Besides being a cookie thief and a butter stealer, Shade's primary job is being a hunting dog. Now, seeing as we live smack in the middle of suburbia, you can imagine that his hunting forays are few and far between. But come October, when the air gets chilly and the leaves start turning, Shade starts to get the itch to hunt (or is that Jeff?). Specifically, he's a bird dog. His job is to hunt out and "flush" the birds from their hiding spots, whereupon they fly up in panicked calamity only to be shot down by Jeff (however, since he's a lousy shot, most of them are perfectly safe! haha sorry Jeff!). Oh, and to be exact, I should mention that the birds in question are pheasant. And you apparently can only shoot the males. And only two of them. So, basically Jeff and Shade walk around grassy, wet fields for several hours for the chance to shoot two smallish birds that we end up eating (and kudos to the lucky one who finds a bit of shot in their bite!). We actually have to sort of pass it off as chicken and tell the kids after that it was pheasant, otherwise we'd hear way too much "eww" to serve this delicacy. Now, I'm not much for hunting. I didn't grow up with anyone in my family hunting and I just can't imagine putting an arrow into a sweet, innocent deer. But I have accepted (as we all do in marriage) this "difference" in my husband and his desire to keep the tradition alive. I even let my son join him on a hunting trip last year. Harrison wore his own hunter orange vest and hat and carried his cap gun. After Jeff had shot down a pheasant, Harrison took his own "shot" with the cap gun and proclaimed it his "first kill". Yikes. But I digress. Back to Shade. This is a dog who was basically bred for hunting. And he loves it. He's not the finest bird dog one might find (sometimes he just plain misses those birds and he refuses to retrieve). But it's his purpose and perhaps the strongest bond he and Jeff have. After a long day of hunting yesterday, Jeff gave Shade a good washing (hunting makes for a dirty dog!), and he sauntered in the house, exhausted and happy (Shade, not Jeff.......actually Jeff too). But poor Shade. In his 11 (or is it 12?) years of existence, he's done this countless times, but he's getting old. There's no hiding it. His hips are arthritic, he sways when he walks, and sometimes he takes a bit longer than normal to get up from lying down. But most of the time you wouldn't know this is a dog who is basically the human equivalent of an 80 year old man. He gallops, never runs, and is as wild and frisky as a new puppy most days. He's full of energy and thinks he's a lap dog (he's huge!). And for all his naugtiness, he's Jeff's dog. That bond between a man and his dog is ever apparent. So, last night, Jeff said "what am I going to do when Shade is gone?" Surely his days are not long. He could barely climb the stairs last night after a few hours of hunting, and he even earned himself the right to sleep on the bed (a VERY rare occurence). He could barely heft himself up on the bed and when he did, he fell asleep immediately and slept through the night, snoring like the 80 year old man he is! In fact, he's still sleeping (so is Jeff). Poor old guy. Shade, not Jeff. So, even though this dog has done enough bad things to last a lifetime, he's still loved. And he's Jeff's dog. As soon as he sees a shotgun or the color orange, that dog is ready to jump in the van and go. And he will probably go like that till the day he dies. Which, hopefully, won't be soon. Because Jeff still needs his dog.