Colonials Four Leaf Clover, one of the prettiest American Field dogs you might ever watch retrieve ducks, geese and upland fowl, has left us far too soon. Clover will be sorely missed.
Properly titled Colonials Four Leaf Clover, she was an AKC black Labrador, a memorable hunting dog and most importantly, loving companion of Bruce Leduc. Our relationship with animals, especially dogs trained to work or perform, can be complicated but for the best and the fortunate, there is much love supporting the training and Clover was a star.
“If you shot a duck or a goose, it was not getting away”
“She was a field trail washout from up in Maine,” Bruce said. Clover was born in Rhode Island at Mike Coutu’s Colonial Kennel in Harrisville then moved to Maine where her new trainer didn’t care for the way she responded to his strict methods. “Some trainers, they have their style, and the dog either conforms or they get rid of it. And his style was all pressure, pressure, pressure,” Bruce said. Like so many humans, Clover had her own way and as she grew, it was beautiful to watch. Bruce welcomed her at just over a year old.
We rely on dogs for comfort, exercise, companionship. We direct them to find birds, swim through icy salt ponds to retrieve ducks and sit quietly in cramped goose blinds. Maybe, after sunset, we share a few square feet of couch space with them.
“It was just through fate,” Bruce said, that he found Jim Pickunka at Pond View Retrievers in Brooklyn, Connecticut, a master trainer proud of his tradition of caring for and teaching dogs. Clover stayed with Jim for six weeks in a training program geared specifically for her. Jim’s attention made all the difference.
I watched Clover run through winter fields, smelling, marking, retrieving pheasants camouflaged by Nature in tall brown grasses and impossibly thick brush genuflecting to heavy melting snows. Clover was obedient indeed, but she was more than just a trained bird dog. Clover was wonderful to hunt with and admire. Standing alongside Bruce as he gave his commands and whistles, following Clover as she stopped, turned, sat, looked, understood and returned was a show far superior to anyone shooting pheasants. Bird dogs like Clover made the hunting experience more remarkable. Clover will be sorely missed indeed.
“The field labs are not recognized. If you showed up at Westminster with my dog, they’d laugh you out of there,” Bruce lamented. Clover didn’t need a title; she was an amazing dog who bore a litter of puppies this past August. Bruce kept one female he named Sedna, honoring the Inuit word for their deity of sea and water animals. “I wanted to give her a goddess’ name.”
“She was a companion. If I wasn’t at work, she was by my side. If anyone ever tells you a house dog can’t be a hunting dog, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” Bruce said. “She was a much better duck dog than she was an upland pheasant dog but the last few years of her life she really started to come into her own. Mostly she was just a really good water dog. That was her ace in the hole. If you shot a duck or a goose, it was not getting away.”
Clover Will Be Sorely Missed
“She was definitely a fan favorite,” Bruce laughed. Clover joined Bruce for visits to his Dad’s nursing home, quickly bringing smiles to Bruce’s father’s face but then the nurse would come in and out went Clover, out to visit other residents who needed a pet, a smile and wave as she wagged her tail room to room. Bruce just shrugged and figured the two would return when it was time. “She was a great ambassador for her breed.”
“Here’s Clover wth my “granddaughter” by love not blood, Ms. Hannah Cardenas. Hanna was born with a form of albinism, which caused her to have poor eyesight, She was petrified of dogs, due to most getting in her face and her not seeing them approaching. Clover was not like that. She was respectful of other dogs and peoples space. It took us a good year of slowly working with her and Clover and they eventually became inseparable,” Bruce said. How fortunate people were to meet Clover.
Dogs have this way of looking at you, delivering messages of love or in some cases, confusion. A few years ago, while hunting pheasants with Bruce and Clover, I missed a classically easy shot, the kind you pray to have again, the one you see in your sleep for weeks. Straining at her lead, poised to retrieve, Clover whistnessed the whiff, turned her head, squared me up with her eyes then delivered a look I saw in my sleep for weeks. How quickly the hunter asks forgiveness from the hound, which was not forthcoming.
“They tried their best,” Bruce said through a trailing voice. Clover had become ill. It happened in three days. She received the best love and care. She passed and was cremated. Already Bruce knew Clover would be sorely missed. Bruce’s granddaughter saved some of Clover’s ashes for a small memorial. “Honestly, I think I’m going to load some of her ashes in some shotgun shells and I’m going to take her hunting,” Bruce said with a laugh. How fitting a loving tribute, to pass on that dusty mantle urn but to be sent afield into the grasses and marshes where she loved to run with a shotgun salute.
“Yesterday, I pulled into my driveway and I can see my kennel, I just expected, I just expected to see her pop up as soon as my car hits the driveway. It just hit me like a hammer. She would run at the masters level,” Bruce bragged.
Thank you Clover. You were a sweet, smart, pretty and much loved companion who retrieved with the best of your breed. It was pure joy to admire your talents through all weather and terrains as you happily raced and bounced through fields and waters, listening for whistles, ever-watchful. I was blessed to see you work, never resting, straining to run and return, looking up at Bruce with your happy face, feathers hanging from your mouth, asking with your eyes why it was taking so long to drop more birds. “They are so much a part of your life and then all at once, it’s gone. She went out on top of her game.” Bruce Leduc lost you far too quickly but he’ll take up that same small piece of couch with memories of an amazing dog who didn’t need some show award to shine and who loved hunting but loved him more.
Farewell Colonials Four Leaf Clover.