It all started with an invite from my friend and veterinarian, Dr. Bo Jackson, to attend a December dove hunt on his property south of Lakeland, Florida. As always, I was excited as dove hunting is one of my favorite activities and it would give me an opportunity to work Rock (SHR Salem Farmís Just Rock N Roll), my 16 month old Boykin. Little did I know that this hunt would be something special.
As I was preparing to go to the field with my father-in-law, Jerry Beckett, my eight year old daughter, Lily, asked if she could go. Could she go? Of course she could! I was ecstatic. I got Lily dressed in her best camouflage then we packed snacks and juice boxes in the cooler. Truly a first for me as far as dove field fare.
When we arrived, Bo had laid out a Persian rug bordered by tables with silver trays full of cheese, crackers and other assorted snacks. There were also silver candelabras to finish off the setting! Lily was truly getting an unique pre-dove shoot experience.
As Lily, Jerry, Rock and I walked into the field, I could feel the excitement building. Lily was very helpful in getting our dove stools set up and, of course, had a million questions about what was about to happen.
It didnít take long for her to get her answers. No sooner than we got set up under some scrubby little oaks the dove began to fly. The first bird was just a gift: 20-yards coming straight at us, first shot and he drops. I send Rock and he makes a good retrieve. Now she is really excited! For the next ywo hours dove after dove continued to fly by our little stand and give us many excellent shooting opportunities. Rock continued to make good retrieves and deliveries as Lily was into it. She was calling out birds, congratulating me on my good shots and letting me know when I missed. Lilyís grandfather was just up from us having a good shoot, as well.
"At some point during the hunt, things slowed down and I had a chance to think about how lucky I was to be sitting there with my daughter."
At some point during the hunt, things slowed down and I had a chance to think about how lucky I was to be sitting there with my daughter. I looked over my shoulder and there was my father-in-law, who is truly one of my best friends. I looked down and there was Rock. The thought dawned on me that this might be all his doing. You see five years ago I lost my lab, Sarge, at the age of thirteen. When he died, a lot of my passion for wing shooting died with him. I thought that I would never have another dog who I enjoyed that much, ever again. Enter Rock. He has become such a member of the family in just a year and a half that I canít remember what it was like without him. He reignited my interest in dog training and wing shooting all over again. We have become active in BSS and HRC events and travel the country in search of wingshooting opportunities.
But the most important thing Rock has done is give me an opportunity to share this passion with my daughter. What a gift! If Rock would not have come into our lives I doubt we would have been sitting on that dove field together.
As the hunt ended and we all gathered around the campfire to cook Italian sausage and hamburgers. I sat in a chair with Lily on my lap. To my right was my father-in-law and I was surrounded by friends. I thought how blessed I truly am. Itís the small moments that burn in your memory and stay forever. I have no doubt that memory was made possible by a little brown dog named Rock.