An Outdoorsman’s Journal: Eleven Christmas Trees

An Outdoorsman's Journal

Mark Walters, Contributor

Follow along each week on the adventures of Mark Walters, a syndicated outdoor adventure columnist who lives in Necedah, Wisconsin. He began writing his column, An Outdoorsman’s Journal, in 1989. It includes hunting, fishing, lots of canoeing and backpacking. He currently writes for around 60 newspapers on a weekly basis. He hopes you enjoy reading about his adventures!

Hello friends,

This week I have some tough news to write about and here is how I am going to do it.

Back in the early winter of 2010 Selina was nine years old and I was a single parent. At the time we had Ice who was a seven-year-old golden retriever and the fifth generation of a bloodline that I had started when I was 19.

I was well aware that if I was going to keep my line going which was a hardy breed of golden retrievers that loved to hunt, pull a sled, and had no problem sleeping outside that I was going to have to find a future mate for Ice.

I did my research and found what would become Fire and gave her to Selina on Christmas morning of 2010 and that was probably the best Christmas of my life.

Fire and Ice would soon become best friends and Fire was truly the mellowest, lady like pup that I have ever known

The following summer Ice became ill and after about a 30-day battle passed away due to Anaplasmosis which is commonly known as the leukemia of Lyme’s disease. Ice was incredible, he was beautiful a 100-percent gentlemen and man could that dog hunt.

Here is the story behind the story and people that were reading this column back then might remember. Fire went into a major depression, to put it simply, all Selina’s 8-month-old pup would do is sleep, she would not fetch, and her training came to a halt.

I received a call from a man that would become a very good friend to Fire, myself, and Selina and that was Rod Bensley who owns and operates Rooster’s Run pheasant preserve out of Fox Lake.

Rod was reading about Fire in The Daily Citizen out of Beaver Dam and he had some ideas, thus our relationship would begin, and I would come home with 8 pigeons which was the start of my present flock, long story short, Rod really helped in a tough situation.

Fire was the most casual dog I have ever known, she never demanded attention, rarely barked always let other dogs eat first, was very private about her bathroom habits, and generally slept while duck hunting.

One example of a great hunting memory that I had with Fire during a 7-day trapping, camping, and duck hunting trip. I had just enough daylight for a quick duck hunt after a great day of checking traps out of my canoe.

As usual Fire was sleeping, and a pair of gadwalls flew over and I sailed both of them and both had landed out of sight on the other side of some wild rice. When Fire emerged from the rice with the first one in her mouth, I was amazed. I told her to go get the other and a half hour later she came back with it. That was the story her entire hunting life.

Selina and Fire were extremely close, and Fire even gave birth to her first pup in Selina’s bed with Selina in bed and we immediately moved Fire to her nest box where in the end she ended up with five males and five females.

On her last litter she gave birth to Ruby who is the product of a great mother and her father was a top-level field trial dog. Ruby became Fire’s life and these two generally were not more than 20-yards apart.

When Ruby gave birth to her litter, Fire would get right in the nest box which is in our living room and clean the babies.

This fall was Fires 10th hunting season and she was strong as a bull. I knew I should not take her good health for granted and did some special trips just with her. The last day that I duck hunted with Fire was November 11th. I limited out and Fire loved every minute of that beautiful day on the Mississippi River near Ferryville and I took a great picture of her final retrieve.

When Selina and I came back from deer camp on the last day of the season Fire was not well and thus began 55-days of pure highs and lows. Naturally a veterinarian was a part of this process but what was tough is that for a week she would seem as healthy as a horse and then for two days all she could do was sleep.

Last week she lost the use of her hind legs, but she was happy and coherent. I was taught how to take her outside by using a pair of pants around her belly and she would pull me like a sled dog.    

In all honesty I have been very bummed out since November 30th but always had hope.

Two days before she died, she began telling Selina and I that it was time to go and I made the difficult call.

An incredible era of our lives has passed, a young girl had an excellent middle school and high school career and now college and great dog has left us. Rest in Peace Fire! 


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