This is a story - of how my friend Cheryl found a pet that she could love like no other.
It is also a story of how a dog, with very poor prospects, could find a home like no other.
Finally, it is a story of how some hunters, resistant at first, could find a friend like no other.
Join in with me, if you would please, Dear Readers - and let me have the privilege to tell you about Kai - The Wonder Dog....
Like so many other “unwanteds,” the dog just showed up one day at Lost Arrow Hunt Club in Mississippi.
Filthy and smelly, he had clearly once worn a collar, but it was missing. Several of his front teeth were also missing, and he was skinny as a rail and likely full of worms.
He wasn’t particularly shy around people; in fact, he was very friendly and well-mannered. But the guys at the cabin just couldn’t have another stray hanging around.
At that point, he was very much in danger of being - as the euphemism in the South goes – sent “to the farm to live.” So, Jimbo and John loaded the yellow dog and his black companion into the pick-up truck and drove them about five miles up the road, letting them out near some residences in the farming area.
Three weeks later, just after dusk on the day after Christmas, Cheryl was climbing out of her stand when she caught sight of a yellow dog flying through the woods, chasing the golf cart that her boyfriend Jerry was driving. The dog ran after them all the way back to the cabin – at the golf cart’s top speed – almost two miles. Cheryl was a sucker for that kind of determination – and an animal lover, too. The dog, an Australian Red Heeler as it turned out, had found a new owner.
She named him Kai (rhymes with “sky”), which means… well, to tell you the truth, I do not know what it means!
What I do know is that Kai went from being a starving outcast with a very poor chance of survival to a well kept and very much loved family pet.
Over the next two years, Kai and Cheryl went on frequent trips from South Carolina to Mississippi, where she and Jerry are members of Lost Arrow Hunt Club. There, despite his consistent displays of having been raised properly, Kai earned a reputation for being an undisciplined mutt, primarily due to his proclivity for stealing deer meat, including the fresh backstrap from the cabin owner’s ice chest!
Fast forward to a deer hunt in 2009…. Club member Jim Rigby shot a good early-morning buck, and after two hours of fruitless searching returned to camp, tired and dejected.
A search party was started, and Cheryl asked Jerry to take Kai along because he might “help find” the deer. Jerry first said “No, he’ll just get in the way.” “Oh, come on… he is not going to get in the way – he might even help…” Jerry gave in and off the hunters went with Kai happily riding along.
Some of the guys disdainfully complained that “the mutt” would just be in the way. But their complaints were soon to become alpha-toned remarks and admonitions such as "Just move back and let the dog work!"
At the sight of the shooting, Jerry showed Kai the blood and commanded, “Kai, go find that deer!” Nobody had to tell him a second time.
Kai led the party through woods and across the bayou, picking up the scent on the other side and then recrossing the rushing water again downstream and again hitting the trail, undaunted. If the men lagged behind, Kai would wait for them to catch up; sometimes he even went back to get them. After almost two hours, the men were tired and discouraged (and hungry), so they decided to call Kai in and take a break. Back they went to the cabin where they got a rather cold meal.
After that, with full bellies and a bit of a rest, they knew they had to go back and try to find that deer, so it was back out to the woods. This time, nobody said a word about the matter of taking Kai along.
Kai picked up the trail again where they'd left off -- like breakfast, also a rather cold trail. Never the less, the dog was relentless. He snaked through more woods, crossed the bayou once again, and sloshed straight through a slough – which the hunters had to circumnavigate. And on and on...
Finally, Kai disappeared over the edge of the bayou bank, and then the men heard him begin to bark. When they reached the bank, they saw Kai down below, braced and barking nonstop, a few feet from a pile of logs and debris that had washed up on the edge of the bayou. They found the deer still alive up under this brush heap. A pistol shot quickly dispatched the deer, and Kai’s job was done.
From the time Rigby pulled the trigger to the time Kai looked up at the Lost Arrow boys with that "What’s taking you so long?" look, over six hours had dragged by, and everybody was exhausted. Well, almost everybody.
Kai didn’t have to steal any deer meat that afternoon.
The Lost Arrow boys are crazy about the peppery-yellow mutt now, the one nobody wanted, the one they drove away from the camp, the one they called undisciplined.
Now they all fuss over whose four-wheeler he's going to ride, and Rigby even offered Cheryl $2,000 for him.
When Cheryl calls him away from the skinning/gutting process, they are quick to admonish her, "Aw, leave him alone; he's okay. We let all the dogs do that."
(Kai lives a well pampered life, alternating his time between Rock Hill, SC and Mississippi.)