Four and a half years ago, my oldest son and I each bought a pup from a litter of English setters in Cunningham, Kan. They were brothers; I named mine Drifter because of his tendency to run big while out in the field, and my son, Lance, named his Tripper because as a pup he always seemed to be underfoot in their household.
But the year 2007 has been a bad year for the dogs and subsequently their owners. Hunting in late January last year, Drifter came up lame in his right foreleg and, despite putting him in a cast for six weeks ad trying to protect his leg, he still seemed to be damaged. After X-rays and consultation, it was determined that he had torn the ligaments in his right foreleg, and the only remedy was to fuse the joint or hunt him very sparingly. The few times we have been out this year involved a series of wraps, a tape job, and administering an analgesic pill to help him make it a few hours in the field. Just as he moved into his prime hunting years, Drifter now resembles Larry Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs with a cracked foot and unable to go full speed.
During Christmas break, my son and his family went out west to spend some time with the in-laws. He was hunting near Montezuma, Kan., along with his oldest son. The day was foggy and somehow the white setter ended up on a highway and was struck by a passing car. I received this totally disheartening call telling me that Tripper didn't survive the collision and my son saying, "I guess I'll have to bury another dog."
When the New Year of 2007 started out, both of us had good dogs that had lots of years of promise but, at the end, we had one at half speed and the other one gone due to an accident. My son has already called the Cunningham kennel owner in hopes of getting a pup out of a litter in the next month or so. Both of us are hoping 2008 is not so hard on our canine companions.