A Year in My Life Without Llewellins

You would think as time passes, some things would get easier. And some things do and others take longer. But when something is so deeply ingrained into your personhood, it just can’t leave you no matter how much you try to push it away. It seems that missing my Llews, rearing pups, and the Upland life is one of those things. After a year of being without my dogs, I feel like a fish out of water–flopping on the shore, gasping for air, desperately squirming to find my way back to water. And try as I might, I still can barely speak one of their names or see a photo without a full on breakdown of slobbering tears and hyperventilating. If I didn’t know it previously, I now know with complete certainty, just how selfish I am. Because I know the dogs have great lives again now and I know I tried absolutely everything to save it, to keep them, to do what I promised, to not let the dogs or customers or anyone down. I know, I know, I know. Some things, no matter how much you want them, no matter how hard you try, no matter what you do, are just out of your control. There is a much bigger force controlling things. And you just have to let go and know it will work out for the best.

Laurel Mt's Llewellin Setter, Luke pointing a Ruffed Grouse in the Northwoods. September 2008

I thought all of it would happen a lot differently than it did, too. Maybe I had a different idea of it all in my mind. Maybe I was just so out of my mind and distraught that it really did have to happen and I kept thinking something–anything–would change and I could find a place and a way to keep them. Surely a miracle was going to happen any minute, right? And so much was said/misconstrued after the fact that was completely not true. That hurt, too. But, that’s usually the way those things go, so I am told. And I think in my mind, I keep thinking I’ll quickly get into a position to get them back. Even just one of them. Why do I think like that? Hope is why.

As another Upland opener rolled around and I do all I can to keep my mind from it–I mean, I’m trying to work and be able to take care of my mother, help with grandbabies, and being so far away from anything Upland or bird dogs in the sweltering heat and humidity in SW Pennsylvania, and there are dozens of things to be done here every day. How can I think of anything else? But, mid-July came and thoughts of running pups in the Northwoods sneak in, and lately, at night, the dreams turn from ones I usually can’t remember or nightmares I don’t want to remember, to beautiful dreams flooded with Llew puppies yipping and licking my face and exploring the woods and collar bells ringing and the golden popple leaves of the north woods grouse coverts. The glimmer of the late afternoon sun on the flicker of a Llew tail on point. The sound of the Ruffed Grouse flush, the gunfire…. I swear I can smell it. It’s that real. The laughter of friends gathered around a campfire after a long day of hunting. The warmth of the dogs snuggled next to me on the bed, contented sighs, wet noses against my arm, resting up for the next adventure. They are beautiful, though haunting, dreams and those, along with all of the memories, are sometimes more than I take. I wake with a jolt both laughing and crying. Tears streaming down my face that hurts from smiling and laughing. In my sleep.

The past few years has presented some of the most soul-crushing events I’ve had to endure. The losses of loves I once never thought I’d have to in the way that I would have to. We all have endured such losses. I’m not alone or special or a victim. It is likely that many have endured much more than I have. There are much worse things that can happen. I count myself fortunate, really. And it is a simle reality that people change. People lie and cheat and steal. People dramatize, people say one thing and do another. People break promises without even so much as a thought anymore. Most will do whatever it takes to benefit themselves, their cause, and play the blame game. I get it. It comes as no surprise. We are told that none of what others do should come as a surprise. The reality is that there are many people out only for themselves no matter who they hurt. It seems there aren’t many humans of honor and integrity left. One wonders how some can sleep at night. Aren’t they tormented by their conscious? But, we have to pick ourselves up. We have to look for the good in everything and everyone and hold on to those that do have honor and integrity and cherish them. And love more. Love harder. Give more. Give with all you have left. Smile bigger. Try bigger. Be different. Be not of this world. And I’ll stick to the words that “Love Never Fails”. Sacrifice never fails. It may look like it does, but in the grand scheme, in the end-all, it matters more than we could ever imagine. No matter what anyone else does, we are accountable for what we do. All of life’s trials bring us closer to our Maker and to those who matter. Trials make us better, more humble, and more thankful. Look for it. The thread. Hold on to it. Give your all and your best every single day and every person the best you’ve got. Rather they deserve it or not. No one deserves it. I don’t deserve it. There is nothing I can ever do to deserve it. It is a gift. A gift called Grace.

Anywho…… geesh, I go down those rabbit holes a little too deep, eh? Where was I?

Only God knows what the future holds. I’ve learned my plans are not His. But I have decided to put the site live again mostly for educational/informative/helpful articles that I’d like to start writing again. If one article can help to make even one pup or dog healthier, it is worth it. If just one person follows one link to excellent information from experts on canine health and nutrition and learns something and makes a change, it is worth it. There is still so much misinformation about dog nutrition, vaccinations, training, genetics, etc., out there that it astounds me every day. My hope is that even if one person happens upon a bit of information, or a link, or a recommended book that can save one pup from a life of misery and an owner from years of frustration, chemicals, drugs, and vet bills. Maybe one breeder can discover a healthier way to raise their litters from the information here. I don’t know, but that is my goal in trying to keep this site going again.

And maybe it will be the place where I get to document that epic road trip to visit the LML dogs and pups. To hunt over all the pups, the dogs, to photograph them, to film them, to write the book, make that short film. I’ve wanted to do it for a very long time. I think it started in 2013 when I bought a 24-foot trailer and a diesel truck to haul all the dogs and myself all over the country. Now, the needs are different. A converted school bus with living quarters and a photography studio? Insulated for any weather. Completely self-contained. Off grid and go where the birds are. Who knows. Maybe the time to start is coming. I’ve tried to bury the thought. I’ve prayed for it to leave me. But it keeps coming back. My mother is doing much better most of the time. Maybe I could be on the road for a few weeks at a time and able to come back if she needs. And maybe it could be the very thing to start to heal and give back somehow, someday. And to get to the other side sometimes you just have to go straight through the thing that hurts the most, instead of trying to go around it. So, God-willing, this is something I am rekindling. I’d love it if I was on the road right now. This season. Visiting LML families. Seeing the dogs again. Hunting. Filming. Writing. Telling their stories. It was always their story. And their story is the melding of so much more than just a beautiful, natural bird dog. It is about the Upland tradition and getting to the woods or the prairies. It is about keeping our lands clean and thriving with the wildlife God gave us. It is about long-lasting, meaningful relationships. It is about good stewardship. It is about connections and what is real. It is about beautiful memories–grandparents and grandchildren, parents and children, friendships that span decades over a dog, over a meal, over a campfire. It is about shuting out all of the noise of dramatized entertainment for slowing down, walking the woods together, learning about covers and food and the beauty–and ugliness–of what is outside the four walls of your house. It is about keeping the inherited instincts of the amazing creature like the Llewellin Setter alive and thriving for another century.

As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote,

” All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be King.”

So hang in here with me. I feel like there is a lot more to come. I think there just might be a new series starting on bringing up a pup. I have dozens and dozens of articles I started years ago. Maybe they can help someone. I want to completely revamp the site–and likely some links are not working, etc.–with areas devoted specifically to health and nutrition, pup training, and very likely an area to document the hunt for and conversion of the vehicle that will take me on that epic road trip across the country to visit and hunt over every LML dog I can find. And I’m adding products to the Life With Llewellins online shop just for Llewellin Setter lovers and Upland hunters.

That is all for today, friends. I hope everyone is getting to hunt their bird dogs this season. I would love to be there with you!

Hug your Llewellin tonight. Because you can.

Most of all, Be Kind. Love. Give your all. Be different. Fall into bed, if you are blessed enough to have one, exhausted from all the good you’ve done for others today.

Love and Gratitude,

M.