Monday, April 9, 2012

where did spring go

As ever, it feels like I have to start a blog post with an apology, but sometimes writing really does have to take a second place to more important things like dog training, dog exercising, judging dogs, watching dogs, and trying to make plans to do more of the previously mentioned.

The beginning of March saw the League take a road trip down to Sumerduck, VA, for the Conestoga Vizsla Club spring trial -- and while none of them were actually entered, I made my debut as a field trial judge judging three of the juvenile stakes. In much the same fashion that I actually enjoyed my apprenticeship period as a judge, I also enjoyed the opportunity to share opinions with my fellow judges and learn some more about how they assessed the dogs in front of us. While I know that you will most likely only make one person happy with your decision, I'm finding the opportunity to look at so many dogs with a different kind of eye also makes me look at my own a little differently, too.

And in terms of perspective, I was also lucky to have lunch with someone with second-degree knowledge of several of the dominant field trial pointers of the pre-WW2 period. I wrote about it here at Living with Bird Dogs -- but it was neat to learn a little more about Mary Blue, Norias Roy, and their owner, Walter Teagle. While certainly from a subsequent generation, I was lucky to spend three days with Fred Rayl, son of Hall of Famer, Bill Rayl, at the Armstrong Umbel Endurance Classic way over in Guys Mills, PA. After the first day's running, sitting around a dinner table with various people, a discussion about pedigrees, breeding plans, and famous dogs inevitably occurred. Suffice to say, while one person was trying to tease out where the Rambling Rebel line had emerged and prospered, Fred asked him if he knew who owned Rambling Rebel's most famous daughter, Nell's Rambling on? The other person said "no," to which Fred replied, "My daddy." There was no ego or oneupmanship in the entire conversation -- and the answer brought plenty of laughter around the table. It should be noted that, in addition to her own election to the HOF, Nell whelped two other sons who have also been recognized to this same degree: Guard Rail and Addition's Go Boy.

Going back to the Armstrong Umbel to report the trial was a treat. The admiration I felt last year for the handlers, trainers, and owners was no less diminished, but I had a greater sense of what I should be looking for to capture for the official report for the Field. It was also nice to see many of the same folks I met for the first time last year again -- including Joe McCarl and Marc and Scott Forman. This year's trial was no less a game of faith than the previous year. If you go into the 'Galleries' section, you can see some of Chris Mathan's great pictures from the trial here at the Sportsman's Cabinet.

While it was sad to learn that his father, White Powder Pete, had passed away at the beginning of the month, it was great to see Jake's mother, Hard Driving Rita, run and lay down a powerhouse race for her two hours. I wish I could have met Pete in person and seen him run in more than National Championship DVDs -- but it was also really nice to see how much of Rita is in Jake, too. Jake had a family reunion of sorts, as well, with his brother, Hard Driving Mo (owned by Joe), and his sister, Hard Driving Dot. Dot is owned by my now friend, Brian, and is as much the firecracker as her brother; she actually went on won the 22-dog Venango Puppy Classic the weekend after the Armstrong. As you can see, these pictures came from Chris Mathan who co-bred the litter with Colvin Davis: Mo is the upper dog, Dottie the lower.

Since I started writing this post, I was also sad to see that Bert Wimmer, Pete's owner, had also passed away right around the same time. The Wimmers, both Bert and his father, Walter, were an integral part of the Indiana field trial scene for over a half-century. Here's hoping that owner and dog are reunited in a better place where the riding is easy and the quail plentiful.

In other news, I have also begun my spring hunt test judging assignments, this past weekend up at the Swift River Sportsman's Club for the Central New England Brittany Club weekend, judging SH/MH the first day and JH the second. I had the whole League with me in the Luxury Cruiser and was able to get in some nice training runs with all of them. Momo is... well, Momo... not quite enough ooomph or style to be a trial dog, but if you ever need birds to be found, he's the doggie! Jozsi is actually starting to act like he's a broke dog: his final find at Swift River in three-foot tall pines on top of a stone wall a piece of brilliance. I walked around him twice, trying to use the Astro to locate him, and then realized I should probably just kneel down and try to look under the evergreens to find his feet. And he stood the whole time when he had plenty of opportunity to be a jackwagon. He's even starting to honor of his own free will (!?). His tail issues haven't entirely disappeared, but I suspect that the more reps we get in where he does well and earns praise, the less frequent that little tick or wag will become as he realizes that if he stands there and lets me flush then he'll get both a) to see the bird fly and maybe even get to retrieve it, and b) he'll get love from his pop. Mark Coleman at Wingshot wrote a nice piece recently about his own experience with patience in dog-training -- and I hope Jozsi's increasing willingness to do what I want and to make it his own is the product of my patience with him. As for Jake, he's taking to the breaking process really nicely, again, I hope the product of the 'slow is smooth, smooth is fast' approach I learned from being out in AZ with Bill Gibbons. For those of you familiar with the West method, we're about at the point where we transition him to cues from the e-collar if he chooses to move after he's stopped himself. This picture is from our weekend at Swift River and, as you can see, he's showing tremendous restraint for a young dog sight-pointing a quail running in the open.

We have a big training day planned for this coming Sunday and hopefully we'll have a bunch of pictures of a motley crew.