I've had the honor of owning several great dogs.
Each one has had his own personality, but has always had one thing in common -- They were great hunters and their first name all started with Ch.
It started with Choby. I got Choby when I was a senior at Texas A&M University.
He was a great dog and a real rouge. He loved to fight, spend days cavorting - and hunt - in that order. He also had a real fetish for killing cats and chasing yard lizards.
Next came Chodney.
Chodney was the "It" dog. He came from Labrador royalty. His grandfather was Super Chief, who was the Lab featured in the Peter's shotgun shell box ad.
He was just gorgeous. Big blocky head, beaver tail and those beautiful brown Labrador eyes. His eyesight and marking memory were legendary.
He was forever cool and suave. My wife called him the Cary Grant of dogs.
In his prime, he could mark six geese anywhere from 200 to 500 yards. He knew where every dead goose was, and he retrieved them in order of distance: The farthest one first and then the next, then the next. In the back of his mind, he wanted the dead ones in the spread (which were closest) to be retrieved by the amateurs. He took the hard ones.
Chodney is the father, grandfather, great grandfather and great great grandfather of all the rest.
After Chodney came Charlie. Charlie was chocolate and that should answer any questions about him. He was just big and goofy. But, God bless him, he was a sweetheart. My oldest daughter, Jennifer, would take him roller blading. He loved pulling her around. She was a bit of a daredevil, so they went really fast. He always knew when she was about to get home, and he would wait for her at the front door ready to go roller blading.
Sadly, Charlie died from mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor of the covering of the lung or the lining of the pleural and abdominal cavities. It was not a good way to die.
Charlie sired Chester.
Chester loved two things in life: girl dogs and hunting. He loved girl dogs so much that he would, from time to time in the wee hours of the morning, disappear in pursuit of girl dogs instead of jumping in the truck to go hunting.
But he was a great retriever. He could count. If we killed six birds, he would retrieve five. He would come back to the spread knowing all along where the sixth bird was, but pretend not to know.
Then, when he saw some more birds coming, he would get excited and run get the sixth bird and then wait for the next volley.
Chester met his demise when he decided to take his new son, Chapman, on a walkabout. Probably looking for sweet young things. They were gone for five days. We were frantic and searched and searched. We advertised, distributed signs and called the police. Chester never came home.
But Chapman did. He couldn't tell us where he left his dad, but he was able to find his way home. And from that day forward, Chapman never left our yard again unless given permission.
Chapman possesses unbelievable dog intelligence. Not only did he find his way back home after five days of debauchery with his father, he understands English and reasons through situations.
For example, our friend Nick was living in our garage apartment and had a dog kennel in the yard. He tied the kennel door with a rope as an extra layer of protection to keep his dog inside. That did not deter Chapman. He was able to untie the knot (not chew through it, you understand, but untie it), then unlatch the kennel door and let his friend out to play.
I once lost him in the field, and after looking for him for a while, I went back to get my truck to be able to cover more ground - it was parked more than a mile away - and there he was in the front seat looking at me like, "Where the hell have you been?"
Another time - one of my hunters gave Chapman some water from his water bottle. When the water was all gone, the guy said, "That's all there is, boy. You'll have to find some more somewhere else." Chapman went into one of the other hunters' backpacks, found a water bottle and brought it to the guy.
His hunting skills are equal to his great grandfather's Chodney. He makes unbelievably long retrieves and marks multiple birds just like Chodney.
Retrieving is his passion - his obsession - whether it is a goose, a duck or a training dummy.
Chapman will be nine in June, and his eyesight is failing. He has sired my two new pups - Chandler
and Chance, and one pup, Cheddar, who my good friend Tom Cammack is raising.
Time will tell how these three work out - but they certainly have good genes.