Today is a very sad day at L’Escarbot Kennels. One of the best dogs I have had the pleasure of owning, training, and hunting alongside, Etoc De’ L’Escarbot, has passed away peacefully at 13-years-old.
Etoc was an amazing dog who, at six months of age in North Dakota, made three very memorable blind retrieves on ducks. As the evening sky dimmed, Etoc made his way through fifteen yards of cattails and swam another twenty yards to more cattails where he found the first of three mallards. Etoc brought to hand the first duck. He quickly turned around and headed back into the cattails for another tough retrieve. Etoc had scented the second bird on his first retrieve. Remember he was six months old. He returned with the second bird to hand. We had to move down the shoreline to send him on the third bird. When we got to where I thought the bird was, I released him telling him, “dead bird.” He went right back in the cattails, nose snorting and mud flying, as the sun went over the North Dakota horizon. We could only hear Etoc swimming and then sounds of the chase. The duck was crippled and giving this young dog a workout. Five minutes later a muddy and totally wet, but very proud, Etoc emerged with a live hen mallard in his mouth.
This was the beginning of a true champion. Etoc was the type of dog that when asked to go to work in the field, would obey every command with joy. That fall we shot many pheasants, quail and partridge behind this young male. This was the beginning of a true friendship.
Etoc and I trained hard twice a day for months to prepare for a field trial in France. Two months ahead of our trip my boy Etoc, who was an amazing retriever, decided to go to the retrieve and bring the bird three quarters of the way back and just look at me. This was the first real hiccup that we had in his training. Etoc was testing me as a trainer and he knew it frustrated me. So off to my friend down the road for a little force fetch. Etoc never really fought the force fetch. Instead he learned quickly that it was easier to just do what was asked of him.
At two-and-a-half years old, Etoc, my brother, Bruce, and I flew to France to see how this young male would match up against some very stiff competition. We arrived at CDG airport in Paris in the late morning, picked up our rental van and drove six hours to a hotel for the night, which was still a couple hours from the town of Escourse in southwest France where the shoot to retrieve field trial was being held. Etoc had an airplane ride, a van ride, and an overnight hotel stay before another two-hour ride to the field trial the next morning.
Etoc was entered in the trial on a solo run. He went out in a pine forest with planted pheasants and proceeded to run at a very fast clip, straight into a stump. I saw him go ass over tea kettle and then quickly get up and run another twenty yards to a solid point. I was amazed that he even got back up at all after the collision with the stump. He held point through the flush by the gunners and the shot that downed the rooster. I proceeded to ask the judge if I could send him on the retrieve, the request was granted. Etoc then made a perfect retrieve to hand. The judge told me to let Etoc go again. About four minutes later Etoc had another rooster pinned with a beautiful point in lavender flowers. I will never forget that moment, how beautiful it all was. My dog Etoc in southwestern France, in a pine forest, in beautiful lavender, on point. He was flawless and proceeded to take a first place, amazing the crowd that had heard of his superb run.
It still amazes me how this wonderful dog handled all the travel and still preformed at such a high level. Etoc went on to do the same thing the next day, taking another first place. That afternoon Etoc took a third place, outdone by a couple local champions that were handled by one of the top trainers in France. Etoc had found two birds and again flawlessly did his thing. The two dogs ahead had found three and four finds to outdo the American traveler.
The next spring in at the National trial in Morris, Minnesota, Etoc had an epic run in a driving snowstorm, that amazed the gallery of people following his run. Etoc proceeded to find four chuckers and do everything right. Etoc held steady through flush and shot birds with perfect retrieves. He covered the whole field with ease. I looked at the judge and asked had they seen enough and the judge responded that Etoc had four minutes left in his run. This was the moment I realized the judge either wanted Etoc to finish out the time or they just wanted to see if Etoc would fail. In hindsight, I would have run the time out, since he already had an amazing four perfect points and retrieves.
In those last four minutes, in a driving snowstorm with heavy wet snow, with about six inches of snow on the ground, Etoc finds and points the fifth bird. The bird had been there awhile and was totally wet and couldn’t fly. The judge had the gunner reach in and throw the bird. As soon as they went to grab the bird, instead of flushing the bird, Etoc moved and the judge DQ’d him.
Etoc would have won the national title easily that year if it hadn’t been for a wet bird and a judge that couldn’t get enough of this unreal run. People in the gallery saw all of this and came up to me afterwards and said they had never seen a run like that ever.
That was my boy Etoc, who went on many trips to Montana, Iowa, North and South Dakota, Kansas, California and of course the great state of Minnesota.
We all hope for that one great dog in our lives and I have had the pleasure of having more that just one. Etoc is at the top of that list of outstanding L’Escarbot Kennel dogs.
I go to the kennel now to train, and my boy isn’t there anymore, its like I lost something.
Many stories have been told about great dogs. This is another one for the books.