Friends to the End: Picking a Gun Dog Breed For Life

The last couple of blog posts have got me thinking of gun dogs in the long term. It takes a long time to develop a new breed (if that's what some doodle-dog breeders are trying to do … as opposed to making a quick buck). It also takes a long time to develop a good line of working dogs within a breed (one that produces specimens with conformation, drive, temperament, etc).

Sometimes we, as hunters, homeowners and pet owners, find a breed that just fits our personality, activity level and home life so well that we keep that breed, and perhaps even progeny, around for generations - generations of dogs as well as their human counterparts.

Such is the story with the picture that accompanies this post. The picture is from 1965 and is of Hal and George, the beagle. Hal is the father of some friends of mine from high school. He recently passed from this earth, leaving behind a son, daughter and many friends from our hometown and throughout his life.

Jeff, his son, and Amy, his daughter, have been posting pictures of their dad's life on Facebook. Even though I didn't really know Hal, the old photos have been a pretty cool walk through history and small-town friendships. From photos of mountain-climbing adventures to family fun at the lake, complete with polyester short-shorts and 70s mop-top hairdos, you can witness a man's life journey frozen in snapshots.

The photo of Hal and George with the accompanying caption caught my attention, however. "Dad and George. The beginning of the … beagles, Sept. '65."

It got me to thinking about how some breeds of dogs just permeate our lives. How they just match so thoroughly to our household and activities that we continue to replace them with similar dogs. Whenever I think about Jeff and Amy, or drive by their high-school home, which was just down the street from mine, another beagle comes to mind, her name was Maggie. That little girl witnessed copious amounts of misbehavior, but that's a story for another time and blog.

The point is: The family's love affair began with George in 1965 and continues to this day. Other beagles replaced George throughout the years, but Jeff currently has two named Nate and Carter. That's nearly five decades of living and making memories with beagles - a testament to the nature, personality and love of individual dogs, as well as the breed as a whole.

For some of us, a specific breed of dog serves as companion. For others a hunting partner, or a therapist. For some, a breed -- and the desire to shape specific attributes -- leads to a life-long commitment to a specific line.

Regardless of their purpose, dogs truly are, as this picture reminds me, man's best friend. And sometimes, just sometimes, a specific breed so thoroughly matches our own human idiosyncrasies that we invite it to share in our life … for the majority of our life.