Psst. This is a parody from our 2018 SEWE Issue.
The empty space at the foot of our bed, the dry rawhide bone long left abandoned, the numerous claw marks that decorated the barricaded door to the laundry room — these were the first things I noticed after returning home from my last hunt with Trigger. But it was the emotional hole he left behind that resonated with me the most. That, and the lack of ferocious howling now replaced with a stark silence.
Although he had lost a step or two in his later years, Ol' Trigger was a good dog if there had ever been one. A flat-coated retriever, he was the best man at my wedding, the father I never had, and served as a character witness when my business partner disappeared under "suspicious circumstances." But before and after all that, he was my best friend.
Trigger first came into my life during my freshman year of college, when a fraternity prank gone too far led to a dog being accepted to the class of 2009. Although it resulted in an overqualified exchange student forced to remain in his war-torn homeland, we all thought it was a pretty hilarious joke at the time. Like when Air Bud played on that basketball team.
With Trigger and I rooming together, we shared every waking moment together — except when Trigger was pulled away for his regular meetings with Skull and Bones.
After our time in college, Trigger moved back home with me. We were together every day, even when I met MaryAnn Ann Elizabeth, the woman I would marry. Yes, it was rough at first. MaryAnn Ann had a young son, who was deathly allergic to dogs. This proved to be a major inconvenience, but I was willing to look past all that and make this family work.
Reconciling our two homes, little Tanner carved out a place for himself in the guest shed at the opposite corner of the yard. There, he was far enough away from all the dog dander that he could breathe in a way that his doctors deemed "tolerable."
While this meant Trigger had limited access to the backyard and Tanner had to sleep in an iron lung, these are the sacrifices that we make for our children.
For a long time, we were happy. But recently it seemed the years had finally caught up with Trigger, which meant a visit from Doc Potter.
A folksy sawbones who still made house calls, my family had sought out the advice of Doc Potter since he first hung up his shingle. We stuck by the wily old coot, even after it was revealed that he had failed to complete even the most basic medical training. But what Doc Potter lacked in formal book-learning, he sure as hell made up for in folksy bedside manner.
"Well Doc, Trigger just hasn't been spying ducks like he used to. I'm starting to think that he may not be long for this world," I told the Doc during that fateful meeting.
"Well, Ol' Trig is getting on in years," Doc Potter told me, twisting the corner of his long, gray mustache as he told me just what I needed to hear. "I may not have the fancy tests and diagnoses of those big city doctors, but I'd say Trigger's reluctance to fetch ducks may result from some sort of 'malard-y.'"
Potter grinned mischievously as he curled his whiskers. And dammit if that didn't do the trick. It was worth the $1,200 bill just to hear the news from someone I trusted. Trigger was on the way out. Or so it seemed.
At the behest of my wife, perhaps so that Tanner could have a brief respite from the poorly insulated shed he called home, I took Trigger out with me for one last business trip. We set out for a historic church deep in the woods to reclaim a few pieces of choice lumber that I would re-purpose to build cornhole boards for millionaires. They usually went for around $2,000, but for just $700 extra we'd airbrush on the mascot of your favorite college football team or Calvin peeing on a Ford logo.
During that trip, Trigger managed to corner an old raccoon. The varmint put up a good fight. They sparred, and Trigger came out the better, save for a few minor bites and scratches.
In the following days, it was like Trigger had gotten his second wind. Gone was the tired retriever who could barely make it onto his designated chair at the dinner table. He was active and vocal. His bark sounded different and he was afraid of water, but Trigger was more active than he had been in years. This included the violent spasms and unprovoked attacks that led to MaryAnn Ann and Tanner locking themselves in the laundry room until we had cleared the house. This was probably just because they couldn't bear the pain of bidding Trigger one last goodbye.
Ignoring all that, I was pleased as pie to find that Trigger was spry enough to go birding with me one final time. Oh, Trigger was chomping at the bit to dig into whatever was around. He was literally foaming at the mouth for those birds — or any other object in his field of view that showed signs of life.
Alone for one last hunt, I dodged Trigger's seemingly unending barrage of attacks as we marched deeper into the woods. It was at this point that I realized that only one of us would be returning home from this trip. Racing back to my truck, I managed to shut the door behind me as Trigger launched his body against the vehicle, his fangs on full display as they scraped down the window.
Fumbling with the keys as I sat in a panic behind the steering wheel, I noticed the row of bite marks along my forearm. This would surely be an interesting anecdote for any regional sporting magazines that saw it fit to print, I thought as I sped away. Perhaps I'll wait until the story is printed to explain the circumstances of my last hunting with Trigger to the family. What's the worst that could happen?