After “stubbing his toe” in the tenth series, Buck resumed his flawless performance and continued to blaze through the eleventh and twelfth series. Although two full extra series were mandatory, Buck’s competitors were actually eliminated in the eleventh – an exceptionally difficult three bird land and water test. In the opinion of many Buck performed perfectly in the test that eliminated his challengers.
One of the judges was Dr. George Gardner of Chicago, who commented on his field notes: “Class and style, beautiful line, excellent job!” Anther judge Lewis E. Pierson, Jr. of Waterbury, Connecticut, wrote: “In eleven out of twelve series King Buck was faultless in ever department on land and on the water – marking, bird sense, manners, steadiness, and control at hand and far out. It was so apparent to all by the twelfth series that he was the clear and decisive that I am sure the official announcement came as an anticlimax.”
Buck was active in the field trial campaigns for four years after that, still competing fiercely with younger dogs and established champions. As late as 1957, when he was nine years old, he not only qualified for the National Championship Stake but also completed eleven series out of twelve in the “National” and nearly won another title!
Cotton taking bird from Buck
During his years at Nilo, King Buck finished 73 series out of a possible 75 in seven consecutive running of the National Championship Stake. The only series he failed to complete in those seven “Nationals” were the eleventh series in 1951 contest and the twelfth series in 1957. No other retriever in history has successfully completed 63 consecutive series in the National Championship Stake.
He also completed ten series for handler John Olin in the 1957 National Amateur Trial, establishing a brilliant record of 83 completed series out of a possible total of 85 series in national championship competition, including two consecutive national crowns!
There was one memorable fall day in 1955 retired three challenge trophies at once: the Guy S. Osborn Challenge Trophy, the Midwest’s Field Trial Club President’s Trophy, and the Glenairlie Challenge Trophy. The Osborn Trophy had remained unretired for eighteen years, the Midwest President’s Trophy for twenty years, and the Glenairlie Trophy for about eighteen years. To permanently claim any one of these, an individual owner, kennel or dog was required to win the trophy three times. King Buck did just that, and took all three trophies out of circulation from the Midwest Field Trial Club.
Olin , Buck, Nat. Trophy
But there was still one major honor in store for the famous old champion. In 1959 the U. S. Fish and Wildlife paid tribute to retrievers and their role in waterfowl conservation by requiring that the design of the current Migratory Waterfowl be a retrieving dog at work. Maynard Reece, the famous Iowa wildlife artist whose work had already appeared on two “duck stamps,” came to Nilo and executed a watercolor study of King Buck. That was the winning entry; the 1959 duck stamp was a portrait of old Buck with a drake mallard in his mouth, set against a backdrop of flaring ducks. It was the first time a dog had ever appeared on a United States stamp.
King Buck Duck duck stamp
Whitening about the muzzle, King Buck ruled Nilo kennels for over a decade. In good weather he took the sun on the grassy lawn in front of the retriever quarters, or walked with slow dignity through the big exercise yard with other dogs racing and tumbling about him. And even as his years bore him down, he remained chief champion of Nilo.
He died on March 28, 1962 – just one week before his fourteenth birthday – and was placed in a small crypt at the kennels’ entrance, his statue above him. But that statue marks the formal interment. A writer for the Portland Oregonian, Ben Hur Lampman, knew where the place where dogs such as Buck are really buried:
…for if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, laughing, begging, it matters not where that dog sleeps. On a hill where the wind is unrebuked and trees are roaring, or beside he knew in puppvhood, or in pastureland where exhilarating cattle graze. It is one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained and nothing lost – if memory lives. But there is one place to bury a dog.
If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when called – come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the well-remembered path and to your side again. And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they shall not growl at him or resent his coming, for he belongs ther
Crypt and statue
People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who bear no whimper, people who may never have had a dog. Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them. The one best place to bury a dog is in the heart of the master.