Every Dog Has Her Day

A duck hunting lodge isn’t complete without an old dog. Even the finest duck lodges in the nation have a weathered Labrador retriever limping about, sniffing around for discarded lunch scraps and possibly a duck or two to pick up, only to get the feathers in their mouth one more time. Bay Flats Lodge in Seadrift, Texas, one of the finest lodges I’ve visited has several dogs, but one looks and lives the role of “duck lodge dog.”

Brooke is a 15-year-old chocolate Lab whose feeble back legs look as if they could give out at any moment, yet, it’s her job to keep an eye on the place and everyone who visits. Of course, she has designated and devoted herself to this tedious task.

Lexi is no stranger to airboats or long retrieves. Here she is resting on the front of the airboat as we pick up decoys.

Walking down the stairs from the main kitchen and eating area, the last step onto the concrete is answered every time with the click-clack of Brooke’s toenails as she creeps along making sure every hunter or fisherman has everything he needs. The click-clack has a slow-but-steady rhythm, because “speed” is a word no longer associated with Brooke. Brooke relied on her speed back in the days of retrieving ducks for her master and Bay Flats Lodge owner, Captain Chris Martin, but these days she epitomizes the slow atmosphere and relaxed aura of the Texas coast. As hunters and fisherman relax on the covered patio, enjoying the sunsets and sharing stories about their day’s adventures, Brooke can always be found off to one side, watching over her clients and dozing a few minutes here and there.

Capt. Martin & Sadie

Capt. Chris Martin walks back to the blind with Sadie following a miraculous retrieve on a cripple.

It’s a non-stop job keeping an eye on this place, one this retired hunting dog obviously takes great pride in. She’s devoted to every guest, much like the guides, cooks and Capt. Martin. Every morning at 3:30 a.m., when I stepped from my room in search of coffee, Brooke met me on the walk to the kitchen. As a dozen men loaded gear and donned waders, Brooke stood beside them, going from guest to guest, offering them a silent “Good luck this morning, boys.”

Brooke’s body is deteriorating and she has been known to walk out in front of a golf cart or two in the early morning, never hearing it coming. A quick yell from the driver, and once the headlights hit her, she realizes she’s made a mistake. She takes a calculated step back to let the cart pass, but shows no shame as she keeps moving in the same direction, still headed off to do whatever it was she had planned. After hunting with the guys from Bay Flats Lodge, I understand where her pride comes from. Long saltwater-flats retrieves on diving redheads and pintails is how Brooke lived her life. Nestled into the brush or blind, eagerly awaiting another mesmerizing Texas coast sunrise, is where she grew up. She’s spent more time in flats boats and air boats than most and has retrieved more birds than 50 other dogs I know combined.

She runs with an eight-year-old black lab, Crash, whose bad hips have kept him from the long boat rides to the flats and freshwater marshes where flashes of wigeon and gadwall litter the coastal backdrop. Their eyes tell the story. They know they are duck dogs, even until the end. They have too much pride to rest when guys pile out of boats and trucks returning from a morning hunt. Both dogs greet the hunters like lovers awaiting a war heroes’ arrival. They are more than likely jealous of the other dogs, but they don’t mind slipping back to sleep in the cool grass when everyone disappears from the docks well before the sun rises.

Red

Red's passion and excitement is an excellent representation of a true waterfowl hunting dog.

They sleep in the shade provided by airboats, trucks and a golf cart. They don’t ever have to move, yet, Brook and Crash greet hunters as if they are the owners and operators of Bay Flats. Sitting under the covered patio, both dogs seem to materialize like a flock of green-winged teal when bacon hits the grill. The wag of a tail and a head on a knee might not be enough to convince some to fork over a sample of whatever is coming off the grill, but Brooke knows she has earned as much bacon as she wants. She merely steps back, cocks her head to one side and stares at you with a noticeably piercing glare seen only in the eyes of hunting dogs. I gave in immediately. Her eyes are beginning to cloud slightly, but the intensity holds in her pupils and I can imagine her picking out a flock of low-flying redheads coming across the bay from 500 yards, or marking a downed pintail drake in a rolling bay. Now it’s the bacon that sets her eyes ablaze.

There are other dogs. We hunted with Red, Sadie and Lexi, all showing the professionalism of their owners and class of the lodge they represent. These are Texas-coast duck dogs. and their puffed-out chests and muscled physiques explain it all. Unlike my dog, they don’t have to practice every day—they hunt every day, and they do it well.

Chris & Brooke

Brooke and I at 3:30 a.m. as hunters were loading up for the morning hunt.

I spent time sitting in a rocking chair, enjoying the breeze coming off the bay and sipping on a glass of sweet tea while Brooke sat next me. I imagined the stories she would share if she could talk, and I was amazed just thinking of them. She was a bit camera shy, but so are most hard-working, humble folks I know.

Before I pulled away from Bay Flats Lodge after enjoying some of the finest wing shooting I’ve experienced, I thanked Capt. Martin for a great experience, and then I went to say goodbye to old Brooke. She was standing at the edge of the parking lot looking out onto the bay. She stood there staring as if she could see the large rafts of redheads, wigeon, gadwall and pintails. Her scan of the bay complete, she walked over, gave me a slight nod and slowly strode to a shady spot under the deck. She had to get rested up—she’s not as agile as she used to be and she has a new group of guests arriving in just a few hours.

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7 Responses to “Every Dog Has Her Day”


  1. 1 Capt. Chris Martin November 24, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Chris, you’re a very talented writer with a gift of sharing this story the exact same way we see live it. I’m having this blog placed in my office next to other articles written about the lodge. I got teared up reading this blog, knowing Brooke only has so many days with us. She has touched so many customers, and stollen one or two beef jerky packages from them as well. I tell guests when they arrive, please make sure your room door is “shut tight” because Brooke can open an ice chest with her nose. Thanks for sharing our dogs with the world, your always welcomed to visit Bay Flats Lodge.

  2. 2 Alvaro Barcellos Souza Mouawad December 2, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Dear Chris

    I really enjoy your story.I own a duck lodge in Uruguay and feel the same about my old female lab,Milla,13 years old that is getting close to end her season with us.
    Best regards

    Alvaro

  3. 3 Capt. Chris Martin December 3, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    OUR HEARTS ARE HEAVY TODAY

    December 02, 2009

    My wife and I made a journey this Thanksgiving to visit family and friends in Iowa to pheasant hunt, attend church, eat Deb’s Mothers mid-west dishes, and most importantly spend time with her sick Dad. But, while away we learned our 15-old chocolate lab “Brooke” took a turn for the worst, severe arthritis in her back is taking a toll on her rear legs. After arriving in Houston we rushed to the vet clinic to check up on her. The Doctor has her on IV and steroids. You see, “Brooke” is our lodge dog; if you have ever visited the lodge you will remember her. We had to put “Brooke” down today; our hearts are heavy, as we know she will be going to a better place. We have so many wonderful memories of her.

  4. 4 Alvaro Barcellos Souza Mouawad December 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Dear Capt Martin

    I am so sorry for your loss but you do a final act of love, letting her go when you can no longer keep her out of pain.

    I know what you feel and with two old labs as my“duck lodge dogs.” here in Uruguay I imagine what will come soon.

    My best
    Alvaro Barcellos Souza Mouawad
    Lake Merin Outfitters – Uruguay

  5. 5 C. Jennings December 3, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Chris,

    My heart goes out to you and your family for the loss of Brooke. She truly made an impression on me, as I’m sure she did all your guests.

    Chris Jennings

  6. 6 Mark Patterson December 4, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Teared up myself reading this one as my 3 year old yellow lab had her head in my lap.
    One of the best articles I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
    My thoughts go out to Chris and Deb. They run such a first class operation and I’m sure Brooke was treated in the same fashion throughout her life there.
    All the best,
    Mark

  7. 7 Katie December 9, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Ahh well done Brooke. What a cutey !


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