Empty Crate

Best bird dog in the world was also a trusted friend and best pal.

This is one of the hardest blogs I have done. I do it for my own healing and as a tribute to my best pal. It is really part of a note I had sent out to several friends who where trying to understand my pain.

Last June my best pal, Scout, my bird dog jumped from my Jeep and was caught under the back wheel. Moments later he died in my arms.

I deal with this pain everyday and have not come to terms with his death. To a degree I know I suffer the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I feel my new pup, Trigger understands this pain and often tries to comfort me.

Below is the email I sent to friends and family who were grasping at straws to help me at one of my lowest points. Most of the people on this list were supporters of the work we do in Adventure IQ to bring free survival and back country training for kids at Scooter’s Youth Hunting Camp.

Hello Everyone- checking in with you. I wanted to shoot out a quick note to help everyone understand where I am right now. Some of you will understand. If you are not a “dog person” you won’t get it- just understand that I am and try to put yourself where I am right now…

Thank you for the prayers, well wishes, emails, and phone calls. I really do appreciate each one.

To understand the story of Scout- you first have to understand the story of me. He wasn’t just a dog- he was my best pal. This story includes my own introverted personality, the trials and tribulations at the time to get we decided on a dog for me, my love of the outdoors, and time I was spending alone. If you are not into long stories- hit the delete button now.

My life is more complicated than what is seen on the outside. I am often described by words such as outgoing and confident. I am a poser in this regard. What you see when I stand up in front of others and present is something I have to gear up for.  At the end of a presentation I am completely exhausted. To be in front of total strangers is difficult for me. I enjoy it – but it is not something that comes natural. Unfortunately, fostering relationships has become easier for me with tools such as Twitter and Facebook.  In those places I have been able to come out of my shell a little quicker.

I had to learn to overcome my uneasiness of presenting early in my military career. In 1988 I was selected as the first Airman to teach at the Ground Combat Tactics course. I was working with all NCO’s (Non-Commissioned Officers) teaching special tactics, survival, and other courses to both US and allied soldiers. This led to being one of twelve Air Force members being selected as Instructors for the joint Army / Air Force team where I really honed my survival skills- but not necessarily my outgoing skills.

I am passionate about the things I teach. Ironically I teach a 16-hour workshop on presentation skills to senior sales staff members at work. Overcoming this for work or for teaching others things I love (survival, scuba, etc) is something I have grown accustomed to. This has had dire consequences when making new friendships in a new area extremely difficult.

For those I have shared long conversations with, reach out to you when I am in need, spend great deals of time with- I am truly thankful for your friendship, for all others- please forgive me. I am not in anyway trying to be unfriendly or push you away. I cherish you as well, and I wish I were more outgoing with you. Deep down I am extremely shy and this tends to come out more with some people or more specifically in some settings. Scooter’s day allows me to share something I am passionate about. It is also incredibly intimidating for me. Scott pumps me up as the “survival guy”, which although I blush- I have been trained and have used the skills in real situations. At the same time I am around some fascinating people that have killed large game, have their name and trophies in record books, and bring home a freezer full of meat each season. I hunt rabbits and quail. Something I do on my own.

In the fall of 2006 we had received some terribly disturbing news in our family. I won’t go into detail but it sent me into the deepest depression I have ever known. I was to a point of being catatonic at times. I had lost nearly 30 pounds, was sleeping 10-20 hours per week, and was barely functioning. I was so exhausted that Melissa would drive me to work and I would sleep in the back seat until we got there. If the downward spiral had continued- it would have only ended in pain for everyone around me.

One morning we were behind a pick-up that had the name of a local breeder advertising French Brittany hunting dogs. For the first time in months I had an emotional reaction. After talking to the breeder and deciding that a Brit would be perfect for me- I had something to look forward to that did not have “tragedy” tagged to it. It also gave me a companion to be in the woods with- and not hang out alone.

I have yet to make the emotional bonds with other guys since I let Texas in 2005. There I had a small but strong network of friends and a community that we had built together. Most people don’t realize that our move to Idaho was in pursuit of a dream I had since I was six. After other failed attempts at transfers, jobs, etc in the area- I threw it all in- sold what we could and moved here- without house to move into, a small gamble on a job, and without friends. Introverted guys don’t do well in these conditions. Scout was that emotional bonding I was looking for. We had guy time. We hunted birds, explored trails, played on the ATV, even watched hockey together.

Losing him has left a huge hole in my heart- one beyond just losing a dog. With Scout I didn’t have to be someone I wasn’t. I was at peace- he was my sanctuary.

I have no words to describe the pain and loss I have right now. Scout was my sanity, my confidant, my buddy. I wish I had him back and miss him deeply.

Through my pain, organizations such as NBRAN helped me cope and eventually brought a wonderful puppy into my life. Trigger is very much “Daddy’s Dog” and we spend as much time as we can together. I have also become a user and evangelist for safety systems in vehicles including retention netting and seat belts for pups. In addition Trigger has his own blog, which allows me a chance to view the world through the eyes of a rescue pup.(randombarking.com)

The lives of Trigger and Scout are so different. Where Scout was a bred bird dog, selected specifically for me, and a high prey drive-  we enjoyed hours in the field chasing upland game, Trigger was abandoned because he couldn’t hunt, steals my coffee and is just content to hang out.

Trigger doing what he does best...loving on me

I love both dogs deeply and continue to work through the painful loss. I often wonder if time will heal. Right now- I’m not sure I want it to.

8 thoughts on “Empty Crate

  1. Claudia Kord

    I feel so much for your pain, Rob! It is so hard to get through those times. My husband had a black lab that came as part of him when we met. Char was the best dog to have with small children. He taught both Kris and Amber how to walk and would never let them out of his sight. Once, at about 3years old, Kris decided to go exploring in the woods behind our place. When we realized Kris was missing, we called Char, who obediently came out of the woods. We knew, then where to look. Char went back into the woods, and within minutes, Kris and Char emerged. Kris, later, told us he wouldn’t have been able to get back without Char’s help. He was very frightened! When we moved to our new house, we lost Char within weeks after the move. He was becoming very deaf with age and was chasing a deer across the road in front of our house. He never heard the car coming. It was such a loss to our whole family, since Char played such a big roll in it, but even more a loss for my husband, since Char had been such a hunting and fishing pal for so many years even before we met. No other dog has taken Char’s place, no matter how much love we give to them.

  2. Melissa

    Wow! What a strong read. I have tears in my eyes. Both for the pain you went through with losing Scout and the joy you now share with Trigger. Thank you for sharing your inter-most hurts with us. I have seen both sides to this story first-hand. I can still see the pain in your eyes, yet there is also so much love reflected in them for your new best friend.

  3. kathy

    Thank you for sharing your story. You were right in saying that if you’re not a dog person, you won’t get it. But if you are a dog person, you have most likely had a bond with one or more dogs like the one that you speak of. Our dogs do so much for us, it really is amazing how they work into the fabrics of our lives. Please give Tigger a squeese for me, I surely miss the Brittany who came as a package deal with my husband over 20 years ago.

  4. Dave

    As I read empty crate, I could not help but think of how these “animals” help us as we help them. I have had the honor to know many special dogs, and I carry a piece of each of them in my memory. We lost Faegan last May. His death was sudden and happened way too soon in his life. At the time I posted that he lived life to its fullest each and every day knowing that his days on this earth would be limited. Even now nearly a year later I look at his picture which graces my desk and talk with him. I’m sure that Scout will provide you with that same guidence.

    One of the beauties of adopting a dog is that they, like those of us who’ve lost our special friend, have a tale of loss. Just as we are trying to heal and rebuild, so too are they trying to heal and rebuild. Together we each take those tentative steps in building a new life together. We each carry a piece of that hurt and void. But together we struggle past that as we find warmth and comfort in each other.

  5. Kathy

    I just recently lost my 12 year old brittany, Sadie Mae, after a sudden illness. Even though I don”t think I mourned her long enough at times we adopted Bruin from NBRAN one month later. Training him and seeing him do things for the first time brings so much joy! Now tears roll down my face for two reasons!

  6. Tina Travis Kiker

    I have an empty crate, too, and I can’t bear to move it or take his toys out of it. We lost our 2 year old Brit, Husker, on Feb 1st. The pain is almost too much to take.
    The members of Facebook’s “Brittany Spaniel Lovers” group have been such a source of comfort to me and my husband.
    We know how you feel. Truly. On the internet, people you have never met will cry for your loss and feel the pain with you.

    Please know you’re not alone.

  7. Bonnie

    Each Animal soul that is sent to us is different but then sometimes poeple claim another will act like their beloved passed animals. I believe they are really sent to us as our Angels, it seems we pick them, but really I think they pick us and we find them when their duty is called to assist us. That is just my believe , and I have lost a few. And each has gotten me thru diffferent parts of my life and also my whole life. You will get up and you will start again, and time does heal, though we are not to forget because that is their mission to teach us each time and if you listen pay attention to them you will see, I believe God is in every animal and sends them as our Angels, I call them and I also call them my Furry Children. Listen to your new Pup, he will guide you, and sounds to me he has a bit of sence of humour wich is how hes trying to wake you! I wish you both lots of love, and peace and your Scout will be assisting him and still looking over you. I aslo believe Ive seen the Angel animals communicate to each other their mission to ready for when one move on! My Cat Daughter is 19, I adopted a second rescue last year and this one is you a Black Lab mix, my Cat seems comfortable w/ him verses our Brittney mix from Brittney Rescue in April . I feel she is preping him! 😦 :)l

  8. Russell Frank

    Rob Anderson you are a truly wonderful Human Being. Thank you for being who you are. I’m sorry for you loss and do understand to some extent the hole it creates.


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