In summer of 2012, I was planning hunts for my TV show SportingDog Adventures. I was brainstorming ideas for the 2013 episodes set to air on the Pursuit Channel. As I was sitting on my couch, my first “topic” came to me–or rather, she placed her furry head on my knee. Her name is Dixie and she is an 11-year-old chocolate female, and the first puppy I kept from my kennel, Soggy Acres Retrievers.

Dixie has quite the life on my property. She loves to explore the wooded acres, swim in the ponds, and bark at deer from the bedroom window. With a gleaming coat that would make much younger dogs jealous, she is still the first to detect my arrival at home…even when my truck is as far away as the county highway, well before the driveway. And then there are the pleasures that come of being a much-loved and spoiled “house-dog,” namely Beggin’ Strips treats from three little boys and endless tummy rubs from the lady of the house.

Dixie is also a seasoned professional in the field, and has been on more hunts in more states than many grown adults. In her accomplished hunting career, Dixie has made over 2,500 upland bird retrieves, many of them shared with viewers on episodes in seasons 1 and 2. But I realized, sitting on the couch that day, that she had never made it on a waterfowl episode and had not retrieved a duck in over eight years. Short of chasing ducks around on our land, I realized that she was never on a true waterfowl hunt, as I had always taken other members of the kennel. At this point, I decided to dedicate an episode to Dixie’s first true waterfowl hunt, to be titled “The Bucket List.”

“The Bucket List” episode features Dixie on her run-up to the big hunt. She prepares by taking on a humorous and difficult training regimen. Viewers will delight in seeing her preparations from the camera eye, but also get a view from the Dixie Cam! Dixie puts in some long hours as she prepares for her big moment under the sun, working on everything from water retrieves, to multiple marks, to kicking some tail on the treadmill. If you like the movie Rocky, you will love the workout montage in “The Bucket List” episode.

The episode moves on to Dixie in the field, on her first waterfowl hunt. The scene is the flooded farm fields of northeastern Arkansas. The first birds down yielded some comic relief, as an excited chocolate Labrador retriever launches into the water and proudly retrieves something other than a duck! I could tell you more, but it’s a fun part of the episode that makes the show! The hunt also puts us out with Antonio Jones, the 2011 Cabela’s World Duck Calling Champion. Needless to say, we did not spare any expense in planning out Dixie’s big moment.

All totaled up, Dixie retrieved 18 birds for us on the hunt. Her drive was amazing, and she loved every minute of the hunt. At the end of the day, she was pretty tired, but she did herself proud throughout her time in the field.

I’d like to encourage you to take the time to get your old dog out hunting as much as you can. Every time they hit the field could be the last time, and to see the excitement in Dixie’s eyes made this trip a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Dixie would tell you she’s a “young” 11 going on 12, and she can’t wait for this year’s upcoming upland hunts…and her second big waterfowl trip!

Image courtesy SportingDog Adventures

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