The Big Duck Marsh in the Sky

Saying Goodbye to our Pets.

Grenadier Island lies in Lake Ontario, about a mile and a half from the New York State shore.The view from the North side r"our side") is of the entrance to the St Lawrence River. In the fall of the year, it isn't hard to imagine a feathered river of ducks and geese flying up the big waterway,and descending on Grenadier,to take a break from the hard work of migrating south.

It probably was that way many years ago,when we started coming to the island, because the early allure for most visitors was duck shooting . Now the ducks are not so plentiful,and most of the islanders are well along in years, so "up before daybreak and into the duck blind·is happening less often--although we all still have the "Labrador Retriever" habit. Through the years we have been reminded time and again of a sad lesson that all dog owners learn, that dogs do not live as long as humans.Most of us have been very fortunate in having long lived-dogs, and much of the credit should go to excellent veterinarian care.When the end approaches,we have all found our "vets" to be caring and compassionate in administering the final kindness to a beloved pet.

Quite a few years ago we began to hold a "service" on the island once a year,in late summer, for the dog,or dogs, that passed away over the preceding year. The "cemetery" is at the end of a mowed patch of grass, not far from one of the island summer residences, about 15 yards from the Lake,with the River to the North, and Canada to the northwest. We have found a local monument company that specializes in tombstones for humans,and they are very accommodating to pet lovers. For about one hundred dollars, they will provide a good-sized stone with the dear departed's name and dates of life chiseled into it.

To be truthful,there aren't any actual dogs buried here; in some cases it is just their ashes, in other cases, their collars.The physical burial isn't the thing; it's getting together with your closest friends, all of whom knew your dog well,and remembering -that's the thing .

Most of the time, the ceremonies take place in late afternoon, and the sun and cool breezes are on our backs as we line up for the formalities. We would not be mistaken for mourners at a human's funeral; everyone is in shorts and tee or polo shirts, mostly shod in sandals or deck shoes. Hats are mostly baseball caps. A local couple give of their time,working    clippers and a "weed-whacker," so all of the tombstones are visible and legible in a rough line across the edge of the clearing.

We follow a familiar format- the dog's owner (s) gives a short eulogy to the assembled group of family and friends, emphasizing the best,and most remembered characteristics of old Duke, Cassie, Rob, or whomever ,and something of his or her history on the island. If she had been a formidable huntress, one of her long and difficult retrieves might be recounted. Others in the group might join in. and youthful indiscretions were fair game for reminiscences, lest the session become too serious. For example, no one who was there has ever forgotten the love /hate relationship between Wyatt,a local property owner, and Gus, the big and boisterous Brittany Spaniel. This surely reached its zenith when Gus climbed up on the canvas "Bimini cover'' on Wyatt's vintage Chris Craft to sun himself!

Generally , a cocktail hour immediately follows the service, and the current crop of Labs dance attendance, hoping for a dropped hors d'oeuvre . The talk is of dogs young and old, and is never maudlin, despite the possible shedding of a tear or two during the service. No time for sadness when reliving memories of happy dogs with old friends.

See attached photo of author Alex Porter with his wife ,Total Compliance Solutions Representative Janet Porter, and their beloved lab Hallie, who died last September. Janet visits many veterinary clinics in the course of her work to help them with their OSHA compliance and workplace safety programs.


Here are some excerpts from my Log of Oct.15 -16 ,1974 . This was when the cattle were on the Island.HAP


Tues. Oct 15 , 1974 :

"Peter Remington and HAP to the island in the AM (after repairing steering cables in the Club boat) to find (Oh Woe!) that the steers had broken out of the corral . We spread hay and grain for them , and decided to spend the night , and hope to shut them in for another attempt in the morning . Wind was W./NW about 10 - 15 MPH , not too bad. Sky cleared in the PM , producing a gorgeous , red -orange , streaked sunset , interspersed with blue streaks  - a fine evening . Saw perhaps a dozen small flocks of BB's flying along the North side of the island , between 5:30 and 6:30 . Presumably they have come down on the N. wind , and we hope we will be ready for them tomorrow , when the season opens at noon .



What was the name of your dog that was Teal's mother ?

What was the year Teal was whelped?

What dogdid you keep from that litter?

Who was the father?

How did the birthing go?

All for our section in the website on the dogs of Grenadier


Uhl :

You have really stumped me with these questions . I have just gone through my dog files , and I find nothing about that era . I have lots on Bonnie Lass (and Britt) , but nothing on Troll . She was a black Lab . female from Trollgard Kennels of N.H. and I'm thinking we got her in the  1960's , after "Shadow" was killed at Thanksgiving time by the oil delivery truck in our Belknap Rd driveway . Of course , my first dog was "Gus" , the Brittany Spaniel , whom you remember well , I'm sure . He was the one who infuriated you by sunning himself on the canvas roof of "White Caps" , your motor cruiser , at a picnic on the shores of Grenadier , roughly 50 years ago .

It maybe that Troll was the mother of Teal ; the sire may have been a black Lab owned by Pat Palmer of Palmer Kennels in Acton, MA . If that is correct , we may have kept Musket and Missy I from the same litter , but this is just a guess , as would be the dates of whelping , etc . I think you were living in New Canaan when you got Teal . I remember Musket was a big , strong  , dog , and he distinguished himself hunting ducks with Sam Robinson (who died around Christmas time .) and me on the Miller's River in MA in late Dec . It was so cold that all the lakes and rivers were frozen , except the Millers , which ran too fast . Black ducks would fly up the Millers in the early AM , and we shot one that fell downstream , and crawled under a frozen log . Musket sniffed it out , and fetched it to us , splashing through the rapids , and we noticed he was sheathed in ice , frozen on the outside of his black coat ! He paid no attention to that , as I recall . His sister Missy was not such an eager huntress . Once I had to throw her into the water at Barnstable Marsh on Cape Cod , when she wasn't enthused about fetching a black duck . Unbeknownst to me , this weas observed by the game warden , who was watching us with a scope from the dunes of Sandy Neck . When he visited us at the Guide's shack later in the morning he remarked on it , which I found embarassing ! In the late 1970's she redeemed herself in Merrymeeting Bay , Maine  , when she retrieved a couple of limits of Teal from a muddy spot off the shores of Swan Island , hunting with me and Spear Sedgeley , a Maine guide and sporting camp owner who died quite a few years ago .

I think Duke was my next Lab after Missy I and Musket , but I cant remember where he came from . After he was killed on the road in Sudbury , came Bonnie Lass from Scotland , and I have pretty good files and records from there on . Best , Alex