An Old Dog’s Last Grouse Retrieve

By Sam Cook on Oct 14, 2017 Duluth News Tribune


Ruffed grouse (Duluth News Tribune file photo)

Phil Johnson was up near his hunting shack northwest of Island Lake one day when he came across an older man sitting in his pickup along the road.

Johnson, of Esko, is an amiable guy. He stopped to say hello. The man in the truck had been hunting, too, he told Johnson.

Johnson noticed an old black Lab lying on the seat beside the man. It had been his son’s dog, the man told Johnson, but his son had moved away and — well, the old man had ended up with Ranger.

“The guy started crying,” Johnson said, recalling the conversation.

The old man in the truck explained that this was Ranger’s last hunt. He was going to have to have the him put to sleep, but he had wanted to bring Ranger out for one more day in the woods.

Ranger couldn’t hunt anymore, though. All he could do was ride alongside the old man on the seat.

Johnson kept listening. The old man kept talking.

“I shot this grouse,” the man told Johnson. “So, I came back to the truck and got Ranger. I carried him out to where the bird was. I let him pick up the bird. Then I carried him holding the bird back to the truck.”

By this time, the man in the truck wasn’t the only one crying, Johnson said.

“Here we were, two old guys who don’t even know each other, both crying in the middle of the road,” he said.

Some days, it isn’t about the birds.
— Sam Cook


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