Sunday, February 28, 2010

the next generation

Phew wheee! Never got round to writing the second part of our Ukraine travelogue... the part with the mummified monk fingers, belly dancers, and trying not to spontaneously burst into flames for being a heathen. Sorry. You'll just have to extrapolate.

Other folks have been writing some nice things that led me to ponder how on earth I ended up with a pick-up truck full of dogs, guns, and training supplies -- a truck I don't commute in, but somehow still end up putting 12,000miles on a year. This is a small figure to some, but this is the northeast. And so while this post is titled for the folks that get us started in this funny bird-dog game, it should probably be dedicated to my wife who indulges me in my odd obsession (and keeps our dogs fit).

The National Championship for Field-Trialing Bird Dogs is finally over despite (and I quote Brad Harter's official
synopsis) several days of "brutal conditions." And the winner is Carl Bowman's In the Shadow ('Buster'). The New York Times ran a nice story on the Championships which concluded with this absolutely fabulous quote: “I told the old gentleman who started me in this sport 40 years ago that it probably would have been better to give me a gram of cocaine because then I could have done my time in prison,” said Larry Garner, an amateur bird dog field trialer from Dallas. “I could have gone through rehab and become a productive citizen again instead of being addicted to bird dogs and chasing them all over the United States and Canada.” Amen.

As for my own perverse addiction, I'd like to thank Stephanie Gutierrez for awarding Jozsi his first blue ribbon -- and have already been informed that she has no intention of running her new pup in any field trials. So not fair. But I think I will have my revenge before the end of the month: while Steph will get to judge The Mominator once more, I will get to judge her and the lovely Rye at the same hunt test! I should also say that amongst many others, Joan Heimbach has been my particular fairy godmother of field trialing. Thank you.

And while she is primarily talking about horsemanship, Gin at High Mountain Horse has a great post asking those of us in the current generation to 'pass it on' to the next. I couldn't agree more. -- and as you'll read, I'm trying to do my part. Holly at NorCal Cazadora asks another poignant question about the dangers of assuming that those of us who enjoy hunting and fishing (and I would suggest even the not-necessarily-lethal kinds of sporting dog events) will be able to do so in perpetuity. Personally, I hate the idea of legislating to protect the future -- but when faced by the slick, but frankly disingenuous, campaigns of folks like the HSUS, perhaps we need to. As Mike Spies at Living with Birddogs notes, there is a new force in the blogosphere dedicated to tracking these jackasses.

I, on the other hand, have become hairy godfather to a couple of new puppies from our friend, Michelle's most recent litter. How two dogs from Virginia end up in New York City seems a little strange, but they have. We haven't had a chance to get Murphy on birds yet, although that moment will hopefully be soon. But The Mominator and Mr. Enthusiasm did get to meet Ottla today -- and she got to rendezvous with some quail.

Even with first birds, I prefer to have the dog use its nose to find a bird -- rather than merely deposit a bird in front of it in clear view -- and so we dispersed a handful of birds in a feedstrip to see how she managed. The first couple of birds literally either ran away from her (because she was still in potter mode, wondering what was different about this particular walk) or flushed behind her -- and while she never saw them go, she buried her nose intently in the hotspots they'd left clearly trying to make sense of this new, strangely exciting smell. And then launched into a different gear.

As you might imagine, even with a small bird like a quail, having it launch in your face can be a little daunting -- and
so with her next three flushes she sank onto her back legs a little as the bird took off before heading off after it to much praise from the gallery. Besides the focus in her face in chasing the quail in flight, the best part of the picture at the top comes from the understanding that she has watched the bird flush, then land, and then start running through the brambles. In at least two cases, she headed off after the bird, performed a several-yard serpentine ground track and then boosted the bird into the air.

We had initially run the three dogs together before any birdwork -- and put Jozsi in his hauling rig and cables to really wear him out and work on his conditioning. I should mention that at one point Ottla saw Momo standing ahead of her and immediately stopped and didn't start moving till he did. She didn't know he wasn't pointing, but a natural honor is a lovely thing to see.

Then once Ottla was done with her first five birds and had scattered them to the wind, I put down each of my two. The Mominator had a nice run of his own posting three genuinely impressive finds on quail running in deep cover -- and with nice steady feet; Jozsi had four finds of his own, impressive bar the second where he decided to chase a running bird in the open. I realise this is one of Momo's weaknesses, too, so I will need to start proofing for that over the next couple of weeks as well.

Stay posted.


Stephanie said...

Andrew - It's always a pleasure judging your dogs! They have lots of drive and enthusiasm and it's fun to see a hard working Vizsla. Reminds me of Baron.

As for the hunt test at the end of the month, I just need you to keep Chuck away from me - ick! Rye will do her best to find birds for both of us and if she actually stops to point then the Vizsla Gods will be smiling.

Rod Michaelson said...

Your trip sounded great and like you Andrew, I still am trying to figure out how I ended up planning to spend a rain soaked weekend running Bailey in a horseback and a walking derby.
Off to England and Germany next month. In England, I am going on a Viz Wiz in the New Forest with some great English Vizsla owners. Like you, redbirddog has alot of English friends.

Michelle said...

Andrew - You've hit the nail on the head, it is an addiction!! Thank you so much for introducing our NYC puppy folks to the world of birds with their Vizsla puppies! Next thing we know, Ottla's owners will be looking for a place to park their living quarters horse trailer in the city. :)

Meg said...

I love that this is quasi-dedicated to me, because secretly (or not so), your obsession allows me to bask in my own delights: free-days of running, keeping our home relatively free of dog-hair and dirt (aka:cleaning), and the luxury of time alone. Ah. :-) It's also exciting that you're 'passing it on' (I almost wrote 'paying it forward' but that just seems too cheesy). I love your passion. xoxo Meg