Friday, October 5, 2012

Seldom in my life is there a time when I look at what is happening and think, "This is meant to be". But a few weeks ago something happened in my life that seems strangely meaningful.

In the beginning of September my black lab Chloe had to be put down. It was heartbreaking, especially since I wasn't in Jersey at the time. Instead I was here in Kentucky guiding opening weekend. It wasn't easy to go on with the weekend as if nothing at all had happened, but somehow I managed. In reality I knew when I left New Jersey that it probably wouldn't be all that long before Chloe had to be put down...she was an old dog and no longer in the best of health. I just hadn't expected to never see her again. Death happens unexpectedly.

The area in Kentucky where I live seems to be overrun with stray dogs. I'm not sure if people can't afford to feed them or just don't care about them, but they're all over. One of the local roads was under construction a few weeks back, and and as I sat at the stop sign waiting to go through the single open lane, I counted at least 3 stray dogs that looked like they were suffering from starvation. The one construction worker asked if I wanted him to put the one puppy in the bed of my truck to take him. I told him no...what would I do with a puppy? I felt bad for the dogs but could barely afford to feed myself much less a dog.

Three weeks ago on a particularly hot evening in the treestand, I heard the patter of feet scurrying over dry leaves, and readied my bow expecting to see a coyote or turkey. Instead, a horribly skinny little chocolate lab pup came trotting up the ravine. Crossing my bait pile he continued on past my stand and out onto the four wheeler path I had walked in on. My heart went out to the pup; he was so little and so adorable I just wanted to get down and catch him so I could take him home. But, then my hunt would be ruined so I decided to stay put.

I did end up seeing deer that night, but no bucks big enough that I wanted to put an arrow through him. And life went on, a week went by and was uneventful.

Then, one afternoon while hooking the trailer up to my truck so I could load the four wheeler on, I saw a movement at the front of the lodge. It was that little lab pup, tail between his legs, watching me.

At the lodge we usually throw all our leftovers in a ditch behind the building...obviously that's what had brought the pup in.

I tried calling him over and walking towards him, but tail tucked between his legs, he ran off a little ways then stopped. My heart went out to him, he was so tiny, and obviously starved and most likely abused. Going inside I took some of the week old leftovers and brought them out onto the front step.

At first he wouldn't take food from me at all. He would belly crawl in until he could grab the food, then dart off with his tail between his legs and wolf down the food as fast as he could, looking at me ever now and then as if he was afraid I'd steal the food back.

Day 1

All that afternoon the pup disappeared and reappeared, and little by little I managed to get him to eat food out of my hand. That evening I left to go hunting, and when I returned he was gone. I didn't expect to see him again...

But, the next morning there he was, curled up on the rug in front of the front door. He seemed to think he had found a home.

Over the few days I fed him, thinking eventually he would disappear again. He was extremely skittish and shy around strangers, especially men; but he made a habit of trying to crawl into my lap whenever he had the opportunity, and leaning against my legs. He was like a little kid starving for affection.

Within a week he had put on considerable weight, and was actually learning to play. I stocked up on a few bags of dog food, a stake and long cord to tie him up when hunters come in so he won't jump all over them, and put a collar on him to prevent him from getting shot if he wandered off. Really I don't think I had to worry, he seldom left the front porch. Even now, when I leave to go hunting he sits on the front porch and when I get back, he's still there waiting for me.

Future Shed Hunter

For now, he's the official Lodge puppy of DA's nice to have company when there are no hunters in. Maybe we were meant to find each other.

I named him Chance.