by John Jeanneney
My old German tracking dog Joeri (pronounced Yori) and I are winding down from our tracking careers. For me that career lasted 40 years. Dogs, even if they are of German origin, aren't as fortunate.
Having to finally retire, when you are a dedicated and passionate tracker, is not easy. Here are the ways that Joeri and I handled the transition.
First, let me write about Joeri, who understands well that the bond between tracking dog and handler endures, even when adventures in the woods are over. Joeri is beside my chair as I write this. If I go to another room, the bathroom, for example, he follows. He sleeps with me on my bed.
Joeri has several big rawhide chew bones, which he leaves around the house. But it is an old, dry deer leg, hair, hoofs and all, which he carries with him everywhere in the house. This is not for chewing, but it is a souvenir of the best years of his life that he will not forget.
In parallel with Joeri I have my own souvenirs. On my desk are my "trophy antlers” that a little, six point buck knocked off against my jaw and chest as he charged me near the end of the track. The buck "cold conked" me and gored Sabina, my tracking dog. With a deep gash in her flank, Sabina was licking my face as I came to and opened my eyes after the blow. We kept on tracking.
Still fresh in my memory are the two cases where hunters teared up with joy when I found their deer. My tracking dog and I shared the hunters' emotions.
I still dream of tracking, but I shuffle through the woods and realize that I am no longer capable of taking a real live call. I feel useless, and all I can do is answer the telephone and dispatch calls to other trackers Some of them use another of my dogs, Tommy, whom I trained and tracked with up until my final good year at age 80.
Getting old is not easy; Joeri and I comfort one another.
|Joeri sunbathing in John's office, next to his deer leg.|