And so, it’s time for disclosure: I am in Arizona. After a few calls back and forth with Bill Gibbons over the spring just to catch up (but in which he’d tease me about coming out to work dogs with him again), I took a month off from work. And drove out from NYC last week to beautiful eastern Arizona with the boys in tow. I’m not sure Bill had any idea I was quite this crazy – but my gratitude goes out to him, my wife, and my colleagues at work for giving me this opportunity. Leaving aside the various specific issues I’d like to take care of with Jozsi, I just want to be better for my dogs. They give us so much, forgive us so much, and ask very little it seems – except for the joy of hunting birds with us.
And so we’re up in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona at 9500’ feet with huge meadows to train in, elk and antelope, the smell of pines, and wild mountain irises everywhere. For someone used to the tight spaces of the northeast, the heat and humidity, it feels like a small piece of heaven. While we haven’t had any precipitation the last couple of days, it seems the usual weather routine is for sunshine with afternoon showers that help keep the humidity and the dust down. We generally get up around 5am, have a gentle breakfast, and are working dogs by 7:00am; we work dogs till around 12noon, and then put up the dogs and feed them their daily meal. Generally we sit around for the height of the afternoon: a couple of the guys who’ve been helping Bill out for summers will go fish, or take a horse ride, or road the dogs that didn’t get worked that day.
Here's a picture of Bill roading 8 dogs at once. The dogs come to love it -- and what you can't tell in the picture is that Bill is riding in neutral and didn't even engage a gear on the ATV for another half-mile or so. You can see his and Tamra's three 'little dogs' -- Bella, Lucy, and Purdy Girl -- riding right behind him. They love the ride almost as much as the dogs in the harnesses.
It’s been a few days of firsts: the first time my dogs have been worked on pigeons, first time they’ve been roaded from an ATV, which they’ve dealt with really nicely along with being in a kennel with 30 or so other dogs of all shapes and sizes (and not with their dad the whole time). They seem to have adjusted pretty well to the warmth and elevation pretty well. Bill’s got a pretty good idea of what we need to work on with my younger dog – and so, as much as I’d like to leap into running him off a horse, it’s good to have a sensible game plan. I’m just excited to have someone who actually knows what he’s doing literally looking over my shoulder and educating me as much as we are the dogs.