When you lose a good dog…

We lost Gabe this week. My Love breeds and trains Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and in the last week his oldest dog, Gabe, became sick and failed so much in the space of seven days that the decision had to be made to help him gracefully and peacefully make his exit.

Which is not the way he lived his life.


Gabe… Donnett’s Gabriel MH… was not a quiet, docile, mellow kind-of-dog. At thirteen years of age he would still try to hump anything on four legs, including his daughters, his grand-daughters and me, when I tried to get him back in his kennel. He still would shuffle around the yard in what we’re sure he thought was a powerful manner, and refuse to come to anyone’s call but Philip’s. He was still  the master of his domain, still wanting nothing more than to ride in the back of the truck to go hunting, right to the end.

My Love tells stories of Gabe as a young dog…

“We took this young fella hunting with us… I mean, this was when Gabe was young and I was young and that young fella was younger than young… and this fella thought he saw a flock of geese down around the shore from where were set up, so we said ‘Go… go and try to get a couple.’”

There’s that weird male-bonding thing where boys-with-guns give the nod to other boys-with-guns and there’s the expectation that if you’re a Real Man, and worthy to have a dog and a gun and to go home with fresh kill to impress your woman, well, you have to wander off down the shore on a stormy day with a gallant dog and see what you’re made of.

My Love sent this young man off … to see what he was made of.

It was stormy. For people who aren’t familiar with the East Coast on a stormy January day, let me assure you, it is impressive. Crashing surf rising six feet or more; debris, seaweed, storm surge, violently pounding waves against the shore in sub-zero temperatures. This is what Real Hunters revel in. Perfect weather. Even better if it’s snowing, sleeting, blowing a gale. The kind of weather that sees normal dogs curled up by the fire. Gabe was not a normal dog.

My Love said they were huddled in their blind when they heard… and I quote…


Gabe heard it too.

Off he went.

My Love said, “Gabe took off like a bolt, and we let ‘im. He went toward the gunshots, and he knew what to do.”

After about 30 minutes, the young fella came back to the blind, eyes wide, ducks in hand, Gabe smiling at his heels. The young fella… in the way of all Young Fellas who have yet to train a dog, raise a dog, trust a dog in the roughest of conditions… the young fella said:

“Holy Jumpin’ Dyin’… I shot…” he gasped, his eyes wide. “And your dog… YOUR DOG appeared outta nowhere and leapt… I meant he FUCKIN’ BARRELLED into the waves like it was NUTHIN’! There was fuckin’ logs and trees and seaweed and all kinds of shit in those waves…and those waves were OVER my fuckin’ HEAD… and that dog just jumped right into that surge and disappeared!”

My Love glanced down at Gabe, a duck in his mouth, looking pleased-as-shit.

“Yeah,” gasped the Young Fella, eyes bugging out. “He fuckin’ DISAPPEARED in the waves… and I thought… Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I’ve killed Philip’s fuckin’ dog… and then…”

My Love said the Young Fella’s eyes were like cue balls. On crack.

“Then that fuckin’ dog came back out through those breakers with a fuckin’ duck in its mouth! I couldn’t fuckin’ BELIEVE it!”

My Love grinned. Of course Gabe came out of the storm, retrieving. It was what Gabe was born to do, it’s all he ever wanted to do… well, besides humping anything that moved.

Gabe left us today. But we have his two of his daughters, and his grand-daughter, and his genetics are the foundation of Dockcove Retrievers. There’s a special thing between a man and his dog. They seem to mirror each other in drive, determination and…well… all things manly… and after almost thirteen years of being a crazed retrieving machine; trained to Master Hunter, drive and determination incarnate… he will be missed.


 Donnett’s Gabriel MH, 2002 – 2014


Click image to visit Dockcove Retrievers website.


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