Saturday, May 29, 2010

Early Mornings, Dogs, Nature

I am so grateful to have the dogs in my life. I love getting up early in the morning and heading out for a walk with them. The early mornings are full of life other than humans. This time of the year is particularly true. There were so many birds chirping, singing, and calling. It felt like on was in a nature show. So beautiful and calming. We even saw a female wild turkey. It was fantastic.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Grady and Retrieving

Although Grady has always been a natural retriever, he likes to take his time picking the darn birds up. Once he does, he has always brought the bird right to my hand. The delay at the senior hunter level isn't as much of a problem. At the master level, well that's a different story. With the next hunt tests 6 weeks away, I have decided to work on cleaning this up. Today we started our "take it, hold, give it" training. It went pretty well. Strange how he and Dixy are so different in how they take to training. No matter, hopefully we can clean the retrieve up in both of them in time to be ready for the last 8 hunt tests of the year. Grady seemed to have a good start today.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Came to My Senses

After watching "The Biggest Loser" final four run a marathon (yes a marathon!) weighing in at between 200 to 313 pounds, I was truly inspired. That night, I decided I would walk/run a marathon. Well, after coming down from my over zealousness, I realized that was probably a bit over-ambitious with the shape my knees are in. I have toned it down and have decided a half-marathon is in order. So on November 10, my friend Suzy and I will be run/walking a half marathon in Big Sur. I have a training guide, my new shoes (crazy about all the choices) and my mileage tracker. If things go well, maybe an actual marathon will be in the works for next year.
Let the training begin!

One Master Hunter Leg down...Nine to Go

Well, another weekend of dog field events has passed. Grady and Dixy were both entered in the master hunt tests. I was anxious to see how they both would do. It was Grady's third and fourth try and Dixy's first and second try. Grady did a great job on Saturday. He got through cleanly. He found three birds and stood through all. I was thrilled. His first master leg earned. Dixy had an awesome run on Saturday but broke on her honor. She stopped beautifully, the problem was that she broke when the other dog's bird was shot. Damn, she never breaks. But it wouldn't have mattered, she didn't retrieve to hand. After the runs, I took Dixy out and she retrieved every tossed bird to me. Go figure.
Sunday was another day and another attempt with both. The weather was not ideal. It was really windy and the birds were everywhere. Dixy was the second brace in. Again, nice run. She found a back course bird and stood rock solid. Great! We get into the bird field and she goes on point. She is steady, steady, steady. Gunners come up, the bird is flushed, bird is shot. What, is that Dixy. Damn, again with the leaving. So uncharacteristic, maybe it's time to take a break with her. Okay, well we still have Grady. Maybe we can get a second pass on him. Not this day. He too broke. All I can do is shake my head. The training grounds are closed in June. We will take a break and enjoy some hiking and walks at the beach.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dixy Take a Fourth Place in Amatuer Gun Dog

I should begin this story with what happened last night. I went to some friends for dinner and when I got home there was, what at one time was full, an almost empty ten pound bag of dog cookies. I couldn't tell which one of the pups was the culprit. I always assume it is Sara. So I go about my business thinking there could be multiple awakenings during the night for doggy walks. Well, to my surprise, it did not happen. I got the dogs up early to feed, water and walk before Dixy's run. Everyone had eaten and gone for their potty walks. No problems, digestive tracts seemed to be normal. A few hours later, I am preparing for Dixy's run. The main goal was to get through cleanly with her. I take her to the starting line and, let's just say it wasn't pretty. I now know who ate the bulk if not all the cookies. I am thinking, this may not work out so well. To my surprise, Dixy did a wonderful job on her bird work. She was steady as a rock. Now I am under no illusions that Dixy is a field champion in the making but do enjoy the occasional run with the field trial fanatics. I always enjoy the way Dixy runs even if it she isn't a huge running dog. I go about my business knowing Dixy did a good job but also knowing there are 17 days entered and many of them multiple placement winners. After all the dogs in the stake had finished running only 7 came through cleanly. Now this is where the roller coaster of emotions begins. Before knowing this, I was content with the performance not expecting a call back. The judges sent word there were 4 dogs called back. Dixy wasn't one of them. Okay, expected that but a little disappointed none-the-less. I gather my dogs to take them for a run. I head out about a mile from the call back location. I am just about ready to set off in the fields with the dogs when the chairman of the events comes up and informs me Dixy was selected as an alternate. I was happy to be recognize (it is 5th out of 17 dogs) but don't expect the first four to not be selected. I watched the performances of the first two dogs. They do excellent. Looks like we will just be honored to be the alternate. The third dog goes into the ring. The bird flies away, gunners shoot, gunners miss. The handler doesn't realize the bird wasn't shot and sends the dog for the retrieve. Not a good idea. There is no bird. No bird, no retrieve, no ribbon. Okay, looks like Dixy is going for a ribbon. The fourth dog does a decent job. Now it is Dixy's turn. She finds the bird, she points the bird. I try to make the bird fly, not happening. I chased the bird all over, looking ridiculous along the way. The bird runs, and runs, and runs. Dixy is rock solid. Finally the gunners shoot the bird on the ground. It is about 70 feet away. I am thinking, here is where our hard retrieving training will come in. Well, it didn't go as plan. I was crushed. She did retrieve it to me but not as cleanly as she had been and she needed coaxing. I left the field thinking we blew our chance at a ribbon. I again took the dogs for a walk. It was short. I went back to the clubhouse and much to my surprise, we were presented with a ribbon. Crazy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Back from another Training Weekend

I headed out to Hastings Island with dogs in tow on Friday afternoon. There was just enough time to run the dogs before the fields would close. Along the way, the dogs pointed six chukar and a cat. You read that right, a cat. I had no idea the dogs were pointing a cat so I went to work it like they were pointing a bird. When I got there, I found no bird. When I looked down, to my surprise there was a cowering cat. Before I could rescue the poor soul, it broke to a full out run. Unfortunately, the dogs gave chance. Before I knew it, the cat was in a bush. Dixy decided to stick her nose into it and when she came out, her nose was a shredded mess. At least the cat was fine. What in the world a cat was doing in the middle of a hunting preserve is a mystery. I could understand ferals but this was definitely not a feral cat. It had beautiful markings.

Saturday we set out for a true training session. The goal was to work with Dixy and Grady. I have entered both of them in a hunt test May 22nd and 23rd. And as is with all dogs, they each have their own weaknesses which makes for interesting training sessions. Nothing is ever boring. Dixy was the first in line for training. My friend Walter help me out by simulating the shooting of the bird. I wanted Dixy to stand through the flight of the bird as well as the shot. As you can see from the picture below, she passed the test. This is one of Dixy's strong suits. Yeah! We will deal with her weakness (retrieving) later.

Now on to Grady. Unlike Dixy, Grady has some problems in this area. Let's just say, he gets a little anxious when he sees the bird fly away. He has been know to leave a wee bit early. Fine for senior hunter but not so much for master. No matter, we will work on it. At least on this day, he did fine.

Now back to working on Dixy's weakness. We have been diligently working on this at home, in the field, more at home, and more in the field in hopes of having her retrieve the bird to my hand in the Master Level Hunt test. Below are a few videos of our progression on Saturday and Sunday. Still some work to do but we have made a tremendous amount of progress. Below is our starting video.

We did this a total of ten times before quickly. She loves to please as you can see from the progression.

Finally, our last retrieve was an unbridled success as you can see from her happy demeanor of bringing the bird back to me with her head up and tail wagging.

Oh how the little successes keep us coming back for more.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Another Weekend at Hastings Island

For the 4th weekend in a row, off to Hastings Island with camera and bird training equipment in hand. All this before June when the island is closed for a month. Although we are not entered in any of the events this weekend, we will be off training, training, and then more training with Dixy and Grady. I hope to see some improved results in our practice sessions. The other lucky dogs get to run and just have fun. I also hope to be able to take some photos of my friends in the field.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Training, Training, Training

Well I took the plunge and entered Dixy in her first Master Hunt test on the 22nd and 23rd of May. I have been working diligently with her retrieving and she seems to have finally gotten it. I had really struggled to get her to retrieve the bird to hand but it appears we may have gotten over that hump. I am excited. Love Dixy and her spirit and drive. I am happy to feel I will finally have the opportunity to take her to that next level.