Keeping on the Sunny-side
They say you don’t pick the pup, the pup picks you. It never worked for me though, not up until this last time, that is. I‘m partial to bitches. I find them quicker to learn, and more agreeable around other dogs, so I knelt down to grab a-holt of a red-headed female’s scruff, but when I did that pie-bald male pup pointed me! I’ve had a few dogs in my time, mostly bitches, but I hadn’t never seen an eight week old pup point anything before without any training at all, so I was intrigued. I picked the pie-bald up then, and I seen he had one blue eye and one brown. That pup sold hisself to me. Here was a keeper!
They say too, that a dog is a man‘s best friend. That never worked for me neither, not up until this last time. The rule of thumb is that you can’t spoil a huntin’ dog and expect it to hunt, but that pie-bald with the odd eyes proved the exception. I’d only had him three months when he began to jump into the truck bed before I even started for the keys. I don’t know how he knew, but he knew. And he worked his way up to the cabin by inches, easing away from his box in the barn, and spending a few days on the porch, smart-like, before trying for more. The first time he eased inside he caught my boot toe, but it didn’t faze that pup. That same evening I found him curled up nose-to-tail in the spot of warm sunlight below the kitchen window. I started to give him another kick, but decided some company at supper might be alright, and so it was. It wasn’t a week or two later I was cooking an extry biscuit just for that pie-bald, and I took to calling him “Sunny-side,” after the way he liked to lay in the square of sunlight under that window, but luckily the spoiling didn’t stop him from hunting. Hunting was his time to show-out everything he was made of, and he was made of good stuff. Couldn’t nothing in this world stop that pup from hunting.
I never really taught that pie-bald to hunt, just to sit, stay, and release. When he was big enough to come along he took to it all real easy, loving both woods and water, and having a naturally soft mouth. After his first year I noticed that Sunny-side never took a bad scent, nor missed a point. Six months later he was already the finest hunter I had ever had, or even seen. Just like with men, some dogs are born with the gift. I knew it from the time he pointed me from that box of pups. Sunny-side was a sure enough keeper.
Over time we became inseparable, me and that dog. I’d find myself talking to him, and he seemed to listen, and to cock his head like he understood. The way he looked up at me from those mixed brown and blue eyes like he did, who’s to say? I even laid him a blanket in that square of sunlight in the kitchen, so’s he’d have a soft spot to curl up. That blanket gave Joe Spencer a good laugh when he drove out one Saturday to show me a new fishing lure he was having luck with, but I didn’t care. I liked that dog more than I liked Joe, anyways. At least the dog had the good sense to shut up ever once in great while.
They say that a dog will break your heart in the end. It didn’t work for me though, not this last time. Me and Sunny-Side watched one another‘s hair turn gray in that little mountain cabin, and I wondered sometimes what I’d do should something happen to him, but when something did happen it was a surprise. That something was a cramp-like pain that started in my neck and ended in my gut. It dropped me quick one Saturday morning whilst me and Sunny-side were checking our garden patch for new tomato’s. It was me that ended up breaking that pie-bald dog’s heart, rather than the other way around. When I looked up from the ground where I laid and into those clouding, miscolored eyes, I whispered how sorry I was to the old boy. I wondered what would become of him, and I wished that someone might take care of that dog, and maybe lay a blanket down in a sunny spot somewhere for him to curl up on. I hoped that maybe he might even recall our day’s together on the mountain, from time to time. A good dog deserves that much, and so does a good dog’s best friend.