As another dove season approaches, I am reminded again of the day I met Mr. Grey. A good friend of mine who was taken away from us 3 years ago and far too early, had invited me to an opening day hunt with him over in Darlington, SC. He had his Boykin named Drake with him and I didn’t have a dog….at least not yet as you will soon see. We had a good southern BBQ lunch and a tray of boiled peanuts and we took off for the field around 2:00. My buddy and Drake were just down from me as we awaited the first doves of the day. He was having a bit of trouble getting his dog to sit still and I was watching the show with amusement. About that time a dove flew over and I dropped it using my wife’s 20 gauge over/under which I had never shot before but had decided to try it out this day. As I got up to go get the bird a black lab came running across the field and picked my bird up. Of course, my thought was that it was someone else’s dog who was hunting near me and I may or may not ever see the bird again. But as the dog picked the bird up he came running straight to me and then stopped right in front of my dove stool and dropped the bird. Wow was I impressed but got even more so when this perfect retriever turned and sat down right beside me as if we had been old friends for years! I looked carefully at this black head and noticed he had a face full of grey whiskers….hence the immediate naming of this “ghost” retriever Mr. Grey. So we chat for a few minutes and soon another bird flies over and I drop that bird right out in front of us and without my saying a word my new friend and partner, Mr. Grey, goes and picks the bird up, brings it back, drops it in front of my stool, and then turns and sits down again…another perfect retrieve. Well, my friends, this went on for 12 straight birds (misses not counted but not many) that Mr. Grey performed this same task to perfection.
We would have one-sided conversations between retrieves but he always seemed to understand me or the look in his eye said he did. I gave him some water and patted his head and asked him a lot of questions, most of which he could not answer. After the brought the 12th bird back and dropped it in front of me he took off in the same general direction he had first come from. I called him but he did not look back and all I could do was sit there in amazement at what had just happened. One silly thought I had was that he must not have known the limit was now 15 but I certainly understood that oversight. My buddy saw all of this occur and he too could not believe what he was seeing as he constantly had to do his own retrieving while yelling at his dog. The sad part was that I was pretty sure I would never see Mr. Grey again. Once I got my limit of 15 my buddy and I went back over to some pine trees offering a bit of shade where the other hunters who had gotten their limits started to gather. Soon a black pick-up truck drove up and as the man got out of the truck I could see a black lab in the back of the truck. I walked over to the truck and in an instant recognized Mr. Grey! I immediately assumed it was the fellow driving the trucks dog so I begin to share with him my day and my story with “his” dog. I had not gotten far into the story when he said to my amazement that it was not his dog but the dog had shown up and started picking up his birds and then sitting down next to him. So here are now two of us marveling at this perfect retriever who made our day most enjoyable and touched us both in a way only a hunter would understand. So about this time as the story is being repeated for the 3rd or 4th time, the owner of the field we were hunting comes up and as we are telling him the story he says he recognizes the dog and that the dog lives and belongs to an old farmer about two miles down the road. We had to assume that Mr. Grey heard the shooting and decided to “get out of the house” for the day and do a little hunting. For his reward and because of all the good work he did, our friend that owned the field gave Mr. Grey a ride home. But not before a lot of hugs and admiration from all of us! I have hunted 100’s of times in my life but have never encountered anything like this before or since. And thank you again, Mr. Grey, for your friendship and professionalism! I will never forget you!