*Whew!* I hadn’t realized it had been over two months since I wrote an update.  I’ve been very unlucky with my shift rotations at work, I’ve only been able to hit one 3D shoot this year.  I had a great time at Riverbottom Outdoors though, and our schedule is supposed to change late April to a fixed shift, so I may be able to shoot a lot more this year.

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As another update, I’ve finally decided to start building AR 15’s for myself and my wife.  Current projects include a 6.5 Grendel build for myself, and a 5.56mm for the wife, which will either be upgraded to a .224 Valkyrie later in the year, or depend on prices for uppers, simply have a second upper purchased in that caliber.

I chose 6.5 Grendel for several practical reasons, and one impractical one.  The practical reasons include, in no particular order, the caliber’s place between the .22/6mm offerings (I own a fantastic  Winchester Model 70 in .243) and .30 caliber offerings (I have a .300 RUM, .308 Winchester and 30-30), which means I have a mid-range caliber firearm that is practical for everything from varmint hunting to mule deer.  I read multiple reviews of the caliber, watched quite a few videos, and repeatedly ran into professionals who stated that the 6.5 Grendel was pretty much the perfect round for an AR platform.  The impractical reason stems from Beowulf; I’ve always loved that story, so when I see the name ‘Grendel,’ I tend to pay more attention.

On to turkey season!

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In keeping with the last two years, I’m trying to increase my outdoor activities in 2018 by a wide margin.  I need the exercise, I’d like to get away from the city and suburbs a LOT more, even if that just means ‘drive to a remote place, get out of the truck, cook a lunch over a small grill, eat, relax for a bit, drive home,’ and I’d like to practice more camping and bushcraft skills.

I’ve been watching Joe Robinet’s YouTube channel quite a bit, along with McQBushcraftDoug Outside, Wranglerstar, and some other channels (I’ll put a list at the end of this post, I don’t want to leave any of them out because, lets face it, if they are running a YouTube channel, they need people to be able to find them.)  These channels have given me plenty of motivation to camp, fish, and just enjoy nature more. Thirty years ago, I camped probably one to three weekends per month and spent a good part of the summer either at a summer camp, or working at a summer camp.  Camp Chickagami to be specific.  Now, unless I push for it, I don’t get out at all, so push for it I must.

Yesterday, the wife and I drove to Cloudland Canyon State Park, near Rising Fawn, Georgia.  It’s about a two and a half hour drive from the house, but it’s one of four parks in Georgia that make up the Canyon Climbers Club achievement.

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From the map we picked up at the trading post, the hike down to the waterfall looks TINY, and in fact it’s less than two miles.  We parked near the Interpretive Center, walked the Overlook trail and took a few photos, then walked the Overlook trail to the Waterfall trail behind the cabins, down to Hemlock Falls and back again, and I think my Under Armor walking app recorded 1.69 miles.  It’s the stairs that are the killer, because you drop down several hundred feet in switchbacks along the cliff face on a combination of natural trails and wooden walkways with expanded metal stairs and decks with benches for people like me who need to sit down on the way back up.  It took us (out of shape as we are) about two and a quarter hours for the entire hike, which is very slow considering my normal hiking pace is closer to two point six miles per hour when I’m taking it easy.  We needed to take the time, because unless you really exercise on stairs or a Stairmaster, this is a serious thigh-and-calf workout. The app reported that we burned approximately 2,955 calories in that time frame.

The temperature was perfect, mid 60’s Fahrenheit, but with a nice cool breeze, plenty of ice left from last weeks freeze, and a beautiful blue sky.  We will most definitely have to go back and camp, this park has a lot of trails and is very well set up for folks to get out into nature, my only slight concern is that it does look very popular, so ‘getting away from people’ probably won’t happen unless you take the longer trails and get lucky.

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Now for the YouTube list I promised you:  I am going to link to the YouTube channel and copy the ‘About’ section from each channel below. Except for Joe Robinet, MCQBushcraft and Doug Outside (who I have been watching a lot of lately) the rest are presented in no particular order other than where I find them on my YouTube subscription list.

Joe Robinet

Bushcraft, Back Country Camping, Wilderness Canoe Tripping, Backpacking, My Dog, Scout. This channel is mainly bushcraft style camping trips, sometimes I build a natural shelter, sometimes I sleep in a tent, under a tarp, or in the snow. I try to show the realities of being out in the bush, weather it be an overnighter in the woods, or an extended, 10 day fly in canoe/fishing trip. I’ll leave in my failures, as well as my accomplishments, in an effort to show you who I really am, just a regular Canadian guy who enjoys spending time outdoors. I’m not a survivalist, and my definition of “bushcraft” may differ from yours. 🙂

Doug Outside

On this channel you will find videos on Bushcraft -Carving -homestead – making stuff and whatever else floats my boat at the time -thx for stopping by

MCQBushcraft

I’m a UK based outdoorsman who started hunting and fishing with my friends when I was young. Educating yourself about your surroundings and having the core skills to sustain yourself using your environment is a lost curriculum in the United Kingdom. We are well provided for, so well that “why do anything if somebody else will do it for you”. This lifestyle has drastically disconnected people from having the knowledge and skills required to spend even one night in the woods and not get hungry. I love being outdoors and have never lost the desire to learn and practice skills that I get a sense of natural connection from. Hunting hangs controversy in the minds of many, but in my eyes there is nothing more natural if you choose to eat meat. I appreciate that not everybody hunts in moderation though. Thanks for reading Michael McQuilton

Wranglerstar

In 2010, the Wranglerstar family decided to turn our backs on a comfortable city life and become modern day homesteaders. Our adventure starts in the rugged mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Have you dreamed of stepping off the treadmill of life? Join the Wranglerstar family as we blaze a trail for all those who dream of becoming truly independent from the mythological American dream.

TA Outdoors

Bushcraft, Wild Camping, Wilderness Hiking Trips, Solo Overnight Camps, Fishing, Shooting, Hunting, Cabin Building, DIY projects are all things I love. My dog joins me on some of the trips. His name is Jaxx. My name is Mike. If you wish to send me stuff: Mike Pullen PO Box 7466 HOOK RG27 7NA Check out our other YouTube Channel TAFishing: https://www.youtube.com/user/TAFishing

Tumblehome

Wilderness tripping / Shenanigans in the bush / Paddling the waterways of Ontario

Survival Russia

The Survival Russia Channel is about “The Reality Of Survival”. I live on a Homestead in far away Russian wild nature and here are no room for “TV” Survival. Only Reality counts here. Survival Russia promotes the philosophy of always carrying equipment and never to be parted from equipment which will affect chances of Survival. So did the old timers and pioneers of both the East and the West. I’m Danish and I Live In Russia!! Get Out and Train and Get it Done! All Content On The Survival-Russia Channel is Reserved and Copyrighted By: Survival Russia Regards, Lars

Burley Outdoors

(Burley didn’t publish an ‘About’ on his YouTube page – he is a friend of Joe Robinet’s and a great outdoorsman.)

Mountain Man Survival Guide

Bushcraft and Survival

Far North Bushcraft and Survival

Here at Far North Bushcraft And Survival you will learn about many long forgotten tricks and tips of the old time woodsmen. Not only will you learn about bushcraft / woodcraft but you will learn many things that will help you to survive in less than ideal “survival” situations as well. Come along and sit with me by the campfire as I delve into these subjects in a way that you can easily learn to then do yourself. I will show you how to make shelters, gather food, use wild medicines as well as start fires without matches, lighters, ferro rods, etc

Well, I said I wanted to get out more, and this year I did, though it was a modest improvement instead of the ‘leaps and bounds’ I wanted to accomplish.  I’ll still treat it as a win though, several good hikes, bowhunted a new area over a dozen times (for me, that’s quite good, between shifting work schedules and taking care of the petting zoo around here) and even getting a couple of shots at a small buck.

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One of the quick photos I took from my stand in Camp Creek VPA Wildlife Management Area.

We managed to get a night of bowfishing in with TreeTop, and had a lot of fun at West Point that night.

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We lost Brody this year, which still hurts enough that I haven’t been able to go back and edit the post for typos and grammatical errors.  I don’t know if I ever will, every time I try to scroll back through the posts to link something for somebody, I try very hard to scroll past that post quickly.  He meant a lot to me.

I’m in the early ‘kind of’ planning stages to go backpacking while it’s still cold weather here in Georgia: I’m from the frozen north, I like thirty degree weather a heck of lot better than ninety degree weather, and I want to make some use of it while I can.  I haven’t been on a backpacking trip since Minister Creek Trail in Pennsylvania around 1990, so it’s been quite a long time. I dug an old frame pack I have been toting around for decades out of the garage and after really looking at it for a few minutes, scratched my head and told my wife “I don’t think I’ve every used this pack. The last time I did a backpacking trip, I used my pack with a metal frame. This is a polymer framed pack.”  And I honestly think that at some point in the mid 1990’s, I purchased this pack for a trip that never happened, but I’m stymied as to when or where I purchased it.  It’s nice, so I might as well put it to use.  I’m not sure where I’ll go at this point, I was looking at the Chattahoochee National Forest, but the parts of it I’m really familiar with are not really the ‘walk into the woods and camp’ part, unless you like nearly vertical hiking, however there is part of the Appalachian Trail up there that has a good reputation for being a hike and camp area, so I might try that.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year.

In April, I ordered a Etekcity backpacker sized stove with self-ignition in the hopes that I could use it to make a hot beverage or heat water to use with a dehydrated meal on the trail sometime during the year.  I didn’t end up hiking as much as I wanted to (my work schedule was changed multiple times, making it difficult to tie in with my wife’s days off, so when our days off coincided we would use the time to catch up on housework etc.) so I hadn’t used it.

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Etekcity Ultralight Portable stove with piezo ignition – this image is from Amazon.com

Recently, I watched quite a few bushcraft videos, mostly Joe Robinet and McQ Bushcraft, and remembered that I’d bought this tiny stove, but hadn’t used or tested it yet.

The stove takes butane-propane mix canisters, so on a recent shopping trip, I picked one up at REI for under $5 to test the stove out.  Be careful when buying this kind of stuff, my first stop for most gear is Amazon, but always, always double check prices with other sites and/or physical stores.  REI doesn’t even list this item on their website, and Amazon has it listed for $18.99, but it was $4.95 at the REI near Kennesaw, GA.  (In the past, I’ve found quite a few items listed by third party sellers that was outrageously priced.  One item was $8 per can at Academy Sports, and $49.00 from a third party seller on Amazon.)

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To test this, I used a tin cup I picked up in Afghanistan about ten years ago, two cups of cold tap water, and put the stove on the railing of my back porch.  I wanted to see how long it would take to bring the water to a rolling boil.  According to our outdoor thermometer, it was 34′ outside,  and Intellicast.com shows a 10-15 mph NW wind.  I don’t have a lid for the cup, and for the first seven minutes of the test, I didn’t block the wind.

The little stove heated the water very quickly, but it wouldn’t come to a boil until I stood blocking the wind, at which point roughly one minute later I had a rolling boil.  If I had a lid for the cup, and had blocked the wind from the beginning, I have no doubt that this tiny stove would have had the water boiling quite fast.

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The water started to steam in the cold air in under a minute

I really like it – the package lists the output as 6,666 BTU, which I think is really good for something under $12 that can fit in a shirt pocket.  I don’t know if I would rely on this kind of thing for long-term survival, but as a short term, light weight option for camping trips and backpacking trips, it would certainly be much faster than cutting firewood and starting a full campfire when all you want is to re-hydrate a meal and have a cup of tea before moving on. It cools down very quickly, by the time you have the meal ready to eat, it should be cool enough to put back in the carrying case.

The stove comes with an orange plastic two piece carrying case.

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This shows the stove when out of the case, in the case, and when the case is closed – Image is from Amazon.com

About two weeks ago, I received a text from a friend ‘Call me as soon as you get a chance!’  I thought something was wrong, somebody was seriously ill or worse.

No, he just wanted to tell me about a spot I could hunt less than ten miles from my house, which was a surprise.

Two days later, I was in the woods at that location, and I have to say, it LOOKS fantastic, however I’ve only seen two does so far, and while there is a lot of deer sign on the ground, it’s very chaotic, no real ‘this is the main trail’ or ‘this is the bottleneck between bedding and feeding areas.  It looks, to me, like the deer are wandering in from all directions when they want a few acorns.

I’ll keep at it though, lots of good looking trees to climb in my Summit.

I’ve also decided to start using a bicycle phone mount in the stand – that’s the red-and-black device on the rail in the photo below – the four corners are built-in rubber bands that go over the corners of the phone, much better for control and not having to figure out where to put it if a deer shows up while I’m reading something, because it’ll already be in the mount. (There are lots of different versions of these, I think this one was $10 on Amazon.)

 

We used to go on more hikes and more adventures with our canine friends, but over time, work and illness limited what we’ve been able to accomplish.  Last year we went to Joe Kurz WMA one time in the off season with the dogs, and just walking around the loop at Lodge road from the gate wore most of them out. It was a hot day, and even with a trip down to the river, the dogs were plain tired when we got back to the truck.

Fast forward a little over a year, and Brody is gone.  While discussing where to take the dogs on a day off last week, I pointed out that we had never hiked Red Top Mountain state park, because ten years ago when we first went there, my wife didn’t feel well and we only walked for about fifteen minutes before deciding to drive home again.

So we got our supplies together and packed up the truck. Cinders, Missy, Zelda and especially Gretchen were going nuts because RIDE IN THE CAR! HIKE! YAAAAAH! I always carry a LOT of water on these hikes, along with other gear.  What I should have taken was a wheelbarrow, because three miles into a five mile plus hike, Zelda was done.RTM_Zelda

Zelda lost the genetic lottery on just about every level.  She has severe allergies to most proteins, and is moderately allergic to rest of the proteins on the blood test.  She has seasonal allergies. She has the ‘slope back’ inbred German Shepherd shuffle, she’s near sighted (she walked into a tree on the hike, face first. She didn’t even hesitate, just ‘trudge, trudge, BOOP, whaaaa?’)   When she stands still, her back legs are touching each other, and her back feet are splayed out at a 45 degree angle. We may have to get her tested for Degenerative Myelopathy, because she’s seven now, and getting worse in her clumsiness.  We have a chain of rugs all over the house because she has a panic attack if she has to cross open hardwood floors.   At this point, she’s on antibiotics because she decided to stick her nose in one of the cats’ faces one too many times (WHAP!) and it got infected, and because of her chronic skin infection, she’s on steroids for the skin issues as well, and Apoquel, which is twice a day for her allergies.

This is a dog that gets stuck on the couch, because if we call her name from the dining room, we’re on the other side of the couch, and she can’t figure out how to get down unless we come over to the front of it. I’m not joking.

We decided on the Homestead trail, a 5.8 mile loop that has a decent amount of lake shore views, and honestly, it’s one of the nicest, easiest trails that I’ve been on in a long time. It’s wide, fairly rock-free, (some areas have loose stones, but that looks like erosion, not like some of the trails I’ve been on, where it looks like volunteers intentionally rake rocks on the trails because they never actually use them.  I’m looking at you, Pine Mountain.) and whoever graded the trail to begin with made the elevation changes very manageable.  There are benches spaced throughout the trail, and it’s very well marked.

So there we are, with Cinders, our twelve year old German Shorthaired Jerkdog (he’s a jerk. You’d have to know him to know how big of a jerk he is, but we love him.) had been PULLING me all day, because despite having done this dozens and dozens of times, being on a leash, to him, means ‘Pull, pull hard, never stop pulling…’  So, in the front of the hike, I’ve got the oldest and youngest dogs, Cinders and Missy, with Cinders pulling for all he’s worth, and at the back of the hike is Lisa with Gretchen and Zelda, and Zelda would prefer to be carried. All eighty plus pounds of her. There is no couch. There is no TV, she doesn’t want to be here, at all.

When we got to the loop intersection of Homestead, my wife said ‘I don’t know if the Pointed Dog can make this hike,’ because Zelda was already looking tired.  We discussed it for a bit, and finally decided to go ahead, but take it slow. Halfway through the loop, almost exactly, we realized we’d made a mistake.  She would walk for ten to fifteen yards, trip over her own back feet, and lay down. The wife would  help her stand again, and the process would repeat.  We had forgotten her boots as well, because the dog will not or cannot pick her feet up, so she was starting to get sore spots from dragging her back paws when she walked.  I noticed on the walking app that we were, by this point, parallel to one of the roads, and suggested that we walk to the edge of the road, where the wife could wait with the dogs and my pack, and I would speed-walk back to the truck and come get them.  And that was the final plan.

The splits on the walking app look hilarious. 53 minute miles,  until the last 1.3 miles, which I did by myself in under twenty minutes.

For three days after the hike, I was very worried about Zelda. She wouldn’t even stand up without help. I had to carry her up and down the stairs to out to the yard, and once out there, she would just stand in the grass and look at me.  But my wife reported that when she got home, the dog was stiff, but up and moving and doing her business outside with minimal help. (I worked twelve hour midnight turn the three days after the hike) It occurred to me that Zelda wouldn’t get up and move because she thought I was going to make her walk ‘forevers’ again.

So, on to the next plan, getting her into better shape, one short walk at a time, until we can go back to hiking more often.

I’ve been obsessing over Steven Rinella’s Meat Eater series on NetFlix for a few months.  I don’t care for most of the hunting TV shows that are currently in production: the pacing, music, Overly Out There Product Placement, and to me, the fact that if you watch and listen closely, a lot of the shows are on private hunting properties that the average hunter could only afford to visit after winning the lottery.

Meat Eater is almost exactly the opposite.  I’ve only watched seasons five and six, those being the two on NetFlix, and I can’t purchase the series on DVD, because it’s not offered on DVD.  (Note to self – check the cost of adding a DVR to pick up other episodes from broadcasts.)  In the two seasons I’ve watched, I don’t think he ever says the word ‘Vortex,’ which is the spotting scope, binocular, and rifle scope brand he uses, but he doesn’t need to. Between the Vortex hats and seeing the equipment, you know that it’s his preferred (or sponsored) brand. The same with all of the products in the show, really.  Now I know on broadcasts, the channel adds ‘This segment of Meat Eater is brought to you by…’ but that’s not in the actual episode.  The music is RIGHT, the production value is excellent, and he brings a different kind of feel to the hunting and fishing he does, because he really is in it for the MEAT.  There are episodes where he is after an exceptional specimen, like the mule deer hunt with Callahan in central Idaho, but even then, he’s after the meat, and that’s what gets taken care of first.

One of the episodes is a pronghorn hunt on BLM land, ‘Lobster of the Prairie: Wyoming Antelope,’  and that made me start looking into hunting pronghorn on public land.

The first thing I noticed, repeated on a dozen forums and published articles on Pronghorn hunting, is to beware of ‘guided’ hunts, because they are typically going to be a lot of money for somebody to drive you around until you spot antelope.  Which you can do yourself, without adding $1,800 of cost to the experience.  But I just started researching this in the last few days, and as usual, from the outside it looks like it will take longer to decipher the regulations than it will to get to Wyoming, and that’s a 28 hour drive for me. (Atlanta to Casper, Wyoming)

We’ll see what happens – just starting to work a budget up for the trip, if I’m driving it, would start with roughly $800 in gasoline at today’s prices.  Around $350 for the license (including doe tags), plus food costs, and lodging.  My original thought was ‘camp, plenty of campgrounds near Casper’ but the wife wants to go, and I made the mistake of pointing out that several of the forums I read noted that there is a great public and private land area just half an hour outside of Casper, and that the person I was reading had stayed in a hotel, so add however many days in a hotel to the bill and it’s probably inching closer to $3,000.  Add boarding the dogs and having the cats looked after for the ten days, and now we’re getting closer to $4,000…. you get the idea.

So I’ll START looking into it now, we’ll see if I manage it before I retire.  (Which is years away yet.)

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One of my father’s pronghorn mounts from 40+ years ago.

He Was My Friend

Posted: 07/25/2017 in dogs, Hunting
Tags: ,

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Brody, at his best.

Sometime in early 2008, my wife sent me a text with a photo of a German Shorthaired Pointer in bad shape.  She was working as a manager at a major pet store chain, and a customer had brought in a dog that was in bad shape from neglect.  The customer told my wife that they had noticed this dog, and it’s condition, and had confronted the owner, who promptly said ‘take it then.’

He was between 37-40# when we brought him home.

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All he really had left was a kind of quiet dignity.  He was physically very weak, having to stop and catch his breath multiple times just to walk around the backyard.  I was in physical therapy for my own injuries at the time, so I could feed him small amounts every other hour or so at first, to get him used to eating again. It was heart-breaking to watch him painfully lay on the ground and root under the cabinets for any stray piece of food the other dogs might have knocked out of their bowls.  It took almost a month to get him used to regular meals again, and probably a year before he stopped searching for every piece of kibble, every meal. During that year, his strength came back, and he shed completely as good nutrition finally started to repair his coat.  The vet guessed that he was between three and four years old, but we’ve never been sure of his age.

He had nightmares.  We noticed that he had bad scabs from sleeping on what we guessed was a concrete pad. He didn’t know how to drink water out of a bowl,and would stick his face in it and clomp his jaws.  After the first few days, he was allowed to walk around the house with the other dogs, since they were used to him being there and could socialize more. The first time I brushed him, he was scared of the brush until I started to gently work on his coat, then he looked at me with an amazing ‘whut the heck is that?’ look on his face. (We’ve always used a kind of Sam Elliot voice for him.) The pattern of discovering new, pleasant things included: soft dog beds. Couches, my chair, a soft carpet and sunbeam near an AC vent, in case he got too hot in the sunbeam.  A fire in the fireplace, Thanksgiving and Christmas, which at our house usually included a tiny meal mirroring what we had for dinner on top of their kibble. (A tablespoon of mashed potatoes with a spot of butter and gravy, a nice piece of turkey sans bones, a small scoop of my country stuffing with minced chicken livers in it, you get the idea.)

As his body became used to good nutrition, the gas was nearly enough to trigger an evacuation of the living room.

Brody had a way of moving his eyebrows, and using body language, that led to years of us saying ‘Ah wuz abused, you shud give me sum o’ what yer eatin’…’   He used that face and general look to good advantage over the years.  He never did really learn to wag his tail though, the stub would just jerk back and forth without any rhythm.

After about a year, we had to have some of his molars removed. The vet guessed that he had been chewing on rocks when he was starving.  In time, other issues included a heart murmur (which no vet could ever seem to remember that we had the problem checked out, which at the time was NOT inexpensive, and would bring it up like it was a new condition) and a large, fatty tumor on his chest that had to be removed so he could walk normally.

The fatty tumor surgery required a drainage tube, so Brody ended up helping us at one of the 323 Archery shoots, when we were still running them, so that I could keep an eye on him.  He managed to use his eyebrows and general body language to get a bite or two of hot dog off of everyone that bought one.  And when we went to shoot ourselves, Clay’s wife reported that at least two people bought him his own hot dog while she was watching registration. That led to years of another staple Brody-joke “Gimme yer hotter dawg…”

He loved hikes.  He loved water, ponds, streams, it didn’t matter to him, as long as it wasn’t a bath, though eventually he gave up and let us ‘take his stink’ every month, since it became obvious that we weren’t going to let him keep it.  (Around that time, I parodied Judas Priest’s song ‘Breaking the Law’ into our monthly sing along of ‘Washin’ the Dog’ “This here dog is really stinky, it’s time for a good bath….”  If you know the original song, it’s REALLY FUNNY to sing the dog wash version, we just made up new lyrics every month.)

Brody particularly loved snow.  This being the suburbs west of Atlanta, snow is rare, and really doesn’t stick around, so in short order, the world would turn ‘Brody colored,’ that is, white with brown spots, and the darn dog could disappear standing still.  He would jump around and this spinning, bucking dance that we always called ‘having a happy.’  Brody having a happy was a sight to see, because all of his great, dearly held dignity went right by the wayside as he spun, ducked, jumped and grinned.

The first time that Brody saw a bird bigger than the ‘popcorn birdies’ (that’s what our cats call them anyway) was at the horse barn.  One of the other boarders had, for some unfathomable reason, brought a bunch of chickens to live at a boarding barn.  The hawks got most of them, but there were a few still running around, and we took the dogs to the barn one day to see how they would interact with the horses, and hike around the trails.  Brody caught sight of one of the roosters and locked up in a near-perfect point. So did Cinders, but after looking at us, and back at the birds, Cinders thought ‘nah, the hoomins aren’t interested, I’m off to find something else.’ Brody?  We had to physically pick him up and turn him around so he couldn’t see the bird to get him to break point.

He was usually a very laid back dog, completely the opposite of Cinders, who is, we’re certain, the result of a mad scientist blending Red Bull into bird dog DNA for no particular reason.  Even at twelve years old, Cinders is still a hyper dog.  On the other hand, Brody was very, very ALPHA.  I’ve seen him walk into a room with thirty other big dogs (by this time, he was at his healthy weight of 85-90 pounds) and take the room over by walking to the edge of the ‘dog’ zone and standing still.  The people at the dog day care he ‘worked’ at for a while (another of the wife’s jobs over the years) called him the Peace Maker. Because when Brody was around, there would be Peace, or there would be Angry Brody.

The only time I ever saw him react negatively to a person, ever, was one delivery driver pounded on the front door very hard. I have no idea why, he just pounded three or four times like he was trying to wake the dead.  What he got was Brody hitting the other side of the door at chest height, roaring more like a lion than a dog.  I couldn’t get outside before the driver got in his truck and floored the gas.

On the other hand, Brody would brook no dog trespassers on HIS turf.  Before we had him fixed, taking Brody outside was a constant challenge, because while he knew very well what the limits of the yard were, he wasn’t about to stay inside an imaginary line if he could sniff so much as a molecule of ‘dog in heat.’  And this dog could vanish without a trace if you took your eyes off of him for more than two seconds.  Once he made it several miles before deciding that he’d had enough and wanted back inside, so he went to the nearest house and sat on their front porch until one of the semi-terrified homeowners gathered the nerve to check his collar and call me.

By the time I got there, everyone in the house was petting him. And yet, the father told me they were all terrified of big dogs.  Brody was like that, he could convert a cat person if given a few minutes to work on them. He grinned a bit of a doggy grin, wandered over and got in the passenger side of my car. He slept good that night, and we still wonder if there are Cocker-Brody’s running around, or maybe a couple of yellow labs with suspicious brown spots and the urge to point at birds.

After we got him fixed, he’d still pull this trick now and then, I’m certain he was just checking how loud I would yell before he’d trick me by reappearing after ten or twenty minutes of frantic searching in the woods, the neighbor’s yard, etc.

Brody was fine with other dogs, provided they didn’t flat-out challenge him or threaten his people or his pack.  But when the rare times that it was just the two of us, usually because he was on a different vaccination cycle than Cinders and Gretchen, he was amazing.  I swear I could have taken him anywhere with me and he would have heeled and been the best companion ever.

We also used to have a problem with stray dogs in the neighborhood. And I mean ‘stray’ dogs, not the ones our old neighbors owned, but let run crazy.  I opened the back door one day and there were two pit bulls standing in the back yard, no collars, just marking over top of Brody and Cinders’ scent.  I yelled at the dogs to get gone, but they didn’t listen.

Brody moved me out of the way then knocked the bigger dog tail over teakettle for about ninety yards, until the other dog gave up and ran as fast as it could.  Keep in mind, this started in the back yard, and my dogs herded these intruders around the house and down the driveway.  Cinders was snapping at his target, while Gretchen was letting war-woo’s out that probably rivaled air-raid sirens in volume.

Our house sits back in the woods a bit, so we have a front neighbor.  Once, that house was occupied by a nice man named John, his wife, and their big German Shepherd, Bishop.   By that time, we had rescued a German Shepherd as well, Zelda, and despite being fixed, she thought Bishop was very interesting.   Brody thought Bishop should stay in his house. All the time.  Bishop tried to sneak up our driveway for a sniff or two of Zelda one day, and Brody ran him all the way back to John’s garage, then sidled up to John for a good ear rub while grinning at Bishop, who was cowering in his kennel.

To illustrate how strong he was at his best, once years ago I flopped face down on my bed, a game the dogs knew very well, but usually only Cinders and Gretchen would play it with me.  (Cinders – 40 pound GSP, Gretchen, 70 pound Blue Tick hound)  Once I flopped on the bed, I’d cover my ears with both hands and pretend they weren’t there. The two of them would burrow under my arms, play-pounce on my back, and have a grand old time until I would laugh and roll over to pet them.  The one time when Brody played, he just stuck his nose under my rib cage and flipped me like a leaf.

To illustrate how clever he was, once at dog daycare, during a rainstorm the dogs all had to be herded into the building.  My wife (who would watch the small dogs, because if she was in the yard with our dogs, our dogs just spent the entire day being a protective detail) told the other dog handler NOT to let Brody inside the building without first putting clips on all of the indoor boarding kennels.  The handler didn’t listen, so Brody opened every single kennel (I think there were nine?) and proceeded to eat every bite of food in every kennel. Right in front of the occupants of the kennels, regardless of breed or size. And none of them dared protest.

Nine years.  Nine years of one of the most wonderful dogs I’ve ever known. That makes him between twelve and fourteen years of age.

He’s still here, for today. Tomorrow is a maybe.  A month would be a miracle.  But I doubt very much beyond that.  The vet doesn’t really know exactly what’s wrong, the best two educated guesses are a tumor on his liver, or heart failure of one kind or the other.  His belly is distended, and obviously causes him discomfort.  He’s having a difficult time standing up, and he’s back to having to walk, take a break, walk, teak a break to go thirty yards.  He is in bad shape, and before long it will be the end. He’ll most likely never have a happy again.

It’s breaking my heart.

(I wrote this last Thursday – this morning, 7/24/2017, Brody passed away.  It feels like somebody has ripped my heart out of my chest.  There is so much more to Brody’s story that I didn’t have the strength to record that day, or today, but hopefully soon the pain will be bearable.)

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Wow, I did NOT realize how long I’d gone without posting an update. I’ve done several hikes, been at the NRA Annual Meeting, done some bowfishing, and gone to Key West (curse you, Sea Urchin!) since my turkey season post.

Rather than blather on and on, I’ll just build a quick photo gallery.  No, that isn’t me getting married, it’s my youngest sister-in-law, I’m the fat guy in the hat, the Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses in the beach photo. So, here are some shots from the NRA show, bowfishing with Treetop Archery, Key West, something you should avoid stepping on, because you’ll end up in urgent care getting spines pulled out of your foot.

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