By Ford Walpole 

When Scott Farfone, my friend and neighbor, was browsing gundogsonline.com, he “didn’t think for a second he would buy another dog.” He already had a two-year-old Boykin spaniel, five-year-old twin boys and a 10-year-old daughter. He and his wife, Dottie, operate Dottie’s Pharmacy, Specialty & Compounding and are starting up a hobby farm to boot.

Nonetheless, an advertisement from Big Sky Bird Dogs in Belt, Montana caught Scott’s eye. He soon made contact with Chad Shearer, who hosts Shoot Straight TV, an outdoors show that features Chad, his wife Marsha and their sons Walker and Wyatt. Walker runs Big Sky Bird Dogs, a kennel specializing in breeding and training Labrador retrievers and English springer spaniels.

During the conversation with Chad, Scott discovered that Shearer had guided fishing trips on Montana’s Missouri River. The two men quickly hit it off, as Scott has been to Montana and fly-fished familiar waters. When they lived in Boone, Scott and Dottie owned Foscoe Fishing Company, an Orvis-endorsed guide service and outfitter and Scott considers Montana a spiritual second home.

“The more I talked to Chad, the more excited and interested I got in the dog,” Scott says. He has always had an affinity for black Labs and Boykins; “it’s been an internal battle.” After time eased the loss of Caddis, his late black Lab named for the dry fly, Scott was ready for another Labrador. Chad indicated “they had not sold a finished lab before, but they had an overabundance of dogs in the kennel.” But if they were to part with Magnum, it was important to find the right owner. “Chad was interviewing me and I was interviewing him at the same time.”

High Brass Magnum is two years old and Scott was apprehensive about missing out on the puppy stage of his new family member. Even so, he has known the frustration of “getting attached to a puppy only to send it off for six to eight months of training.” This reality, coupled with Scott’s aforementioned obligations, contributed to the appeal of a ready-made dog. Still, “it was a major risk. Perception is everything and with a dog, you just never know what you’re getting.”

Of course, adopting a Montana dog presents logistical challenges. “My first thought was: How do I get to Montana to pick up this dog? I have flown dogs before and that is just a stressful time for a dog.” Chad is sponsored by BPI Outdoors, a gun manufacturer and Dudley McGarity, the company’s general manager from Atlanta, just so happened to be driving out to Montana for a hunting trip. McGarity agreed to bring Magnum along on his trek home to Atlanta. Dudley texted Scott a photograph of the big Labrador sleeping atop luggage and gear piled up in the pickup’s back seat.

The Farfones drove to the McGaritys’ Atlanta home to meet their new dog. When Dottie’s first introduction to Magnum was a particularly energetic retriever who had been cooped up during a two-day trip, she looked at her husband and said “Oh, no! What have we done?!” Even so, “It was almost like a test,” Scott continues. “He had been in a car for 25 hours and we made him ride for another five. Dogs feel climate, temperature and pressure, but Magnum didn’t miss a beat. He loved us right away.”

They arrived home to John’s Island at 2:30 a.m. and Magnum immediately curled up to sleep on his new dog bed. “When we let him outside the next morning, it was like he had always been here. He is absolutely consumed with our children particularly our daughter, Brooke.” In addition, Magnum is inseparable from Marsh, the family’s Boykin spaniel.

During Montana’s early September duck season, Magnum hunted intensely with the Shearers, but his recent recovery from a neuter surgery prevented Magnum from being ready for a Thanksgiving’s duck hunt here in his new home state.

On Wednesday, December 13, Magnum finally wet his feet in South Carolina waters. Scott and Dottie brought him along for a hunt on an impoundment off the Santee River. It was a cold, windy 29 degrees, perfect duck hunting weather. “Magnum jumped off the duck boat and went to the blind. I did hear a little whining every now and then,” Scott recalls. “He honored our hunting partner’s other dog. That first bird I dropped was a green head, a mallard and when he retrieved it, it was like we had hunted together forever. It worked; it just made sense and I knew he was an awesome dog.” Between the two of them, Scott and Dottie harvested seven ducks that day, a ring-necked duck and mallard hens and drakes.

For Scott, “seeing Magnum swimming with that mallard took me back to the time Caddis made his first retrieve. My father and I were hunting a pond in Marlborough County. We heard geese, so I pulled out a goose call. ‘They’re turning,’ Dad said and we dropped one. When Caddis brought that Canada goose, he looked at me like: ‘What in the world is this’?”

“The crazy thing is, on my first hunt with Magnum, he never even shivered!” Scott did, though. The water was low, thus making the steps on the blind too high for Magnum and his quarry to manage, so Scott removed his glove and helped up his partner.

            Scott reflects on the duck hunting experience. “That’s why you do it: For the camaraderie and watching the sunrise over the water. But it’s really for the dog — watching him retrieve. It’s what he is passionate about and what he is born to do — what’s in his genes.”

            Amid balancing the pharmacy and the children, coordinating duck hunts is difficult, so “it is a real treat when we have the opportunity to go duck hunting,” Scott notes. Fortunately, Magnum’s desire to live his dream provides a fine incentive for plenty of future hunts.

            Since buying Magnum, Scott has become friends with Chad Shearer. After seeing pictures of Magnum’s Santee hunt, Chad invited the Farfones out west to hunt and fish. The ideal trip would include taking High Brass Magnum back to his native Montana, to see the folks who raised and trained him and to work Montana’s woods and waters.

            When Scott initially suggested the idea of acquiring Magnum, Dottie cautiously inquired: “Are you sure? Getting another dog could change our lives.” Of course, her words were prophetic. The black Labrador’s name evokes an increased amount of powder, shot and power than your average shotgun shell. So too, Magnum is no average dog. The other day when the beautiful Labrador entered the room, Dottie remarked: “I just couldn’t imagine life without him!”

 

Mercury newspaper racks are located at the following locations:

The Meeting Street Inn

Clair's Service Station at 334 Folly Rd.

Harris Teeter on Houston-Northcutt Blvd.

The Square Onion in I'On

Mt. Pleasant Library on Mathis Ferry Rd.