I’ve been dreading this day all summer. All spring and summer too, if I’m honest with myself. Scout has been progressively getting weaker to the point that in late spring he couldn’t finish our walks in the woods without limping the last few yards back to the cabin porch. In early summer we had to assist him up and down stairs or he’d stumble or sometimes even tumble the last few. Since mid-July, I’ve carried him up and down the stairs morning and night because he just couldn’t make it on his own, even with help. And since Monday we’ve had to feed him his dry food a few pieces at a time by hand, while he lay on the kitchen floor with his head in our lap, then carry him outside and back in again where he would lay at my feet not wanting to be too far away from me.
While he doesn’t seem to be in pain Scout was an athlete, as all GSPs are, and I can’t bear to see him this way now. He can’t tell me, but I know he remembers what he was in his prime. I know I sure do. He was tall and strong and loved nothing more than cool fall mornings when he could bob and weave through trees along the field’s edge seeking the scent that would lock him as if in marble until I arrived. He could hurdle trees, sprint under blow downs, and turn on a dime when grouse or woodcock scent was in the air. He had a beautiful point, staunch and steady and he could and would hold that point for as long as it took me to get to him - a few seconds or a few minutes - he didn't care. He held that point! Now, his hind legs are so weak that just standing is an effort – as much as I hate to see him this way, I know he hates it more.
Scout was born when I was 39 years old. I’m well into my 50’s now. By all accounts, Scout has exceeded the normal life span of the breed - I’m so blessed at his longevity. He has been my near constant companion for nearly 15 year, never far from my side, and in addition to bringing me joy and happiness every day of his long, long life, he has also been faithful playmate and guardian to my children from ages 8 and 10 to now full adulthood. They hardly remember a time when he wasn’t part of their life.
So, today will be a hard day. I plan to carry Scout to the truck and head to the cabin for one long last walk. He and I will go to the point that juts into the Clover Field where he almost always finds a grouse or two in October. Then we’ll head up to Raspberry Ridge where he loved to pull berries off the branches with lips as gently as my two fingers can. There are still a few berries on the branch and I’ll make sure he gets a few juicy ones for old time sake.
Then we’ll head down into the cedar swamp behind the Maple Glade where the woodcock are in late September. They won’t be there now, but he’ll remember where they always hide, and he’ll sniff around, because that’s what bird dogs do. Finally, we’ll head back to the cabin. It will be a long walk, and a good walk, but an especially hard one – not just because I’ll likely need to carry him most of the way, but because I’ll also be saying goodbye.
I’ll lay him on the porch, so he can watch me as I cook a few pancakes. I'll flip a few to him just as I've done with almost every batch of pancakes I've made at the cabin when he is by my feet. In fact, I'll flip him as many as he cares to eat. Then back in the truck for his last truck ride home with me.
Tomorrow, he’ll go for one last visit with Dr. Ritchie. I don’t plan to shed any tears though. I doubt I’ll have any left.