Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Here's assorted random notes from the last ten days or so.

First of all, we got a little bit of culture by checking out Rodrigo y Gabriela perform at Terminal 5. Being dog-people (which means early risers and therefore not that cool when it comes to late nights on the town), we only caught the first hour... which was still amazing. The picture was taken on my cell-phone hence the low-res glory of it. What you can't see is that they had various video cameras set up on the stage and one handheld down in front which they would project onto the back curtains.

In addition to just being cool, you could actually see just how crazy Gabriela's hands were working. It might actually be fair to say that she plays rhythm to Rodrigo's lead guitar, but that completely understates what 'rhythm' means in this instance. In addition to all her fretwork, she was tapping, beating, and whomping her guitar. Pretty fabulous. I'll guess they were saving 'Stairway' for the encore, but we did get to hear their cover of 'Orion'... and I will stick my neck out and say that Gabriela is a better drummer than Lars Ulrich, too. They have their own website with details of their new album 11:11 and their US tour. If you can, check them out.


Our friend, Michelle, at Broad Run Vizslas found this pic in the archives. We've now confirmed that the dog is FC Upwind Sitka ('Prinnie') -- and here, too, are Bob Seelye and Lisa DeForest. I was lucky to inherit a pair of tracking collars from Lisa's estate -- and every time we strap them on, we see her name on the ID tag, and we miss and remember her.


Dave was kind enough to send me notice of the original petition, but he was equally nice to send me notice that the petition requesting a formal apology from the British Government for the prosecution (and untimely death) of Alan Turing, one of the fathers of computer science and a brilliant codebreaker, had in fact been successful. His work in breaking the German Enigma code during WW2 arguably shortened that struggle immeasurably.

The petition was put together by computer programmer, John Graham-Cumming. As he states in this recent piece, this was a simple case of human rights.

The formal apology can be read here on the 10 Downing Street website. Surprisingly, perhaps, the apology came while the petition was still open.


We were lucky to meet Nancy Whitehead this past weekend and pick up a copy of her book. She is a hoot and the book is fabulous.

We were also lucky enough to get out on some training birds at TMT this morning. While hardly Nancy Whitehead-quality, I think this is a nice picture of The Mominator with a nice high head point on a chukar. As you can tell, the cover is high -- the air was also thick and barely moving, so this was an atypical point for the morning. These weren't conditions to really let the birds teach Jozsi a few lessons, so I turned Mr. 200mph lose in some of other fields in the slim chance that he'd find a pheasant or two left over. Sadly not, but you can never fault his energy or application.

I'm living for the first frosts of October.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

glory + great new resource

Here are a few pictures from this weekend's hunt test weekend out at Crane WMA near East Falmouth, MA. As mentioned before, we had split the weekend with the Mayflower GSP Club -- and I was the chairman for our test, so could only run Momo on Saturday, but serving as the ferry for the SH/MH judges on Sunday I got to see all the birdfield work as a bonus.

The pictures are in chronological order. And first of all, we get to celebrate the first successful step in Momo's next journey. He drew the first brace on Saturday morning -- and somehow miraculously the rain broke just long enough to run all the dogs. Saturday saw 1" of rain fall, although all told between 10pm on Friday and 8am on Sunday, it was pretty close to 2" of rain total. The short version of Momo's run was that he did everything he needed to. I would love him to stand as completely still as Jozsi, and will keep working on it with him -- but he ended up honoring three times (there was a backcourse find, then a missed bird in the birdfield, and then a final set-up), and did a beautiful retrieve. He now has his first leg of his Master Hunter title.

In a lot of ways, I have come to realize that MH is a rather zen experience. You obviously try to train your dog to the standard, but the standard is pretty tight and there are any number of variables that can cause a hiccup. Very few judges are looking to fail a dog, but the fact is that most of the guidelines are pretty spelled out. You can't control how birds fly, how prepared your bracemate is, and what the weather will be -- and the standard requires a minimum of hacking from the handler. And so, knowing that the dog needs me to be calm too, I just try to go with it. After trying to rush into Senior Hunter, I realize that rushing invariably does more harm than good and creates stress in an arena where your dog should be having fun. I am convinced the same is true when it comes to the transition from Derby to adult stakes for young field trial dogs.

The second picture is of our friends' GSP, Timber, returning with her bird to finish her retrieve -- and after honoring her bracemate, successfully completing the final leg of her MH title. Frank and Sam have done a nice job getting Timber all trained up. The third picture is of Mike running Kyler for her second succesful leg of MH, too... such a pretty point in this picture. Her run illustrated one interesting element of the SH/MH retrieve, though. Keep in mind that while they cannot handle the dog in any way, the gunners work for you, the handler; one of the judging criteria for the retrieve is that the dog has to retrieve the bird in a condition fit for the table. As the Guidelines spell out: "Mouthing is a serious fault in a hunting dog. A mangled bird is not fit for the table. Any dog which renders a bird unfit for consumption cannot receive a Qualifying score." (my italics) And so, what happens if a bird is blown apart in mid-air and already rendered unfit for the table? The following is not set down in the Rulebook, but in my experience is a fairly consistently adhered to practice amongst judges in the northeast, at least.

The onus lies with the gunners and you, the handler, to determine whether that bird is fit to be retrieved -- either because it was completely missed or because it was blown to bits. While every retrieved bird will be examined by a judge for damage due to a hard-mouthed dog, a gunner has the responsibility to alert the judges that a bird may be too heavily damaged -- and the handler an ability to express concern to the judge about the condition of the bird before he/she sends his dog. Because you may not have judges who are as concerned for the dog as Kyler did. Her first bird was cleanly hit and Kyler was sent for her retrieve. Uncharacteristically, she spat out her bird twice before coming back to Mike without it. He collared up his dog, convinced she had blown the retrieve -- only to have the judges ask for the bird, examine it, and deem it 'too dead'. She then got to go out again and make the point in the picture and make a perfect retrieve. The moral of the story is a) don't give up on your dog, and b) keep in mind how you can advocate for your dog through your awareness of the guidelines and rules.


With getting the best out of your good dog in mind, I am very pleased to see that, with the help of some friends, pro trainer Maurice Lindley has put up his own website, Steady with Style, that includes a downloadable training manual. Like Bill Gibbons and Dave Walker, whose websites are already on my blog-roll, Mo learned his trade from the legendary Bill West. If there was a single 'approach' to birddog training that I wish I'd known about before I started messing around with my two, it would be the West method. Our next puppy will get schooled that way. As I have said before, at this point, Dave Walker's Bird Dog Training Manual remains the book I go to -- although I was excited to see that Martha Greenlee is publishing a book of Mo's methods that is due out in December 2009.

Friday, September 11, 2009

a few random thoughts

In the midst today's tragic anniversary, I have to find a silver lining. And while it might be news to her, the attacks on the World Trade Center made me realise that just maybe I was falling in love with my wife. Like many people, I know where I was that day and I remember who told me to turn on the television. I was in Portland, OR; my wife-to-be was in Manhattan.

My darling brother has started a blog of his own, too. And his wish for peace, that today of all days, if we could somehow not kill anyone especially in a cosmic war, is one I wish for too.

A week ago, I became a published poet -- of sorts. And managed to sum up almost nine years of my life in seventeen syllables. Dissertationhaiku is an awesome site -- a really great idea, and a nice way to remember a lot of sweat and tears.


We are about to head up to the Cape for a weekend of hunt testing. Our club, the Vizsla Club of Central New England, has split its weekend with the Mayflower GSP Club, and being the chairman for this fall's test, I can only run The Mominator tomorrow morning.

But here's a little canine foothealth for you. We don't have to deal with things like speargrass or thorns up here in the Bronx, just the usual broken glass, random bits of metal, and the like. (Having said that though, the worst unexpected offender we've encountered in the city is broken acorn cups. Those are wicked sharp.)

I do generally start treating the boys' feet with Tuf-Foot. It has iodine and pine-tar in it, so it cleans and kills nasty stuff and forms a nice protective coat. Bill Allen over at Strideaway wrote a piece about pad-care that seems to endorse both of these ingredients.

However, after Jozsi sustained a couple of either sprains or jars on his front feet, a friend suggested getting him a rigid boot that might provide him with some extra protection while we get him into race shape. And as goofy as they look, we went with these boots from Lewis.

They take a little time to get on and off, but if you do it right, your dogs' feet will get great protection. We've used them three or four times now and once he has them on, Jozsi is off to the races. You would never know that he currently has a 1" cut on one of the main pads on his right front foot. As much as I don't like to make too much fun of the boy, watching him get used to them was pretty amusing. He has a nice gait as is, but adding those boots to his front feet was like watching a Tenessee Walker during the Big Lick. Just that little extra weight has him picking up his front feet like a show pony... till he breaks into a run of course.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


We were up in Oxford, NY, this weekend for the first field-trial of the season hosted by the Hudson Valley Brittany Club. The Lost Pond grounds are a working preserve owned and maintained, I gather (but I may be wrong), by the folks who operate Grouse Ridge Setters. And they have a really nice set-up, with well over 1000 acres groomed and maintained for bird cover.

I wanted to go up there to give Jozsi a dust-off and see where he was at, to run Mike + Kim's Rogue for them, and to get plenty of saddle time in. While I don't know anyone at the HVBC, I knew some of our usual cast of characters would be there running dogs or helping out, too. This first pic is of Dennis + Jen's rig as the sun set on Friday night; you can still make out the groomed feed strips and one of the many ponds on the grounds.

The first run of the weekend went to Jozsi. There were only two adult horseback stakes -- and with Brittanies required to win at a Brittany-club-hosted event to claim their Field Champion title, I decided to enter him in Open All-Age rather than Open Gun Dog to be sure he kept finding his range from a horse. All-age dogs are essentially expected to run and range with greater independence than regular gun-dogs. I didn't really know what to expect comparatively, ie. how his performance would measure against a potentially experienced all-age dog, and I was really pleasantly surprised. The short version of the stake would be that he ran and hunted objectives really nicely, maybe came in a little too often for a true all-age performance, had one unproductive and one clean find.

I think the judges may have thought I cautioned him into a point for the unproductive before he was actually sure of the bird. I, on the other hand, know what wagging tail and a low head means and so will swear that he had located a bird, that it was running through low undergrowth, and that he was fractions of a second away from going to get it. And I sure as hell wasn't going to relocate him. From what I gather, in the still air and bright sunlight of the late morning, a number of dogs weren't able to produce any finds. He needs work to get him styled up, but it was his first clean adult stake and I am proud.

Then came Rogue's run in Open Derby. This was to be her first run as a Derby dog, even though she is still 13mos old and eligible for Puppy. And while she is compact like her mother, she is built for speed. This little dog has drive like crazy and I enlisted Deb Goodie to serve as my scout and hopefully keep me and Nutball out of too much trouble. This second picture is of her at the breakaway -- and I think you get a good idea of what this dog was here to do. She ripped it up. Her instincts are really good and it was so great to see her power some edges. She did get a point in about 3/4 of the way round, and then, mercifully after she had popped that one, came around and realised there were more in the same spot and so re-pointed. And then went to the races. It took about five minutes to get her back but we managed to get her heading in the right direction. Then as the judge called time she bombed into the woods and was eventually driven out by Deb after standing quite beautifully, apparently, on a woodcock. All of that earned her a 4th in her first Open Derby!

The third picture is just funny and is from before our Open Derby run. Come Sunday morning, I had a feeling it might happen, but when I saw the course for Open Puppy, I realised we might be doomed. While they hadn't planted birds for it, the course featured a tight loop that ran awfully close to a series of heavily wooded, but groomed bird fields. We initially lost her in there for about five minutes before enticing her back, but as we looped back around she went back in and we couldn't get her back out in time. She, sadly, ran herself out of contention.

Jozsi's run in Amateur Limited Gun Dog (which was a walking stake) was sadly a mere 4mins of glory. To give him a tiny bit of slack, he had spent most of 6hrs in his crate waiting to run. And his first 3:50 was awesome. He ran a beautiful line that I hadn't seen another dog run that day and, perhaps not surprisingly, found a bird in a spot no-one else had either. It was probably 50:50 whether he bumped the bird because while he was making birdy, he hadn't also set up in any way. In any case, a bird popped, he stopped, but started up again. And that, sadly, is all you need to end an otherwise promising run.

The final picture is of Bob and his dog, Belle. Not my regular friend, Bob, and his dog, Belle, but another. In any case, I think it's just a nice picture. This is in many ways what trialing is about. Friends messing about with dogs and horses, having a good time (especially when the weather is good) and trying not to take anything (and especially yourselves) too seriously.