions Mother Nature has thrown at us for these years, deserves a little understanding.
I find myself thinking about the next lab, which I always planned to bring home while Murphy was still hunting so they could work together for a couple of years. I’m not so certain now. We took in a rescue dog last year and while she has been great, Murphy gets a little less attention than he used to. I just don’t know if I can do that to him in the field.
I use the term too loosely, applying it to at least two of the humans in my life, but as I write this my ‘best friend’ lies behind my desk chair, sleeping and hopefully dreaming of our next season together. In the second half of his life he has become a bit more stubborn, a bit more independent in some ways, but also more loyal (if that is possible). No doubt this is a case of seeing what we want to see, but we all swear he has become a bit protective. He stays close to me most of the time when I am home, which I love. Maybe it’s because I am around less these days due to demands at work, or maybe our bond is simply stronger. Whatever the reason, I am going to enjoy it.