His seven and a half years with me are bracketed by two vigils. It was late October 2010 when I sat and slept in a camp chair next to the whelping pen. On the morning of the 23rd, Xena gave birth to four yellow Lab puppies, three males and a female.
I handled each one every day making sure they were stimulated and socialized. One big boy imprinted on me and when it came time to send the pups to their homes my wife pointed out that I had no choice but to keep him.
Gage was number five in direct succession since 1974. All his predecessors were hunting dogs and he would be too. When he was just four months old we joined the Inland Valley Retriever Club. We entered our first AKC Junior hunt test in June. He was not even 8 months old. We failed. He hadn’t been taught to deliver to hand, but he looked exceptional in the field. We were hooked. We entered every test we could find.
For the next six years we travelled together to many hunt tests, bird hunts and training sessions. We shared a tent, hunting club bunks and motel beds. He earned his AKC Master title, UKC Hunting Retriever Champion and NAHRA Working Retriever. By my reckoning he clocked 75,000 miles with me in the Jeep.
When Marilyn and I decided to follow our daughter and her family to Georgia we found 33 acres of mostly rolling pasture with a small lake; ideal training grounds. We closed on the property at the end of August, 2017.
Just two weeks later Gage was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma in his right anal gland. Even though we found it early we were to learn that it had already metastasized. He underwent surgery and radiation treatment in California and started chemo when we got to Georgia. The oncologists told me that though they could not extend his life, the quality would be better than otherwise. For four months he got to enjoy the property. He trained almost daily. We even entered an HRC Upland test. He had a great time flushing and retrieving Chukar Partridge.
Around late March he started to show signs that the cancer was affecting him. He would still run to a mark but now he would walk back. On Thursday, April 19th he developed edema in his right leg. His lymph system was breaking down. By Monday evening it was obvious he was in extreme pain. We knew it was time. I arranged to get him to the vet for euthanasia the next morning.
Monday night was the second vigil. I lay on the floor next to his bed and tried to comfort him all night through the pain. He passed on his bed in his kennel in the Jeep.
I love you buddy. Rest in peace. HRCH WR Bodie’s 12 Gauge Magnum MH