A note from Lillian and Jim on this sad day.
Our hearts are broken today (Monday) as we have had to say goodbye to our beloved Lizzie, our adorable Springer Spaniel, on this sad, dark day. We pause to write this homage to her and to give thanks for all the joy she brought to our lives.
There are a couple of blogs at our house, so we thought we team up and share our thoughts today.
The moment Jim walked in the door of our Dunn County home on that July day 14½ years ago and placed that little black-and-white furball in my arms, my heart melted, and we forever had a very special bond.
Jim has always had a hunting dog and had decided that this time it would be a Springer Spaniel. He picked her up at a place near Pettibone, N.D., and carefully chose the runt of the litter, wanting a dog that would not be as prone to knocking over our little Rachel. I often said we should have named her “Pettibone” — what a perfect name for a dog, with Bone-y for short.
Breaking all the rules, she slept with the girls, taking turns between the two of them, and thus cemented her habit of jumping on the bed as soon as we weren’t looking during the day. We fondly called her “fat paws,” and she had the most lovely soft brown eyes. Our friend, Clay, called her the “best dog ever” and he was, of course, right.
Not long after we got her, she managed to get into rat poison in the neighbor’s Quonset and very nearly died. I kept her alive by sheer willpower, holding her on my lap for hours. She was down to skin and bones when she finally turned the corner. We took her on many Bad Lands hikes, and the most memorable was not long after this near-death, a 14-mile hike on the Long X Divide trail. Distracted as I already was by encouraging my teenager to muster on, I had to carry Lizzie the last few miles.
When we would let her outside one last time at night, the little scamp would run down the trail the one-half mile to the dump where the neighbor would put his dead cows and calves. Worried about our little pal being taken by coyotes, I would walk down the trail in the dark yelling for her. Here she would come, dragging a leg bone nearly as big as her. Here at Red Oak House she chased the rabbits and squirrels and the occasional stupid cat that wandered in.
A favorite memory is of Chelsea riding her horse across the prairie with her faithful little dog trailing along behind, her fuzzy ears bouncing. We used to say it looked like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. I took some comfort in knowing Lizzie was with Chelsea when they would head down the trail, and she stuck by her side during several misadventures.
We also took her on Little Missouri canoe trips, tucking her in between us, and she could be a real pain in the ass. “Wiggle butt,” Chelsea called her for good reason. Like all dogs, she loved to ride in the car, although it wasn’t long before she would start whimpering, eager to get to our destination and run. Whenever the car would rumble over a cattle guard, Lizzie would whine.
Jim took to calling her “Lizzie Underfoot” because she was often in our path in the kitchen. We frequently stumbled over her. I finally placed her bed under the kitchen table so she would lay there and not be in the way quite as often. Our nephews learned to not reach under there for her as she would snarl and snap at them. Like many Springers, she became a bit of a biter over time.
When we would grab the leash, she would leap into the air, true to the “Springer” part of her name. Her whole body oozed unmitigated joy as she ran down the street ahead, and then ran back as if to say: “What is taking you so long!” Watching her these last years struggle to get out of her bed and spending most of her days sleeping has been very difficult. She hasn’t jumped on the bed for years, she struggled to climb the stairs, and she no longer chased the squirrels and rabbits.
We were very lucky to have such a special dog in our lives for such a long time, truly “the best dog ever.” There will never be another Lizzie.
There have been a few hunting dogs in the Fuglie household over the years. Lizzie was, well … one of them. Not the best, nor the worst. I’ve pretty much been a pointing dog guy, but as I got older, I thought it might be nice to have a dog that would retrieve birds instead of just pointing them and making me chase after them.
Problem is, I just never got Lizzie to like picking up a bird. I think she may have gotten scratched by a feisty rooster when she was little — we hunted that first fall we got her when she was just a few months old, and that can happen to a pup. So when I would get a bird, she would go find it (we almost never lost one in a dozen years of hunting) and put her paws on it and hold it down until I got there.
One time we were out walking along the creek behind our farmstead, Lillian was walking along with us, and a hen and a rooster flushed simultaneously, side by side. They were far enough apart that I felt comfortable taking the rooster, but just as I shot they veered right and I hit the hen instead of the rooster. It went down, dead, alongside the creek.
Lillian wasn’t paying attention and didn’t see this take place, but when she heard the shot, she turned and asked “Did you get one?” Embarrassed, I had decided to just leave it lay for the coyotes, so I said “No, I missed.”
Just then, I saw Lizzie take off on a sprint toward the creek. I tried calling her back, but she knew her job, and she was on that bird in a flash. And she picked it up and delivered to my hand in just a few seconds.
It was the only time in her life she did that. And, um, I think it was the only time in my life I accidentally shot a hen. Um.
Later in her life, though she did take a liking to retrieving ducks in the slough when we got one down in the water, saving my hunting partner, Jeff, from having to put on his waders at the end of the hunt.
Lizzie loved to hunt. She lived for it. Every fall, as cool weather approached, she kept a sharp eye out for the day I would bring my shotgun and hunting boots up from the basement closet. When she spotted them, she’d leap into the air. Yippee! It’s finally time. On the night before a hunt, when I’d lain my boots and hunting clothes out beside the chair in the library so I wouldn’t awaken Lillian when we got up early to hunt, she’d forsake her comfortable bed and sleep on the floor of the library to make sure I didn’t leave without her in the morning.
I loved waking up on those mornings, getting a great chuckle when I walked out of the bedroom and saw her snuggled right up against my boots. She’d open one eye, and look up at me. “Is it time? I’m ready.”
We had many Grade A hunting days in 14 years. Jeff has always been a Springer man, so he developed a special bond with Lizzie. He, being longer of leg and leaner of waist than me, was usually the one to takeoff in a sprint after Lizzie (sprint being a relative thing) when she got on a bird and was about to flush it out of range. As a result, he shot way more pheasants over Lizzie than I did.
In fact, Lizzie in her last years, took to hunting in front of Jeff instead of me much of the time, a constant source of amusement to both of us. I called her a little whore. She seemed to know she was more likely to get to grab a bird over there in front of him.
We didn’t hunt this year. Last year, we went a couple of times. She had gotten very slow by that time, but when she saw me grab my orange hunting vest out of the closet, or pull on my hunting boots, she’d dash for the door and sit there panting, looking back anxiously as if to say, “What’s taking you so long?” She could still jump up into the dog kennel in the back of the Jeep, although sometimes she needed a bit of a boost.
When we got to the slough, she went leaping out of the kennel, and we joked that she had just gone from 13 years old to 5.
But the hunts were short — Lizzie tired very quickly, especially on warm days. In our favorite little duck and pheasant spot, out near McKenzie Slough, she would pause for a swim every time we got near the cattails. And at the end, after pausing for a photo or two, I had to lift her back into the Jeep — she was no longer able to spring up into the dog kennel like she had the previous dozen years. I sensed it would be her last year. It was.
Now, we’ll stare at the dog kennel, and the dog bed, and the orange collar with the tags jingling from it, and decide if they’re ever going to get used again, or if we should just give them away. I’ve not gone very long without a dog in my life. I was raised around Brittany Spaniels, my dad’s dog of choice. I got an English Setter, when I returned from the Navy in 1972, and had a few of those, and a Springer before I got Lizzie, which found a home with my stepdaughter, Krista, in Minneapolis after her mom died and she needed something to hang on to.
I’ve always said dogs need to earn their keep, so I’ve only had hunting dogs. But I’m not hunting much anymore — getting to be an old dog myself. So we’ll see.
So today, we’ll say goodbye. The vet she’s been going to for years says he’ll have her cremated and we’ll take her ashes out to her favorite slough and toss them into the wind. She’d like that.
Our favorite poet wrote a poem about his own Springer back in 1935, which pretty much captures Lizzie. Here’s Paul Southworth Bliss’s “Just Another Old Dog.”
JUST ANOTHER OLD DOG (The Rye Is the Sea, 1936)
Just another old dog with sorrowful eyes,
Peering at me from the rug where he lies;
Watching me always, calm as a sphinx,
With two aging eyes, neither one of which blinks.
Knows I’m no company — not for a dog
Dreaming of meadowland, forest and bog;
Dreaming of pheasant, partridge and quail,
And curious things by the aspen-leaved trail.
Wond’ring why men stay so long in one place,
Chained to a desk — when there’s plenty of space.
Just a run out of town and the fun might begin —
I know that he reckons such sitting is sin.
A law would be passed if dogs had their way –
That men must go out in the open each day —
Out to trees, brushland or prairie remote:
Ah, that would win every honest dog’s vote!
Old fellow, stop looking so sadly at me;
If only you knew it, we agree to a “T.”
Come, we’ll just chuck it! These papers are trash —
Let’s go where clean, cool forest streams splash!
There, you old rascal with sorrowful eyes,
That far-a-way look was a crafty disguise.
Now you jump up, wiggle tail, wriggle ears,
Shedding like water a half-dozen years.
You’ve waited so long, but you knew you would win;
You scoundrel, I see that you’re hiding a grin!
So off we go, leaving no trail, and no track —
I hope they don’t miss us; let’s never come back!
May 19, 1935
To a venerable, red-eyed springer spaniel, 11 years old, who keeps faithful and friendly watch.
Here are a few more photos.