Hunting > Upland & Waterfowl

Member's Hunt: Kidnee's First Bird

With a new kidney, and a new bird dog named Kidnee, the road to recovery didn't seem so bleak for NRA Member Jack G. Jones.

By Jack G. Jones, Blanchard, Idaho

I’ve been an avid pheasant hunter for more than 50 years. Each fall brought new excitement about once again having a limit in the pouch and a happy dog by my side. Then five years ago I was diagnosed with kidney failure. My whole life was turned upside down. Three days a week I rose at 4 a.m. to drive to a dialysis center and receive four hours of treatment. It took a toll on my body. My energy level was zapped, and spending any time hunting was out of the question.

However, all those hours of sitting, plugged into a machine, gave me lots of time to set some goals for myself. My first goal was to see if I could find a kidney donor. My wife set out on that mission, while my mission was to get myself in the best physical shape I could so that if a kidney became available I was healthy enough to have the transplant. During that time I had also kept my spirits up by reading about bird hunting and hunting-dog breeds, and so decided that after my transplant I would reward myself (goal No. 2) with a new dog. I’d always hunted with German shorthair pointers: Bandit, Triggs, Jay and Ruger. Ruger was now a senior citizen—he still loved bird hunting but his arthritis was really slowing him down. So, I started researching different hunting breeds and even called breeders to get more information. After many months of questions and answers, I had pretty much decided on a setter. Now all that stood in my way was a transplant.

Finally, after being on dialysis for almost three years, our prayers were answered and a donor was found. I was scheduled for a transplant and had accomplished my first goal. Fate stepped in and steered me toward my second goal.

On my way to the hospital for the transplant I stopped to see longtime friends Russ and Mary Hallowell. The Hallowells own a retriever kennel in North Bend, Wash., and Mary had a good friend, Mare Reardanz, who bred Llewellin English setters. After talking with Mare she learned that a litter was due in July. I knew the timing for getting a puppy would be critical and would have to correspond with my recovery and ability to train him. A puppy born in July would be just about perfect. Kidnee was born on July 4, and flew out to Washington eight weeks later.

My recovery took longer than I expected, but Kidnee helped me build up my strength as we took our daily walks. Soon he was showing off his birdiness as he hunted down a pigeon wing or went on point with the neighborhood grouse. We spent that year becoming buddies, training and getting ready for that first hunting season together.

Finally, our wait was over and Kidnee and I headed to Montana for our first bird hunting trip. One morning, we started working a ditch bank. Kidnee was heading down the bank, when all of a sudden he went on the most beautiful point you’ve ever seen! Cackling in flight, that bird broke in all its glory and I took my long awaited shot. Kidnee didn’t hesitate—he had his first bird! What a priceless moment when he came prancing up with a mouth full of pheasant. I had a new hunting buddy!

That first trip was one of many and worth all those hours plugged into a dialysis machine. Kidnee and I are constant companions, training each other in the offseason and waiting for the first signs of fall when we’ll be off on our next bird hunting adventure together.

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