We lost our furbaby at 4am. He was a black lab, maybe not purebred, we don't really know. He was 10 years old. He joined our family at Christmas 1997. We found him at the pound, while trying to find a dog suitable to train for waterfowl hunting. He had the drive, the personality, and the intelligence. I'd never trained a hunting dog, so I used a recommended book and followed it, doing most of our work in the evening by the kitchen stove. This is not, by any means, a credit to my teaching ability. This dog was amazing. If he could figure out what you wanted, it was locked in memory forever. By May of 1998, he competed in his first hunt test, and even made the newspaper. Within a few years, he earned his hunting retriever title. Summer of 1998, he found a litter of baby rabbits under the lilac bush. He scooped them all up in his mouth and proceeded to run around the yard with his prizes in his mouth, followed by a desperately screaming difficult child 1. When we finally got him to stop, we retrieved 6 frightened and hopelessly soaked, but otherwise unharmed baby rabbits from his mouth. difficult child 1 insisted we raise them (which lead to a whole other set of adventures!). In later years, the dog would carry kittens in the same manner. He truly seemed to love them. His first hunt, in the fall of 1998. He sat quietly as we shot a Canadian goose on a farmpond, and with all the exuberance that young pups have, on command he flew into the water, intent to retrieve his mark. Only the shooter wasn't the best shot, and his mark was only winged. The goose could swim (and dive) just fine. After a lengthy pursuit, that included learning that he couldn't be wishy-washy about this (cause the goose bit his nose when he did), he grabbed the feisty goose and brought it to shore and proudly dropped it at my feet. And the fiesty goose promply ran back into the pond! A short while later, he returned with the goose a second time, and ensured I had it in hand before he let go. That was the first of many adventures (and the end of caring about fetching some dumb ball in the yard!). The end of his first hunting season landed him a crop of birds larger than would fit in an 8x10 photo with him. I lost count how many he retrieved over the years. He loved his job. When the geese started to fly over in the fall, he'd hold his breath to listen to them. Something he eventually started doing in the blind, as well. At 4, we took him along during a pheasant hunt. It was bitterly cold, and as we dressed outside the truck, he busied himself with something in the grass just beyond the truck. As luck would have it, it was a pheasant. He held it there til we got to it. And of course, praised him excessively. And that was the extent of his pheasant hunting training, though in the 3 years he pheasant hunted, he flushed or caught over 40 birds. At 5, he guided a waterfowl hunt that was filmed and televised on OLN. Later that year, he went with the owners and pro-staff of a game-call company to Louisianna to hunt. And almost didn't come home when he refused to forget about a winged bird on the Mississippi. At 7, my oldest son started taking him coon hunting. They never really worked with him, just took him along. By 8, he treed his own coon, and adopted my oldest son as "his". This past fall, they tracked a wounded deer. In addition to his useful knowledge, he was full of useless stuff, as well. He knew our entire family by name, would bow on command, shake hands or give "5", and all sorts of other really useless stuff. And most importantly, even tho he should have 100 times over, he never ate difficult child 2. He never even showed an ounce of aggression towards him; tho by rights, he should have. Even these past few weeks, when his heart problems were getting the best of him and difficult child 2, in a fit of anger towards me, jumped on him, he didn't so much as pass an angry glance. He simply looked at difficult child 2 in that understanding (but not approving) way that he had and rolled back over to sleep. Before he got sick, he would listen to difficult child 2, as difficult child 2 learned to give commands (and treats!) to him. difficult child 2 was also learning to play with him an appropriate ways (finally), and he forgave every one of difficult child 2's occassional "forgots". We dressed him as an angel one year for a parade - I am certain his wings and halo are real this time. He sure earned his place.