Saturday, June 8, 2013

spring has sprung

It's hard to say that spring sprung because it seems like we've been through a bunch of schizo weather patterns which merited the air-conditioners being put back in and then fleece jackets and/or waterproofs.  I was just at Flaherty this past weekend judging for the Nutmeg GSP Club and between the hot, humid, still weather on Saturday (especially) and the jungle-like cover, I was glad I wasn't running any of my dogs.

Since the last entry, I did run the dogs and judge for the Long Island Pointing Dog Field Trial Club out at Sarnoff Preserve out in Riverhead, Long Island.  I like Sarnoff as a venue and would have loved to have hunted there back in the day when the LI pine barrens supported wild quail -- but it is a little too wooded on the edges and the course area a little too compact for me to run our Dancing Pirate, but I did run both the Mominator and Mr. Enthusiasm.  But it was a weekend of screw-ups: canine and human.

While the first mishap with Jozsi wasn't a screw-up as such, and it indicates the strengths and challenges of the venue, I told the judge that the decision I was making was going to be either brilliant or disastrous.  On the first major bend in the course, Jozsi headed into the piney cover dead ahead -- and as I got closer I heard him bark.  While not generally a trait we look for in pointing dogs, Jozsi has barked to me up in Maine when he knew he was potentially off course and has a grouse pinned.  I've gone to him in both instances and been able to shoot a grouse.  And so I ploughed into the woods hoping he had some kind of game bird pinned.  Maybe he did and maybe it left, but after probably only 5mins of wading around, I realized he wasn't there and I didn't know where he was and so, for the first time ever in a trial, asked for my Astro to locate my dog.  He was 600yds to the front.  But these are tactical decisions you need to make sometimes based on what you know about your dog -- and this time it was the wrong one.

I then ran Mominator -- and to illustrate the point in a different way, when he disappeared into the cover on the left at around 0:25 and didn't reappear, I told the judge he must be on-point in the thick stuff.  And he was.  I think he had four finds in that brace, competent and probably not the firmest dog in the world, and so imminently beatable.  But conditions were clearly tougher than I had expected and he was called back for the retrieve with just one other dog.  But, and here is where while it's fine to have high standards, don't sell your dog short.  He found the bird, I got it in the air nicely, it was shot cleanly, and when I turned to look at him, I could see he'd moved a couple of feet.  And being a dumbass, instead of waiting and demonstrating that he hadn't broken, I rushed to send him for an otherwise perfect retrieve.   I sold my dog out and we didn't get a ribbon.  I know we were the #2 dog and that all of this is fun for Momo -- but I sold him short and if he knew the depth of regret I have for doing that, I know he would still go get any and every bird and lick me anyways.  (As I write this blog entry I scanned over some previous posts and clearly I am a dummy: "Let the judge judge your dog"!)

I then ran Jozsi again, this time off a horse.  It was pretty hot, but he hunted like a beast.  He started with a genuine stop-to-flush, then had two finds off to the side in pretty good cover although his style wasn't great, and then around 0:26 decided he would step into the final bird and put it up.  He is now off birds and on the remedial plan.  He might have been hot, but he knew I was right there and hosed both of us.  My initial feeling is that we're going to go all the way back to some basic obedience and not let him actually work a bird until he's done a bunch of 'working behind' -- if nothing else, he needs to understand that I give him the opportunity to smell birds and watch them fly and not the other way round.


I was glad to be judging, and not running, dogs this past weekend at the Nutmeg hunt test -- in particular because I knew I was going to get to see Ottla run in Senior Hunter.  And hunt she did. Despite the heat and humidity, she was clearly in physical and mental shape to deal with the craziness that is often the case in the forced environment of a hunt test brace -- and in this case, a bracemate who ran right across her and then stole point.  (Again, to revisit the topic of handler decisions: if you're being asked to bring your dog in for an honor, pick the open side, pick the uphill side, don't pick the downhill side where even if your dog could see over the knee-high grass, it probably won't have a good view of the other dog till the very last second.)  I tried to barely acknowledge her before her brace, but as you can tell she clearly remembered who I was at the end of things.  It was a real pleasure to be able to judge and qualify a dog I got to see as a pup on her first birds.  And so, all hail CH Broad Run's Ottilie of Red Oak SH CGC!

Our friend, Jeremy, has been out a couple of times with us since he got his handsome GSP, Jackson, back from winter camp with Maurice Lindley.  Ever since we first saw Jack, we knew he was going to be a bold, stylish dog and his two weeks up in Maine this past summer reaffirmed to both of us that Jack was ready to take the relative stress of being broke.  And besides, with winters being what they are in the northeast, what could be better for a dog than a warm, working vacation in South Carolina?  But now that he is back, he and Jeremy need to find their rhythm together: Jeremy is finding his touch with both the e-collar and the checkcord and pinch-collar; Jackson is learning that the rules are the same with his owner as they were with Mo.  And for now, he's going to continue on the steady, incremental climb to earn the trust of being allowed to run free.  But, as this picture makes clear, he looks awfully nice even when he's 'merely' backing another dog.  But today was also a special day: Momo's eighth birthday!  I do wonder at just how far this goofy dog has taken us in the last eight years -- and wouldn't trade him or the experience for anything.


Speaking of long journeys, it feels a little odd to have a plan all set ahead of time, but short of something disastrous happening I will joining up with Ken Kuivenhoven at his camp in SD for August and September and potentially not coming back till after VCA Nationals in Eureka, KS, in mid-October.  Ken and I had a chance to actually meet in person and chat at the NGDC in April and he's got a great set-up.  At this point, the Road Crew will be the Three Amigos plus Capo plus Rye.  If you're on the East Coast and would like to get your dog out on wild birds in big open spaces, I'd be happy to haul your dog.