Monday, April 28, 2008

dogglers in action

Episode Un: Craig Koshyk appears to be back in the bloggery business. Craig teaches photography, is compiling a book on the European versatile breeds (of which the vizsla is one), and hunts. I lost sight of him for a while after his beautiful Weimaraner, Felix, passed away in September 2006 -- and am very pleased to see that he is back taking pictures.

He did post this entry which features some video from a show on CBC. Check it out. Even though it's mostly in French, watching his Weimaraner, Souris, and his friend's long-haired Weimaraner, Quell, work the woods for ruffed grouse doesn't require any mastery of the language. Although about a minute in, Craig does say something like this: "C'est vraiment un plaisir de voir chasser les chiens, et les voir arreter..."

Episode Deux: the Red Girls have posted recently -- and have video. Magic! In all seriousness, watching those two honor each other naturally is fabulous. It's like synchronized swimming... except in a field and without a swimming cap. However dull it might seem to some, watching a pointing dog catch scent and freeze is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

One of my favorite Momo points can be found here.

vizsla memorabilia

I have been on a vizsla memorabilia kick of late -- especially after seeing Michel Berner's copy of one of Dr. Osborn's kennel ads. I posted the first one I found from Outdoor Life back in December 1959 here -- but just recently found this one on eBay as well. This one is from Outdoor Life, as well, but from a little earlier in March 1959; I like it for the photograph.

I also love the language -- "World's finest and most beautiful all-purpose shooting dog from behind the Iron Curtain. Dogdom's most rare and exclusive aristocratic hunter, devoted companion and protector." -- it makes it sound like you're buying a Maserati. I guess that in the 1950s, vizslas really were something like Maseratis in the United States: rare and exotic and with a certain mystique and legend to them. Michel at MIRA Vizslas has a nice selection of vintage articles in her 'Vizsla History' section.

Certainly part of the mystique came from articles like 'They dognapped the Vizsla' -- which is the title of a story from Stag Magazine back in October 1953. I just got a copy of it. Before folks get a little skeevy, Stag Magazine was one of the more prominent men's adventure magazines from the 1950s and 1960s. The copy I have has 'Shoot for the Brain' and 'Sex Manual for Men' as the two stories that precede the one on the "Hungarian super-hound the Reds consider 'too good' for us." Perhaps needless to say due to the nature of the magazine, the story implies all kinds of subterfuge and covert activities behind the scenes -- which it seems there were, but Clif Boggs's The Vizsla has what seems like all the details and little of the hyperbole.

In any case, you get the picture. Here's our two 'Hungarian super-hounds' doing one of the things they do best... sleep on Dad. And yes, that's Lurch, the little guy, on top. We'll get official weights on Wednesday when the boys go in for their springtime SNAP4 test for heartworm, Lyme etc. In the meantime, we've been having fun doing whistle-drills and retrieve drills -- and it looks like we're headed down to MA to train on some quail in the next 10days or so. Hopefully we can get both of them a little closer to stop-to-fall.

Friday, April 25, 2008

WWTBD pt.3?

Since our return from Mongolia, I have been much remiss in all matters Central Asian. But if there was an event to kick off my return, this is it.

1) What would Turkmenbashi do? I can assure you that he's turning in his grave cursing President Berdykmukhamedov's name. As the Globe and Mail's article is titled, "April is April again in Turkmenistan."

Happily, there are no signs that the edicts against gold teeth or disco have been revoked.

2) My sister-in-law, Annie, has discovered that Mongols are everywhere -- even when she's on vacation back home in Chicago. My version of this was at the 'Korean deli' just up the street from work. I know just enough Mongolian to know a) when it's not Korean being spoken, and b) to ask the young man and woman behind the counter what they were speaking. Saying 'thank you' in Mongolian when they gave me my change just about made them faint.

Annie also just sent me the Altan Urag album. You can check out their MySpace page here. They bill themselves as folk/rock/metal. First of all, there are no guitars only morin khuur. It's a little bit like Apocalyptica plays Metallica meets John Zorn and Yat-Kha. The only disappointment is that there's no sick drumming.

3) While the Caucusus isn't really Central Asia, it seems as though there are enough parallels in this story about Georgia rushing to join NATO and this entry from Azamat in Kyrgyzstan about the Russian suppression of the Kyrgyz in 1916. I'd suggest reading several of Azamat's recent posts -- about trading land presumably in exchange for either trade concessions or just plain $$$-- and his concern that Kazakhstan has become the United States' new favorite example of democratization through free-trade.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard Boucher, claimed that the United States was supporting Kazakhstan's chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) because "Kazakhstan also... vowed to support the human rights side of the OSCE." Why does this sound like awarding the 2008 Olympics to Beijing? Presumably because Kazakhstan has huge natural resources ripe for the exporting?

Meanwhile our previous Central Asian posterboy, Evan Feigenbaum, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, recently conveyed to the US-Kazakhstan Business Association and the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce:

"Governments create the regulatory, legal, and operating frameworks for markets... But at the end of the day, it's private companies that have to do the work. [And make fat cash-ola!]"

4) I am now updating this since Eric @ Quixotic Cycles left his comment because, while we all know that Mr. Feigenbaum was probably thinking those comments in parentheses above, what he really said was:

In 2005, almost 30 percent of total FDI in Kazakhstan came from American companies. And over the past five years, U.S. exports to Kazakhstan have increased almost 300 percent... In 2001, our exports to Kyrgyzstan were around $27 million. By 2006, this figure had nearly tripled to more than $71 million. Finally, there is Turkmenistan, with abundant gas reserves and other resources, which could help to bring new levels of prosperity to the country and the region."

I just wanted to be clear just in case anyone thought my editorial comments were slanderous or libelous -- and I didn't want to wake up tomorrow and find that the federal government had broadly redefined its censorship powers over the press just because of something I may have implied he'd said or done. Like divorcing your wife and marrying a champion gymnast. Sorry. That was someone else. Or wasn't.

The Chinese government has announced it will hold talks with the envoys of the Dalai Lama regarding the unrest in Tibet. It does not appear that they had actually informed the Dalai Lama of this when they made the announcement.

6) In a follow-up, the campaign to cast Grace Wang's actions at Duke (and her subsequent castigation by Chinese nationalists) continues from both sides. Danwei, a website "
about media, advertising and urban life in China," has this summary from last week. I'm listing it because it has links to sources most of us wouldn't find, including a blog that claims that Grace is mentally ill. As ever, reading all comments can be quite instructional.

dog health compendium

With all our training and testing over the last few months, I have been picking ticks off the boys like crazy... big ones, little ones, red ones, blue ones... (sorry, got Seussed for a second). And so in looking for any good resources about ticks, Lyme, and general canine health, here are a few things I've found recently.

This picture is from our recent hunt test weekend. I am really impressed with my Nikon D40x's 'Sports' program setting. Anything that can keep up with a vizsla at speed is pretty darn impressive. (Thanks, Dan, for the recommendation.)

1) Janeen + Mark at SmartDogs have a few suggestions for how to best monitor your dog's health and how to do a good basic physical exam.

2) Kim at ForestKing has put up a couple of posts on dealing with Kyler's recurrent groin injury and Cedar's funky cancerous toe (which is hopefully now all taken care of).

3) For those of you trying to help a nervous dog deal with its anxieties around loud noises, I'd also suggest checking out Pesto's Rehabilitation Blog.

4) Patty Khuly at DoLittler has a few home remedies to absolutely avoid and some thoughts on heartworm prevention.

5) Dan + Margaret's devious puppy, Sandia, had a run in with a box of raisins -- and here are some thoughts on dealing with toxicity.

6) Pat the Terrierman has just started recycling a few seasonally appropriate posts including a primer on the American Dog Tick, and arguably what the best form of Lyme disease prevention would be if we were willing. However, his most recent post is a response to someone disagreeing with him -- and summarizes most of his previous posts while still linking to them. In short, it might just be better to monitor your dogs' health and invest in some doxycycline.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

some other dog highlights

I managed to find a nice picture of Sally, the fabulous all-black German Shorthaired Pointer that Momo ran with on Saturday, who looked so great. The picture is from the Mayflower GSP Club Training Day on January 13th, 2008. If Dennis was anywhere as nervous as me, he sure as heck didn't show it -- and Sally was as cool as a cucumber.

The second picture is of Tessa, the poor dog that was braced with Jozsi on his first JH run. I say 'poor dog' only because she was being handled by a new handler who, himself, had had relatively little experience in a birdfield -- and throw in a 200mph rocket-dog and it must have been hard for her to figure out the point of her exercise. She could also clearly find birds, but busted the first two and was immediately in the hole with regard to the 50% rule. And Jozsi was vacuuming up the rest. Nevertheless, the best part was that her owner, Helyne, had volunteered Tessa to a young man, Jake, so he could get a sense of what handling a pointing dog was like. Getting young folks like Jake interested, excited, and involved in hunt testing dogs is always a challenge. I was really excited to hear that Jake handled Tessa to her first JH leg on Sunday.

One of the interesting things I noticed apprenticing and entering in my first set of spring tests was that they were relatively lightly attended. I asked a couple of different hunt secretaries whether this was normal and, if not, whether they thought that a long winter had delayed folks' dog-training. Their answer was that everything is more expensive -- and the challenge for clubs holding tests is that, while things like bird costs are going up, if they jack up their entry fees, then that will also reduce the numbers of dogs entered. The other challenge for holding a test at Crane is one of the reasons we first went there... it's on Cape Cod. And so even a cheap hotel is rarely actually cheap. And at $3.50 for a gallon of gas, entering two dogs becomes a significant financial commitment.

Pat the Terrierman has a short rant about why the cost of living might just possibly be going up. I also just noticed that Pat was kind enough to list The Regal Vizsla on his blogroll. Thanks, Pat.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

no skin left on my teeth...

... but plenty of feathers on both of the boys'! To Jozsi's credit, while I would still love him to be slightly less crazed in his pursuit of bird-scent (and slightly more attentive to me), he actually did very well, if not better than the day before -- stopping when whistled after chasing flushed birds, not bumping any birds, holding his points, and dropping when told. Numerically, this didn't translate -- and perhaps the judges thought all my whistles to him meant he was more lucky than gifted... but as we say, in hunt tests, scores don't matter. It's either 'Q' for qualify or not. And Mr. Enthusiasm scored enough for a second qualifying ribbon.

Nevertheless, he's young enough that I haven't seen him do enough to feel entirely confident that I know what's going to happen in a bird-field. And if you want a sense of what it's like trying to handle a track-star like the Evil Genius, check out this great pic of him in flight. I think I'll go see a cardiac specialist.

Momo also had a good enough run to acquire his second leg of his Senior Hunter. He was braced with a lovely GSP, Sally -- who was awesome. She was really great -- and, again while scores don't matter, I hope she got some great ones because she really looked the part (and frankly looked like she was ready to go to Master). Sadly, I have no pics of her -- but if folks go to the Mayflower GSP website, I think there'll be some there shortly.

Sally found the first bird, in the back-course, and I called Momo to honor -- being in the back-course, the handler fires their blank pistol. Once they got in the bird-field proper, we had a double point -- but because Sally got on point first, Momo had to honor her through her retrieve. With all the crashing around as handlers, gunners and judges organized themselves and Momo's nose about 18" from the bird, it flushed. With him not having moved, it was no foul on The Mominator. He then found his next bird in the same spot that Kyler and Kim found 'the bird from hell' yesterday. (Kim has posted her version of yesterday's events here on her blog.) And so we danced around from one side of this line of small cedars to the next trying to get the quail to flush. But as it ran, Momo would relocate. It finally flushed, but was missed by the gunner. (Sally may have found and retrieved another bird... I don't remember.) So back we came again trying to find Mominator a bird, in part so Sally could honor him and he could make a retrieve. Happily, he did. I almost literally punted it into the air with my foot, the bird went down, and a fiendishly happy Momo headed out to bring it back.

Here are the boys mugging me while I tried to get them to pose for their picture. My hat is in mid-air, their ribbons are about to come off, my face is enjoying a microdermal abrasion treatment.

And again, while scores don't matter, judges will often use them to signal areas to work on. And so Momo got a just barely passing score on pointing after all his movement on 'the bird from hell' -- although as the judge (who turned out to be a friend I'd only known 'virtually') asked during the test and mentioned afterwards, sometimes hunt tests and dogs who hunt are slightly at odds. Which is to say, if you have a running bird when you're hunting, having your dog relocate its point to alert you is a good thing. But in a hunt test it's less points in the 'Pointing' section -- which means they have to be made up elsewhere to keep your average at a qualifying level. Nevertheless, while his retrieve now appears to be solid, it was at the expense of his staunchness -- and so we'll need to work on getting both boys steady-to-shot, if not steady-to-fall (ie. steady till the shot is fired, the bird down, and the dog then sent to retrieve).

Thanks to Valerie + Jeff at Mayflower for organizing a well-scripted test and getting great flying birds. Thanks also to Mark, Stephanie and Ann for loaning me a blank pistol at various points in the two days... with the city's licensing requirements, I can't own one without a full-scale New York City pistol permit! We will now spend May training before trying to finish up their respective tests so that, hopefully, their proud but anxious father can go into them feeling a little more confident of the outcome.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

skin of the teeth

Well, holy schneitkies! We just got done with the first day of the Mayflower GSP Club hunt test. Thankfully, the folks at Mayflower start their tests early... because it was dry with no cloud cover. (When Jozsi headed out for his run just before 8am, it was 50degsF; by the time Momo got to run at 9:30 or so, it was 65degsF.) And while the wind was largely consistent in direction (from the east), it was light and breezy. So scent wasn't exactly hanging around or flowing in nice steady currents.

I had to take Momo out for a fake hunt by himself first -- because he's gotten a little bent out of shape in the past two days if I take Jozsi out by himself first to train.

Basically both runs went as imagined. With the new rules requiring that dogs keep running for the entire duration of the test and the "50% rule" (requiring that the dog must point 50% or more of the birds it produces), Jozsi was either going to be brilliant or the wheels were going to come off. Thankfully, he pointed and held one, then bumped over one, pointed and held a second, bumped another, and then pointed and held a third. More importantly, for me, though, he was attentive to the whistle -- even when it meant abandoning a bird in flight -- and dropped on command the two birds he did manage to get in his mouth. Even though there is no doubt what Jozsi's purpose is when you put him in a bird-field, I think the judges were overly kind -- and I daren't tell Momo -- but he was awarded a perfect score (10 ex 10 in all four categories).

Momo was braced with Kyler for his run. It was great to see Kim + Mike + Jaida again -- and slightly reassuring that we were both trying out for our first Senior Hunter legs. It was also reassuring that we knew both judges, if only because we felt more comfortable asking questions. Both dogs were geeked to be out and running. We actually held up and watered the dogs twice before getting close to the bird-field because they were covering ground so hard. Kyler got the first two points and so Momo had to be ordered in to honor for her. I had hoped he might start doing it more reflexively -- but happily, for Senior, you can 'whoa' them on command and then collar them. Happily, too, after much charging around, he managed to locate a bird, held through the shot, and then charged off into the trees to retrieve. And while he was his usual delicate self in picking up the quail, he retrieved to hand.

So, here's a happy advertisement picture for why Widdershins and Upwind dogs are pretty darned good. (As you can see Kyler did everything she had to, too.) We'll see if both boys can hold it together for another day. Sadly, Mike + Kim + Jaida were only here for today.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

the politics of the olympics

Although I don't care for the tone, Anne Applebaum at wrote an interesting piece on why China should quit feigning outrage over the media attention its enhanced Disneyland tour with the Olympic torch is attracting.

Jacob Leibenluft at has also recently written about why world leaders not attending the Olympic opening ceremonies is hardly a political statement. However, as he astutely writes about this particular Olympics: "The Chinese government — both explicitly and implicitly — endowed the games and their opening event with so much symbolic importance that attendance naturally became a referendum on China itself." Nevertheless, as he writes: "According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, no American president has ever attended an opening ceremony beyond American borders." One might argue, therefore, that for an American president to attend the opening ceremonies has a more significant symbolic effect than not -- despite the attempts by Dana Perino, White House Press Secretary, to say otherwise "but I'm not trying to signal anything by saying that [the President is attending the opening ceremonies]".

My feeling is this: trying to hijack the Olympic torch itself in the fashion that we all saw in London, Paris, and San Francisco, is dumb and mis-directed. By all means, take advantage of the media extravaganza that the Chinese government is responsible for -- even as it plays the victim -- and protest China's human rights record. If you want to boycott the Chinese government's media spectacle then don't buy tickets or go to the Games. If you want to avoid the dubious endorsement of foreign governments as a result of their being given host nation status, then protest to the International Olympic Committee. That Jacques Rogge seriously thought in 2001 that the Olympics would be a vehicle to improve conditions in China -- "The committee's delegates expressed widespread hope that a seven-year buildup to the 2008 Games would accelerate openness in China and facilitate improvement in its record on human rights." -- is frankly equally dumb and mis-directed. And flew in the face of the positive impact that exclusion from Olympic selection had already played a part in on effecting regime change (in the case of apartheid in South Africa).

Meanwhile the Chinese government has just found dynamite and ammunition in 11 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in northeastern Xinhua province. I'm sorry, but my skeptic radar is going haywire. On the homefront, though, close to the new National Stadium in Beijing, the Chinese government is building a new museum dedicated to Tibet -- a Tibet in which the Dalai Lama does not feature after 1959. I'm guessing that particular palimpsest probably doesn't feature Chinggis Khan either.

It's also rather sad that the ideological arm of the Chinese government extends so far into North Carolina. As this story from the New York Times illustrates, a Chinese student who found herself in the middle of a campus protest and actively encouraged pro-Tibetan and pro-Chinese supporters to actually talk to each other found herself 'outed' as a traitor over the internet, threatened with dismemberment, and her parents' address in Qingdao published. Grace Wang wins my Hero in the Face of Ignorance Award.

Extrapolating backwards from this recent story in the NYT about micro-trending and political polling, I'm also skeptical that avid-Barack Obama supporter, Pat the Terrierman, has a pantry full of olive oil and Bare Naked Granola.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


First of all, thank you to Rocket for giving us our first virtual award. We are so very pleased. I will be sure to pass on your good wishes to Their Majesties.

In keeping with the spirit of the award, we, in turn, would like to recognize some bloggery friends and favorites of our own. To those in the blogroll who didn't get a mention, we still love you, I promise.

1) Family first: Makin & Tessa: Lael & Neil deserve lots of credit for keeping their red dogs occupied and entertained with agility.

2) Two-fer #1: to the lady who inspired our whole bloggery attempts: this is for Denise. Lots of great pictures, exciting adventures, a great outlook on life, and a couple of fabulous pound-puppies, Yellow Dog and Black Dog, aka. Cody and Sally. Anything you want to know about hand-building custom bicycles can be found at her husband, Steve's blog.

3) Two-fer #2: Ziggy deserves an award for helping Pesto get acclimatized and settled in her new home. Kudos to Ziggy and Pesto's parents for finding a home for a pup of mixed and uncertain heritage. Pesto's blog is a diary of her parents' attempts to help her stay calm in the face of random, loud noises.

4) And for her own special brand of analysis, my sister-in-law, Annie-bagsh, for her efforts to chart her life in and love of Mongolia. Jenkin Mongol.

5) Here's a blog that when I found it I immediately recognized it as a place to keep going back to. Smart folks that treat smart dogs like everything they are and nothing they aren't.

6) Here's another of my favorite iconoclasts, Jim, The Unholy Rouleur. If you want the amusing rants of an active amateur bike racer, then Jim has them. His newest rant about 'guns and god' is another priceless take on current events.

7) Briccolage: here's a couple of sites that have a little bit of everything and something about dogs: Dan + Margaret's coursing dog photography blog, ShotOnSite, and Steve Bodio's Querencia on all things natural history, falconry, archeology, and Central Asia.

We are flattered. Really. And to all of our readers, and especially relative newcomer Bill of The Black and Tan Bombshell who clocked in today as our 5,000th visitor, thanks for coming to visit.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

giving up on augury

Before we get to dogs: the only accurate thing I predicted about the Paris-Roubaix race was that it was very difficult to predict. If you read my previous post, you have recognized this already. I just didn't think Tom Boonen was having much of a season this year -- but he broke away with Alessandro Ballan and Fabien Cancellara and then outsprinted them in the Roubaix velodrome like the Paris-Roubaix winner of 2005 that he is.. Dan made up around 600 pts on my lead over him in the Cobblestone Fantasy Cycling League. Not good.

Saturday: I took the boys back to visit Tom Mackin at TMT. Good thing I packed a short-sleeved shirt. It was insanely warm with the weather topping out well over 70degsF. The wind was light and squirrely, puffing anywhere from SW through N -- and the cloud cover was scattered. In short, scenting conditions were terrible -- as clouds cleared, scent would get burned over quickly and what little patches there were would get wafted in a variety of directions. Momo has seen enough birds and is delicate enough on his feet to handle this; trying to get Jozsi to staunch up over birds in launchers was not especially successful. Momo's retrieve, though, was starting to look reliable.

Sunday: After spending the night at Mike + Kim's, we trogged over to Fullflight to try to work on some specific skills. Momo did a nice honor for Kyler, and was a good set-up man for both Cedar and Kyler to honor. Jozsi also set up a couple of very nice points and even held them long enough to get his check-cord straightened out... running chukar were about as much as his predatory mind could take though. And for one bird that refused to fly, I turned him loose to grab it. Which he did à toute vitesse. He takes no shit from no bird. The other Momo highlight was that he seems to be entirely passed blinking on live birds, as evidenced by me shooting at a bird (but knowing I'd missed), but with its heavy landing presumably adding up to it being downed in his mind, Momo headed out and promptly fetched the live bird to hand, almost without command.

Ella has developed some issues, though, which seem to revolve around blank pistols. I'm not sure it's even gunfire per se, but she blinks on the birds she's pointed when the pistol comes out. It's a tough situation for Rich + Adrian. Having said that, putting her down with Momo and, whether it was a competitive streak or her sensing his enthusiasm, she was definitely getting psyched. This final pic is of Adrian about to kick up a chukar for Khumbu to chase. As you can see, he has a great first instinct to point -- and now just needs lots of enthusiasm and bird-exposure to get him ignited. The trick, as ever, is not to either try or hope for too much on a given occasion. This doesn't mean that Rich and I should aim low for our dogs, but rather not try to project too much on to them and move too quickly.

As Bob Seelye said back in early March, though, you can get one new skill solidified, but then other previously established skills sometimes go wonky. For Momo, that means that he isn't steady once the shot is made, but takes off to go get the bird -- the challenge here is that what happens if we miss a bird while hunting or, in a hunt test situation, if we have to use a blank pistol? So I need to try and set up something in the woods around here to get him staunch until told to go. And with his speed-freak prey drive, Jozsi would benefit from the same thing. Time to start thinking. But it has made me think about why I'm trying to cram hunt test weekends in... and so, I think, for now, we may just go to Falmouth next weekend, see what happens, and then train for May and do some more tests in June.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

weekend of glory: dogs + bikes

After my initial outing with the boys and Ed + Scott a couple of weeks ago, it seemed a little crazy to take the boys to a hunt test this weekend. However, while our plans have changed, Meg is still doing our taxes this weekend -- and all boys have been banned from the house. So, the new updated top secret plan is to spend the weekend on birds -- and potentially with lots of vizsla friends.

The challenge now is that preserve season in New York is ending very soon -- and snow hasn't entirely left the ground in northern MA. There's also rain coming in over the weekend. So, the plan for now is to head up to TMT tomorrow afternoon to keep working the boys: for Jozsi, we'll keep working on staunching him up; for Momo, keeping him focussed and confident on the retrieve.

Then we zip up and over to visit with Team Vizsla -- Northern MA chapter, aka. Forest King Vizslas -- probably driving in the rain, hopefully following the minor storm northeast and having it exit while we sleep. Sunday morning is a big training day for everyone. The Team Vizsla -- Eastern MA chapter, aka. Rich and Adrian, are bringing Ella + Khumbu; Kim and Mike are bringing Cedar + Kyler. Having not seen him since November, I imagine they'll have a small myocardial infarction when they see the Beast-Dog, aka. Lurch, aka. Jozsi.

Having an extra set of hands will also help me work on steadying the boys through wing AND shot, ie. staying whoa'ed till commanded to fetch. I know Rich would like to get Ella staunch at least through wing and give Khumbu a little more varied bird-exposure, see if he'll hold a point, and maybe even take a bird over him. And Kim and Mike would like to work Kyler on honoring with a dog besides Cedar... so we should have all kinds of fun to work on.

The revised schedule, then, is to run both boys in the Mayflower GSP Hunt Test up in Falmouth, the weekend after next, and then possibly going up to Sharpe's Farm in Hopkinton, NH, for the Tartan Gordon Setter Hunt Test the weekend after that.


My good friend Dan told me (and this is from the man who is arguably responsible for me meeting my first vizsla) that I've neglected my cycling rants. He's correct, but in the interest of serving my readers, here's a prediction or two for this weekend's 'Hell of the North,' the Paris-Roubaix one-day race. It and the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, are arguably the two toughest one-day races in the Spring calendar because they are long and feature numerous cobblestone sections. (This picture is by Roberto Bettini and you can visit his website here.) While last year was something of an anomaly in terms of weather (because it was warm and dry) and because it was (perhaps as a result) won by Australian, Flandrian weather looks suitably manky for this year's edition. And it is a race of attrition just ask Gorgeous George Hincapie. has its usual preview feature. As they say, "The favourites are hard to predict for a race that involves so many hoops of fire." Chris at Podium Cafe has an interesting preview as well, especially why Paris-Roubaix is in many ways harder, ironically, than the Ronde. The conditions make it hard for teams to coordinate their efforts and very often team managers find themselves shifting their tactics to reflect conditions on the ground... Stijn Devolder's win at the Ronde and Oscar Freire's win at Gent-Wevelgem this past week are good examples.

The readers' poll at Podium Cafe, as of right now, thinks that Gorgeous George and 'The Arrow,' Juan Antonio Flecha, are their favorites. The participants' poll at the Cobblestone Fantasy Cycling League, as of right now, thinks that 'Someone Else' is more likely to win than any of the other favorites like Cancellara, Boonen, or Ballan. My pics are Cancellara or Flecha, but I think a couple of outsiders like Leif Hoste or Nick Nuyens could also come through.

Monday, April 7, 2008

left of red right of blue

Hunt test judging update: I spent the day at Nod Brook Field Trial Area yesterday finishing up my apprentice judging requirement. Having fulfilled all the other requirements, all I need now is the official seal of approval from the AKC.

I'll be honest and say that yesterday was a little bit of a let-down. I didn't see a genuinely great performance all day (although to be fair, hunt testing is about qualifying not amassing points); having said that, though, Pixie, this German Shorthair, executed and held the best point of the entire day. She set up a good 60yards from her owner and just held for the full 2mins it took for him to get up there and flush the bird. Lovely. Incidentally, this pic is of her subsequent point which, while staunch, was not quite as impressive.

To be fair to the dogs: it was cold, blustery, the birds were being set deep in the grass, and they were young birds, unwilling to fly. So far from ideal.

To be fair to the dogs, too: for those of you considering handling your dogs in JH tests: some judges may advise the handlers of a given brace before it is sent out not to 'hack' their dogs, ie. constantly call at it and give it an opportunity not to obey you. This seems to have been internalised by a fair number of folks to mean turn your dog out and ignore it. You are really doing your dog, especially a young dog, a disservice by doing that. If your dog is doing something that isn't appropriate -- like grabbing birds on the ground and chomping them, then you owe it to the dog to correct it. The problem will not go away if you don't address it there and then. And if you don't think the dog will listen to you if you speak firmly to it, then pick up your dog, ie. collar it and remove it from the test. You may not be able to train over birds before your test, but at least work on your basic obedience commands (on a long-line if necessary): stop, come, stay, leave and drop.

Grabbing birds on the ground and chomping them isn't, by itself, grounds for not qualifying in JH -- if your dog points more birds than it runs in and chomps then your dog can still qualify. Some owners may only go to the JH level because they don't want to deal with the idea that they are directly responsible for a bird's death. At the risk of sounding like Pat the Terrierman at his most vociferous, this is a rather thick piece of denial. A gamebird's role, whether farm-raised or wild, is to be eaten. If a bird doesn't die from the repeated stress of being hunted in a hunt-test, it will in the vast majority of cases be eaten by a raptor of some kind. I know there aren't vast coveys of bobwhite quail hiding out like survivalists in the woods around Nod Brook, or any other field-trial area.

If a bird-dog chomps a quail in a hunt test, the handler shouldn't get queasy that the bird was killed, but was killed in such a way that the bird was rendered inedible. We should pay respect to the gamebirds we kill by eating them -- and if our dog chomps them, then it's time for a conversation and some more training time with the dog.


Pat the Terrierman referenced a post by Christie Keith at the Dogged Blog about why being pro-breed dogs doesn't mean you're pro-puppy mill... or to build on Pat's own rant, why being pro-gun, even pro-Second Amendment, doesn't mean you have to be a card carrying member of the NRA. For my part, I can't give money to the NRA. I enjoy guns, I use guns. But I will not be made to live in paranoid fear, the kinds of which Dahlia Lithwick at Slate should stop pushing as journalism. A colleague today said that he supports the NRA because 'they're the only game in town,' to which I replied 'then that's the problem.' Like Pat, I believe in both the broad meaning of the Second Amendment and gun control. Not everyone should be entitled to own a gun. I don't know why that's a problem for some folk.

Part of why I am in the process of becoming a NYS hunter safety instructor is because I think hunters are the cachement group that can do the most to ensure land conservation and reasonable levels of legal gun ownership. If I can do my part to encourage new hunters to be safe, reasonable, and respectful of both private property and the priviledge of public conservation areas open for hunting, then I'm happy. And part of why I am in the process of becoming an AKC hunt test judge is also to ensure that, even if folks don't hunt their dogs (and only test them), they can still be advocates for responsible, breed-specific dog ownership.

I've made a few rants of my own about HSUS, especially -- but, on the flip-side, I will not be made to feel that every or any piece of journalism or legislation concerning dogs is a floodgate to further legislation restricting my love and respect for pure-bred, sporting dogs. As an example, Oprah's recent piece on puppy mills was exactly, and really only, that. I also happen to agree with the story that "If you are thinking about adopting a new pet, make your first stop the local shelter or animal rescue office." I may be a hypocrite because, after providing a family for two homeless dogs, we didn't get a pure-bred dog initially for his genetic abilities per se... but this blog is a testament to Momo and Jozsi's compelling abilities and their ability to transform lives.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

a few training updates

I got some bird-launchers from the great folks at the actual launchers are made by Dogtra, but the remote releases are by Tri-Tronics. And so while I will be surprised if I never meet someone who asks me what I'm doing, for now at least -- while Meg has the boys on their regular morning run -- I stash the launchers out in the woods. Then when she gets back, I take Momo out and we do a mixture of hand-thrown and 'flushed' frozen chukar. Momo and I did this yesterday -- and I can only describe his performance on well over a dozen retrieves as both flawless and eager. This pic, however, is from this afternoon and his intensity is pretty self-evident.

I should be able to get a few expired quail this weekend at the Nutmeg Weimaraner Hunt Test up in Simsbury, CT, to give Momo some variety.

The folks at SmartDogs have a great post about mathematically-gifted horses... or rather the sensitivity of our companion animals to subtle bio-rhythmic changes. If a horse can 'do' square-roots by listening to the changes in heartbeat of the person asking the question, then how we handle or train or work our dogs should therefore effect their performance. In hindsight, that hardly seems like rocket-science -- but it makes me think about what 'high expectations' feel like to Momo when I project them on him. And whether his blinking on retrieves on Sunday was somehow wrapped up in that.

And now after an afternoon back at TMT, I can say this: structure is good and I think most of Momo's blinking on retrieves may be his reluctance to mouth mostly-alive birds. When the bird was shot cleanly, I don't think he blinked at all -- and especially not on birds that had been shot and were now being used as slightly warm retrieving dummies.

I've started spending time one-on-one with Jozsi doing a lot of whistle drills -- and this afternoon, he seemed to realise that an attentive Jozsi means a happy dad. While all Momo's birds had been pre-planted, I took all Jozsi's birds in hand and set them up in the launchers so's I could control the release and, therefore, spend time focusing on helping Jozsi hold his point. As you can see from this pic from the afternoon, he has a great high point and is built like a track-star. What you can't see is that he actually got scent of the bird in the carrier and held point from well over 8ft... his previous point on the other carrier was at least 20ft. This is very encouraging.


Here's a quick shout-back to Mike @ Sometimes Far Afield. And this post, especially, because it details Mike's own exposure to the beautiful red-dogs, some smooth, some fuzzy. [Editorial: I just corrected this, but if you go down into the comments you'll see that I mis-attributed this first time around. Sorry, Mike.]