Chris Jones has been busy the last two weeks organizing a memorial fishing tournament to honor his best friend.
We’re talking about the epitome of man’s best friend — his fishing partner, Angel, a beagle-huskie mix.
Jones and Angel were inseparable for more than 14 years. Wherever Jones went, Angel was at his side. Especially in the fishing boat.
Some men have hunting dogs. Jones had a fishing dog. Angel delighted in being with Jones, who runs the Catfish Pursuit guide service, as he and his clients pulled in giant blue catfish on Lake of the Ozarks.
Her blue eyes widened and she rushed forward to place a big lick on the big ones that were brought to the net. That was her seal of approval.
“I didn’t look at her as a dog,” Jones said. “She was my best friend.”
That’s why it was so hard to say goodbye. When the veterinarian told Jones in early June that Angel had only a few days to live, he begged for just a bit more time with her.
“I had stayed with her at the clinic when she was really sick,” he said. “At the end, I carried her out of there and whispered in her ear, ‘I’m going to take you fishing one last time.’”
So Jones and Angel traveled to Lake of the Ozarks and the Warsaw, Mo., area for one last trip.
“I caught some catfish, but she hardly paid attention,” Jones said. “But my last fish of the day, I caught a 30-pound and Angel perked up.
“She tried to get up, but fell down. Somehow she walked over to me, put her paw on that fish and then just laid on it. I just started crying.”
Angel died two days later in her sleep, peacefully on her favorite pillow in front of her fan. Jones knew it was coming. But it was still hard to accept. And the mourning started.
“I’ve had some rough moments in my life; lost some friends, had some health problems, some other things,” said Jones, who is a sergeant for the Cass County Sheriff’s Department. “But this is by far the roughest thing I’ve ever had to go through.”
Which brings us back to that tournament. Jones wanted to do something to honor Angel and the Odessa Animal Clinic that provided such loving care for her in her dying days. So he came up with something that he thought was fitting.
He and his friends organized the Angel Memorial Catfish Tournament. The event, which will based at the Old Oar House on the Lake of the Ozarks, will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. There will be a registration period for an hour before takeoff. Entry fee will be $50 per team.
Half of the proceeds will go to the top placers in the tournament. The other half will go to the Odessa Animal Clinic and its rescue dogs program. Money raised will go to help fund adoptions of dogs that don’t have a home.
“I won’t get a dime of this,” Jones said. “I’m doing this in honor of Angel and to show my appreciation to the Odessa Animal Clinic.”
For now, and maybe forever, Jones won’t be adopting one of those dogs. It’s too early. He can’t imagine owning another dog.
He got Angel when she was 5 weeks old. A woman approached him with an offer of a free puppy, and Jones declined at first.
“About the last thing I needed in my life was a puppy,” Jones said. “But I looked at her and I couldn’t say no.”
It wasn’t long before Jones and his new buddy were fishing and camping together.
“I remember our first camping trip,” he said. “We were out there in a tent and it got cold. I woke up and her teeth were just chattering. She went out to where the fire had been but it was out. Then she came back and just stared at me like, ‘Aren’t you going to start it again?’
“I got the fire started again, and she just warmed herself on all sides before she laid down again.”
From the start, Jones knew he had a fishing dog.
“One night, I was catching white bass one after other at Lake of the Ozarks,” he said. “When I brought a big one and saw how excited I got, she was really into it.
“I thought, ‘We’re going to be good friends.’”
That friendship only grew as the two shared hours of time in the fishing boat. Now Jones is feeling a void. He had Angel cremated and he plans to get a special urn so that he can take Angel with him in the boat.
“She’s still with me,” Jones said. “I can feel it.
“She’ll always be with me.”