BY MYRON ANGSTMAN
Everyone who reads these pages has learned where dogs fit into the life at Angstman Law Office. Let me refresh any memories that might have faded. ALO is located at Old Friendly Dog Farm, where there are 20 or more sled dogs tied right in front of the office, where they are hitched to run regularly. There has been a litter of puppies born there almost every year for about 40 years. There have been pets at home and in the office, which are connected by a short boardwalk, for 40 years as well. The legal business, the dog business, and my private life have been intertwined that whole time. I have often said, anyone who doesn't like dogs can find another lawyer.
Tanner of course was the latest among a lifetime of pets, and clearly ranked among the best. He was purchased from a bird dog trainer, after about a year of training, when the guy decided he was too energetic when a bird flushed. He was prone to chase the bird, which would disqualify him in field trials. That same energy was apparent when I met Tanner, and it is why I picked him. He was living with about 30 other dogs, and his trainer said he was the most affectionate of them all. Was he ever!
We loaded him the car, and the drive back to the farm was a challenge. He never relaxed a moment. But when we hit the farm, the dog realized he had hit the jackpot. We went for a long walk, where he found birds and unlimited room to romp (550 acres). He soon figured out that I was his ticket to this freedom, and he learned ways to coax me into a walk. We bonded in short order. It is hard to say who liked the walks more. Watching him work the grass, woods and swamps at the farm was the highlight of most days, and when we were done it took him no time at all to figure out a way to recline on my lap.
There are folks that have observed that I seem to like dogs more than people. There are some who even find fault with that. They just don't get it. For me it came naturally. As a kid on the farm, I had two basic options for entertainment. I could either stay in the house and be subjected to older sisters who wanted to play school with me as the student, or maybe dress me up as a girl for fun. The other option was to go outside where the dogs lived, and wander around the farm enjoying what nature had to offer. Right away I went for the second option, and with no neighbor kids close by, it was usually just me and a dog or two. Now, 60 years later, things haven't changed much.
Tanner fit right in with that program. He shared with me a desire to see what was around the next bend, only with about 10 times as much energy. Here's what we did together: He started out the day inside but went to work with me every day. At lunch he came home, and then right back to work. We often had a short walk or two during the work day. Almost every evening we took a long walk, usually in a place where he could romp and explore such as the wooded area near our house where a creek runs. After the walk it was lap time. On non-work days, we walked further. At the farm we walked several times a day, plus golf cart rides. We went almost every day, including rainy days and -50 wind chill. He hunted, fished, retrieved, rode in boats, airplanes, golf carts, 6 wheelers, and trucks. He appeared briefly on Flying Wild Alaska (he dashed through the scene they were filming in our yard) and sat next to me in the Taco Bell commercial. He attended parties, sniffed out wildlife, and alerted us to bears. That bear was 100 feet from me outside the cabin when Tanner barked and I retreated. He twice retrieved live ducks he chased down in the grass and was so gentle with them I released them to fly away. He retrieved live salmon from the lake, and once retrieved 7 dead salmon in a row, dropping them at my feet as I fished for a live one. He loved to carry around shoes, and part of each day was spent tracking down the missing ones. There are still a couple missing. He loved to stay in hotels. Obviously, the author of this article would approve of Tanner's program.
Basically he spent eight years as my constant companion, willingly going along with whatever plan I devised. He enjoyed his life immensely. He was starting to show his age, another trait he shared with me. After a big day on the trail, he was a little slow to get going the next day. He even missed a half day of work from time to time, preferring a little extra couch time. He had a chronic shoulder problem which showed up after heavy use.
He was a superb hunter but didn't get to retrieve that often because his partner decided to let most of the birds on the farm keep flying. I usually tried to get him at least one pheasant a year to reward his skill and effort. Last year, we hadn't harvested a pheasant and there was only one day left before returning to Alaska. It was late in the day after a bunch of departure chores when I decided to give him a chance. We went to an out-of-the-way patch of tall grass where Tanner had flushed a number of birds on previous walks. It was about 20 minutes before quitting time. When we hit the edge of the grass, he became ecstatic and disappeared quickly in the 5 foot high growth. After a couple minutes, a short crow of a rooster followed by an excited yip from Tanner pinpointed a bird flushing a little out of range. The bird banked into range and a lucky shot dropped him, but he glided down, usually a bad sign for finding the bird. Tanner was still in the tall grass and I had no idea if he saw the bird go down far from where he flushed. I waited as dusk descended. After about 5 minutes, here came Tanner out of the grass with the live bird in his mouth. It was a classic end to his hunting career.
Happy Trails, Tanner