It was the third week-end of our fall 2009 field trial season. Cole, four years old, and Buck, three years old, were scheduled to run the Open with Greg Lister in Pinkneyville, Illinois on September 18, 2009. My third open dog, FC Gauge, was running with Bill Eckett at a different trial. The grounds in Pinkneyville are only one and a half hours from my home so I planned to attend on Saturday morning if at least one of my dogs was still running.
Friday was a humid day. It is my understanding that the judges set up a quad in heavy cover for the first series. I was told that the test dog only picked up two birds and seemed to be overheated. Numerous dogs ran this set up without incident. Cole was the first of my two dogs scheduled to run in the afternoon. He picked up the first three birds and was sent for the fourth. Debbie Bohnsack told me that he took off like a rocket for the fourth bird. At some point Greg and others lost sight of him. Greg blew the come in whistle to no avail. A search was begun for Cole but he was difficult to find due to the heavy cover. By the time he was found it was too late. He had overheated, collapsed and died.
I was on a business call at approximately 4:00 p.m. Friday. I saw that Greg had called my cell phone several times. Once I got off the business call I checked the message from Greg. I was expecting him to call to let me know if either Cole or Buck was going to be back for the second series on Saturday. I listened to the message and he was crying profusely asking me to call him right away.
I called Greg and he told me the news. He was at the veterinarian's office in DuQuoin, Illinois. I was shocked and did not know what to do. Should I drive to Pinkneyville or DuQuoin to bring my boy home? I got in my truck and looked at the temperature – it was 83°. Before I could leave downtown St. Louis I received a phone call from the vet’s office in DuQuoin. They wanted to know if I wanted Cole’s ashes sent to my home. At that point, I knew there was nothing that I could do so I went home. His ashes arrived yesterday.
One hopes to pay tribute to his dog following the National Open if his or her dog is fortunate enough to be a finalist. Instead, I am doing this as a result of Cole’s untimely death.
I purchased a Shadow puppy in January 2005 but subsequently found out that Susie Rich was breeding FC Theda to NFC Patton. I spoke to Susie several times and decided to send a deposit. I was excited to be able to get an NFC-FC puppy.
Beth Harman whelped the litter at her home in Iowa and the puppies were born on March 5, 2005. She raised and socialized puppies. Beth would forward photographs of the litter on a regular basis. I spoke with Beth and Susie numerous times and with their help picked out my puppy.
Beth and Susie indicated that they were going to try to stick with a military theme when naming their pups. I had always liked the name Cole and decided to name my puppy after Colin Powell, Huntleigh’s General Powell “Cole”. When Cole was ready to come home Dave Hemminger picked him up from the Harman’s and brought him to St. Louis.
I decided to send Cole and my other puppy, Raider, to Rick Stawski who specialized in young dogs. Both puppies went on Rick’s winter trip to Georgia/Florida on January 1, 2006. After the winter trip Cole and Raider returned to Minnesota with Rick Stawski and Raider placed in a derby that summer. Rick informed me that he had a buyer for Raider and thought that I should sell him and keep Cole. I was confused since Raider had just placed in a derby. Rick asked if I was interested in a derby dog or an all age dog. It was his opinion that Cole had the potential to be a great all age dog and Field Champion.
Rick ran Cole in the derby at Mid-Iowa in September 2006 and he placed. Greg brought him home from Iowa and we were on our way. Cole ran additional derbies that fall but I don’t recall the results. Greg took him south to Jeff Horsley’s place in Alabama in February 2007 and ran a derby in Georgia. He placed second finishing ahead of the high point derby dog.
Cole turned two on March 5, 2007 and began running the qualifying stake a few weeks later. I remember him finishing the St. Louis Trial in March or April 2007. The next highlight of his career came at Mid-Illinois. I was at the trial and got to see Cole run the first two series. Steve Hamilton and Debbie Bohnsack were judging. Cole was looking good but unfortunately I had to leave the trial to attend a party in St. Louis that evening. I made it home and was driving to the party when Greg called and told me that Cole had won. Cole was qualified all-age at twenty-six months old with the win.
The fall 2007 field trial season arrived. Cole was only twenty-nine months old and had already won a qualifying but was not ready for the Open. He placed in several of the early season qualifyings. The Bootheel Retriever Club was holding a derby/qualifying event and I asked Greg if we could enter Cole in the qualifying and Bucky, who was fifteen months old, in the Derby. The four of us (Greg, me, Cole, and Bucky) headed to Cape Girardeau for the event. Cole hit the landmarks hard and lined the land blind. The water blind was difficult but Cole made it through. I was concerned but Greg said not to worry because it was a tough water blind and we did not see the other dogs work.
The fourth series was a water triple with a long retired gun. Cole hit it hard. We watched the other dogs run and I felt that Cole had one of the best jobs. I was optimistic that we would place but was not expecting first place after the tough water blind. The judges announced their placements and Cole had won. He now had two qualifying wins at approximately thirty months old. We arrived in St. Louis and aired the boys at my house. Cole promptly peed on my boots.
Cole had been entered in the qualifying at a St. Louis Trial which was being held the week after Bootheel. He was able to run because he was entered prior to his second qualifying win. I was hoping he would end his qualifying career with a third win but it was not meant to be. He ran a good trial but came up short and finished third or fourth. I remember sitting in the back of the gallery during the water marks. Cole hit the water as hard as any dog I‘ve ever seen. A member of the gallery inquired as to who owned that dog “Cole” and stated that he had never seen a dog with so much style. I did not say a word and realized then that I had a special dog. He could mark with the best of them and he sure did have style.
Cole’s qualifying career was now over. After a few months he went south to Alabama. I made the trip to train with Cole and my other dogs. The spring of 2008 arrived as did Cole’s third birthday. He ran the Open in the spring and fall of 2008. I think he jammed one of his first Opens but did not place in any of the trials.
It was back to Horsley’s in the winter of 2009. Greg left Alabama and on the way home stopped to run the Central Arkansas Trial a week after Cole’s fourth birthday. I received updates from Greg after each series but he was coy about Cole’s performance as he was afraid he might jinx the dog. In the end, Cole won the Open. I was told that he was the clear winner. Greg indicated that he received some inquiries as to whether the owner would be willing to sell Cole. Greg told me that if I received any calls to please not sell the dog. It never entered my mind.