My big boy went to the happy hunting ground yesterday. Hoss, who came to me as the big male in his litter and grew to be 92 lbs at his prime weight, succumbed to old age respiratory and ambulatory issues. After a rough weekend we took him to the vet and now he is up in the yard buried next to Sadie. I never properly trained Hoss. That's on me. His marking and retrieving was purely on instinct. Man, how he loved to get in the boat and go out hunting. He was a lucky boy who grew up on Hayden Lake and for at least the first 8 years of his life, swam just about every day that the water was not frozen hard. His only transgression was his mastery at the art of escape and what my wife used to call his "walkabouts". We got so tired of him bailing 8' off of our farmhouse porch that we put up hog panel. The side of our house looked like a prison of sorts. He was a sweet, sweet "gentle giant" and all who have hunted over him with their dogs also on the trip found Hoss to be willing to honor other dogs retrieves. As he got older he'd love to come along and sit in the bushes but was perfectly ok with letting the other dog do most of the work. Last season he was so frail I didn't take him out at all; he finding it harder to get around and my buddies dogs coming into their prime. It was a tough transition into leaving Hoss behind. But he resumed a new role as mama's boy. Man, he loved my wife. His new job in life seemed to be not letting her out of his sight. And raiding the kitchen garbage can. For this, my wife gave him the nickname of the Moochie Man. Hoss never was given human food and we were rewarded with a dog whose world was food but who never begged when we sat down to eat. He loved a good garbage can, however. And he couldn't resist a fresh gut pile. A true labrador retriever, he was driven by his stomach. We have 16 apple trees on the property, and in his prime Hoss probably ate a dozen or more apples a day when they started falling from the trees. If Hoss had escaped and it was apple season you generally needed to look no further than the orchard. We laid Hoss in the ground yesterday not far from that orchard. I tucked him in, smoothed his big velvet ear over his head and put in a couple of dog treats, an apple and a tennis ball. I am waiting off on getting another dog until I retire next year and can properly train it. It will be my last hunting dog, as I'm no spring chicken. I know that my next dog will be a much better gun dog than Hoss. But I can't imagine that I will love another dog as much as I loved big Hoss. He was a character, a goofball, a gentle giant, a loyal big boy who watched over his mama and me. RIP Hoss.