High-quality dogglers: I just got back from my whistle-stop trip to Kittery, ME, to attend my AKC Judges Seminar. It was nice to see some friends from the VCCNE -- Ivan + Marlena, Val + Jeff -- while I was up there, as well as witness the original Maine outdoor mega-store. (Incidentally, Marlena and Val were the first two judges to judge Momo for his JH.) My impression of the revisions to the Pointing Breed Hunting Test guidelines is that they are essentially good and serve to bolster the quality of the judging and therefore the quality of a dog's qualifying performance, although I can already anticipate where there will be some grumbling. For those not especially interested in the details, I've made the following smaller so you can skip past it faster.
- Hunt Test Committees are going to probably have a hard time getting enough qualified judges bearing in mind that there are now minimum experience requirements for each two-judge panel. Again, this seems like a good idea for ensuring that, even if a novice judge has to confer with his/her judging partner, that partner will have seen plenty of dogs upon which to base their opinion.
- There are now minimum running times for all three levels -- meaning that in a 15min JH test, the dog will be evaluated for 15mins, and for a 30min SH/MH test, the dog will be evaluated for 30mins. The days of getting one good point and flush in JH and then picking up your dog are over -- and while in several ways, MH has become 'easier' the dog now has to perform satisfactorily for the entire duration of the test. On courses that have distinct established bird-fields, dogs have to spend at least 6mins in that bird-field in JH and 8mins in the bird-field for SH/MH. (And JH dogs are now required to point at least 50% of the birds they encounter on the course.)
- In all levels, and on courses with distinct back-courses, it is now required that birds be planted and maintained in the back-course. So, while your dog may miss them, handlers can no longer expect that the back-course is just an extended walk to help your dog get its ya-ya's out before it hits the actual bird-field.
- Interestingly, at the MH level, handlers may now issue brief, quiet cautions to their dogs once they are on point and then release them verbally for the retrieve. Frankly, while I can appreciate old-school MH judges and qualifiers grumbling that things are now easier, I have to go back to the Field Rep's comments that the tests are supposed to engender good hunting dogs. And I know that I'm going to talking quietly to my dog when I hunt -- in part because there are going to be scenarios where the dog shouldn't be making the choice when to go retrieve a downed bird.
Sporting Dog Advocacy: Well, I had a nice conversation with Mike Spies the other day about John Yates and the American Sporting Dog Alliance. (See, I really did do some research.) And as you can see, I have added their name to the 'Groups We Belong To' section. Mike and I seem to agree that while we may both be paranoid, the number of mandatory spay-neuter bills coming up before state legislatures (many of which appear to be driven by a 'death to pure-bred dogs' mentality) is disturbing. And that if folks in the sporting dog community aren't at least aware of these bills -- whose starting point is very often the quasi-humane appeal to reduce unwanted dogs -- we may find ourselves out-lobbied at a critical moment.
Mike has a couple of important entries on his blog: the first is a post with data from Charles Hjerpe, emeritus professor of veterinary medicine at UC-Davis, outlining the negative benefits of mandatory spay-neuter programs; the second, citing a USA Today story, reinforces the message in a previous post about potential mandatory spay-neuter legislation in CT -- that such legislation is unnecessary in order to achieve its seemingly explicit goal of reducing the number of animals in shelters.
Beer: I have enjoyed two lovely 'extreme' or mega-hopped beers. I have blogged about Lagunitas Maximus before, but wanted to try it again in proximity to tasting Stone Brewing Company's Ruination Ale. Eric and I seem to agree that a) Stone makes some very nice beers and b) that their regular IPA is relatively lightly flavored. The Ruination seems to fit nicely between their regular IPA and the Maximus. I don't mean this as a negative, because if you've got one good flavor that's arguably all you need, but having re-tried the Maximus it now comes across as being a much more complex IPA than I had initially thought. If the Ruination has a nice full-bodied dry taste to it, the Maximus has some nice warm, fruity tones in the middle. You can't go wrong with either one and if you're a lightweight like me, you won't make it through either full 22oz bottle of 7.5% strength before falling asleep on the couch.