Happy New Year 2023!

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Happy New Year from Bluestem Kennels, the South Carolina home of hunting AKC and NAVHDA Wirehaired Pointing Griffons!

We are still awaiting Ruth’s winter heat cycle, but it looks like it will be any day now. We are taking a break from breeding this cycle, but that will drive when she comes into season this summer for our Fall 2023 litter with Obi. We still have spots left on the 2023 reservation list and then we’ll also go for one last litter from Ruth in Spring 2024 before she retires from breeding. Most likely we’ll also do a first litter of Duke and Sally for Spring 2024. Contact us at bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you’re interested in a pup from us in the future.

Puppy Brag!

While I was busy with puppies in the fall, I missed an accomplishment announcement for the first Ruth and Obi pup to NAVHDA test Natural Ability. Congratulations to Clint and Bluestem Ramble on Rosalind “Rosie” on their NAVHDA Natural Ability Prize II, 101 points at seven months-old! They tested on September 10, 2022 with the Keystone Chapter in Central Pennsylvania. That is an amazing accomplishment for a first-time handler and young pup, we couldn’t be more proud!

Congratulations to Clint and Rosie on a NAVHDA Natural Ability Prize II at seven months-old!

Duke’s Health Scans

Then right after the pups went home at the end of October, I got Duke over to Steele Creek Animal Hospital in Charlotte for his hip and elbow x-rays and advanced bloodwork. We are so happy that everything came back looking good! It is only through close work with our veterinarians that we keep our dogs and puppies healthy for hard hunting.

If you look at the graph on this report, the square represents that average of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed. Duke’s chances of developing hip issues are significantly lower than the average. Obi’s are slightly lower, but both are perfect for stud dog purposes.

Also his elbows show no sign of problems, which is another good thing. We had extensive bloodwork completed on his thyroid, liver and kidneys and that all came back normal. The reason that we tested the liver and kidneys even though it is not required by any breed clubs is that there are starting to be problems in certain bloodlines in the Upper Midwest where the pups are getting liver and kidney problems at young ages. We have a friend with a pup (not from us) who is battling it now and it is not something that we want to bring into our breeding program.

East Coast Griffon Event Announcement

I almost forgot this! The AWPGA is hosting a regional specialty event in York and Wellsville, Pennsylvania from Thursday, March 16 through Sunday, March 20th. Thursday is a field training day, Friday is the regional specialty dog show in York, Saturday and Sunday are AKC Hunt Tests in Wellsville. I will be driving up on Thursday so I’ll miss the field day, but I will be hanging around at the show on Friday, then running Sally and Duke in AKC Senior Hunter on Saturday and Sunday. After spending ten years in the gallery and helping out at hunt tests, I’m finally going to handle myself. I don’t know that I’ll get any passes, but we’ll have fun running anyway. There is a Facebook group called “AWPGA Eastern Regional Events 2023” that has all of the details. https://www.facebook.com/groups/375079241463081

Our Training

Charles has been working with training Obi for NAVHDA Invitational, Duke and Sally for UPT or AKC SH, and Ruth just to keep her active. Here’s just a couple of random training photos from the last couple of months where he is working with our Griffons and the English Pointers of the neighbors’.

Ruth with the green collar on backing the Pointers in December.
Obi on the right backing one of the Pointers yesterday.

We hope that every one of our puppy owners and followers had a blessed holiday season. We were lucky to have our two adult children come back to us in South Carolina from Nebraska. Here is a photo of the five of us at the harbor in Charleston: Charles, Conrad is 18 and an Information Technology student at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Cordelia is 21 and a senior in Agribusiness at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Caleb is 13 and is in eighth grade here in SC and then me.

I’ll get back on the blog once Ruth comes in to heat here in the next few of weeks, then we’ll know a little bit more about our puppy making schedule this summer and fall. Stay warm until then, especially my poor people up in North Central Nebraska and South Central South Dakota who have snow drifts up to ten feet tall and are still getting roads and driveways cleared for travel. They have my prayers daily.

Spring Test Prep

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Now that our oldest son has finally completed his schoolwork for his senior year of high school, I feel like I can breathe! He finished on Friday and will walk across the stage in about a week and a half.

A quick update on our breeding plans: it looks like I’m full on reservations for Fall 2022 Obi x Ruth, but folks can and do back out. Feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com to get on my contact list for litters. The next planned breeding(s?) after that will be Fall 2023 since our daughter is graduating from college back in Nebraska in the spring of 2023. But accidents can and do happen, so I can’t totally count that season out even if I try.

In the meantime, Charles, Obi and Sally will be heading up to the Hudson Valley (NY) NAVHDA Spring Test this weekend. It will be Obi’s second and final UT run. He was a very high scoring Prize II at the Carolinas Chapter Test and Charles wants to see if he can get a Prize I. Sally will be running her UPT Test, the practice test for the UT.

Obi, Duke, Sally and Ruth in the kennels

When we’re not working with them in the yard or socializing with them in the house, the dogs spend their time in their kennels. They are crated indoors at night.

Charles, Obi and Sally have been putting in lots of training hours at various grounds in the area, but I hardly ever leave “Tiny Farm of Bethel, SC” since there is so much to do here! I managed to catch some pics of them working in the yard yesterday.

Sally on the track
Sally with the duck
Obi with the duck
Obi retrieving to hand

I hope that they have fun in New York and give it their best shot! Charles grew up right near where the test is being held and so he is going to get to visit his dad while he is there too.

Duke is almost six months old and is turning out nicely! His teeth all seem to be in their correct places, he is learning his commands, we’re working on getting his fitness built up, he has a nice coat and he isn’t too large. When we weighed him a few weeks back he was 30 lbs., so we are hoping that he tops out in the 50-55 lb. range but we will see. Dukes lineage is a combination of Coppershot, Des Battures and Stonyridge, so I am expecting great things from him!

Duke on the move
Duke in the field
Duke pointing me and being cute

I look forward to our trip to the Nebraska Sandhills this summer so that he can get a big long run in behind the truck! And do lots of swimming at the lake too.

Ruth has really bounced back from the puppies and now it is just a matter of watching and waiting for her next cycle. I suspect that it is going to be in July or August, but I will keep you posted. I normally do not do back-to-back litters with females, but it took us three attempts to get an outside male raised and turned out properly to breed with her. A female pup from this fall’s litter is going to a breeder, then we will keep an Obi x Ruth female for our program in 2023.

Ruth running the hills
Ruth creeping through a low spot

We are so blessed to have our place here where we can work with the dogs right in the yard. I’ve been busy planting domesticated flowerbeds and trying to keep the wild woods at bay as much as possible. My vegetable garden is already exploding with lettuce, spinach and collards. I hope to add chickens for eggs and meat goats next year. Charles keeps a funny collection of birds for training.

Domestic mallards and a rooster pheasant

He has a whole other quail house on the back hill that I’ll have to get pictures of later.

Good luck to everyone at their spring tests, may we all savor the thrills of victory and withstand the stings of defeat.

Q Litter Homegoings!

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Feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you wish to enquire about our 2022 litter plans.  I am hoping to get through the 2022 interest emails by the old tax filing deadline of April 15th.

Over the last couple of weekends the Q Litter has gone to their new homes.  They are really a handful at 8 weeks old and I am so glad that they are with their new owners getting into a routine and having plenty of individual attention.  We still have Sally here (her litter name was Quarry) and she is very sweet but obviously does normal puppy annoying behavior, like chewing stuff that she is not supposed to and having potty accidents.  I am not going to try and sugar-coat housebreaking a Griff.  They are really one of the toughest breeds to get through in my experience.  Where I can have an English breed fully broken by 12-16 weeks, I’m honest with myself in knowing that I’m still going to be struggling at that point and not to expect to be accident-free until 20 weeks with a Griff.

The only thing that I can think of to account for the longer period of time is that they have so much to learn as a versatile breed that it just takes them longer to get everything down.  And they are just a slower maturing breed anyway; Obi is 17 months-old and still has some very puppy behavior.

Let’s do photos first, then I’ll talk about what we’re working on with Sally.  I’m just going in the order of pickup for simplicity’s sake.


Joe and family, with Qbert going to Iowa

We are excited to have Joe and Qbert (he will be called something else, but I always forget to write down their new call names and so I’ll just refer to their litter names, sorry) just across the river in Iowa and hope we get to train with them soon.


Ricardo and Quartz are off to Colorado

Ricardo has an older Griff who will be showing Quartz the way on pheasants in Colorado.  They have a population of white ptarmigan out there that I hope that we get to chase someday, so maybe we’ll meet again.


Cliff’s family and Queen on their way to Oklahoma

Cliff also has Belle from our “C” Litter between Sam and Mae, so this is their second Bluestem puppy.  They had just come up from taking their granddaughters to show their pigs.  Belle and the pup are still figuring out their relationship but it is going well so far.


Greg and his wife with Quince going to North Dakota

Greg also has Epsilon from our J Litter between Sam and BB, so yet another two Bluestem puppy family.  He will be getting spoiled since both Greg and his wife work independently and someone always has the dogs with them.  And of course North Dakota is one of our favorite places to visit during hunting season, hopefully the bird population up there bounces back in the next few years.


Jim and his family with Qiana

Jim and his family lives out on an acreage in central Nebraska.  This is their first Griff, so they are in for an adventure.  But Jim has had hunting dogs his whole life and his dad was a trainer of Labarador Retrievers so they’re ready for action.


Aaron and his wife heading back to Ohio with Quest

Aaron has a Bluestem pup that goes by Pepper from our D Litter between our original breeding pair Sue and Sam.  He says that Quest and Pepper are getting along splendidly and she is really fitting in with the family.  Aaron also wins the “traveled farthest” award for coming almost 800 miles one way to pick up his puppy.


Quentin going to Michigan with Paul and Deb

Second in the “traveled farthest” award is Paul and Deb, flying out from Michigan to rent a car and drive back home with Quentin.  They also own a pup by the name of Fielding from our O Litter between Fire and Chief with their daughter Galen and her fiancee.  Galen works in IT for a major Detroit auto manufacturer and her fiancee is a police officer, so all four of them take turns raising the dogs with schedules all over the place.


Travis and family with Quetzal going to Kansas

Travis and I have been in contact about getting his family a puppy for a long time, but being active duty in the Army with consistent deployment and his wife home with three kids, there was no way she was going to let him get a puppy until he retired!  So happy military retirement, Travis and thank you for your service!  Bird numbers in Kansas have been good lately, so I’m sure you’ll get a chance to chase some of them around.

I suppose I should set up a tripod and take a family picture of us with Sally, but it has not happened yet, so here are just a few candids from around the house.

Charity Upchurch Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Puppies

Sally and I taking a selfie


Sally on top of her big sister Ruth, who is almost exactly four years older

On Good Friday, Charles took Caleb and mama Fire out for some preserve hunting.  Caleb shot a rooster and a few of the chukar, with Charles harvesting the rest.  The most important to me was that Caleb and Fire had a good time.


Caleb trying to pose with Fire


Caleb showing off his rooster and his smile

As fas as what we are working on with Sally, I focus on the housebreaking and crate training.  If someone isn’t watching her to catch accidents, she is in a crate near the rest of us so that she can still interact and hear what we are doing.  Charles is working on whoa and heel using treats in the morning.

When we started out working with dogs twenty years ago, we didn’t do much other than housebreaking the first year and letting them on to wild birds.  This was sort of the old field trialer dog training mentality.  But as we’ve matured as dog owners, we’ve found that the sooner we work with them the better.  Not overtraining or hacking on the pup, but just fun basic command learning and general obedience.

Especially with Griffons, if they are not exposed to a little pressure to behave right away, because they are so sensitive it is extremely difficult to impossible to break bad habits since their feelings get hurt so easily.  It’s better to get them used to being trained early so that when you get to the more advanced steps they are not as difficult to handle.

Speaking of advanced steps, Charles is taking Obi and Ruth down to Lincoln for AKC Senior Hunter runs this weekend, so we’ll see how those go.  I had forgotten about the tests and am scheduled to lifeguard, so I am a little bummed that I won’t get to do some field photography.  We’ve also got them signed up to do the Utility Preparatory Test for NAVHDA in May, so I need to make sure to keep my calendar open that weekend to get some good photos.

Good luck to everyone with their Bluestem puppies, we are all in this challenging and joyous situation together so don’t hesitate to shoot me an email with questions.  And of course don’t be afraid to turn to your local NAVHDA chapter members for help and advice.

More Snipe, Training, and Pupdates

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The weekend before last, Charles and his friend Matt went out and got into some snipe with success, each of them got a few.  Fire had her first full wild bird retrieve.  She had picked one up earlier in the season, but BB rudely stole the retrieve from her.

Some snipe, Charles and Fire

Some snipe, Charles and Fire

Last weekend, Charles, Conrad, and Fire were been out working on drills for Fire’s Natural Ability test, specifically the water retrieve and the track.  Conrad was my cameraman during the training session and got some pretty good pictures!

Charles, Fire, and the chukar for the track.

Charles, Fire, and the chukar for the track.

Fire bringing in a long water retrieve of a canvas  dummy.

Fire bringing in a long water retrieve of a canvas dummy.

Fire with the nasty old dummy

Fire with the nasty old dummy

We are looking forward to the opening of Nebraska High Plains duck season this weekend, especially me, since I have a big fat goose egg on hunting season thus far.  Much of it has to do with my opting to stay home or carry a camera most of the season and only having three days in the field with a gun in my hand.  Charles has to decide whether he’s going to North Dakota or South Dakota for his weeklong hunting trip later this month.  I am going to sit it out since I already missed one of my grad school class sessions to go to Maine.


Although we were skunked on our sharptailed grouse outing last month, I’ve been hearing good reports farther north and west.  TracHer got some retrieves in from Susan and Tom’s good shooting up in North Dakota.  TracHer is from our “C” Litter of Sam and Mae.

TracHer on retrieve in North Dakota

TracHer on retrieve in North Dakota

Closeup of TracHer and the sharptail

Closeup of TracHer and the sharptail

TracHer's retrieve to hand

TracHer’s retrieve to hand

TracHer just recently lost her younger brother, Max, an 18 month old German Wirehaired Pointer, to blue-green algae exposure.  I had never really taken it seriously, but will from here on out.  Very sad for Susan and Tom, we were sorry to hear it.

My friend George saw Sandi with our pup Zoey in Michigan at the Midwest Griff Fest, which was held just a couple of weeks after the National Specialty.  Not sure how George had the energy to make it to both events, but kudos to him!  Zoey lives in Oklahoma with Sandi and Jimmy, and is from our 2013 “E” Litter from Sue and Sam.

Sandi with Zoey in the harness and an encroaching gang of griffs.

Sandi with Zoey in the harness and an encroaching gang of griffs.

Sandi and Zoey overtaken by the gang of griffs

Sandi and Zoey overtaken by the gang of griffs

Sandi and Zoey get to know the griff gang.

Sandi and Zoey get to know the griff gang.

Last but not least, Lindsay and Midge took Winners Bitch two of the four days of the Gallatin and Helena Cluster Show up in Montana a couple of weeks ago for two points.  I’m not sure how many points Midge is up to these days, but it sounds as if Lindsay is determined to put a conformation championship on her as hard as she is working at this.  Great job!

Lindsay and Midge

Lindsay and Midge

Thanks to everyone who submitted pictures over the last couple of weeks for me to include in the blog, I couldn’t do it without you!  Good luck to all of the hunters out there with the big season openers across the country this month!

NAVHDA Handler’s Clinic, our first Best of Breed, and other news…

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The Countdown Begins

It was only in the 50s when the sun was coming up this morning and it set Sam a-howling, which seemed appropriate to me because my first thought when I woke up was, “only two months left and it will be hunting season again”.  Although I’m very excited, I’m also a bit nervous since we’ve retired all of our older females at this point and I’ll be hunting with Sam.  It will be my first time hunting by myself with a male dog, and Sam and I have our moments where he thinks there is room for debate as to who is the dominate player in our relationship.  But I’m sure we’ll get it sorted out and have a grand time as we always do.

Opening weekend 2011: Charity, Ryan Tompkins, Chas, then Sue, Sam, and BB.

Opening weekend 2011: Charity, Ryan Tompkins, Charles, then Sue, Sam, and BB.

Best of Breed

I am just beside myself at the success of Bluestem Big Sky Rendezvous NA I “Midge” in both the field and the show ring.  She is from our 2013 “F” litter from Sam and Mae.  Only a couple of weeks after her Prize I NAVHDA Natural Ability test with a score of 112, she took Best of Breed on June 20th at the Electric City Kennel Club Dog Show in Great Falls, Montana.  The competition in Montana is tough and I am just thrilled.  Infinite thanks to owners/handlers Lou and Lindsay Volpe.

Midge has a stretch after her BOB win at Montana Expo Park

Midge has a stretch after her BOB win at Montana Expo Park

NAVHDA Handler’s Clinic

The first and most important thing I have to say about NAVHDA Handler’s Clinics is: GO.  I wish that we had gone 10 years ago, as it would have saved us numerous hours of time in both research and training.  We were lucky to have 3 judges with us over the weekend: our own Tracey Nelson and Chuck Casanova, and our instructor, Jason Wade from the Sebasticook and Yankee Chapters in Maine.  The first day was devoted to going over the Aims, Programs and Test booklet that covers the elements of the Natural Ability, Utility Preparatory, Utility, and Invitational Tests.  We then scored two dogs at the Natural Ability level.  The second day we scored a UPT and a UT dog, then finalized any remaining questions.  It was a great combination of direct instruction, guided practice, then finished with independent practice.  Kudos to Tracey and her family at Skyline Sportsmen’s Club in Thurman, Iowa for being gracious hosts to the Heartland Chapter yet again.

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Speaking of the NAVHDA Chapters in Maine, Tyson out in Bangor sent me a pic of Moose doing some work at a recent training day.  Moose is from our 2014 “H” litter from Sam and Mae and is 12 weeks old in the picture.

Moose retrieving a chukar

Moose retrieving a chukar

Kaylee down in Missouri shared this cute pic recently of my pup Fire’s sister, Willow, working on the water retrieve.  Willow is from our 2014 “G” litter of Sam and BB.  I love the confident look in her eyes, like, “I’ve got this!”

Willow is proud of her duck dummy

Willow is proud of her duck dummy

I just love all of the pics that Susan and Tom up in North Dakota get of TracHer and the pretty flowers.  Here is Susan and TracHer, who is from our 2011 “C” litter from Sam and Mae.  Don’t be fooled by her show dog looks, she’s tearing up the sloughs, ponds, and prairies up there.

Susan and TracHer in the summer flowers

Susan and TracHer in the summer flowers

As always, many thanks to all of my owners for sharing photos with me and giving great homes to our pups.

Mae’s Retirement  

We spent the solstice/wedding anniversary weekend up in the Nebraska Sandhills, enjoying time in the outdoors with family and friends.

Caleb, Fire, Charles, BB, Cordelia, Conrad, Mae, and Sam at our special swimming spot

Caleb, Fire, Charles, BB, Cordelia, Conrad, Mae, and Sam at our special swimming spot

Mae has been officially retired to Valentine, Nebraska to live with my brother, Ron, and his 1 1/2 year old Siberian Husky, Whisper.  The initial introduction of the two dogs was a bit dicey, but they settled in with each other quickly and are good friends.

Mae and Whisper chilling in my brother's yard

Mae and Whisper chilling in my brother’s yard

Burr season is here

As I was writing this, I received a panicked phone call from a griff owner asking about how to deal with burr mats in the coat.  If we run the dogs in burrs, I try to brush them the same or the next day to prevent matting.  Should I forget to do this and a mat develops, I try to brush it out with a wide toothed comb or burr puller.  I make sure to grab the fur close to the skin before I start yanking on it with the comb.  There are spray-on liquid detanglers that you can buy at the pet store to help with this.  If it will not come out and the dog is crying and/or trying to grab your hand with its mouth, it is okay to cut the mat out with scissors if you have to.

I had better move on with my day, even though it seems like there is always more to write, but the littlest one is asking for me to fix him a hot breakfast.  So everyone have a safe and Happy 4th of July!  Keep the dogs inside or kenneled a safe distance from fireworks so they don’t try to eat them like my little cocker spaniel did when I was a child:)

Spring Training

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It is supposed to get into the mid-90s today, so it is a perfect day to get dog baths and grooming out of the way.  Mae will be heading up to her retirement home with my mom and brother in Valentine, Nebraska this weekend, so I want to get her all spiffy.  Speaking of retired dogs, I’ve gotten some pics and video of 10 year old Sue who is retired up in South Dakota and she looks to be enjoying a relaxing family life up there.  I am so thankful to the folks who are choosing to take our retired dogs, as an acre and a small house that is already full of kids just isn’t enough to keep an active breeding and hunting program going without transitioning the elders.

Fire and Charles out working over on Saturday

Fire and Charles out working on Saturday

Right now we are mainly working on getting Fire ready to hunt with us this fall.  Opening day of sharptailed grouse season is only 2 1/2 months away!  She comes when called, searches out in front, retrieves, has a good point, and isn’t afraid of the starter pistol sound.  The housebreaking accidents are getting to be more infrequent.  I seriously think that griffons are one of the slowest breeds to housebreak and am finding that it usually happens between 16-20 weeks.

I went out with Charles on Saturday when he worked with Fire on some planted quail.  Obviously this video is edited for time as we walked for probably 30 minutes or more.  I apologize that it is impossible to see the dog point because of the thick cover, but you know when the dog is pointing when Charles gets his starter pistol ready to go.  Keep in mind that the pup was first started on pointing/flushing birds without a gun, then with a kids cap gun, now a .22 starter pistol with acorn crimps.  We are getting close to working with a shotgun.

Ernie up in North Dakota sent me a video about a week and a half ago of Duncan, who was 10 weeks at the time, pointing a pigeon.  I love the timing on this since I had a gentleman ask me a week or so ago if I guarantee my dogs pointing abilities.  I don’t guarantee it in writing because I can’t guarantee someone training a dog incorrectly and messing it up, but the natural ability and instinct is all there and I see it starting at 5-6 weeks old here in the yard.  I think that the only way that a griffon wouldn’t naturally have pointing instinct would be through poor breeding practices, but I’ve heard of plenty of housepet and show dog griffs who have the instinct without formal training.  They are pointing dogs, they all are supposed to point naturally.  I’ve never had anyone tell me that one of my puppies doesn’t point.

Thanks again to Ernie for sending that video over!


Training and Testing


Puppy Homegoing

I received a picture of Hez in his new home in Bangor, Maine with Tyson and family.  He also has a big golden retriever friend named Ferg and they are all getting along splendidly!

Hez (now Moose) and family in Maine

Hez (now Moose) and family in Maine

Shipping a puppy by air cargo

Someone asked me recently about how I ship puppies by air cargo.  Well, I get an interstate health certificate from the veterinarian (needs to be dated within 10 days of travel).  Then I buy the intermediate level crate, which is 22 inches tall, 28 inches long, and 22 inches wide.  I take all of the plastic hardware off of the outside of the crate and replace with metal nuts and bolts, then fill the crate about 1/3 full of shredded newspaper.  Each side of the crate has “Live Animal” signs taped on to it, with a leash, a small bag of dog food, and the shipping/care instructions taped to the top.  I attach food and water dishes to the inside of the crate, then simply place the pup in the crate with his collar on.  I always have the pup take the first available flight out of Omaha Eppley so they are more mellow.  I am about a 15 minute drive from the airport, so I feed and water the pup, give it a walk to go potty, and away we go.  I use Delta Pet First/Air Cargo.   I check the dog in at the air cargo office (which is over with the FedEx and UPS buildings), they pull the pup out of the crate and inspect the crate for any contraband, put the pup back in and ny-tie the door closed.  All of the holding areas in both the airports and the planes are climate controlled so that the pup never experiences extreme temperatures.  I wish I could put a little camera in the crate and see what the pup sees when he is being shipped, it must be exciting.  But I think that the cargo folks are really nice to the pups because they’ve never come out of their crates traumatized.  I’ve shipped 15-20 puppies this way and have never had a problem at all.  Some breeders do not ship air cargo from reading a story or two on the internet, but it is like anything you read from questionable sources.

Grooming of the young griffon

I also had a question about what type of grooming to do on a young griffon puppy.  Aside from giving it a bath once a month with puppy shampoo and cleaning its ears with Malascetic Otic solution, very little.  I don’t recommend aggressive brushing like I do with adults, as I accidentally overbrushed a young puppy once while its puppy coat was coming out and the adult coat still hadn’t come in.  I had an almost bald griffon in October.  Charles was not happy.  So don’t do that:)

Fire’s training

Fire is coming along nicely at 15 weeks old; Charles has been planting birds for her once a week to point and flush.  He has switched from using the kiddie cap gun to the .22 starter pistol with blanks and she couldn’t care less about the noise.  He’s talking about incorporating the remote bird launchers as to avoid any accidental “traps” (when the live bird gets caught by the dog).  Then once he feels comfortable there, probably mid-July, will try the first live-fire exercise with a shotgun.  I will try to get out to catch some video of this process.

First NAVHDA Test Pupdate of the Season

Congratulations to owner/handler Lou Volpe and Bluestem’s Big Sky Rendezvous “Midge” on a NAVHDA Natural Ability Prize I with a perfect score of 112 at the Montana Sharptail Chapter test over the weekend!  Midge is from our 2013 “F” Litter from Sam and Mae.  Great job everyone!!!

“A” Litter Pupdate

Back at the end of April, my very first litter from Sam and Sue turned 4 years old.  Here are some recent owner photos from the litter that changed my life for good!

Maggie is a good kid pillow

Maggie is a good kid pillow

Maggie keeps her coat trimmed for the Alabama heat

Maggie keeps her coat trimmed for the Alabama heat


Maggie giving a look

Maggie showing off her beautiful eyes

Whiskey is a handsome dude

Whiskey is a handsome dude

Whiskey (front) and friends beating the Nevada heat

Whiskey (front) and friends beating the Nevada heat

Whiskey bringing Dad (Pete) his croc

Whiskey bringing Dad (Pete) his croc

I also saw a cool video on Whiskey’s mom’s Facebook page of him hunting chukars with his girl, Andi.  

More training

Susan and Tom have been working with TracHer on preparing for her NAVHDA Utility Test and sent me some pictures of her retrieving a giant Muscovy duck.  The first picture is of her retrieving it after a 60 yard dryland track from a drag and the second is a water retrieve.  TracHer is from our 2012 “C” Litter of Sam and Mae.

TracHer and the duck in the field

TracHer and the duck in the field

TracHer's water retrieve

TracHer’s water retrieve

I have one last bit of media to share with you and that is a YouTube that I made from a couple of video clips that new owners of this year’s litters sent to me.  You can see the pups style and personality already starting to shine through!

Many thanks to all of my generous owners who take the time to update me with photos and videos so that I have something to share with you!  It is greatly appreciated and keep it coming!  Hope that everyone is enjoying the beginning of summer and I’ll check back in soon.

H Litter Homegoing

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I am officially puppy-free for the rest of the summer (aside from Fire, of course)!  Everyone went home on their 8-week birthday on Tuesday, except one who went home on Sunday.

Herbert went across town with Bill and family.

Herbert went across town with Bill and family.

Harriet's went to South Dakota with Matt and family.

Harriet’s went to South Dakota with Matt and family.

Hope went to Wyoming with George and his wife.

Hope went to Wyoming with George and his wife. (Photo courtesy of George)

Harold went to North Dakota with Ernie and family.

Harold went to North Dakota with Ernie and family.

Hez is not pictured because he took a plane all the way to Maine!  He arrived safely without even messing in his crate.  Maybe one of these days Tyson will have a chance to send us a photo.

Mae did well with her spay and is ready for retirement.  We took Sam, BB, and Fire out on Memorial Day for Fire’s first swim.

Fire swimming with the kids.

Fire swimming with the kids.

Sam found himself a big stick.

Sam found himself a big stick.

BB and Fire having a run on the shore.

BB and Fire having a run on the shore.

I hope that everyone enjoyed their extra day off!  Spring NAVHDA tests are upon us, so I’ll be looking forward to any pupdates on that front and any others!  Fire is due for her last round of shots this week, so then we’ll be ready to start going to training days.  I also need to think about getting her trained up to go into the show ring at least once.  Maybe we can learn to enjoy it because BB, Mae and I really did not.  But if at first you don’t succeed, try again, right?

Sue in the Sioux Nation and Other Updates

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Breeders and hard hunters/field trialers have difficult decisions to make when it comes to aging dogs.  According to the AKC, females can be bred until they are 12.  The USDA has nothing to say on breeding age.  So, do we breed and hunt them until they fall over?  Breed and hunt them until they are too old to go into the field, then put them down or place them in a pet home?  Some breeders do keep their retired stock as pets, but that just isn’t practical for us as we have limited space, are constantly on the move during hunting season and our travel equipment only holds so many dogs.  We’ve decided that four dogs is our current max and that that our older dogs will be retired around 8 or 9.  So now where do they go?  I’ve found that back in my home country in North Central Nebraska and South Central South Dakota, there are good folks looking for trained hunting dogs, even if they are on the senior side.

Sue just turned 9 after her last litter went home and the age of 8 is the cutoff in the code of ethics for the AWPGA, so it was time.  I was so excited to find a great home for her just off the southern border of the South Dakota Badlands.  It seemed appropriate that since her registered name with the AKC and NAVHDA is Sweetgrass Sandhill Sioux that she would find a new home in the land of the Sioux Nation, just north of the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations.

Stan and his family were just thrilled to meet Sue and she really took to them right back, as she is such a friendly dog.  Savannah just turned six and couldn’t stop petting to her and talking to her while we were there.

Savannah and Sue

Savannah and Sue

Their son Trey is 11 years old and this is just the perfect time for him to be getting a hunting dog into his life, as it is time to harvest his first grouse and pheasant, which are in abundance right outside his front door!!

Trey and Sue on the porch overlooking the hunting grounds

Trey and Sue on the porch overlooking the hunting grounds

We enjoyed having a nice long visit with everyone and the South Dakota hospitality.  Stan and I even have some mutual family friends that we told funny stories about.  I really couldn’t have asked for a greater blessing for Sue.  What I thought would be a sad time, was really one of the most joyous things I’ve ever done.  Equally as joyous as placing a puppy in a new home.  What a great thing to be able to give a family the dog they deserve, even though her sweet personality will be missed here.

Stan, Debbie, Trey, Savannah and Sue

Stan, Debbie, Trey, Savannah and Sue

Since I was just so happy that Sue had found her new family, I refused money, but got something far more special in return.  As both Stan and Debbie work with tribal members, they gave me a star quilt with a unique design called a broken star.


Trey and Debbie holding the broken star quilt.

And Debbie presented it to me in the traditional Lakota fashion of wrapping it around the recipient like a shawl.  We were laughing because Stan was teasing us that the neighbors were going to drive by thinking that they had “gone native”.

Debbie presenting Charity with the star quilt in honor of Sue

Debbie presenting Charity with the star quilt in honor of Sue

Mitakuye Oyasin – All are my relatives – Lakota

Training Update

Sam and BB are working on getting ready for the NAVHDA Utility Test with the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter in Sioux Falls.  For our 17th wedding anniversary on June 22nd we went out on a training date instead of going out to eat or to an event.  We worked on steady-in-blind.  We just so happened to have 7 live farm-raised flying mallard ducks in our holding pen that had been making a complete mess of the place, so it was time to use them before we had to travel the next weekend.  So I would take a duck to the shore about 20 yards down from where the training blind was set up.  I also had an e-collar so that he could use the beeper function to let me know when he was ready for me to throw.  Charles would then walk the dog in while carrying his shotgun, “whoa” the dog behind the blind, get into position to shoot, then beep me on the e-collar.  Once he beeped me I threw the duck in the air and high and as far as I could and he shot it.  At that point, the dog should still be sitting behind the blind.  He would then walk back to the dog, tap it on the head and say “okay, fetch”.  They then go out and retrieve the duck from the water.  It was a good way to spend an afternoon.

Sam bringing in a duck

Sam bringing in a duck

BB bringing in a duck

BB bringing in a duck


Congratulations to Susan and Tom in North Dakota and “C” Litter 2012 (Sam/Mae) pup, TracHer on earning her Natural Ability Prize III with the St. Croix (MN) NAVHDA Chapter on June 18th!

Four month old Goose from “E” Litter 2013 is already packing some serious style!  After a stay at Prairie Wings Kennel in Colorado, she is already steady to shot and retrieves to hand.  Way to go Stephen, Taylor and Goose!

Goose at 4 months

Goose showing off her style

Goose’s sister Zoey is also enjoying some time in the field down in Oklahoma with her owner, Jimmy.  He says this is a pic from his first homemade field trial:)

Zoey in the field

Zoey in the field

Thank you as always to my wonderful owners for continuing to keep me updated on how the pups are doing!

Coming Soon

We’ll be heading out to the pond for the 4th to get the dogs some more swimming, our favorite exercise this time of year, and work having them sit in the canoe.

BB goes in for her hip X-rays on the 10th as part of her final clearance for breeding in the spring.  We’ll also keep practicing for the Utility Test.

Have a Happy 4th of July and make sure to be careful with your pups and fireworks!  Leave them the house or if outside, far away from where fireworks are being launched.

Please note: We only breed in the spring due to hunting in the fall and winter and are done with puppy season for 2013.  Our next litters will be in the spring of 2014.  Please feel free to call (402) 682-9802 or e-mail bluestemkennels@cox.net if you are interested in our plans for 2014.

Some Notes on Sue and Sioux Falls

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By popular demand, I need to update you all on how Sue is doing!  She is very heavy, but is still living outside for a little while longer.  She and BB were sharing a kennel while Mae was on a strict diet after her puppies left, in order to get her teats to retract, but I recently moved BB in with Mae by the request of Sue (plus Mae is doing fine on getting back into shape).  BB is still very puppy and likes to play, so Sue was getting tired of that business.  She is still taking walks twice a day, but is moving much slower than everyone else and eats and drinks double her normal rations.  We have houseguests over the Memorial Day weekend, but after they are gone I will be moving Sue into the house for monitoring.  I suspect that she will whelp the first or second week of June.

Pregnant Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

A very big Sue in the yard this morning

Last weekend was the South Dakota Pointing Dog Club’s AKC Hunt Test in Sioux Falls, SD.  The organizers are actually the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter, who takes on that name to put on AKC Hunt Tests.  As there were a number of other griffons entered by fellow breeders that we had only visited with online and over the phone, we decided to go ahead and enter BB and Sam into the Senior Hunter Test even though we were unsure if the dogs were prepared.

We also entered the AKC Water Test, which is a requirement for the Senior Hunter title for the Spinone Italiano and German Wirehaired Pointer, but not the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (even though it should be).  As I had all three children there, I did not anticipate being able to see anything worth taking pictures of, but as it was a hike to the pond, the organizers had me assist in handling the two dogs while our fellow testers kept an eye on the kids back at camp.  I wish I’d had my video camera, because Sam and BB both did fantastic.  It is a basic water retrieve, where the handler stands 6 feet from the bank, holding the collar of the dog.  A thrower pitches a dead duck into the water and a blank shot is fired by a gunner.  Once the duck hits the water, you release the dog and they swim to retrieve.  It does not have to be retrieved to hand, but can be dropped within two  steps of the handler.

AKC Water Test Ribbons

Sam and BB’s AKC Water Test Ribbons

As avid hunters, one would think that Senior Hunter would be easy for us, but hunt testing and hunting are not the same thing.  Similar to Junior Hunter, you are running in a brace with an unfamiliar dog, but unlike Junior Hunter that is only testing search and point, Senior Hunter has to be 100% steady to wing and shot (no creeping allowed at all, not a single step) and also back the other dog’s point.  At the Junior Hunter level, the handler is firing a blank pistol at the flush, whereas at Senior Hunter there are gunners firing live ammunition and the dogs should retrieve.  At the Senior Hunter level, you are allowed to use the “whoa” command for steadiness (which won’t be allowed at the Master Hunter level, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there).

As soon as you “fail” a step in the process, the dog and handler are pulled from the test.  The first day, BB couldn’t help herself and busted a covey of quail.  Both days, Sam creeped a couple of steps on his points.  The second day, BB almost made it through the test, but of all things, she didn’t find a bird!  This is the same dog that found 6 birds in 8 minutes during her first Junior Hunter run.  Even though we didn’t take home any SH ribbons on the weekend, it was good for us to see what is required to pass the test and what we need to work on.

As Charles is the trainer for the big dogs (I’m puppy trainer and kennel tech [sanitation, exercise and nutrition]), he’ll be working on making the dogs absolutely staunch on “whoa”, regardless of the situation.  We work on “whoa” in the yard, but they are kennelmates and they aren’t working birds.  We should take advantage of some training days with the Heartland NAVHDA Chapter or the local AKC German Wirehaired Pointer Club of Nebraska so that we can attempt to replicate the testing environment with dogs from outside of our kennel.  As he can use “whoa” in Senior Hunter, we are going to take advantage of that and work them towards the automatic response without command that is expected at the Master Hunter level.

We’re still bouncing around some training ideas and absorbing the suggestions we got from other handlers and the judges.  Charles got up the next morning and flew out on business (non-dog, the one that pays the bills), so we haven’t had much of a chance to talk it through.  We’ll keep you posted as to what direction we go with our training and how it is working.  I think the absolute soonest we could get back into the SH field is at the August test in Sioux Falls, but we might decide to wait until Spring of 2013.

Our favorite part of the hunt testing environment is that it is fun and family friendly.  It gives us something to do with our dogs in the off-hunting season other than having puppies and keeping up with exercise.  I can see that this is a hobby that we will enjoy for a good portion of the rest of our lives.  We are hooked!

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