The very first dog I raised from a puppy, all on my own, was Falco, a Vizsla. They are a very old sporting breed, over 1000 years old, from the plains of Hungary, and were originally bred to be falconry dogs, thus my naming of him. Falco is genus for the falcons. These are wonderful dogs, bred to be great family and field dogs both – pointing and retrieving, swimming, running; perfect for me, since I am outside so often.
They are also very agile and energetic, so he could keep up with me all too well. Actually, the only way I could keep up with him was on a bicycle. He thoroughly enjoyed our bike rides together, as we could keep pace with each other then, and he could really stretch out his stride. We would often bike 2-3 miles to a local river, swim and explore for about 2 hours, and then bike back. The only time this bothered him was when it was too hot, but other than that, we both had a great time with it; there was no wearing out this dog. He kept coming with me and my son through his 16th summer, although a bit slower, of course.
He was so fit and agile, I also almost felt obligated to do a lot of agility with him. No special courses or anything, just jumping from log to log, over fences and nets, up and over picnic tables, walking along the top of brick walls, through playgrounds, or whatever else I could find. If he was really motivated, this not overly large 45 pound dog could clear a 5 foot fence, although he usually balked at around 4 feet.
He was also a very gentle fellow when he had to be. I can recall visiting a friend who had a very small child, not quite walking yet. Falco was lying down next to him, and the child would place a tennis ball in his mouth. Falco would gently take it, then drop it right there so they could both do it again. What a contrast for a dog that also chased a 100+ pound Rottweiler right back into its own yard. He was not aggressive, but certainly did not want to be subordinate.
As he got older, he finally went almost totally deaf, so I had to use hand signals more often, as he was off lead trained, and preferred that freedom. Unfortunately, he was also too smart, and realized that if he did not look at me, he received no directives or commands to obey. Needless to say, roadside walks were on lead again, but if there were no vehicles, he was good to go, at least occasionally looking over at me.
Last summer, he finally succumbed to a host of ailments at the age of 17. I knew he was not for much longer, as almost everything on him hurt, his back legs were failing, his appetite diminished, but he was so determined not to quit, I could not quit for him. If only we all had that kind of determination. I was only a few days from giving him a final peaceful end when he wandered off, never to be found – not the ending I wanted for him, but at least he left doing what he enjoyed the most, exploring. He had just been fed, not eating much, separated from my two new acquisitions. Being puppies, they had too much enthusiasm for him, but I really did want them to meet each other. Falco had to be fed outside the fence, so he could eat in peace. He slipped away on my wife while I was not there. Good bye, old friend.