My Grampa Mueller used to say a man could have two, maybe three good dogs in his life. I would add that a woman can too.
I got to have Hawkeye. The husband wanted a hunting dog, and the springer spaniel was recommended as a good breed. We found puppies advertised in the newspaper, and went to look. We went back a week or two later, and brought our puppy home. I held him in the car, and our eyes met. It was true love.
Hawkeye was not a perfect hunting dog. He was happy to go into the field, and after the first couple of times knew what the gun and the vest meant. He would sniff out birds, and flush them enthusiastically. Sometimes he followed birds to the horizon and took his time wandering back. He was an indifferent retriever, in spite of many hours of training (bribery with braunschweiger). He knew how to do it, as he would occasionally demonstrate if he had to work with a rival dog. Stupid dog tricks were also beneath him. He would do them once in awhile to humor us, but he was never a slavishly obedient fellow.
Hawkeye and I went many miles together over the years. Often we had to make do with walkies in town, but we really liked to go further afield. We had our sagebrush country haunts to explore. He was very good about waiting while I sketched, poking around nearby and keeping an eye on me without stepping all over the plants I was trying to draw. A few times he joined the trail crew, and went to Waptus Lake and the Pacific Crest Trail. He took it upon himself to protect camp from any thieving jays that might swoop down. In the tent, he snored and nudged me off the sleeping pad.
He went everywhere with us. Ever hopeful at the jingling of car keys, he knew how to get into the passenger seat of the truck. When the jump got too hard for him, he allowed himself to be helped. Then he sat up at attention. He soon learned that if he looked cute, the lady at the bank drive-up window would give him a dog biscuit. If it was a long drive, he would sigh and curl up in the seat and wait for it to be over.
Joint custody wouldn’t work for us after the divorce. I said goodbye to Hawkeye a year and a half ago, when he moved up to the Methow Valley in north central Washington. He had stayed with me for a few weeks while his master found a new home to go with a new job. He now had three other dogs to keep him company. Since he had grown quite deaf, he watched them to know what was going on. It was better for him to be there. Thanks to Ken and Teri for caring for him till the end.
Goodbye, old friend and beloved companion: Hawkeye– October 8, 1994 to August 18, 2009.