By: Erin Davis, Wildrose Kennels – Great Lakes
FTCh Silversnipe Legend, better known as Luke, was an accomplished British Field Trial Champion who was imported from Scotland in 2011. He successfully sired puppies internationally and was a primary participant in “Wildrose on the Road” demonstrations across the United States.
Luke retired from the breeding and joined my family in 2015. His new life in Indiana was less than retirement and more of a career change. In his new job he functioned as my training assistant by setting a fabulous example of a true Gentleman’s (or Gentlewoman’s) Gundog while backgrounding puppies and starting gundogs.
Since coming home with us, Luke’s kindness and patience never wavered. He always sat silently while waiting to be aired, allowing the little dogs to go first. He never hesitated about being crated between loud rowdy puppies and he greeted new training dogs with a welcoming stance and wagging tail. He remained a crowd favorite due to his exceptionally gentle nature and style. Our former neighbors had 6 young children who were found frequently knocking on our door asking us to “show me what Big Luke can do!” They loved to hide things in the yard and watch him flawlessly hunt and handle with precision.
With time Luke began to show some age. His face was greying with skin tags and small growth on his lower jaw, but his enthusiasm never wavered. As he began to run a little slower he still had no problem climbing in and out of his “prince and he pea” bed (kuranda bed with an orthopedic mattress and fluffy edges). He had slight cataracts, but his wise soul always shown through. In the last two seasons he only liked to duck hunt in warm water and upland hunt in cool air, but even at his age he was still the first one in the truck ready to hit the field. He loved to travel near or far, but his favorite place to go has always been Bass Pro Shops where they have a treat waiting for him. He loved working with our young dogs, except in the last year you may have found him occasionally rolling on his back in the lineup or snacking on a bit of grass. His hearing may have been fading, or perhaps just more selective, but his nose never wavered.
My favorite specific story about Luke is the unexpected role he was thrust in to last year.
Last August, my husband and I moved to my in-laws home after a quicker than expected sale on our home. We also brought along our 8 personal and training dogs. We quickly found a property that suited our needs with the pups, but the house was not exactly move-in-ready. Little did we know our displacement was a blessing in disguise.
My father in law, Big John, was the typical “healthy” guy who worked in the steel mill his entire life. That all changed when he was unexpectedly diagnosed with congestive heart failure and renal failure last summer. After 10 days in the hospital he was left with a whole new lifestyle. Diet changes and a fluid restriction meant his beloved Miller Lite had to go. He acquired a treasure chest of medications and a full calendar of doctor appointments. He also had to wear an external defibrillator. The machine’s bulky size created a great deal of frustration paired with the fear of a potential shock looming. It also prevented him from driving- including his adored mustang and fancy zero turn mower. Big John’s body was weak. He was short of breath frequently and endurance was poor. Walking across the room was a challenge. But that grim picture had a slight glimmer of light in my dog Luke.
To nonchalantly encourage exercise, we asked Big John to help with the dogs and purposefully paired him with Luke. This became an informal cardiac rehabilitation program that started simply by sitting and holding Luke’s leash. Soon they migrated to the driveway and were soaking up the sun together. Their chosen seating arrangement in the driveway became Luke constantly trying to sit in Big John’s lap. That was until someone passed by the duo, prompting Big
John to pretend he’d been telling Luke to get down and Luke seemingly rolling his eyes at the situation.
Over time Luke became my father in law’s daily companion to the mailbox. In the following months, they pushed to the railroad tracks, the stop sign, and even the far stop sign. Every day Big John had to take the initiative to pick Luke up from his crate and walk. The alternative was Luke forcing him to go outside by relentlessly barking, at which point he figured they might as well take a walk. Regardless of how they got moving every day, before we knew it my father in law was strong enough for surgical implantation of a defibrillator/pacemaker. After that surgery, he never had a readmission to the hospital, spent a day in rehab or a nursing home, or relied on home health care.
It’s possible that my father in law would have made his recovery with medications and healthy diet. Perhaps living with an ER Nurse/Dog Trainer helped him too, but I truly believe Luke pushing him forward every day eased the burden of his illness and without a doubt improved his outcome. Luke will always hold a special place in Big John’s heart….which is now much healthier.
Heaven gained an angel on July 5th, 2017. Luke peacefully passed away at home in our arms and surrounded by love. Though he is missed, the impact he had on our life has been profound to which we are forever grateful.
“Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog,” Sidney Jeanne Seward