Friday, July 8, 2011

slow bake and a craving for rain...

...not down here in Phoenix necessarily (although we have had our share of incredible weather phenomena, and our haboob in particular). Bill tried to explain the particular combination and sequence of things like relative humidity and dewpoint that we need in Phoenix so that we might reasonably anticipate rain in the White Mountains -- but as many times as I read the definitions of these things, for some reason I can't figure out how to interpret these numbers.

While the Wallow Fire is now 95% contained, the developed campgrounds at Big Lake, Greer, and others are scheduled to open again this afternoon, and InciWeb will no longer be posting any updates on the fire's status, we still don't have any updates to tell us when we can leave the Valley of the Sun. As far as we're concerned, we're on 24hr standby. But with the opening of the developed campgrounds, hopefully general access to the Apache Forest will come soon.

In the meantime, we continue to train a little north of Phoenix -- getting up at 3am to get everyone loaded and to be at the grounds to start at 5am. It certainly can be beautiful as hopefully this picture shows. Taken at roughly 5:30am before the direct rays of the sun, it felt relatively cool -- but it was already 88degsF and by the time we were done at 8:30am, it had already broached 92degs. For where the dogs are now in their breaking process, it's actually important not to try to do too much irrespective of the weather -- but especially for the dogs that get run later in each session, we have to pay particular attention to their demeanor because of the additional stress factor of temperature. Besides the pretty colors and striking backdrop, I realise that this picture also has one of our carded, training pigeons in the right foreground. Carded pigeons are a huge part of Bill's system for breaking dogs (and while I don't agree with everything in this article, it's more right about more things than most). (Lacking the kind of open spaces that Bill has to train with, Maurice Lindley uses homing pigeons and launchers for much the same effect.) But going up to the mountains means that we set up our larger johnny-houses for quail (and maybe chukar again this year), and our smaller 'Evil Empire' johnny-houses on what will be our horseback course. In the progression of things, dogs will get broke on carded pigeons, then have the lessons re-affirmed on johnny-house quail, and if they've progressed quickly, then get turned loose and run from horseback. (In the meantime, the horseback courses will get used by the already-broke dogs in camp for conditioning and polishing.)

A quick word on what 'broke' looks like in this system: a customer came by this week to pick up his dog, a started dog he'd bought sight unseen and, looking for a broke dog he could take hunting almost immediately, he'd sent the dog to Bill for three months of training. He'd never seen his dog before, he'd never met Bill, and he's had several good dogs from several reputable folks before -- in short, he was not a novice to bird dogs. We have also been blessed with a crop of very spooky, healthy pigeons -- and so the first thing he saw was his new dog stop-to-flush, high and tight, without command on a bird that took us all by surprise. He then went on to point two more birds and had the third shot for him -- all in order and all without any vocal command. He was stunned. He asked Bill if he'd bought a miracle dog: "No, they should all do what he just did. He just looks particularly pretty doing it." This is to say that in several ways, Bill's breaking process relies on dogs being exposed to honoring and stopping-to-flush at the same time as being steady-to-fall. In fact, using Capo as an example, I would guess that she has been asked to point perhaps 4 birds in a month, but has been exposed to roughly 20 stops-to-flush or honoring situations.

In other news, Jake gets bigger and bigger. Taken over the Independence Day weekend, I love this picture for his high tail, goofy smile and his loping stride. We also got confirmation that his official registered name will be Seabank's Dancing Pirate. Meg and I decided that we'd like to start naming our own dogs with out own kennel name (hopefully in anticipation of moving and actually having outside space for our dogs) and Seabank was the name of my maternal grandparents' house in Campbeltown. 'The Dancing Pirate' was the name of a very early Rita Hayworth movie in honor of his mother, Hard Driving Rita.