In the fall of 1981 after returning to KU from a newspaper internship I was determined to find a good “working dog.” After conducting a massive, in-depth study, I concluded that everyone had a Labrador Retriever. After all it was the only dog I repeatedly saw on campus. Golden Retrievers, known for their style, great nose and even temperament seemed to be the next logical choice, plus I surmised a golden puppy might aid in my search to find a good woman. I mean, how can a gal turn down a fluffy teddy bear? As it turned out there was some merit in that thought!
So, like any good investigative journalist would do, I began pouring through the local newspaper classifieds. I’m certain the internet was only a dream in Al Gore’s state of mind at the time. I found a litter in Baldwin City, Kansas. The breeder was an avid upland hunter, a minister in the community and he owned both the sire and the dam. How could I go wrong? The only problem was the pup who showed the most interest in retrieving, and the only one who kept coming to me – had this white patch on his chest. I’d read this wasn’t a desirable trait, but the little guy just wouldn’t leave me alone. After a lengthy deliberation, I took him home.
I named him Daniel and he was my constant companion going everywhere with me except class, which I rarely attended anyway, so it all worked out just fine. Together we traveled across much of the country. A classic boy and his dog story seeking out new adventures, always returning home with a handful of fanciful tales.
Daniel was, I can safely say, much smarter than me. We shared some spectacular hunting experiences. On one pheasant hunt in McPherson, a group of hunters asked if I’d block for them as they pushed through a shelter belt. Before I knew it birds of every imaginable type were hightailing it past me. Suddenly, I could hear the zing of bb’s whizzing past my head. I quickly dropped two roosters and looked for Daniel to retrieve them, but he was nowhere to be found. After scanning the horizon, I finally caught sight of him peering around the back end of my truck, parked some 100 yards away – as if to say, “is it safe to come out yet?” I joined him in short order.
Eventually Daniel would give up the number one place in my life for a more desirable bedmate and our two young children, whom he would dote on and faithfully watch over. But, every fall after the first frost would arrive Daniel patiently waited for our annual pilgrimage to central Kansas . . . for surely that was meant to be our time together.
Daniel was all that one could hope for in a companion – stylish, playful, loyal and loving. He carried himself as if he was directly descended from nobility. I was blessed to have him in my life for 14 + 1/2 years.
In May 1996, Daniel, Sam, and I drove out to McPherson. Together the three of us began to walk the fields – one last time. Soon Daniel turned to me and in him I saw an appreciation of that moment and place. It was then when I understood he was at peace. Eight days later, I returned with Daniel and buried him in my hunting jacket near the shelter belt where he had so aptly proved his wisdom many years before.
I think of Daniel often and the manner in which he guided me through that portion of my life. And even though I know there’ll never be another spirit like him for me: all is well…