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Gun Dogs I Have Known

Our relationships with retrievers goes far beyond fetching ducks.

Gun Dogs I Have Known

Each retriever plays a major role in our success as waterfowl hunters and each dog forever occupies a special place in our heart. (Photo courtesy of Alex Langbell)

Caesar, Livia, Roxie, Gauge, Brodie, Jake and Ellie—these are the names of gun dogs I have loved and hunted over for the last 39 years. They are all random names chosen by me at various times of my life. These names all differ, but their purpose was the same—to bring back fowl that I shot. The dogs included two English springer spaniels, two Chesapeake Bay retrievers and three Labrador retrievers. Some were like rockets, powerful and explosive, while others were more like rocking chairs, slow and smooth, like my first dog—Caesar.

Springing Into Action

Caesar was a male English springer spaniel that I transitioned from family house pet to a gun dog that I could take out to the Nevada desert to chase quail and dove. Although he wasn’t a firecracker, he did enough to help an inexperienced, self-taught 12-year-old boy to learn how to hunt, flush, shoot and retrieve coveted California quail. Soon after, we acquired a female springer we named Livia—after the wife of Augustus. She and Caesar had two litters of little quail-flushing bundles of joy.

Black Labrador retriever with a mallard drake
"Some were like rockets, powerful and explosive, while others were more like rocking chairs, slow and smooth." (Photo courtesy of Alex Langbell)

Lab Tested

Roxie was my first Labrador retriever. She was my first dog that was solely mine. She was my new roommate when I moved to Washington from Nevada. A small black Lab with a nose that a duck couldn’t escape.

After Roxie, there was Gauge—a yellow Labrador retriever that was a tough, stubborn son-of-a-bitch. His disposition was much like my own when I entered the fire service during that time of my life.  

The Once-In-A-Lifetime Dog

Then there was Brodie. Brodie was my first Chesapeake Bay retriever, I guess I felt I handled Gauge’s stubbornness pretty well, so why not try to train a Chessie? Brodie was special. The true “once-in-a-lifetime dog.” He was a solid 75-pound curly hair-coated beast that could handle ice better than any dog I’ve ever seen. I learned so much on dog training from him. He would break ice with his chest as I followed him to different public hunting spots in eastern Washington. One cold frozen January morning, on a duck hunt in the Columbia Basin, I looked over to see him literally coated head to toe in ice without even a quiver coming from him. It truly was mind blowing to see. I rarely had to leave the blind to help him find a bird. He was unbelievable. Brodie was tragically killed when the wind blew my gate open on the new house we had just purchased. A neighbor I had never met knocked on my door after I just finished hanging Christmas lights and asked if I owned a dog. Apparently, one had just been struck by a car in front of my house. I’ll never forget that sickening feeling as I bolted out the front door and out in the road. Lit up by the headlights of an old Cadillac, the silhouette of a dog laying on its side. I ran over and could see it was my boy Brodie. I knelt down next to him and cradled his body with his head in my arm. He looked up at me and tried to wag his tail but couldn’t. He died in my arms as we walked into the emergency veterinarian hospital. That one hurt for a long time. He was only four years old. He was a stud. I cried extra hard for this guy.

Chesapeake Bay retriever with a mallard drake
"I can't imagine not having a four-legged best friend by my side though the remaining years of my life." (Photo courtesy of Alex Langbell)

The Legacy Continues

After Brodie, there was Jake—my second Chessie. I told myself I could not compare him with Brodie, who I had just lost. He turned out to be a wonderful dog. During that time of my life, I was producing two television shows and he didn’t get the extensive hunting that my first Chessie experienced, but when he was asked to step up to the plate, he was clutch.

Jake passed after 11 years of service which brings me to today. I currently have a three-year-old, 56-pound, female black Labrador retriever named Ellie. She is young, but she has fire and she is fierce. She hits everything hard—whether it’s launching out of a boat into the waters of the Columbia River or hitting a 13-pound western Canada goose square in the chest at 15 miles per hour and then carrying a quarter of her weight in her mouth, as she jumps over corn stalks. She is an athlete, plain and simple. She is the face of my new company GunDog Outdoors and a member of our family. I absolutely adore this dog.

I now look back at each one of these dogs and what they meant to me and how much they were a part of my life as I went through the different stages of it. Every one of them played a role in helping me be the successful waterfowler I have become today. I can’t imagine not having a four-legged best friend by my side through the remaining years of my life.

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