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April 19, 2014

No Retreat: Teacher’s golden retriever proves to be a hero, fighter

NEW CASTLE — It was last fall, and my favorite time of the year to be in the woods hunting.

On this day, I could hunt small game and turkey, though my primary purpose was a hike in the woods with my dog, Maggie. This year was special. I also had my five-month-old golden retriever, Remi.

My husband, Ed, and I had walked from the road down a path and into the bottom field, where he left us to go work on his tree stand. Perhaps, with a little luck, Maggie, Remi, and I would move turkeys in his direction as we went on our two-hour hike in a large circle that would bring us back to him.

There is a certain feeling I get when hunting with my dogs. At no other time do I feel so connected with them. And now Remi, named after my Remington shotgun, was part of the experience.

We were the perfect trio that Saturday morning in November when we had our first hunt together. Sure, I was hoping my dogs would kick up a bird and I would — with that perfect shot — bag us a bird, but my heart was more with my dogs and the woods than with hunting. 

I couldn’t help but think of past hunts in the 27 years Ed and I have been going into these woods in Sligo, Pa. I never taught Maggie to hunt, but she has always kept her nose to the ground and stayed out in front of me, and now Remi was doing the same. It must be instinct in these dogs.

Remi was on her first of many such hunts, and loving this dog the way I did, I just knew something special was going to happen.

We climbed up and down the hills, cut through thickets, and the dogs swam in the creek numerous times. Life was good. 

I was at peace. The sun warmed my face and as I looked high to the sky, I thanked God for everything He was blessing me with.

When we had walked more than an hour, I got the eeriest feeling. Someone was watching me. Feeling paranoid, I made myself look 360 degrees, and I saw nothing. Ed, I and one other person had permission to hunt this posted area, but the other hunter was nowhere to be seen. I felt foolish, but I couldn’t shake the feeling.

We walked out of a wooded area and onto a narrow path that was skirted on one side by a cornfield with standing corn and the woods on the other side. Suddenly, the dogs stopped, sat on their back legs, and stretched their necks toward the corn. I heard a buck snorting just a few rows into the corn. It was so close. This was perfect. Remi was to see her first buck up close, and I could teach her to sit and to not chase it. We waited, one or two minutes and out it came.

It wasn’t a buck.

It was a full-grown black bear.

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