Tuesday, March 31, 2009

catching up

"Octane started the action with a solid find in the left corner of the second field. He showed off his good style and training. At fourteen minutes he recorded a good back and then another find at forty minutes going into the long corn field. He ran well, finishing the hour much the same as he started."

This was how the AKC reporter described brace 35 of the Gun Dog Championship Non-Retrieving Stake. With a fair
number of dogs not completing their runs, and to have your own dog's conditioning and bird manners openly recognized, it's no wonder that his mother, Joan, has a smile on her face. Sadly, Ocky's performance did not get him into the ribbons for the non-retrieving championship -- but it sure sounds like he did well nonetheless.

Alan Davidson at DogsUnlimited was there running his own dog, Solo, in addition to being one of the events' significant sponsors. His report with a few more pictures is here.

I gather that this venue, Cloverdale Farm in Danville, VA, will be the venue for this coming fall's Vizsla Club of America's National Championships. We may need to take some time off work to go watch some fabulous red-dogs.


In other news: we just got back from a cousin's wedding in Ireland. I will post some pictures at a later point, suffice to say we had a great time and the wedding was a wonderful excuse to catch up with family.

We did kennel the boys up at Grace Lane Kennels in Ossining, NY. Friends had recommended it to us and while I would have loved it to have had a large, fenced outdoor enclosure like our old kennel in Maine did for the monsters to run free, they had a nice double pen to themselves -- and all the staff seemed very attuned to meeting individual dogs' (and owners') needs.


My first riding lesson seemed to go well -- well enough, anyways, that my instructor agreed to have me back this coming Sunday. And well enough that my kind wife decided to buy me a riding helmet. I know, not as cool as a beat-up blaze-orange baseball cap, but I feel like I came close enough to death riding bicycles and climbing ice and rocks while wearing helmets that it feels especially stupid not to wear one. It fits nicely -- and mine is black, by the way.

Assuming that I don't blow it this weekend, I'll put up details of where and how I've been getting lessons. And a couple of good books, too.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

congratulations + good luck

For those of you who may be wondering, the AKC Pointing Breed Gun Dog Championships are currently taking place in Danville, VA. Here's a picture of the top-placed vizsla from the Retrieving stake -- Clinton + Valerie Sails' DC/AFC Bitteroot Semper Fi Cutter (aka. 'Cutter) -- who ended up taking 4th overall in the retrieving stake. As the reporter described their brace: "This was a fun brace to watch. Both dogs were fast on the ground and displayed a natural ability to run to the front. Cutter had two finds and a nonproductive late in the brace. Maggie also would be credited with two finds and a nonproductive. Both finished their time with plenty of gas in their tanks."

The non-retrieving stakes started this morning. We're rooting for all the vizslas that Bob Seelye is handling -- Greta, Boone, and the maniac known as Grasshopper -- but there's a special good luck prayer going out to Joan Heimbach's DC Fieldfire's High Octane (aka. 'Octane'). He's probably not going to run till the middle of next week. All very exciting.


In other news: I have my first horse-riding lesson in 25years tomorrow. I'll keep everyone posted.

Monday, March 16, 2009

i am not worthy

It's a sad day when you realize your dog has more potential than you're capable of bringing out (at least for the moment). We headed down to the Conestoga Vizsla Club field trial in VA this weekend, in all honesty to get the kind of experience that Jozsi and I needed if we want to keep running with the big dogs. Being a horseback trial, I wanted to get more comfortable on a horse -- and to be sure that Jozsi was not at all phased by his dad sitting up high. And we had also picked up Kim + Mike's Rogue to take her down there to run in another Puppy stake (which was on foot).

In that regard, we were successful in all three areas. In a lot of ways, the highlight was my run with Rogue. Happily I had found another spot in the Phelps WMA (where the trial is held) that I could run the two monsters free, using Jozsi as the role-model for following directions and coming back -- and to get Rogue used to my kinds of squalling* and gesticulating. I should also mention at this point that it rained all weekend. I mention this now because when I mentioned to Kim how well Rogue had run, she was surprised that she'd even really wanted to hunt with the weather being what it was. But the monkey was hunting for sure. After a quick dash to meet the other puppy in her brace, she had had enough and wanted to get to business. In what seems like the majority of puppy stakes, clubs will run the little dogs on a course that has already been used for another stake but don't put any additional birds out. Puppies (dogs between 6-15mos) don't have to find birds to place, but if a puppy can show its intensity by demonstrating something resembling a point, it can't hurt. She had three false points on hotspots, ie. where birds had been (which I and the judges knew from having seen the previous stake), with nice style. That a puppy, especially a 7mos old, would not have the experience to distinguish between a hotspot and a live bird is no penalty. In any case, I continued my now-tradition of running out of course and we looped back to try and find an actual bird in one of her last hotspots. Bearing in mind that she is 7mos old, petite, and could easily have found herself braced with another much bigger dog, her 3rd place was well-earned. The judges said some very nice things about her. And I will run that dog anywhere -- watch out world!

*'squalling': thanks to Dale at LoBank for this word to describe the caterwauling that handlers will do to keep their dogs aware of their location.

Did I mention it was raining all weekend? Add a novice rider, a couple of rolling hills, stream crossings, and mud and, to be honest, we did okay in our Open Derby run. But it was also clear that Jozsi has the legs, lungs, and most of the bird manners to do this horseback thing with some success. He had three finds, a stop-to-flush (if we were being charitable) and something that approximated an honor. He handled well, but was hampered by a combination of factors that meant his handler was not up with him where he belonged -- and so he tended to run loops to the side rather than continually drive forward. I'll probably blog on these more, so stay tuned. But he is a madman and can cover ground. So, while I am disappointed for him, all in all we did just fine. Sadly, rain prevented too many pictures -- and however dumb it sounds, to be comfortably riding a strange horse back to the clubhouse in the rain and muck while roading your dog in his harness after his run felt pretty cool.


Postscript: in my haste, I forgot to mention that one of the highlights of meeting the folks at Conestoga was also meeting Jack Sharkey, owner of the legendary AKC quintuple champion Chartay, as well as Don and Angel Brown of Dobrocat Vizslas.

I should also mention that I met the dignified and eminent Broad Run Blaze, winner of the 2009 Conestoga Vizsla Club Hunting Dog Stake -- and both her parents, Amber and Luke.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

a matter of honor

As folks might be able to tell from my Dopplr widget, we have a trip to Sumerduck, VA, next weekend.  After considering various options, I decided to enter Jozsi in the Conestoga Vizsla Club field trial  -- in no small part to get him some more horseback experience while he is still a Derby. That way, if the horse throws him slightly in terms of his bird-work, he still has some room for error.  Nevertheless, to make the travel worthwhile, in addition to Open Derby, I have also entered him in his first adult stake, Amateur Gun Dog.  If he does what he normally does, he should be fine -- if he doesn't, he'll get picked up and there's merit in that, too.

I also chose to enter him in this AGD stake because it is non-retrieving -- and heaven knows, I haven't had time to force-fetch Mr. Enthusiasm!  However, the adult trial stakes do require that if a dog encounters its bracemate on-point that it honor.  (Unlike a Senior or Master-level hunt test, every dog doesn't have to display an honor during its brace.)  And I have only had the opportunity to whoa him into an on-point Momo a couple of times.  So we went up to TMT to see if we could get some practice in.

Because Jozsi is just so much faster, I figured I would send Momo out for a head-start and then release the Beast.  But Momo being the great foot-hunting dog he is, as soon as I turned around to go get Jozsi, he would track back around.  So, I ended up sending them out at the same time and had to hope for Momo maybe getting to one of the birds first.  And besides, he needs honoring practice, too.  On the first pass, Jozsi got to two of the three birds first -- and Momo, bless him, required a little tap on the e-collar for the first bird and then settled himself nicely for the second.  Both boys were hauling for the third bird and, to be honest, I didn't see what happened.  However, Momo was clearly pointing the bird and Jozsi was clearly looking at Momo -- and not the bird (although he was downwind).  The omens were good.

So I decided to put out three more birds to test the hypothesis that, perhaps, Jozsi had a pretty good idea of what was expected of him.  I will summarise the next three birds shortly, by saying that the basic spirit of things was very promising --  Jozsi did perform two honors with very little pressure from me.  However, he was starting to step in on the birds and even considered trying to grab for one.  There could have been any number of factors: competing with his brother, birds on limiters that he knew he could catch if he really tried, unusually warm weather, and rising barometric pressure.  So, after I put out three birds to shoot for Momo and for him to retrieve, I left one unfettered bird out there for Jozsi to find and for me to flush + blank, and fly free.  He got the bird nicely and was steady through the shot, but kept wanting to take steps in despite his obvious desire to go rip out for the chukar 50yds away.  With each step he got to meet Mr. Sparky -- although it took serious effort
on my part to say nothing as he took each step, but instead to ping his collar.  The key being to give the dog a command he is fully aware of and has successfully performed in other situations and then have the dog associate the shock with its movement rather than with your subsequent re-command.  I made him stand and stay where he was supposed to in nice gentle tones, heeled him away, and then let him run and hunt for another 15mins before putting him up for the day.

So, all in all, while I would love perfection from my two lovely boys, we at least found ourselves in the right ballpark.  While I have no pictures of today's experiments, here is a nice picture of Momo at TMT from January, courtesy of Bob.


In other exciting news, we will be taking Kim + Mike's Forest King Upland Tsunami, aka. Rogue, down to the Conestoga trial where I will run her for them in Open Puppy.  Happily, being a puppy stake, there's very little I need to do or can screw up -- so she should get some great experience.