Friday, November 16, 2012


 This past Wednesday my family and I have had to say good bye to our old Boxer, Riley.  I got this dog my sophomore of college at Butler University when I was living in the Lamba Chi Alpha house.  She was the fraternity's house dog and mascot for the next couple of years.  After college she moved all around the country with me and made many a road trip.  She would quietly sleep in the back seat until I would stop for some rest.  Then I would get some sleep and she would sit up alert the whole time growling at anyone who would walk near my truck.  As the years went by Riley and I were joined by my wife Katie, and became Katie's first dog.  A few years later came the kids.  To them Riley was always there to be petted, hugged, tugged on, and, a on an occasion or two, the perfect pillow.

Riley was nearing 13 years old this year; old for a Boxer, who was the runt, and who had a heart murmur from birth.  She had gotten a lot slower over the past couple of years.  Tuesday night I came home from work and found her having a seizure in the back yard.  I brought her in and put her on her bed.  She eventually calmed down over the next few minutes and seemed to slip into a coma.  After consulting with a vet friend we decided to let her rest on her bed through the night.  The next morning, nothing had changed.  She could not respond to us and we made the decision with agreement from the vet that our time with Riley had come to an end.  My sidekick for all of my adult life, was quietly laid to rest.

 That evening my Hybrid was on weight, the weather was perfect, and ducks were on the pond.  I was still feeling down about the days events, but it wouldn't be fair to the falcon not to fly on a day like that day.
Slightly cross wind of the pond I cast her off.  Right away she looked good.  Quick wing beat and all business she headed out to the east.  At the edge of binocular range I saw her turn into the wind and start powering back.  Things were looking pretty good so I made my approach to back of the pond's dam wall.  I looked up to see my bird coming directly over the pond as a tiny silhouette against the yellowing sky.

Scrambling over the dam, I jumped the pond and off flew about 20 Gadwalls.  The falcon folded up instantly and began her stoop.  Fully tucked and looking good I foolishly though something great might just happen here on this down day.  She was coming hard but her lack of experience and confidence got the best of her and she pulled out of her stoop about 50 feet above the ducks.  This of course was more than the ducks could take and they turned back to the water, crashing into the assumed safety of the pond.

The falcon decided that she may not be comfortable hitting a duck in the air quite yet, but she sure wanted to eat one.  Again she stooped but this time went straight for a duck on the water.  Only instead of trying to grab the duck she just flat out hammered it straight down right in the middle of the pond.  Somehow she was strong enough to hang onto it and rowed herself and the duck to shore.  Odd way to catch her first duck.

I'm sure this will lead to stooping them on the water for a while, but every young falcon goes through that stage.  She did however get to eat a duck and now knows that they are food for the taking.   I'll have to wait a few days to find out.   I'm running the Route 66 Marathon this weekend so no flying until next week.


Death is a strange thing to a hunter.  It can be sad and can leave you with something missing from your life.  Change very little, and it can be celebrated, creating a memory of triumph.  Oddly enough you cherish the departed in both circumstances because of the happiness that each has brought you.

Riley will be missed but I have the great memories of her from the past 13 years, the death of this duck may just be the start of great memories to come with this falcon.....


No comments: