Saying Goodbye to Ol’ Rupe

Written by: Perk Perkins, Orvis CEO

I had to put Ol’ Rupe down the other day. It was really hard – harder than I had imagined. I guess the guy had curled himself around my heart tighter than I knew.

I knew, with Ol’ Rupe being 14 1/2 years old as an English Pointer, that this might be his last autumn, so I flew him out to Montana at the end of August to spend the glorious month of September out there to accompany me on days afield and astream. He was too old to be on the traveling squad, let alone the starting team for this fall’s bird season. But we did a couple hunts out there together and he gave me an indelible point on a group of sharptails one evening as a tangerine sun raked a hillside with its fiery rays.

I took him on a number of floats where he napped in his dog nest in the bottom of the drift boat, lifting his head now and then to test the air for messages I will never know, and standing to lap clear river water over the

Rupert on Point

gunwales in a resigned sort of way. He did a final road trip with me to Waterton, Canada for a meeting I had there. About halfway through the month, he started to fail and a vet confirmed that his days were numbered.

It was difficult, as that was when I had to take a trip back to Vermont for some unavoidable meetings. Some old, good friends that Rupert knew well were very kind to look after him while I was away.I’d only been gone a couple days when I got a call saying I should hurry back if I wanted to see him again before he passed away. When I returned, he had stopped wagging his tail and was not eating. It was easy to make the sad decision to put him down. He went to sleep with me stroking his head in the back of the 4-Runner that he associated with great outings.
A few days later, my son Simon and I went up to the hill where he had what proved to be his last point and we cast a third of his ashes into the evening breeze and read aloud the poem below to some fellow hunters and friends, many of whom knew too well the iron of the moment.
I thought I would post for you my farewell words in hoping they may kindle in you a joyous moment shared in a life that has passed.
You flew with me around the country
South Dakota, Florida, Montana, Vermont
I flew with you through nature
Smooth Brome, wire grass, rough fescue, prickly pear, aspen
You came to know me
know the change in my tempo
which told you when you could come in the 4-Runner,
on a run, in the canoe
You waited patiently for the mornings when I laced on leather hunting boots.
I came to know you
your signature tap danced to the rattle of dog bowls
The arch of your tail and angle of your nose
the pulse of your cheeks
as you tasted the air
that sculpture of black and white
in the mosaic of grass.
Rupe, you brought me joy in the field
that I could have never had without you.
I was proud to call you mine
proud to set you out to hunt.
My dear hunting companions knew you were the main show
on those days.
In the days ahead, when talk turns to great bird dogs,
I may smugly hold my tongue
and you will be in my mind.
You were far from perfect
At times the goofy guy
I remember on your first hunt on the Indian reservation in South Dakota
when you pulled a wiley coyote
sailing off the 20 foot high sand dune,
back peddling in mid-air
and crashing into the sand below;
how you much preferred fur to feathers given your druthers
your bony awkward cuddling attempts
to be like the labs.
There were many grouse you rendered into hash
in the years of your armadillo carnage.
The $500 price tag for the farmer’s chickens you killed.
I count my blessings that your were never hit by a car
In the wanderlust of your younger years
you caused me hours and nights of agonizing worry
as I searched and called for you in the hills of Vermont.
Although you were such a gentle soul
many dogs felt the sting of your teeth
if they inadvertently loitered near our bag of birds at the end of a hunt.
There is no worthy way to honor our friendship and your passing
but Simon and I will give your ashes to the air currents that sang you songs in your favorite places:
here on the grassy slopes under lone Wolf Peak in Montana
under the towering long leaf pines of Mays Pond in Florida
and in the grown over apple orchard of the Graf Farm in Rupert Vermont.
Perk and Rupert
Rupert and Perk in Montana

Photo by Simon Perkins

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