On Monday night we said goodbye to the best friend I've ever known. Her love was unconditional and her desire to please was second to none. In addition to the hundreds of birds she returned to my hand, she also helped return me to a better place in my life. I got her while going through some troubling times, and she helped me transition from what I was before to what I am now. There's no doubt in my mind that I would not be the same person today if not for Lacey.
The cutest little yellow dog on the planet was born in Illinois on May 23, 2001 and died on December 10, 2012. She gave me 11-1/2 years of joy. She was the result of a second breeding, and I was lucky to have met one of the dogs from the first breeding, so I had a very good idea of what to expect. I was not disappointed! I sent in my deposit before she was born and received pictures right after she was born.
I picked her up at the Denver airport seven weeks later, and together we learned about love, retrieving, and friendship. I knew her call name would be Lacey, named after John Lacey who introduced the legislation known as the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act is a federal law that prohibits the importation of illegal wildlife and also prohibits the transportation of illegally taken wildlife over state lines. In just so happened that Lacey was born in Illinois, then flew out of Missouri to Tennessee, before arriving in Colorado. Nothing was illegal, but she crossed a bunch of state lines before she was even two months old! Due to her coloring and how valuable she was to me, I decided her registered name should be Swanson's Laced With Gold.
For that first year, we trained every day. And when I say every day, I mean every day. If memory serves me correctly, not a single day went by that we didn't do some sort of training, even if it was just a few short retrieves or some "yard work" - sit, heel, here, etc. I am proud to say that she retrieved everything that I ever threw for her. There were a couple tough days, but every single bumper or live bird that was thrown for her, was delivered back to my hand.
Of course we did a ton of very in-depth training, thanks to my good friend Joel Harris. He was my boss at the time when we worked at the sporting clays/bird hunting facility for Gorsuch Outfitters. Joel and his wife also own Rocky Mountain Pet Resort in Yampa, CO and he breeds/trains labs for hunt tests and field trials. He took me under his wing and showed me the ins-and-outs of retriever training. Under his watchful and discerning eye, Lacey became the most well-behaved, best trained, and most accomplished hunting dog I have ever known.
We hunted in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and South Dakota for a bunch of different species. Here's what I think is a pretty complete list of all the bird species she has retrieved for me: Chukar, Sandhill Crane, Mourning Dove, White-Winged Dove, many duck species including Mallards and Teal, Canada Goose, Blue Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Pheasant, Pigeon, Bobwhite Quail, Gamble's Quail, and Scaled Quail.