I had to let a little friend go today, Maryland Zag or just Zag to us that knew her.
I didnít buy her, I earned her, she came to me as a 10 week old liver and white English springer spaniel pup, she had a little sister called Zig they were named after two kids TV program characters of the time. When Zag arrived she was with another EES pup of the same age called Jill, my remit was to bring them both on until they were 6 months old and Steve the owner was going to pick the best one of the two for Field trailing, and I got to keep the other pup as payment.
While both dogs had there good points Jill did have that bit more flare that you would look for in a trailing dog, I gave Steve my honest opinion and after watching them both he agreed, Jill was the better FT dog.
So I got to keep Zag, I was happy as I knew she would make a better shooting dog that Jill. Her training when well she would quarter in tight patterns and would never pull too far in front, she always wanted to please and the only correction she needed was a hash word from me. If anybody came round the house and she was in her kennel you would have thought I had a rabid rottweiler in there but once out she was so soft she would lay at your feet. She had this habit of grinning at you, which could look like she was showing her teeth but she wasnít, she was such a soft dog.
She was a bit gun nervous at first but once she realised that there was the likelihood of a retrieve on the report of the shotgun she was over this. She became my main beating and shotgunning dog. I had other Springers at that time including one out of the twice British Champion, but Zag was the better dog despite her pedigree not being as good. My other main ESS was a better dog if you used the trailing standard as a judge of your dogs. But Zag was a much more relaxing dog to shoot over you could trust her and she was 100% steady. I remember shooting driven pheasants with her one day standing on my peg we had pheasant rain down around me some landing only 1ft away from her yet she never moved until told to. I was complemented on my dog many times.
When I breed from her she turned out to be a first rate mother looking after her pups fantastically. When I got my GWP pup she mothered that from the start and I had to put them into separate kennels as the pup was looking to Zag for emotional support when I start training her. My ESS dog got a wound on itís shoulder while I left him with my father for a week, I picked him up on the Saturday and had a look,it was infected and I thought looks like a vet trip first thing Monday morning, but come Monday morning it looked a lot better and I couldnít figure out why. Then the following day I saw Zag licking the wound for him. She idolised her kennel mate Chadd the ESS dog. The GWP used to bully her latter on when she was older and she put up with a lot but would growl when the GWP pushed things too far.
I did try her as a deer dog, but that was not for her, she did not like the crack of the rifle and cost me a big doe first time out with her but forgiving her was no problem, the other Springer took to tracking deer like a duck to water.
For the last couple of years she had become a house dog, my young nephews and nieces loved to pet her and walk her, she would follow the wife around getting under her feet and come nosing up to her for fuss. She loved to go out in the car and would jump in, in a flash even if you werenít taking her out. She would pick up my work gloves in the garden and take them to her favourite place under a bush, then chew them up, I guess she liked my scent on them.
Earlier this year she got tumours in her mammary glands and we had her operated on and she seemed fine for a 13 year old dog. I went on holiday to New Zealand for 2 weeks and when I came back I thought she had aged, but as the weeks pasted I knew some thing was wrong, I watched the new litter of GWP pups get bigger and stronger and her get weaker. 3 weeks were spent going back and to the vets as he tried to find out what the cause was but it was in vain. I went to the Midland Game Fair on Friday I returned Monday and the wife said she had not eaten since the Friday and had not moved off her bed for two days, she would not drink, barely able to lift her head, when lifted she would yelp in pain which was not like her.
Having her put to sleep was one of the hardest things I have had to do; I have buried humans and it hurt less in truth.
I look at the 8 weeks old GWP pups and think did she leave this world to make way for them, it would be the selfless type of thing she would do.
The circle of life continues.
She now lays under the apple tree in the garden.
Fair well and rest in peace my little friend.