February 18, 1995, a litter of pups was born to Betsy. The father, Kirby, was a strong trial dog already at this time. I donít know how many pups were whelped that day, but one of those pups ended up being mine. On April 22, 1995, between drills with the Army Reserve unit I was attending, I made a trip to Sycamore, Illinois to see this one pup that Ken & Linda Ruff had. Bought that cute little guy and brought him home. That was the start of wonderful 14 year relationship.
Sunny became my constant companion. He loved to ride in the car. He loved to be near me, with me, a part of what I was doing. He even slept at my feet on my bed. I tried to train him to hunt birds for me. I just had a problem with him chasing deer. So I found a trainer, someone who had experience in dealing with dogs. He took Sunny up to his place during the summer of 1996. Every Wednesday I went up and trained with Sunny. We learned so much together about hunting and handling. The trainer told us about field trialing with the National Shoot to Retrieve Association. We went and tried it, we enjoyed it, but we just couldnít get any placements. Sunny seemed to find one bird and then he was done. It took me awhile, but I finally figured out what was going on. He was being trained on one bird at a time, so that was all he would look for in the field. Then we went to Canada grouse hunting. I could almost see the lightbulb above his head getting brighter as we hunted. He quickly learned that there were more birds out there than one. A few weeks later we tried another trial. He was awesome, he tore up that field and scored really well, but as the rest of the day wore on, our first place standing became second, then third, then fourth and then fifth. But I was so happy that he finally knew what was going on.
We went grouse and woodcock hunting with the trainer one fall day. We came across a flight of woodcock. We could hardly take a step through the woods with out flushing a woodcock. We had about 25 flushes and bagged 8 of them, with Sunny retrieving all 8 to my hand.
Soon after that September 11, 2001 came about. In response to that I saw two mobilizations with the US Army. I spent a year on duty, came home for a year and then saw another year of duty. The best part of those years on active duty was that I was able to take Sunny with me for most of those mobilizations. He lived in Tampa with me both years, first in a camper at the base campground and then in an apartment just off base. What a wonderful bonding experience, just me and my dog. After that Sunny was 9 and I was busy at the funeral home. I just didnít have the time to trial anymore. We would hunt when we could, but trialing days were over.
Sunny became my office partner, going to work and taking over the couches in the offices. He seemed to know when he could be the front door greeter and when he couldnít. He had a knack for knowing who liked dogs and who didnít. Many times he snuck down the stairs, interrupting us making funeral arrangements. A few times he snuck down and interrupted visitations. But no one ever seemed to mind. He was always so well behaved when he did.
Tonight was a terrible night. Sunny tried to go over the gate. We donít know why he tried, but he got caught. Alex saw part of it. He tried to call for Sunny to come away from the gate, but Sunny wouldnít. Alex called for me to go check on Sunny and I came and looked, I saw Sunny laying in the snow drift. I was hoping he had passed out and went running out to him, but I could tell, he was gone. I carried him in to the house and tried to do CPR and mouth to nose, but I just couldnít get a response out of him. I really think that he broke his neck. So here I am, without my canine companion. The one that I shared so many secrets, thoughts, dreams. I shared my bed and my office and my life. Tomorrow I am going to take him to get cremated. I was going to bury him here on my property, but I couldnít bear the thought of not having him in my bedroom with me. I want to keep him close.
I am going to miss you buddy.