It’s Just A Dog!
By The Ole Hedge Creeper.
It is with the heaviest of hearts I find myself writing this small tribute to the best friend I could have ever had, this is one reason why I have not written a single article over the last couple of months.
After a long battle with cancer, my best mate and constant hunting companion Brook, lost her last battle to that terrible disease, just the thought of my girl set me off in floods of tears, let alone looking at the thousands of pictures videos and memories made with one of the best dogs that ever owned me, that’s right you read that correctly she owned me not the other way around…
I have tears rolling down my face right now writing this and remembering, although I am still very active out in the hunting field at the moment it just does not have the same feel too it, I miss my girl more than words or pictures could say, there is one light Brook left behind for me and that’s to train Dad’s young springer spaniel Tess.
I find myself more patient now days more mellow I suppose in the training of this young dog, Brook I hardly had to train as she had 6 generations of her family to guide her and we will get to that later in this tribute to Brook.
IT’S JUST A DOG are the words I have heard from several people over the last few months when they ask why I look so sombre, I think the fire in my eyes and that I no longer bother with those people or even acknowledge them gave them my answer to IT’S JUST A DOG, so I will go some way to explain how I feel about all my animals not just my Dog’s but Ferrets too, you see for me they are family first every bit as much as my own children, working partners second, so when they say IT’S JUST A DOG they may as well say IT’S JUST A CHILD for my heart knows no difference.
The day I buried Brook on that wet windy November Tuesday my heart broke, high on that Somerset hill she is buried with her ancestors overlooking the valley she hunted so well, they can all watch us hunt and some times I shoot that little wooded out crop to remember them, I put her headstone in position and fired some shots over her.
I often look out to the hill when feeding my birds on the shoot and smile with a tear in my eye, not just remembering Brook but also her family, Hollie (grandmother) Kira (mother) Bracken (Father) Bailey(aunty) and Gyp the crazy lakeland terrier, all who have owned my heart and worked so hard together as a family and hunting pack, So when you people said to me IT’S JUST A DOG you have no idea what my animals mean to me.
Lady Brook Of Birdcombe was born in the spring of 2008, Lady Kira of Birdcombe was her mother and Big Bad Captain Bracken of Birdcombe was her father, Lady Hollie of Birdcombe was her grandmother and the first Labrador that I ever had in my kennels, she was a mighty fine dog too and taught her grand daughter well before she left me several years ago.
Brook was born dead and the runt of the litter, someone who will remain nameless said its dead and a runt don’t bother with it, again the fire in my eyes gave them their answer, I worked on her for half an hour keeping her warm under my arm breathing up her nose and massaging here, she gave a squeak and came round.
I have never lost a pup yet I said and I am not going to start now without a fight to save her, that little runt with the heart of a lion came on stronger and stronger by the day, she was the shortest legged Labrador I had ever seen, she used to fight her way in to a teat right under the bigger stronger pups, I said right from the start that’s the one I am keeping she is a fighter that little runt with the heart of a lion.
The weeks ticked on and at about 6 weeks old the pups would get free run of my garden to play and stretch their legs etc, mush to Kira’s annoyance as she tried to keep them herded up, all the pups would ruff and tumble and play, but Brook was always more serious even at that age.
She would play for a short while get the better of a bigger litter mate then come and sit by my heel, something she never grew out of where ever I went she was by my side, I used to go off hunting with Bracken/Hollie & Baily but not Brook she was too young.
Brook would sit by the kennel gate for hours waiting for us to come back even as a small puppy, so when all her litter mates went at 8 weeks old she was eased into the pack, Bracken was very patient with her constantly hanging off his tail it was a bit like watching the lion King when Simba wanted his Dad to show him the whole kingdom, he used to climb up on top of my patio table to get away from her.
Ole Hollie just mothered her to bits as always she was such a brilliant dog, Kira and Baily always tried to avoid her constant playing as they were a bit grumpy and lazy at times and just liked chilling out under the apple tree unless we were going out hunting that was.
As time went on and she got bigger still sitting by the kennel door waiting for us to come back from being out in the field, I decided to take her along with us to just sit in the hide on a lead and watch her parents etc do their work of retrieving the shot pigeons, you know right from the start she sat there quiet as mouse copying her parents.
I remember ole bracken looking down at her with that grand look he used to give, then looking up at me I swear with a wink saying hey boss that’s my kid, I have so many wonderful pictures of them all over the years, alas Brook was the last of her line.
I got divorced by the time she was a year old, that you can read about in my second book, but just to say all the dogs died off over the years and I just could not breed from Brook as we were living back with my parents now and just did not have the room for more dogs or even a litter of pups, I only ever bred a litter to keep a pup so by the time I could have had a litter Brook was too old, such a shame in many ways as she would of made a wonderful mother and she would of left me a working partner too.
Looking back through the thousands of pictures I have and memories I just don’t know where to start with the stories of this amazing little runt of the litter with the heart and soul of a lion, in fact when I announced on social media Brook had passed away, I had hundreds of messages and notifications from all the folks that we had worked with, clients who we have coached and Brook had retrieved for, Brook was one of the most written About/Photographed and best loved dogs on the planet, I had forgotten exactly how vast the work Brook and I had done together, condolences and stories still coming in to this day, the latest being only 2 months before she died.
We had clients out pigeon shooting in Shropshire, Brook was helping clear up as he always did, She learnt this from her Grand Mother Hollie, basically Brooks job that she had in her head was she had to collect all the dead birds and put them in a pile by the hide, whilst we collected all the decoys and took the hide down, nothing in the world would stop her that was her job, I telle I miss her now just for that alone.
Now after feeling she had done her bit she would sit by the pile to protect it from any thieves that would try and steal her bounty, the only thing that would draw her away from her pile of dead birds was food, typical Labrador I hear you say, the lady client we had out shooting had some doughnuts in her bag by the hide, now Brooks keen nose soon sniffed those out and you know what happened next, Brook though it was her duty to relieve her of said doughnuts as a payment for all her hard work, much the laughter of the ladies husband, the lady had great pleasure in telling me the full story on face book, I smiled and had a tear at the same time, that little dog really had a sense of humour oh the stories I could tell you.
For me she was my mate, my baby girl, I now find myself all alone with out a constant companion, I may get another dog in the futer but for now Dad’s young Tess has some big working boots to fill.
This year Brook had a major operation and I though she had bounced back to a full recovery alas it only gave me a few extra months, I will tell you of 2 retrieves she did 1 before her operation and 1 this season, its late January dad and I are out Rough Shooting then we went wildfowling, Dad flushed a sword of duck from a ditch, he dropped a fine green head in the long grass on the meadow.
Tess was first on the scene she was all round where it had dropped, by the time I got there across the far field the duck was lost, Brook perused the area the young dog going round in circles adamant the duck was there, Brook had that look in her eye and was off leaving the young dog standing, she made a perfect line for the ditch into the water and followed a scent trail to a hole in the bank, Dad taking the micky ahhh she is after a rat or something, I knew my dog and knew to trust her, he dug for 45 mins and pulled out a winged green head mallard.
Now that’s a testament to how brilliant she was at her job and why we made such a great team, also remember this was only 1 week before a major operation, that dogs determination and true grit along with experience proved to me she really was the very best, as I told Dad you have to learn to listen to what your dogs telling you, alas I think that fell on deaf ears, for I am trying to train dad and his springer, I think I will just stick to training the dog.
The Next retrieve was just one month before she died, funnily enough it was on the same farm as the other retrieve, I decided to take Brook and Tess out for a stretch of the legs, I was not there to really shoot more to train the young dog and give Brook a bit of fresh air, we had just cut the maize crop the day before and there were maize cobs everywhere.
I took the ole single barrelled 10 bore out for a walk loaded with double magnum bismuth’s just in case a skein of geese flew over, Brook was happy picking up the cobs and eating them like sweet corn, she found a really big full one and carried it with us, I spotted an old green head mallard in a ditch and thought this would make a nice flush for the young dog, I cocked the hammer back on the 10 bore thinking why not I could just eat some pan seared duck breast for tea, Tess flushed the drake from my left to my right about 35 yards out.
I swung through pulled the trigger got blinded from all the gun powder smoke and almost cork screwed from the re coil into the ground, the duck dropped stone dead onto the far bank, Tess jumped the ditch and just stood there looking at it, this was her first time seeing a dead duck let alone trying to retrieve it, Brook just looked at me as if to say go get it yourself I got my cob I am carrying, I sent Brook much to her disgust, you know she crossed the water climbed the ditch and gave the young dog a very disgusted look, she put her maize cob down next to the the duck retrieved it to hand and went back for her cob.
I just started laughing I told you that dog had a sense of humour, she came back and gave me a look as if to say you shoot any more and I am going back to the car with my maize cob, I so miss that little dog I could tell you tales all day about brilliant flushed and amazing retrieves, eye wiping dogs that were supposed to be field trial champions and being offered thousands for her by other hunters after they knew her pedigree, like I told one fellow who offered me double figures for her, Pal you don’t have enough money in the world for me to consider selling her, that would be like selling one of my own children.
I hope you have enjoyed hearing just a little about Lady Brook Of Birdcombe my amazing little runt of the litter with the Lion Heart, Brook slipped away in the early hours of a Tuesday morning in November of 2018, she has left a legacy behind that in my eyes will never be forgotten, as have all the other dogs that have owned me, I know they all wait for me over the Rainbow Bridge waiting for me come on, so all that’s left to say if you are of the opinion my or your dog, IT’S JUST A DOG then I don’t need you in my life, for you are not my sort of person.
IT’S JUST A DOG!
A Tribute to Lady Brook Of Birdcome.
By The Ole Hedge Creeper.