The Casey and Duke Story, a Man and His Hunting Dog

by Free Speech on May 7, 2010

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

River Currents
by Gary Engberg
©2010 Gary Engberg Outdoors

Casey Carlin with Wisconsin State Flag during his tour of duty in Afghanistan

Casey Carlin during his tour of duty in Afghanistan

Some of you readers may remember an article that I wrote well over a year ago when my Labrador, Bo, had to be put down after being my companion for over 13 years. I received some of the nicest letters and emails from many of you during my grieving period. Those of you who have had dogs realize the pain and sorrow of losing a pet. My Labradors have been my “children” and I know many of you feel the same.

I’ve raised some wonderful Labradors for over 30 years. But, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get another dog after losing Bo. My hunting days are basically over and I didn’t know if I wanted to go through the puppy training and suffer the heartache when they pass away. But, some great friends of mine “decided” that I wouldn’t be happy in life without a Labrador and found two great Labrador breeders in Jane Esser and Bill Brewer of Bangor, Wisconsin. I ended up picking out a yellow Labrador female, who I named Katie, and she is the joy of my life. The “good times” that you spend with your dog far outweigh the sorrow when you lose them.

The reason that I’ve repeated my dog experiences is because I have an uplifting story about a young man who I met through my website instructor, Don Stanley. Don has been working with me for years and most of what I know about computers I owe to Don. He knows my outdoor background and how writing, being involved in outdoor activities, and taking care of Katie are now the main things in my life. One day, Don told me about another client of his, Casey Carlin, who had been injured in a snowmobile accident and has been paralyzed from the neck down.

Casey was trying to find a way to get his dog and life-long companion, Duke, out hunting. Duke is a German shorthair pointer that Casey has had since Duke was a puppy. They hunted pheasants, grouse, and fished together till Casey’s accident. The love of the outdoors was instilled in Casey at an early age by his late father, Virgil, who brought Casey up in the “outdoors.”

Here’s some of Casey Carlin’s background before his tragic accident. Casey graduated from Madison’s Lafollette High School in 1996 and immediately joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard and went through basic training before entering the Military Fire Academy in Texas. Upon returning to Madison, Casey enrolled at Madison Area Technical College in paramedic studies. He was hired as a Limited Term Employee by the Madison Airport Fire Department. Immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Casey was called to active duty and deployed to Afghanistan in January, 2002. He spent 6 months in Afghanistan as a Staff Sergeant and upon returning home he spent another 6 months at Offit AFB in Nebraska. After 16 months of active duty, Casey then attended the University of Maryland Fire Science Department. After school, he was hired by the Madison Fire Department where he worked till his accident.

Last year, Don Stanley and Casey put together a flyer explaining Casey’s situation and how he was interested in getting Duke out hunting. He was looking for help or donations for Duke. Some of Casey’s “fire fighting brothers” have taken Duke out and even helped Casey build a house, do maintenance, and be there in his times of need. Casey now has a full-time caretaker. The Madison Fire Department established the Casey Carlin Fund because Casey has a very limited income. This is why Casey was looking for help with getting Duke out. All donations of goods and services including birds and hunting time for Duke and Casey are a tax deductible to the Madison Firefighters Local 311 Charities.

Casey Carlin's dog Duke after a successful hunt

Casey Carlin's dog Duke after a successful pheasant hunt

Don told me more about Casey and what he (Casey) wanted to do for Duke and himself. We then had our first email conversation in October in 2009. I told Casey that I knew some friends who had game preserves and I would try to set up a hunt for Duke that Casey could hopefully watch. I promised Casey that would post his flyer on my website and hopefully get some help for Duke and Casey. After many emails and having bad weather cancel a few dates, we finally were able to set up a hunt at Wipp’s Pheasant Ranch (608)-588-7055 in Spring Green, Wisconsin on January 22, 2010. Greg and Joe Wipperfurth gave us a “deal” on the pheasants and I got friend, Catfish Stephenson, to shoot the birds that Duke pointed. My Lab, Katie, was also along and I did my best to handle the dogs even though we had both a pointer and flusher. Another friend and professional photographer, Doug Stamm, took photos for Casey and my videographer, Daniel Robinson took video. The Wipperfurth’s even had deer sausage and homemade pie for everyone after the hunt!

The nice thing about the hunt was that Casey’s friend, Che Stedman, could position their van so that Casey and his loving mother, Beverly, could see the hunt. Casey really wanted to see Duke work the stocked pheasants. There was a layer of ice over the snow which made walking difficult and also helped Duke catch a few pheasants. I received an email the next day thanking me for putting things together and getting Duke out hunting. Considering all the preparation and weather, the hunt went great! In the email, Casey said that one of his favorite things that he still loves is “seeing Duke work a pheasant.” We ended up with six pheasants and the Wipp’s even cleaned the birds for Casey to enjoy later. He added that Duke slept well and was “pooped” out for a day or so after the hunt. To me, being able to help someone who has done so much for his country and others was a no-brainer. Dog and outdoor lovers have a common bond no matter what breed of dog they may have. Knowing the enjoyment that Casey and Duke got made my day to say the least. Casey is another example of the young men that defend our country and freedom!

The game preserve hunting season closed at the end of March and Casey asked if we could get out again. We corresponded and set up another hunt at the Leystra’s Game Preserve just outside Sauk City, Wisconsin. The owner, Jim Leystra, said that Casey and crew could hunt his preserve and added that there were pheasants left from a hunt a few days earlier. I met Casey, friend Mike Dibble, Catfish, and Beverly in Sauk City and we drove a few miles to Jim’s private preserve. I again was the dog handler and did my best to control Duke and Katie. Duke got another good workout despite not getting any pheasants. There were a few misses, birds flushing out of range, and a downed bird that couldn’t be found in the thick cover. But, it was still another great day for both Duke and Casey!

I know that later this year, I’ll get Duke and Casey out again. Casey could use any help or donations from any readers who want to help a man and his dog. You may contact the Madison Firefighters Local 311 Charities and the Casey Carlin Fund if you’d like to help out Casey and Duke.

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