There’s a burnt-orange dog that sleeps in the monkey grass, near our home’s front doorstep.
Her name is Honey and she, like most golden retrievers, is sweet and loves people to a fault.
“Don’t let her jump up on ya and lick you to death,” I have to constantly warn visitors.
“But Dad, she just wants to dance,” he said.
So, fair warning, we have a golden at our house that likes to put her paws on you when she greets you. Now, you can dance if you want, but I step on her toes enough that she doesn’t dance with me. (If you do choose to dance, though, let her lead.)
I think she woulda been a top-notch retriever had her trainer not failed her. Her nose keen, no doubt. She can smell carry-out from a great distance and has found dead doves for me in the thickest of the thick.
Honey, has been run over twice (once by a truck AND trailer), that I know of, kicked pretty good by a cow or two, and hates being penned up so much she will chew through mesh-wire fence to get out. So, she is also a pretty tough character when its called for, despite her sweet nature and name.
She is a darn good hunter, too, often bringing neighboring quail, rabbits, moles, voles, etc. to hand, even though I didn’t ask for such.
Her primary job for the family, though, is to let us know if somebody arrives unexpected, be it stranger, polecat or coyote.
She doesn’t care much for deer, and with that in mind I let her blood-trail one my son shot on the youth hunt. The buck fell off into a very deep and log-loaded kudzu ditch, so rather than try to trail a deer in the jungle by myself, I went home to get Honey.
Well, what do you know? She’s a blood-trailer, too. In hind-sight leaving that long lead on her was not a good idea, and she told me as much when it became tangled around the buck’s small rack. And yes, there was a brief moment that I wondered whether the whitetail was going to carry my dog away. But Honey wore on the dying buck. As it turned out, both of the buck’s shoulders were ruined and when it bedded down, Honey bedded down with it.
I wanted to get a photo with my phone, but I didn’t dare get in photog range, or I might risk jumping the buck and sending them off to the races again. So I just watched the strange scene, both of ’em bedded down like cattle in pasture.
And Honey babysat it pretty good, too, well, in her way. She just lay there licking the dying buck on the nose and muttering her favorite recipe of tenderloin sautéed in a skillet with onions, peppers and red wine. (I guess like most of us, she does have a dark side, too…or at the least, a sick sense of humor.)
Well, we got that buck, and of course, I shared some venison with the dog. (She told me I shouldn’t cook with such cheap wine! But I did note Honey said it with a mouth full of venison.)
She has since gone on several other blood trails with dead deer waiting at the end, and a time or two she found only a bloody arrow. And true, on some of the trails, we already knew where the dead deer was. We took her just because we knew Honey likes to go along. (I mean what are friends for?) I suspect it also keeps her dead-deer retrieval/finding skills sharp as well.
One fall day, I told my buddy when we picked Honey up to take her on a fresh trail, that she was talking to us, and asked if he could hear her.
“No, what’s she saying?” he asked, since he obviously did not speak golden retriever.
“Oh, she wants to know what we have messed up and let nearly get away this time,” I laughed.
But really, a good blood trailer is always good to have around, especially if they can also hold down/stunt the monkey grass, fend off polecats and dance with the guests…
Taylor Wilson is an editor at Bill Dance Publishing. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.