Boone (Part 2)

Continued from Boone (Part 1)

Boone and I were constant companions. The relationship prospers under those conditions so that a constant and uninhibited communication conduit exists. To wit, that meant that Boone would respond to hand signals. I wasn’t a professional cowboy, but I played cowboy at nearly every opportunity. One afternoon a neighbor asked a few of us to help him move about 60 head of Herefords from one pasture to another. This involved moving the bovines a couple of miles down the county road.

For the most part it was an uneventful operation. Boone would remain at heel while I was riding my horse. When we approached a crossroad or open driveway I’d send Boone ahead and whoa her at the junction, and she knew how to keep the cows from breaching her post. My riding buddies were commenting how well behaved a bird dog was at working cows. We were about a quarter mile from our destination when Boone suddenly raced into the herd, giving tongue, as houndsmen often call it. I have no idea what set her off, but the cows began running and veering off the road into the bar pit fenced with rusty barbed wire on rotting lodgepole posts. It was something akin to forcing them through a full choke. The dilapidated fence failed, and the cows scattered. It took us about half an hour to round up the miscreant bovines and get them headed in the right direction again; and another 45 minutes to repair the fence. My companions made me acutely aware of their displeasure.

A few years later we moved to northern California where there is plenty of mountain quail. The habitat is filled with dense blackberry brush, and every time we hunted quail Boone would come back looking like she had been in a fight—didn’t bother her a bit, but her face would be covered in blood.

One day we were driving along when a great big peacock ran across the road in front of us. It was like a cartoon when Boone plastered her face to the windshield, eyes bulging. She thought it was the biggest darn pheasant in the world, and she wanted a piece of it. Whining, barking and whirling, I swear that if she could have figured out how to open the truck door she would have done so and bailed out at 45 mph.

At 10 years old she began to show some age—she was a little slower and nearly totally deaf. The deafness was my fault for letting her sleep under the bench as I worked with rifles—stupid me. Still, she enjoyed getting out and chasing a few quail and chukar. I had gotten another Brittany by this time, but Boone was the matron and the little male knew his place.

Three years later Boone had become a very senior old girl, and I knew what was coming. I put it off as long as I could—perhaps too long, since she had gone almost blind in addition to being completely deaf. About the 6th of December 1992, we went on our last hunt together. I took her to an easy place where there were plenty of quail. We took it very easy, and though she was blind and deaf, her nose still worked. After about 20 minutes of walking she pointed a single quail. I flushed and killed it, and Boone used her nose to retrieve the bird. I got a picture of us together with our last bird. A week later we were in the vet’s office and I was tearfully saying goodbye to my best friend.

I took her up to the area where we were a week before. As I carried her over to where she was going to be buried, a small covey of quail flushed. A few minutes later I gathered up the shovel and headed back toward my truck, sobbing. The quail began calling to each other, and the calls had a melancholy tone to them.

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