Saying Goodbye to the McGuffin

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Published on: Jan. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

yet when they lobby for the term "animal companion" instead of "pet," I can see the point. Guff was my friend more than my dog.

I was never lonely on long trips when he was with me. He listened to me shoot off my mouth and he always sensed when I was blue. He was the only one of the dogs who enjoyed being hugged and who would tuck his soft face under my arm and comfort me with his warm presence.

I can't estimate how many miles we traveled together. It was many thousands, to states as far away as Idaho. He pointed ruffed grouse in the bogs of Minnesota and pheasants in the Dakotas.

But it was Missouri quail that we both cherished. Guff pointed his first quail at just over five months in an old field in north Missouri. It was a sunny November day, typically warm for early season. He was chuffing the air as if chewing the scent out of it.

His eyes were squinted and he trembled with intensity. I shot the bird and he found it dead in the foxtail and I was inordinately proud of my little dog.

Guff wasn't a pretty pointing dog. No calendar artist would have picked him. But when he was on birds, as opposed to rabbits or possums or various other wildlife that he also enjoyed hunting, there was no doubt.

I remember him tiptoeing through a bog that reeked of woodcock scent. He walked on eggs, soaking wet from vegetation and a misting rain, but he didn't care. He was surrounded by game birds and all else was immaterial. Finally, he locked on point, and I walked the bird up and shot it.

Guff stood by it. Wouldn't pick it up. He didn't much like to retrieve. He'd rather find a downed bird and make sure I saw where it was, then move on to new games.

Another time, we relaxed against a log with a pair of grouse atop it. He'd pointed both and I, with rare skill, had killed them. I ate a cold apple and gave him a chunk. The thin sun lit the fallen leaves. I knuckled his ears and stroked him gently, knowing that such moments must be cherished because they are bound to end.

I'd intended to take Guff dove hunting the day he got sick. But it was hot and I went fishing instead and never got to

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