If you had glimpsed Silk a month or so ago as she eagerly ran up the driveway from the kennel to the house, you would never have guessed she was 14 years old. Upon closer inspection, it still might not have occurred to you for little of her jet black fur had faded to gray. Only if you had looked into her eyes would you have noticed her years. They were full of wisdom, but also faded and opaque with age.
Jerry and I thought this might be a tough winter for Silk so we brought her along on our training trip to Georgia. Wouldn’t the warmth feel good on her old bones? And wouldn’t she love lounging on soft green grass?
Silk adapted well to our routine here and seemed healthy. So we weren’t at all prepared for her sudden illness and end.
One morning last week when we went to the kennel, Silk appeared dazed and disoriented—perhaps, we guessed, like she had just had a seizure of some kind. She recovered and seemed fine all day—even napped in the warm sunshine—until early evening when she had another. She recovered again but by the next morning, she had worsened with numerous, severe seizures. Jerry and I bathed her, wrapped her in a soft blanket and brought her to the vet.
Even though simple blood work and a physical exam ruled out many diseases, our experienced vet explained the most likely cause of Silk’s condition was a tumor of some kind that was growing quickly and pressing on her brain. It was clear that Silk’s long, happy, productive life was at an end. Jerry and I tearfully made the heart-breaking but humane decision for her.
Silk: the extraordinary dog.
Throughout her life, Jerry and I co-owned Silk with Paul Hauge. Even though she lived at our kennel, Paul was always proud of her. Silk was out of our 4XCH/4XRU-CH Blue Streak and CH First Rate, a multiple champion in horseback field trials. From both she inherited uncommon stamina and a tenacious application but had her own sweet disposition and even temperament. Similar to her uncle, CH Blue Smoke, Silk had a very accurate nose which allowed her to pin birds with precision. She placed in several field trials, one time even besting her famous dam. In 2001, Silk won the Minnesota/Wisconsin Derby of the Year. For several years, she was a first-string member of our grouse-guiding team.
Silk: the dam.
Jerry and I bred Silk just three times. Her first litter was by Paul’s great dog, Houston, using frozen semen. We next chose a talented son of Houston, I’m Houston’s Image, and for her last litter, we went to the East Coast for CH Peace Dale Duke.
As evidenced by this list, Silk was an exceptional producer of both grouse dogs and field trial champions.
2004/Houston x Blue Silk
• Blue Shaquille, one of our best grouse dogs ever
• Sweet Dakota Blue, owned by Doug Wenell
• Kobe, owned by Sam Gary, Sr.
2006/I’m Houston’s Image x Blue Silk
• 2XCH/RU-CH I’m Blue Gert, owned by Dave and Rochel Moore
• CH Satin From Silk, owned by Greg and Diane Gress
• Beloved Blue Ghost, owned by Randy and Mo O’Brien
• Casey, owned by Jim DePolo
• Blue Spirit & Boomer
2007/CH Peace Dale Duke x Blue Silk
• Northwoods Blue Ox, our Oscar
• Northwoods Blue Babe, formerly owned by Paul Hauge
• Blue Peace Belle, owned by Steve Snyder
• Zeke The Streak
Silk: the pack leader.
Silk was our eldest dog and definitely the leader of the pack. No matter which dog was in the house with us—the Labrador May, strong Shaq, macho Oscar, Vixen the whippersnapper or even puppies in for rehab like Carly and Roy—Silk ruled. They shrank away from the water bucket if Silk wanted to drink. And with one significant look, all dogs would scatter so she could claim the big dog bed all to herself.
Blue Silk is gone but she will never be forgotten. Of the 19 English setters we have with us here for training, all but three are out of Silk. Her sweet disposition, spirit and talent live on through all her famous sons and daughters and their offspring, here and elsewhere.