One of the most difficult things for a man to endure is the loss of a hunting partner and great friend. I suppose though, if we have no understanding of pain and loss, adversely we will have no appreciation of happiness and good fortune.
Tammy left us a few days ago, fifteen years after she entered this world as no more than a squirming puppy with her tiny eyes closed and nothing but her nose to trust. Little did she know, that wonderful nose would take her across more mountains and unbroken country than most dogs, much less humans, will ever see. I can truly say I was blessed to follow her for many years and as I sit here writing I can still hear her booming voice resonating from a deep, rugged canyon in the Rocky Mountains, on a crisp winter’s day. To some it may have just sounded like a barking hound, but it was a language that only her and I knew. She was really saying, “Come for me Larry, I’ve got this rapscallion up a tree and I’ll be right here, just as long as it takes you.”
Over the years Tammy and I caught more Idaho Mountain Lion Hunts than any pair of hunting buddies are entitled. I stopped counting long ago, but what was more important was the bond that grew between us over time. She always knew, no matter how far she went or in what terribly steep and impenetrable country she found herself, I would come find her. Just as I always knew, that without question, I could trust her to never give up and so I mustn’t in return.
I remember vividly one December day, when Tammy was very young, her and I took to the woods in pursuit of Idaho Mountain Lion Hunts. At day break we came across a suitable track and not long after she buried her nose in the first print, I could hear her proud, baritone voice echoing through the sleeping fir trees. It was not meant to be a quick endeavour though, as she worked that cold sent through blow downs and creek bottoms, the hours began to tick away. Before I knew it, afternoon had come and soon darkness would follow. Luckily, Tammy finally trailed the great cat to the kill of a whitetail buck and after that the race was on! Towards the river they went, lion in great leaping strides and little walker dog, with a heart the size of a mountain, in hot pursuit. She wouldn’t allow herself to believe that this creature, three times her size, could outrun her much less turn and slay her with the flick of a paw. Maybe two hours before dusk the race ended at the base of massive yellow pine tree and not long after I arrived as well. There I found Tammy, the happiest panting hound you’ve ever encountered, starring up at an an equally tired Idaho Mountain Lion Hunts who was intently looking daggers at the pair of us.
I knew there was no way I could make it back to the truck by night fall, so I decided our best course of action would be descending to the river and hopefully finding a shallow enough spot to cross. Then we could make it to a road and possibly hitch hike our way to town. Tammy and I made it to the rolling river in short order and after saying a small prayer, plunged right into it’s icy grasp. If you’ve never been immersed in an Idaho river in the middle of winter, you don’t know how quickly that frigid water can steal your breath, yet we pushed on. When we reached the middle point, the water at about chest level, I looked back to see how my girl was doing. I remember just like it was yesterday, that little dog paddling with all her might, sometimes only her nose above the swift current. Like everything else in life she was trying with every last drop of conviction she could muster and at that moment I knew we would always be there for each other no matter what. A man and his dog with a bond that belonged only to them. Only to be broken when the Lord decided to take one of them home.