Monday, June 21, 2010

heat + humidity + adventures

Since I last wrote, I completed my first Senior Hunter and Master Hunter judging assignment. It's always helpful to have someone consistent, calm, and experienced as a judging partner and I got lucky this time around. The judging standards have to be adhered to to keep the title standard meaningful -- but it's still reassuring to come across fellow judges who are still trying to judge with the dog, the standard, the conditions, the handler, the bracemate... in short, trying to keep the entire picture in view and not just trying to find a way to disqualify a dog or its handler.

I have also judged my first ever 'trial' and my first ever 'obedience' standard! The latter, in particular, shocks me. In any case, this past weekend I judged both the CVVC's Hunting Dog Excellent stake and one leg of the next day's Versatility testing. Happily, both dogs testing for their obedience legs were easy passes and the setting a little more relaxed than a formal obedience trial. Probably the biggest compliment that can be paid to the dogs who competed in the Excellent stake came from my fellow judge, a Brittany guy, who said that he'd hunt over any of those dogs -- and, not meaning it in any backhanded way, that after judging for 15yrs, it was great to see a vizsla-only stake where the quality of the dogs was that high. The hot conditions could have easily reversed the order of the placements -- but that is the nature of a trial-type environment. It was also great to see two older dogs -- and not just young hotshots -- win both the Excellent stake and the regular Hunting Dog stake. Congratulations to both Sid and Blue!

Here's a great picture of The Mominator from Sunday. Looking good despite the heat! It was also great to get some good, controlled repetitions in with both Jozsi and Lyric -- reinforcing and praising Mr. Enthusiasm when he stands his birds, and getting Lyric accustomed to the idea of steady-to-wing-and-shot. Here are a couple of good articles on heat and summer conditioning -- one from our friend, Sean Wayment, the other from Joe Spoo. The detail I like about Joe's article is his referencing the magic number '150', ie. the total from adding both temperature and relative humidity together. Saturday was both a little cooler and a little drier -- but we were close to 130 on Saturday and in the high 140s on Sunday. That hot and the dogs take a long time to cool down even with misters, shade, and plenty of cool, fresh water -- and even birds in launchers will barely fly. I mention this 'heat index' because I imagine a fair number of folks in the northeast would forget the cumulative effect of heat and humidity -- and sometimes a 70deg day can be harder work that an 85deg day if the relative humidity is conspiring against you.

For now, at least, we're taking a small break. Just a small one, though. Till we get past this nasty humid weather.


Here, however, is a small cheer for good, old-fashioned customer service. Back in January 2009, I noted that Remington, the parent company of Harrington & Richardson, and in turn of New England Firearms, had closed the Gardner, MA, plant thereby ending production of the iconic HR/NEF starter pistol. This pistol was always known for its simplicity, reliability, and ease of maintenance. Somehow, though, I ended up with the lemon of the bunch. I could never get more then about a 50% detonation rate on mine; I even had one gunsmith replace some springs and file the firing pin; and, in fact, even went so far as to give it away for parts. The friend who took it gave me it back saying 'Oh, you just need to oil it'. Mildly amusing, but I figured that maybe my NEF was like a Remington 1100 and needed constant lubing. Sadly, he was wrong, too. However, I did discover that Remington was still offering service on the NEF pistols. And after two weeks and taking my word that the gun was still less than two years old, I have it back. Working perfectly. For free.

In the meantime, I have been using an Alfa pistol -- which has worked completely smoothly for me. As compared to the NEF, the common criticism leveled at the Alfa is its full-frame size and six-shot capacity. I hear, though, that there is a new 209-primer pistol, the GunX, being offered through DogsAfield that will at least address some of the size and weight issues.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

oh the places you will go

Today is The Mominator's fifth birthday. Five years ago, I didn't know what a pointing dog was. We got a vizsla because we wanted an energetic dog that would run with my wife -- and because of their temperament. And just watching him slowly find his instincts in the wooded park behind our house (we lived in Maine at the time) was enough to prompt me to explore training him and me. I had shot a lot of target rifles in my high-school and university days, but never a shotgun. Here he is, not quite 3mos old!

I should acknowledge that we wouldn't be where we are without Momo's first girlfriend, the lovely Lida, who keeps our friends, Dudley and Susan, company up in western Maine. She encouraged him to leave our side and get out and explore the woods. We try to get them together every fall and somehow Lida not only knows who is in the truck when it pulls up, but mews like a kitten when she sees him. Here is a picture of Her Majesty from our trip to Rangeley last fall.

I should also acknowledge the continuing friendship of Paul Hermann -- a true gentleman of the grouse woods with his love of English setters and English shotguns. He was the first person I met whose eyes immediately lit up when I said I had a pointing dog and was trying to learn how to train him -- and the person who had already made contacts for me by the time we moved to New York City. I can also say with certainty that my own love of side-by-sides comes from shooting his 1926 Purdey at the local trap range in Maine -- although it may be some time before I can afford anything quite that nice.

I think about all the miles on our truck, the worn-out boots, the faint pong of quail in the garage, and the hundreds of friends we have made as a result of having The Mominator and, then, Mr. Enthusiasm. And I am struck by how similar (and arguably how much further) another vizsla, Zeke, took our friends, Michelle and Patrick, in his first five (too short) years.

Here's to you, Widdershins Momchil MH VC, the OV (the 'original vizsla'), happy birthday! And the wish and promise for many more adventures together.