Sunday, June 29, 2008

the little ferrari that could...

Back in March, I put up a post about why dogs with strong field-trialing success in their genes may not be the best dogs for new dog owners. And I said then that perhaps if we'd acquired a Ferrari of vizslas before we got our BMW of vizslas, it might have been a very different story to tell.

I decided to take Jozsi up to the CT Valley Vizsla Club Hunting Dog Stake this Sunday. (Being a non-regular stake meant that any wins would not count towards AKC championship points. Unlike most hunt tests, even the junior classes are generally longer in duration -- and don't have such easily defined bird-fields. Birds are therefore planted along the entire length of the course, which is generally walked or followed on horseback.) And while dogs do have to demonstrate certain skills -- like staunchness of point, interaction with handler -- this is a competitive event. A dog wins. For curiosity's sake, I figured this was a great way to see just how Jozsi compared to other similarily skilled vizslas -- without feeling like there was a whole lot of pressure.

Incidentally, for this stake, there were just two classes: Hunting Dog and Hunting Dog Excellent. The former was for essentially JH-caliber dogs, the latter for SH or MH-caliber dogs.

Team Vizsla -- Northwest MA chapter, aka. Forest King Vizslas, came up to run Cedar and Kyler (who is definitely pregnant) -- and Team Vizsla -- Northern MA chapter, aka. Stephanie + Manny, came to run, gun and judge. While Manny gunned for the Excellent stake, Stephanie had come to defend their older dog, Baron's Hunting Dog Excellent title AND then run over to judge the Hunting Dog stake. This first pic is of Steph watering Baron on what was a very, very hot day -- right around 85%degsF with 70% humidity. The next pic is of Baron honoring his brace-mate -- and yes, that's a white face. Baron is still rocking like a champ at 11 years old!

By 11:00am when I had to run Jozsi, it was 90degsF and roughly 60% humidity. Happily the course had its share of shade spots and a creek to dunk the dogs into along the way over the course his 30min sprint-fest. While his first bird was a divided find with his brace-mate, Jozsi found two more birds along the way. And he really is starting to look like a pro. I wish I had either a camera or the presence of mind to get pictures of his great, upright points.

On a very difficult day, Baron was unable to repeat as Hunting Dog Excellent champion -- but was given an Honorable Mention for his performance. Even though I knew he had drive like crazy and was doing a good job handling birds, I was a little surprised to realize that Jozsi had in fact WON the Hunting Dog Stake. I guess my little boy really might be a Ferrari after all, despite his driver. And however correct Pat the Terrierman is, check out that ribbon. Sweeet.

I should also thank the CVVC for organizing another great event. This is the second of their events I've attended -- and it wasn't just efficient, but also very friendly. If you're thinking about attending a CVVC hunt test or trial, I'd recommend it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

post #200

I happened to notice that this post was scheduled to be #200 -- and so got thrown off by trying to come up with something suitably momentous to write about. And then I realised that I was just procrastinating. Here are a few announcements:

1) Mike Spies at Living with Bird-dogs invited me to be a contributor to his blog -- which was very flattering. For my first post there, I wrote a review of legendary trainer, Dave Walker's, book The Bird-dog Training Manual. In a world of gun-dog training books that take a little-from-here and a little-from-there, Dave's book is a great example of what is possible with a consistent, incremental method.

2) Last week, I wrote my first letters to my Assembly representatives and State Senators -- and so far, those efforts look like they paid off. Here in New York, there was an attempt to rush Assembly Bill 11509 via an off-the-floor meeting to get it through before the assembly took off for their summer recess. (The bill essentially sought to eliminate 'hobby breeders' and require full breeder registration of anyone with four or more intact female dogs.) While there was sufficient concern raised to merit no consideration of AB 11509 for the 2008 legislative session, its companion Senate Bill 8546 is still languishing with the senate's Rules Committee. I am all for increased enforcement of existing legislation, but I get nervous about new regulations that create additional pressures to spay dogs soon after six months of age to avoid prosecution -- because it limits responsible breeders' choices, breeders who largely understand that breeding a dam before she is two years old is irresponsible, and as has been recently published here and here in the Journal of the AVMA because individual dog's long-term health outweighs overall population control.

I encourage folks to subscribe to the e-mail alerts from either the American Sporting Dog Alliance or the US Sportsmen's Alliance. Goofy stuff doesn't just happen in California.

3) In happier news, Craig Koshyk has a new Weimaraner puppy, Henri. Inspired by the beautiful pictures Craig has of his new 'pocket rocket,' here are a couple from Jozsi's first days here in the Bronx.

4) My sister-in-law is back from her visit to eastern Mongolia, to the Planet Dornod, where she saw a bunch of friends from her sojourn in Choibalsan as a Peace Corps volunteer. She has some great pics up on her blog.

Me and Mr. Enthusiasm will be heading up to the Connecticut Valley Vizsla Club hunting dog stake on Sunday. We'll see if he can put all that energy to good use. Momo will be lounging with his mother.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

gangs of new york

We had a lovely Father's Day down on the Upper West Side with the queen of the vizslak blogs, HRH Brisztow Jones (and Karen + Glen). The first highlight was actually finding on-street parking within 200 yards of their apartment.

We then crossed into Central Park and proceeded to trek up and down, into the trees and out onto funny little lawns -- and being roughly 7:30am, we encountered lots of folks out with their dogs. The first unfortunate episode was that Her Majesty dropped her squeaky devil-ball into the pond known as The Pool and then proceeded to nudge it further out with every attempt to retrieve it. Sadly, all efforts were unsuccessful.

We wandered up onto the Great Hill and met a weimaraner and a pug while numerous other small dogs ran about and amused themselves. Jozsi pointed a few pigeons and quieted the crowd. Brisztow flirted unabashedly with Momo. We then cruised down around the North Meadow whereupon we had the second unfortunate episode.

I guess that perhaps only in New York would a seventy-something ask a stranger if they used the e-collar transmitter in their hand and then, when greeted with the redundant answer 'yes,' baptize me a 'cruel person.' I said 'thank you' because it was the only not-cruel thing I could think of. The less-not-cruel thing I wanted to ask was whether she thought the dog that was attached to her by a leash was happier than the two running fiends 20 yards ahead of me. I understand that there are probably plenty of clowns out there who use e-collars poorly -- but that's the kind of prejudice that comes from lack of oxygen due to a cranial-rectal insertion. So here's a picture of our two waiting to heel across the road while some kind of bike event went past. Clearly in pain and thinking vengeful thoughts.

We got back to Karen + Glen's without further incident. Phew. We then left all three of them crated in their cute apartment while we went and had some breakfast at Picnic, just down the street. Once we got back to the apartment, all the dogs took turns with mugging the humans. This is Momo assaulting Meg while Brisztow looks on eagerly -- and Jozsi turns away to continue savaging a rawhide stick. Momo and Jozsi liked Karen + Glen's because there were lots of toys and legal things to chew in between flirting with HRH.

We then came back home and took naps. All in all, a very satisfying Father's Day. Karen's version of events can be found here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Thanks to everyone for their comments and concern about Mr. Enthusiasm's poisonous encounter, hereafter to be referred to as 'the toxic poop incident.' He was back to normal the next day and bopping around like the crazy man he is. The folks @ Smartdogs, inspired by Jozsi's toxic poop incident, have a much more thorough set of recommendations for how to plan for canine poisoning.

In other medical news, Shawn Wayment, the blogosphere's bird-dog doc, has a vet's perspective on what he carries in his canine first-aid kit. And Mike @ Living with Bird-dogs has a few suggestions for how to deal with the carnage that comes from the dog:porcupine interaction.

And for those of you considering becoming dog breeders, please consider this advice courtesy of Luisa @ Lassie Get Help!


I was digging through some packets of photographs and found a couple of envelopes of B&W pictures from late 2004. The first pic is of Choya, my Mexican street dog, the dog that wooed Meg into a life with dogglers, asleep on the carpet in our old house in Maine. She was a feisty love-monster, taken much too soon. We still think fondly of her... and her world record disembowelment of Mr. Lobster. As awesome as Dennis's own track record is, her 17seconds of frenzy remains a truly Olympic feat.

I also found some pictures from our first trip to Mongolia in December, 2004. The two pics here are from our trip out to Olgii and our visit with a Kazakh eagle hunter and his family. Annie's friend, Todd, another Fulbrighter who we met on our last trip, has some great pics from his recent visit to Olgii at the end of May. (For those of you craving more Kazakh eagle hunter pictures, Todd links to Robert McPherson's website which has some genuinely great pictures on it.) I was lucky to come across and read Steve Bodio's Eagle Dreams while we were in Olgii -- which added so much to our visit.

The second pic, if you can believe it, was taken with a 25mm wide-angle lens. I was 6" from a very big, very alert eagle that, because he spoke Kazakh, our friend Jordan had been told to look after while his owner went to retrieve an escaped horse. We were left just looking at each other, wondering what on earth we could do if the bird decided to give us trouble. Happily, while it could smell our fear, the bird decided we weren't worth the effort.


I did complete my first judging assignment last Sunday, co-judging the Junior Hunter (JH) division for the Nutmeg GSP Club Hunt Test at Flaherty Field. Not surprisingly, there were only 6 braces of JH dogs to judge, including 3 Gordons from Moonstone Setters. More surprisingly, though, there were 6 full braces of dogs trying for Master Hunter (MH), and 5 for Senior Hunter (SH).

We had met Debbie from Moonstone at the previous weekend's hunt test at Sharpe's Farm -- although she had not brought her young boy, Angus, that weekend. He turned out to be the star of the trio -- and gave a solid performance in what were otherwise ugly conditions of high temperatures and little wind.


We have a few exciting things coming up. First of all, it looks like we will rendezvous with HRH Brisztow Jones on Sunday -- although I'm a little nervous that if we show up with a pick-up truck on her schwanky neighborhood, we might be asked to leave by the rest of the local population. Now that's Fancy Town. I don't think folks put graffiti on trees down there.

Second, it looks as though I will take Jozsi up to Flaherty again for the CVVC's Hunting Dog Stake at the end of the month to see how he does in a remotely competitive environment. In the meantime I am continuing to work on getting Momo steady -- and want his next exposure to birds to be a more controlled one.

FYI: after a great conversation with Bob @ Cliffside Birddogs, his opinion was that however frustrated Momo might be in a hunt test environment, his desire to creep while on point and while honoring was still basically an obedience issue. And so, in order to streamline his and my communication, I have unpacked 'whoa' to simply mean 'stop' and now use his familiar 'stay' to hold him. And so we are doing lots of 'stay' and 'heel' drills to let him know that simply adhering to the spirit of a command is no longer sufficient. He's a good boy with a strong stubborn streak.

Friday, June 6, 2008

causes for celebration

Our first cause for celebration is more the form of a sigh of relief. We live just a few hundred yards from Van Cortland Park -- and the section we live closest to is woods (as opposed to the groomed grass and playing fields on the other side of the park). As folks know, I hunt our dogs and we exercise them off-leash in the park 99% of the time. But being an urban park, you can find all kinds of weird stuff out in the woods... and sadly, sometimes not being able to see what they might get into is one of the calculated risks you take when you have hard-running dogs like ours.

Jozsi gave us a scare two nights ago. Meg took him out for their regular late afternoon romp, brought them home, and about a half hour after dinner, he vomited. Poop. Nasty nasty poop. I came home from work while Meg was cleaning everything up -- but I immediately noticed Jozsi was unsteady on his feet and not quite with it. In the 5 minutes it took to grab directions to our emergency vet, I thought he was going to black out on me.

The shorter version of the outcome is that we don't know what he ate -- but when the vet at The Veterinary Emergency Group induced vomiting later that evening, the vast majority of what she got out was more fecal matter. Our best guess at this point is that he ate a drug-user's feces that still had some kind of residual stuff in it. He was kept overnight, given IV fluids and a round of activated charcoal to neutralise anything that might still be down there. All his X-rays and bloodwork came back normal -- and after feeding him a very light, mostly-rice breakfast that he held down just fine, he seemed sufficiently back to normal (ie. wrestling Momo) that I decided to go in late to work after all. When Meg took him out in the afternoon he was up to his usual tricks. We'll feed him a couple of smaller 'white' meals this evening to ease his stomach back into food -- but mercifully he appears to be his same old safe.

I was glad to have seen Kim's post about toxic ingestions -- and even more grateful to call her to get some reassurance. She also suggested that even though it wasn't really the season to be worried about anti-freeze, who knows what folk are dumping in the park -- and so we had Jozsi tested for that, too, and which came back negative. Thanks, Kim. I guess one of the trade-offs of urban life with bird-dogs is that there may be more random hazards, but there are often a lot more after-hours treatment options. This is the second time we've used the folks at Vet Emergency Group -- and they've been really good to work with, especially under stressful situations. The key here, though, is know what your options are ahead of time -- and keep the number in your phone.

While I think there was a part of him that enjoyed having his parents to himself the other night, Momo was very happy to see his brother in the morning -- and spent a good 10mins cleaning the remains of the activated charcoal that was all over Jozsi's head. Sickeningly cute.

But today is a special day indeed! While it is the opening date for both You Don't Mess with the Zohan and Oscar-nominated Mongol, it is also Momo's 3rd birthday! Happy Birthday! In a nice twist of circumstance, we just got in contact with Momo's brother, Tavish, for the first time. (When they were pups at the farm, Momo was 'Purple' and Tavish was 'Orange'.) But Tracy, Tavish's mother, sent us this picture from the VCCNE Fun Day in 2006. Tavish is on the left, their mother Makin is in the middle, and their sister Mattie is on the right. I can certainly see the family resemblance. So, happy birthday to Tavish and Mattie, as well!

Who would have known just how far this dog, Widdershins Momchil JH, would have taken us.

Oh, this isn't too bad a reason to celebrate either.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

glory in defeat

Despite our mixed results, and in honor of my two boys and one of our favorite friends (and to keep the ballet in The Regal Vizsla), George Balanchine said that "A ballet is a movement in time and space, a living moment."

The irony, perhaps, of working with pointing dogs is that arguably the most vital moments are when they are standing, locked-up, still. Here are a couple of pictures courtesy of Jen, Sally's mom, from Saturday's run at the Katahdin GSP Hunt Test. Yes, we did end up braced with Sally even though she was being judged at the MH level and Momo was being judged at the SH level -- because I had been cross-scheduled and Sally was the odd dog out -- and needed a bracemate. And this is Sally pulling another lovely point.

The second picture is of me and Momo. In SH, once a dog has honored its bracemate, the handler can hold their dog by the collar while the other dog hopefully gets to retrieve its bird. Even though he knows it's Sally's bird, you can see the intensity and focus in his eyes while she takes care of business. From both pictures you get a sense of how much foliage there was in bloom -- and therefore how much extra scent the dogs were trying to sift through.

In honor of all the glorious red dogs, here is a great picture from the Vizsla Club of Central New England Fun Day lifted directly from Neil + Lael's blog. I get giddy looking at all those Hungarian super-dogs in one place. Kim of ForestKingVizslas is not only the current president of the club, but also organized this year's event. She has her own post about the event here. Looks like people and dogs had a great time as a result of her hard work! (And it was probably more fun than being mosquito and tick food like we were.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

mixed results...

Just got back from our weekend of festivities at the Katahdin German Shorthair Pointer Club Hunt Test at Sharpe's Farm in Hopkinton, NH. Well, the short version is that sadly none of the work to try and encourage Momo to staunch up on point seemed to work. And sadly, he didn't put together a good enough run on either day. Whatever my gripes with a couple of judges, I wouldn't have qualified Momo either. Tough to admit, but honest.

A few observations: Sharpe's Farm is a beautiful spot originally donated to the State (and maintained by the Corps of Engineers) by Rich & Dot Stevenson (if I remembered the name accurately from the plaque). The Junior birdfield is generally in the front field and can be readily seen from the picnic shelter and parking lot area -- and so great for newcomers wanting to see what hunt tests look like. But in late May, everything at Sharpe's is blooming like crazy... it smelled fantastic of honeysuckles and mountain laurels... but when high pollen is combined with low wind, and humidity only varied by a thunder shower (on Saturday morning), things get really tough -- especially because wet birds will throw off even less scent and will not want to fly. As an indicator, I don't think any dogs qualified in the Senior and Master braces on Saturday -- I think a single shot was fired over the course of the 4 braces.

I'll keep the specifics of each run, but will offer the following observations that may help aspiring dog handlers. I think Momo gets frustrated with the hunt test format. He has been the slower dog in a brace on each of the four times out -- and so, if the other dog hits a point first, he then has to honor that dog (and then watch that dog have a bird flushed and shot for it, and then go for its own retrieve). If he's already honored the dog in the backfield and now has to honor one or more times in the birdfield, he gets impatient to get a bird in the air so it can be shot for him to retrieve it. But neither wandering into another dog's point after being called to 'woah' or creeping on his own point will get your dog qualified at Senior Hunter.

I would also suggest that hunt test handlers carry a rock or a short stick or a heavy hat they can throw with accuracy. You are required to follow through on all birds encountered in the backfield -- and so if you can see a quail in the open about to run into a thicket of thin, closely packed trees, chuck something at the bird to make it fly so you can fire your pistol before your dog gets driven crazy and starts to creep. The pictorial highlight from the weekend is this pic is from Sunday morning. I had Momo out early by himself to see if we could find a bird left over from the day before to see if he would staunch up. And to be honest, he was great despite the bird (between the two main boughs) running from side to side. A well-thrown hat got that sucker in the air.

The same is probably true for Jozsi: his second run was marked by less attentiveness to my whistle -- and he definitely did not want to stop hunting this morning (which earned him a '10' for hunting, but a '6' for trainability). And so I might suggest that folks who already hunt their dogs consider maybe doing a single hunt test a weekend. As cool as it has been to tick off Jozsi and Momo's JH titles over the course of two weekends, the second day will be harder on the handler for anything other than an excellent dog -- and may require more post-test skill repair.

By contrast, Jozsi bombed through his two final JH legs. He also scoured the adjoining treelines, hedgerows, and probably most of the county. For all his toute vitesse, he is starting to acquire some style... it's so great to watch him get birdy and then set up in his nice high style. He needs more birds and more hunting to help get his nose finely-tuned -- but he really looks great (when you can focus on the blur!). All Hail the Junior Hunter!! Did I mention that he's still only 12mos old?

So, I may give Momo a complete bird-break for a month or so -- and then probably hunt him a couple of times to remind him that happy dads and happy dogs are what it's actually really all about. (I just figured out that he's essentially been in training since January 3rd and is probably a little burned out on it, too.) I will probably still take Jozsi up to the Connecticut Valley Vizsla Club Hunting Dog Stakes at the end of June just to see if he can put those afterburners to good use!

In other news, Alberto Contador became the first foreigner to win the Giro d'Italia in 15 years. For a guy that supposedly didn't train for it, he came out pretty well! Despite an awesome ride by Danilo Di Luca on Friday to reduce his gap behind Contador to 4secs, 'The Killer' lost almost four minutes on Saturday after trying so hard the day before. In fantasy cycling land, while I'm disappointed I picked Sylvester Szmyd over Emanuele Sella, I still selected #'s 1, 2, 8, and 10 in the final classification.