Coming Full Circle

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Everlasting friendship, essential companionship, unconditional love … in challenging and isolated times, our bird dogs stand by us

By Marilyn Vetter

As I write this I’ve just finished my eighth week of working from home. While I’ve gone out for necessities, my physical interaction with the outside world has been scant. 

The isolation has actually been more comfortable than I would have guessed at the outset — Perhaps because this lifestyle is eerily familiar to my childhood. I grew up on a remote farm in central North Dakota. We didn’t have sleep-overs or playdates. I didn’t see my friends over the summer. We spent nearly all our time working together as a family. We knew social distancing long before the term became a cold hard reality for the rest of the world.

It was that very environment of isolation that built my love for dogs. 

Our family dogs were an integral part of my life. They walked with me through the pastures, tolerated my constant grooming, listened to my stories and dreams, and they comforted me when I was lonely or sad. They never judged me or reminded me of my socioeconomic status. For them I was always more than “enough,” something all children need to feel and believe. They were my best and most loyal friends. 

Fast forward a few decades and it is life reincarnated. My German shorthaired pointers are athletes with a purpose. If they had their druthers they would be hunting 365 days a year. 

Coming in as a close second is being our family companions. Normally work keeps me on the road three or four days a week. The Vetter pack is having to get used to me interrupting their lazy days with early morning work-outs, constant conference calls and frequent “shushes.” Each of them has appeared somewhere in a video chat over the past two months, making their debut to co-workers who often have no idea about this side of my life. 

Each day my canine family members remind me of why dogs are humans’ best friends. Unconditional loyalty and affection are stalwarts of all canines and are attributes people hunger for in their daily condition. When our human counterparts are sometimes coming apart at the seams and acting in uncharacteristic ways due to the stress of isolation, job loss, financial and health insecurity, our dogs are a constant rock on which we can lean. That stabling force can be grounding when everything else in life is in upheaval.
 
Clyde and I have raised over 60 litters of GSPs, and all of them are special to me. During these two months of working from home I was blessed to be here every single day of our most recent litter’s development and preparation for their new families. I found myself building bonds with them I hadn’t let myself do in a very long time. Keeping a wee bit of emotional distance has made sending them off to their new homes a tad easier. But there was no escaping the attachment this time. Each departure caused more than a few tears, even though my mind knew “they are going to amazing homes” and “they can’t stay forever.”

But now that I’ve had a day to contemplate, and the photos of new puppy homes have rolled in, my sense of loss is eased. I am once again witnessing other families’ homes filled with the affection their new pups have brought to them. I am reminded that children, who may feel lost in isolation and loneliness in these unusual times, will have their hearts filled with puppy kisses, snuggles and unconditional loyalty. 

As they say, all things in life come full circle ...

Marilyn Vetter serves on the National Board of Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever.