In 2003 Hunter came into my life. He was in Michigan, a resident of a rescue organization who’d managed to snag him as he was about to be gassed. I was in Nova Scotia, looking desperately for a German Shorthaired Pointer, and drawn to the internet as a last resort. Hunter travelled via a train of volunteer drivers from Michigan to Sackville, Nova Scotia, where we met his last driver in the Kent Bulding Supplies parking lot and saw him for the first time.
We brought Gryphon with us that night, figuring it would be better to introduce them where neither had any concept of territory. Our precautions were unnecessary; Hunter immediately climbed in the back seat, snuggled up next to Gryph and fell asleep. There was no doubt it was meant to be.
As a former puppy mill stud, Hunter came with some neuroses. He loved people, but was scared of young kids ( high pitched noises sent him running to hide under tables and desks). When kids came into his life later on he finally started to deal with that fear. He didn’t appreciate any dog that decided to play with his best friend Gryphon, and would pick a fight if he felt his friendship was threatened. Our vet prescribed Prozac for him during one period when high winds hollering through our old house would send him into anxious fits, resulting in destroyed furniture.
Hunter had other oddities, too. He lived with us for over 3 years before he ever issued a bark. Once he learned, though, he was gleefully vociferous. For a bird dog he was surprisingly afraid of the water. When we encountered a lake on a mountain bike trail Gryphon would be in the water long before we got to the spot. We’d roll up to find Hunter pacing frantically along the shoreline whining like crazy and dipping his feet in before springing back to dry ground. It wasn’t until he slipped off a wet ledge and fell in one day that he finally started to paddle around and discovered how much he loved it. Subsequent trips to bodies of water saw Hunter in over his head sometimes even before Gryphon, swimming in circles and snapping the flowers off patches of lilypads whenever he could find them.
Hunter was an incredible mountain bike companion. He was built like a racehorse, and he rarely stuck to the trail. I always wondered how something could move so fast through the woods without losing an eye, but he was the definition of agile. He never disappeared for long, though. He would run ahead, and then pop out of the woods to check up on us before ducking back into the brush and emerging again moments later. Whenever the was a junction on the trail he would wait to ensure we all went in the same direction. Like us, he was obviously at his happiest running through the woods, and at times when he did end up walking at the end of a leash it became blatantly apparent that Hunter did not know how to walk. He paced, even on leash, no matter how slowly we went.
I believe that it’s because of Hunter I emerged unscathed from a much-too-close encounter with a black bear on a Spider Lake trail in Dartmouth. Coming down a steep hill on my mountain bike I slammed on the brakes as a smallish bear wandered across the trail in front of me and stopped. I went flying over the bars, landing in a heap about 3 feet from the stinky, snorffling bear. As my panicked brain scrambled through options, trying to remember if I should play dead or run, Hunter came tearing through the woods barking his fool head off. I was sure the bear would attack him, but it turned tail and ran with Hunter in hot pursuit. Just when I was convinced I’d never see Hunter again, he came crashing back, tail nub wagging like crazy. He got extra treats that day and If I ever went mountain biking without him again it certainly wasn’t by choice.
Hunter was starting to slow down when we moved to Tremont. His face was turning white, and his hips were starting to drag a little. We’d had a malignant tumour removed below his eye about a year before we moved and the vet said it would return, but he likely wouldn’t live long enough to have the second one removed. We figured Hunter would leave us shortly after our move, but Gryphon was the first to go, while Hunter seemingly found a new will to live in his spacious farm environment. We’ve watched him gradually go down hill for the past year and a half, the muscle mass in his hips shrinking and his legs slowly caving in underneath him. We’ve helped him when he needed a little extra support on walks, and we’ve done what we could to give him reasons to keep on going. Even in his last few days it was obvious that Hunter didn’t want to miss a thing, although we knew he was dying, he was clearly determined to fight it until he took his very last breath.
As energetic as he was, Hunte also loved to curl up next to us on the couch and just cuddle. I’ve never seen an animal extract so much enjoyment from every waking moment, it was obvious that he appreciated being rescued as much as we appreciated him. It’s hard to believe that he’s gone, but I know that he had a full and long life, and he died peacefully soaking up heat from the woodstove. 15 (or maybe 16) years is no small feat for a German Shorthaired Pointer, and especially a big one like Hunter. I’d always hoped that when his time came he’d just drop dead on the trail, and while it didn’t work out that way, this was not a bad substitute.