Heading into the pheasant season without a dog: Rounds knows what he's missing now that Baby's gone

Last Updated by Kevin Woster on
Sen. Mike Rounds and his yellow Lab Baby

OCT. 5, 2018


Mike Rounds should be in the market for another pup these days.

But the job won’t let him.

You know the job. That U.S. Senate thing. It makes it tough to raise and train a puppy — even one from the fine genetic line of Brandy and Baby, the yellow Labradors that have led Rounds to the ringnecks since 2001.

Brandy was the mom, and a sweetheart with a good nose. Baby was her, well, baby — equally sweet, equally olfactory.

Baby earned her name by being the runt of a litter born 14 years ago come December.

“We had all these pups, and every time somebody would come by to look at the pups, that littlest dog was missing,” Rounds said a while back, when we were talking about dogs and hunting and other autumn stuff. “It became pretty apparent that one of my kids or my wife was removing that dog from the litter when people came by. So I finally removed it myself.”

For good. And to stay. Until this week.

Brandy died in 2011. Baby followed four days ago. The next day, Mike Rounds sent out a picture of himself and Baby, along with this tweet:

“Yesterday, we said goodbye to our dog, Baby. She was a loyal hunting companion and part of our family for almost 14 years. We miss her already.”

There are other dogs in the Rounds family, of course. His son, Brian, an electrical engineer, has 11-year-old Maya, a black Labrador and cousin to Brandy and Baby.

Maya has her own special qualities beyond flushing roosters.

“She thinks she’s human,” Mike Rounds says. “She would literally open the refrigerator door and get him (Brian) a beer. To be left outside would be an insult to her.”

Another of the senator’s sons, John, has a 3-year-old black Lab. And his son-in-law Justin, who is married to Rounds’ daughter, Carrie, has a 3-year-old chocolate Lab.

Son Chris has a yellow lab, Daisy, that was part of the same litter Baby was in.

So, lots of dogs in the Rounds pack, and several that can still get after the birds.

Still, there’s something about having your own dog, to raise, to get to know, to train and then eventually to take with you into the field. And it’s something special. Out there, you can teach a dog a lot, but it can teach you even more -- more than you ever imagined, about pheasants, about the magic of scent, about the timeless truths of the outdoors, and about yourself.

Bird hunting — especially for old guys like Mike Rounds and me — just isn’t the same, isn’t really hunting at all, without a dog.

A dog of your own.

“It’s such a huge part of the tradition,” Rounds said. “And the excitement the dogs bring. Unless you’ve had a chance to go out and do it with a dog you’ve helped train, you really don’t know…”

What you’re missing, he means.

But Rounds knows. Especially this week.

Good girl, Baby. Good girl.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of SDPB, Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting, or the State of South Dakota.