Jessie is now 32 months old and a mature labrador personality is emerging. She knows her daily routines very well, starting with some wild prancing as she fetches my hiking shoes from the laundry room when I first come down from the upstairs bedroom in the morning. Sun, rain, sleet or snow, before breakfast we venture up the steep path immediately behind my house for our daily walk and her exercise workout with a fetching dummy that I have stashed part way up the hillside. Knox Mountain is criss crossed with hiking trails but we generally stick to the same routine, a walk that takes about 75 minutes to complete. I no longer carry a leash as Jessie now minds very well. She will not chase the occasional mule deer that we encounter and she will heel on command if a mountain biker happens to go by, otherwise she is free to sort out the miriad of smells that she delights in checking along the way. The retrieving portion on the return of our walk takes about 15 minutes on a very steep part of the hillside. Jessie never tires of this game even though she pants heavily when we are finished. I try to throw the dummy where she cannot see it but she is hard to trick and usually goes directly to the landing place. However, she will look at me for hand signals if she cannot find the scent of the dummy after a short search. Upon arriving back home, she brings the newspaper up our driveway, then into the mudroom for a drink of water and finally outside again for a hose down of water if her feet are dirty, then a towel off and a vigorous brushing in a vain attempt to keep her hair out of the house! Next to the daily retrieving exercise, her favorite activities are swimming in Okanagan Lake and riding everywhere in the front seat of my pickup truck. Sure, there is hair on the floor boards and often dirt on the towel covering the seat but that is a small price to pay for her unwavering devotion.
October of 1999 saw a period of terrific weather throughout Western Canada. This year, my friend Al Kouritzin and I left the Okanagan in bright sunshine on October 17 for what has become an annual fall trip to Brooks, Alberta. Al's Brittany spaniel, Danny, now 2 years old, has become a virtual hunting machine, eager to work the thickest cover for hours on end. Jessie on the other hand, is fairly laid back, ready for the task at hand but also quick to conserve her energy when the challenge is not apparant. For example, if there isn't fresh pheasant scent in closely matted rose scrub or thick cattails, she will happily find an easier path around the heavy going unless I choose to thrash through it myself! Nevertheless, we found our share of pheasants and sharptails in that great Alberta countryside without too much difficulty as the following pictures of Jessie's retrieves will attest!
Jessie continues in her development and at 4 years, 8 months, has become an excellent hunting dog. In October, 2001, she found a limit of pheasants every day, pointing rather than flushing birds when they are in thick cover. Daily exercise ensures that she is well muscled and in great shape for outdoor activities. Of course, at home, she is an overly pampered pet!
As of December 2006, Jessie at almost 10 years old is still a healthy animal although she is showing a few small signs of advancing age! An example is that she no longer frequently bounds through our house at every hint of people movement! But she is always there at the front door to enthusiastically greet a visitor, especially someone that she knows! My friend, Al Kouritzin, together with his Brit Danny, again had a wonderful trip this past October to Brooks, Alberta. We hunt pheasants, not for any inner need, but rather for the pure joy of seeing our dogs work their magic in those golden Alberta fields! Jessie, for the ninth year in a row, made some marvellous finds and retrieves, one of which is shown on the right. The morning of October 18, 2006, was a crisp, sunny but about minus six degrees C at daybreak! As luck would have it, I dropped a beautiful rooster across a deep ice covered canal about 20 feet wide into the thick bull rushes beyond, the last pheasant before we were to leave! Jessie marked where the bird fell but the ice was too thick for her to swim against it so she had to break it by lunging up to make any progress at all. It took many minutes for her to fight across the ice, then a hard search on the other side to find the rooster. She then wanted to circle back through the rushes were the ice was thinner but the only way to me was the wide open ice covered channel! Finally, she choose a new path, about 15 feet away from where she first went across. She again could only move ahead by thrusting upward hard against the ice. Finally she made it back and very proudly gave me the pheasant. You know, I never was so proud of my dog as at that moment!
It is now December 2011 and I am very sad to report that Jessie passed away this past March at 14 years and one month old. She had a wonderful life and gave so much to so many! She did not overly suffer in her final days and I was with her holding her head when old age caused a final injection to be made. The deep pain of her passing did inspire me to write a book about her life, detailing the extraordinary talent that she possessed! Training tips are also given in this book that worked with Jessie and I know will help any dog owner to turn an ordinary dog into an exceptional animal! I self published this book and if you are interested in a copy, just give me an Email!
Do you want to see the previous articles about Jessie?
Jessie Part 1
Jessie Part 2
Jessie Part 3
Jessie Part 4
Your comments are welcome at "dhaaheim at telus dot net"