Today is Flyer’s birthday so although she died four years ago, I wanted to share a little of this wonderful dog with you. For those of you who knew her, I hope it makes you smile to remember her. For those of you who didn’t, I hope it gives you some insight into this amazing dog.
Trumpet’s Gaylan’s Butterfly CD JH AX AXJ WCX OD VC CCA on her eighth birthday
I got Flyer while I was in graduate school in California and Andy was stationed in NY. After watching her dogs succeed in hunt tests, I contacted Flyer’s breeder. When I heard she had a litter that was linebred on the famous CH. Pepperhill Gldn Pine’s Trumpet CDX SH WCX OD, I went to visit the puppies and at 6 weeks of age, brought Flyer home with me.
Flyer’s Puppyhood: Fur and Fowl. Flyer may have been a goofy looking puppy, but she showed her mettle at 8 weeks of age at her first field lesson. Although the cock pheasant the trainer threw was bigger than she, Flyer grabbed that bird and ran, making us tackle her to get it back. That moment began our lifelong passion: me for Flyer and Flyer for hunting.
During her first year, Flyer continued to develop as an avid retriever and hunter. Alas, that was also the year that the drought broke in CA. The lakes around Stanford University filled for the first time in five years drowning hundreds of wood rats that had made their homes in the lake bottoms. I had few places to walk Flyer off leash so we were stuck with the ponds and the rats–yuck! I reminded myself that at the outset, goldens were hunters of both fowl and fur. Like a good trainer, I graciously accepted everything that was brought to me (although I did take to wearing plastic gloves on our walks). Although it was a challenging few months, Flyer thrived and earned her Junior Hunter from the AKC and a Working Certificate from the GRCA by the time she was 14 months old.
Her First Pups. At that point we moved to NY so I could join the faculty at West Point. Soon after, Flyer had two beautiful litters: the Lunar Litter Dozen and the West Point FIFTEEN.
Flyer at the West Point Litter Puppy Walk. That’s a lot of puppies!
Flyer was a phenomenal dam, whelping and raising puppies with aplomb. She was unaffected by large numbers or high demands of pups. She was a practical mother so as soon as her pups were raised, she was back to hunting again.
Flyer in agility
Time to Play. After these litters, Flyer and I got hooked on agility. She debuted in 1999 and finished her Novice, Open and Excellent titles in four months. Unfortunately, the day she earned her first Open Agility leg, she slipped and fell on a practice jump. She took second in the class and went on to finish her other titles in short order but she was losing confidence in jumping. I took her to multiple vets before we realized she had fractured a lumbar vertebrae in the fall. Her agility career ended with nine Master Excellent and four Master Excellent Jumpers legs. Close but no cigar.
We then turned to obedience where Flyer earned her CD with a Dog World Award and three blue ribbons. Her second leg was earned in a snowstorm at an OUTDOOR show. Despite the snow falling around her during the long stays, Flyer was unfazed. Her back injury kept us from going on to Open and Utility but she still loved to do the work so we trained as if we would someday enter the ring.
Outstanding Dam and Grande Dame. Flyer was honored as an Outstanding Dam by the Golden Retriever Club of American after the Lunar and West Point litters were a few years old. She went on to have two more litters: the Flying litter in 2001 and the Golf litter, consisting solely of Una, in 2002. Although the GRCA’s Outstanding Dam requires only three qualifying offspring, Flyer ended up with more than a dozen, including conformation Champions, Master Hunters, Agility Champions, Tracking Dogs Excellent, and Utility Dogs.
For over 13 years, she reigned here at Gaylan’s. She retired from hunting when she turned 12 ½ and her body could no longer hold up to a day in the field. Six month earlier, she had picked up 60 (!) pheasants in one day at a tower shoot but now the light was gone from her eyes when we took her out. Something was clearly wrong so I went looking for the cause.
We planted a dogwood tree in Flyer’s memory
Flyer had Cushing’s disease. Sadly, in our attempts to treat it, we accidentally destroyed her adrenal glands giving her Addison’s disease. We struggled to get the Addison’s under control but could not. In July 2008, I realized that her quality of life was gone and this majestic creature, so full of life and passion, was asking to move on. Andy and I held her in our arms on our lawn on a beautiful summer evening, surrounded by the dogs and people who loved her, as her spirit slipped away. I miss her still but love watching the growth of the dogwood tree we planted in her memory.
Flyer’s Legacy. Flyer was an unusual dog, different from many of today’s golden retrievers. The stories about her are legendary and most are true. She was an incredible hunter, having caught every sort of game bird, as well as squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, turkeys and a fawn. She loved skunks because they did not run away and would go after any beaver that she could find in the water. She moused all winter, teaching the rest of the pack how to find and catch the little rodents in the snow.
Flyer did not live solely to please human beings. She saw me as her peer not her master, and agreed to work as my partner but not my employee. I have no doubt that she could have easily survived on her own in the wild and was honored that she chose to live with me instead.
Flyer at 13 1/2 years
Flyer’s confidence, in herself and her abilities, was legendary. She was mentally steady and physically sound. There was nothing that concerned her and she always handled herself with self-assurance and calm. However, this also meant that she most trusted her own mind, and did not depend on her people. If you confused Flyer for a little person in a fur suit or for a baby, she dismissed you as an idiot. Rather, she was a confident, glorious, adult of her species, more than capable of surviving on her own, raising a family and conducting her own business.
She had a huge amount of energy and drive that was primarily focused on retrieving. At the Flying Litter puppy walk, despite having nine pups to raise/nurse, she chased the ball from morning till night. Even at 12, she would chase a tennis ball or ducks/geese for as long as I let her, repeatedly swimming the length of huge lakes and ponds. I always wore out before she did.
She was my teacher and guide during an amazing journey of discovery into what dogs are supposed to be, not what our fairy tales say they are. It was a gift to have known her so intimately, to have her children, grand-children and now great-grandchildren in my life, to see what a confident hunting dog is supposed to be, and to have had her connect me to so many wonderful people.
I hope you get a Flyer in your life some day. Thank you for letting me remember her on this beautiful fall day.