HRCH Kirby's High Sierra, SH, QAA (Feb. 19, 2002 - Aug. 14, 2014).
It is always tough to loose a dog, but to loose one a special as Kirby leaves a hole in the heart that one cannot begin to describe. I have not been able to write this until now.... 5 days later. Kirby was the “Big Red Dog.” I will never forget the day I picked him up.... cast off from his first owners as “not good enough” since he would never been the 3 year old field champion like his sire was, but could be by age 4-5, he was one unhappy character. He had boys at his first home that I am sure he missed. And had been sent to a hunt test pro for further training that included a lot of pressure. How young he looks in this picture of him sitting on the gravel in Missouri. I recall how he looked for ways to get out of my gates and run.... I'm not sure he knew where he was running to, but he wanted out. Soon, he looked for ways to stay. Kirby was a stunning 85 pound fox red male, a litter mate to FC Honor. But neither “brother” really acknowledged the other, but neither did they challenge the other. Kirby ran the household when Honor was away at training, and was head of “Team Yellow” that consisted of him, Niki and Libby. How he loved his girls!
Kirby came to me as a two year old, a sullen, distrustful and unwilling worker. At the time I bought him, he had no use for long guns, or water blinds. He was dehydrated, per his blood work. He kissed me every day of his life for filling his water bucket. Kirby would try to hug me on the line to avoid working. I took Kirby back to the swim-by pond and re-taught him water blinds to take away the hesitancy. I began running him in the HRC program to increase the excitement of work for him, and he loved having a gun fired over his head. He became an HRCH quickly, only failing one finished HRC test. (My fault Kirby, but I'm much better at that gun thing now!). Kirby's friend, Dr.Jeff, shot pheasant flyers on long guns for him, which turned the tide on the issue of not wanting to look long. Kirby loved getting praised for doing a great job!
Putting him back through a formal program to build his foundation skills, Kirby began to trust… and became a dog I only could have dreamed of. Kirby became a happy and enthusiastic worker, with all the style and flare one would expect of a red-head! His stylish manner earned him applause from judges and spectators. He started competing in hunt tests in 2005 at the age of three, demonstrating a consistent pass rate, easily obtaining his HRCH title in the UKC’s HRC program, and his Senior Hunter title in the AKC Hunt Test Program. I remember running him at one trial where at Hunt Test Pro asked if that dog in the field was Kirby. I said “yes”. He stated, “If I would have known he could run like that, I would have bought him.” I assured him that Kirby would never have run like that for him, he ran like that because of his love for me. He became Qualified All-Age at Mid-Illinois Retriever Club’s qualifying test, performing a land-water blind combination that was truly an all-age equivalent, judged by two 8-point judges. Taking each and every cast, Kirby demonstrated the true meaning of team work. I am proud to be his owner, trainer and handler.
While certainly Kirby was as perfect as they came, he also had his quirks. He stayed with Uncle Thom Paker one weekend, and when I picked him up, Thom called him to him to pet him bye, and upon saying “here, Kirby”, Kirby took a straight line jumping over the couch! And, then there were the “pee wars”. This started with my chocolate lab Rusty. Rusty and Kirby had gotten into a “disagreement” that would last for years. Kirby got to where he would lift his leg at Rusty while inside the crate to pee on him, and Rusty would then reciprocate! While maddening underneath it all, it was also humorous. Kirby was very loving. When I fell down the deck stairs one day, it was Kirby out of all my dogs that came over to check on me, and laid by my side, until the pain subsided enough to get up. And did I mention his love of stuffed toys? Bears in particular! He also hated to be hot. When at a field trial or training, if the sun started to come in through his window, he would start to scream. And I mean, SCREAM! I would take off running to put his umbrella on him. Then, the world was good again. Kirby was a very proud dog. He would bounce through the house, with his tail high..... very confident in his demeanor. He was also smiling – constantly, except when working, he had his serious look on! He also loved to sit in your lap..... he had no idea how big he was. Kirby also “talked”. He would make noises, and answer questions. So loud, that if you were talking on the phone, other people could hear him! He was too funny!
His last days he was slowing down, and I had attributed it to arthritis in his ankles and wrists, but pain meds were not helping. Dinner time at Justice Retrievers is always a noisy festival of fun, and Kirby was always one of the head barkers. On Wednesday, he didn't bark, but laid down in his crate and napped. I knew he had to go to the emergency vet. And what they found was devastating. A tumor around his heart that was as big as his heart, and what was probably more cancer in his abdomen. Just 3 weeks prior, he had his teeth cleaned with perfect blood work. (I had told him that he needed clean teeth to bite Rusty with). Who knew that he was such a sick dog? I thought I would have more time with him and so did the vets, but upon taking him home, I wound up carrying him out of the van. He toddered around the yard. I had to carry him up the deck stairs, where he laid down and put his head between his paws and told me it was time. We hung out in the sun on the deck until it was time to go back to the vet. FC Honor insisted on going with. We stopped at McDonald's to get him an ice cream cone. Jeannette Potter gave me a big cup of animal crackers to feed him while sitting in the grass at VSC, with his friend Kaitie Paker taking pictures. When we went into the ER, the staff gave him cupcakes with purple frosting that he ate with gusto, including the wrappers! He had purple frosting in his face.... his last breath he took and laid his head in my lap.... I love you Kirby and will miss your happy bright eyed demeanor. You will be missed by me and your “pack.” I am sure you were met at the bridge by Patience and Gavel, and grandma and grandpa and the rest. How you will be loved! There will only be one “Big Red Dog.” many Thanks for all the kind and loving care over the years to Aunty Mar Paker, Thom Paker,Kait Paker Eryn Paker and Dr. Jeff.