by Chris Thenhaus

The man reached down and gently, carefully picked up the young puppy. Looking at her small frame, the man knew this female pup was the one. Her deep blue puppy eyes looked directly into the man’s eyes as he whispered, “You’re the one I have been needing. I’ll call you Roxi.”

This man, a waterfowl hunter for 35 years, has hunted with Chesapeake Bay retrievers, owning three fine dogs in the past… but there was something about this pup. Something words couldn’t explain.

The travel home did not seem as long as it took to meet the breeder and pick out his new hunting companion, who now slept on the truck’s passenger seat. The man turned on the radio to relieve the boredom and started to sing along. He soon found out his new hunting partner did not like the off-key singing as the pup howled: another trait of this puppy that showed intelligence.

Arriving home, the man quickly lost the control of his new partner as the man’s daughter scurried in and whisked away the pup to show to all of her friends. This gave the man time to get the pup’s new home ready. Time went by quick, the pup grew fast, and soon was a formidable figure of true Chesapeake Bay retriever build and traits.

Retrieves were easy for this pup, and the man had to challenge himself to keep this hunting machine entertained. Photos were taken at some of the best times; bounding leaps into the water to chase down that duck not quite ready to give up to the hunters were captured. Diving underwater to find the goose or duck that thought this would outsmart the canine only to find itself being held firmly in the big brown dog’s mouth and then delivered to the man proudly waiting. Yes, the pictures were plentiful as the hunting season came and went.

This was not limited to hunting, far from it. The man trained the Chesapeake to allow friends to arrive without fear of meanness toward them, yet the young dog showed them a watchful eye, as a good girl she was. Yes, the true traits of a well-trained Chesapeake Bay retriever, protective yet not overly protective. As well as steady to command, endless drive to succeed, and a show of knowing what her main focus was to be: hunting.

If this Chessie was in a room asleep and the man tried to leave, she would wake up and study the man, (Did he have hunting clothes on? Did he have a shotgun with him? Did he have training toys?) If not, she’d rest back down. Unless the man wanted her to go for a ride.

The young dog also developed a habit of “grinning” when happy or excited. A habit not understood by those not in regular attendance of the young pup. Comical stories were shared as the years passed from those hunting pals who thought they were about to become a dog treat when in fact, “she was just glad to see you”

The hunting stories became more plentiful over time, hunting with different groups seeing different dogs with the hunt and having careless moments turn comical. Only by the big brown dog saving the adventure were these stories able to be retold by the man and his friends….

The man reached down and gently helped the old dog up from the snow. She had gone out to relieve herself but was having trouble standing up. The man carried in from the outdoor cold his companion and laid her on her dog bed.

The man had called his son and daughter the night before to say if Roxi made it through the night, he’d be surprised.

It was early morning the next day when the man awoke to sounds. Not the normal sounds she would make while staying inside, laying next to the man’s bed as she had over the last few years.

The man knew a phone call was needed.  A call he didn’t want to make.

The old dog laid on the passenger seat of the truck with her head on the man’s lap. The man carried into the veterinarian office his hunting friend and began to talk softly to Roxi.

Roxi’s golden eyes looked directly into the man’s eyes. The man whispered, “You were the one I was needing.”

The doctor was very kind and understanding to the man for they had known each other a long time. Minutes past slowly, and soon the man was able to leave his friend and walk to his truck.

The man turned on the radio, but wasn’t able to understand what was being sung.

The man said to himself, I think they were off-key. So he  turned off the radio and began to cry.

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