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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.

“R” Litter Six Weeks and Hunting Ends

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The two girls are really getting active, come when called for the most part, explore, eat just hard kibble and love lots of hugs and pets. They go in for their shots and microchips a week from today and so we’ve sorted out who goes where. Reba will be going home to Kentucky and Rosalind with be rolling out for Pennsylvania in a couple of weeks.

Reba head on
Reba side profile
Reba facing the other way
Reba with a leaf in her mouth
Rosalind laying on her belly
Rosalind sitting down
Rosalind looking at the sky
Rosalind on the run
Rosalind through the fence, you can see Reba’s rump squeezing between the posts
Rosalind being accosted by Reba
Reba and Rosalind palling around
Girls on the prowl

This is actually a shot from last week that I forgot to include. They moved from the inside whelping box out on to the covered patio with a kennel and dog house. Outside is much more entertaining and where they start eating primarily solid food, they get pretty stinky to be indoors.

Outside is best after 5 weeks old

They also have spent time with our older puppy Duke and our son Caleb. It is fun for them to get exposure to dogs other than Ruth and people other than me.

Big puppy with little puppies
Caleb and the pups

Here is their six week old video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_yAKsP4BAg

End of hunting season

Charles and Quentin went out one last time on the final day of quail season in South Carolina. It took them all day, but they each put one in the bag. It was dark by the time they wrapped up, so there were no dead bird photos. Charles did snap this pic of the sunset with the pointers, setters and Griffons all together.

Sunset with a mixed bag of dogs

This was actually back on President’s Day but I somehow forgot to post this photo of our almost thirteen year old son Caleb with Charles, Obi and Sally and a big haul of preserve quail. Charles wanted to get Caleb even more excited about bird hunting and this seemed to do the trick!

Caleb and Charles with a big haul of preserve quail with Obi and Sally

This has taken me way longer than I intended, so it is time for me to get on with the day. Next week will be our last video before the puppies go to their new homes! See you then.

“R” Litter Five Weeks and Carolinas Field Trial

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For the remainder of the puppy time here, I’m going to shift to a Monday morning posting time. With the puppies needing to be fed and exercised twice a day, it makes for one less thing that I have to try and get done Sunday evening (along with dinner and tutoring the boys).

The girls are growing as they should at five weeks old and love to run and play!

Reba and Rosalind at five weeks old

They love their twice-a-day feedings of puppy kibble!

Reba at the top, Rosalind at the bottom eating food

They are also learning to swat items with their paws and pick things up with their mouths. Their teeth are starting to come in. They have finally mastered a decent run and don’t fall over when they are trying. All of these are normal developmental stages for Griffon puppies of this age. Looking at these photos reminds me that it is time to put their little puppy collars on!

For the next week we focus on eating and running. I have toys for them to pick up and carry around. They have also started to come when called (I don’t call them by their temporary internet names, I just call them “puppies”). I have seen where other breeders have toy gyms set up with PVC pipe where there are toys on a frame that the puppies can tug on. I choose not to do this intentionally because I don’t want them in the habit of tugging. Bird dogs need to pick up items and release them on command. I am concerned that if they get that satisfaction of tugging early on, that it will be harder to train them to release the bird later in life. So I stick with the old-fashioned “pick up your toy and carry it around” fun, which also taps into that retrieving instinct.

Here are some more action photos from the yard yesterday:

Reba on the run
Rosalind on the run
Here they come!
More running practice
Rosalind and Reba in the yard
Having a stare down
On the lookout

Here is their five week old video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5835uE9Mzg&ab_channel=CharityUpchurch

Carolinas Griffon Field Trial

Charles took Obi and Sally to the Carolinas Griffon Field Trial in Benson, North Carolina on Saturday. Thank you to Kelly Hughes for organizing the event! I wish I could have made it, but I was home with puppies and kids. This event was formerly supported by the AWPGA (American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association, the AKC parent club of the breed), but appears to no longer be an official club event, even though it is mostly attended by AWPGA members.

Charles and Bluestem Sally Forth NA II “Sally” at the 2022 AWPGA Carolinas Field Trial

Obi took second place in Advanced Gun Dog. Charles thinks that there were some handler errors that contributed to losing points towards taking first place. He said it was run in a NSTRA format and we’ve never run dogs in that, so it was all new rules. But hey, second place is great!

AWPGA Carolinas Field Trial Second Place Advanced Gun Dog Ribbon 2022
Obi and Charles with the second place advanced gun dog ribbon 2022 AWPGA Carolinas Field Trial

Charles is actually out today with Obi and Sally for the last day of quail season in South Carolina, so I’ll be interested to see if they bring anything home. One can hope! And at least quail country doesn’t have any gators!

It is time for me to go feed and run some puppies, but I’ll be sure to check back in this time next week.

“R” Litter Four Weeks and Low Country Snipe

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The two little girls of the “R” Litter are sure starting to grow up! They started on puppy mush this week and they are starting to go outside everyday to stretch their legs.

Rosalind in the grass
Rosalind up on her front paws
Rosalind looking straight on
Rosalind side profile on all fours
Reba in the grass
Reba up on her front paws
Reba close up
Reba up on all fours

Here is their four week old video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAPozIsymEc&ab_channel=CharityUpchurch

Low Country Snipe Hunt

Charles and the neighbor Quentin went down to the low country of South Carolina snipe hunting. They saw more alligators than they could count. Obi went in after one and it was super scary! But they put birds in the bag and none of the dogs got eaten!

Charles and Quentin with South Carolina Low Country Snipe
Mama gator and all of those little lumps in the water on the right are baby gators

I will be back next week with the next installment of puppy adventures. It is hard to believe that they are half way to going home already!

“R” Litter Three Weeks and Welcome Duke

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The two girls of the “R” Litter are really growing! Their eyes and ears are open and they are starting to push themselves around the whelping box. They should be up and walking unsteadily by next week and I’ll get them started on some puppy mush, that always gets them up and moving.

Two girls
Mama Ruth and the babies
Rosalind peeking around
Reba just hanging out
Rosalind face
Rosalind back
Reba face
Reba back

And here is the YouTube video where you get to see them on the move! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94XqaRZsvmw&ab_channel=CharityUpchurch

Welcome Duke!

Wednesday we welcomed Cedar and Spruce’s Apollo to the south from Hull, Iowa. He took a plane from Omaha and got here safe and sound. We’ve really been having fun getting to know him and getting started on the basics. I will go over his pedigree and why I selected him in the future, it is getting late and I really just want to share the pictures from today for now.

Duke on the move
Side profile of Duke on the move
Duke with Sally and Obi
Sally and Obi giving Duke a sniff
Duke chasing Sally

I hope that everyone enjoyed their Super Bowl celebrations and has a Happy Valentine’s Day! Talk at you next week.

“R” Litter Two Weeks Old

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I always, always say that I won’t know how many puppies I have until they are two weeks old. There is always a small one that hangs on a good week and then fades away seemingly out of nowhere. When I posted last Sunday, the little boy was still taking a bottle and nursing the teat, even though he wasn’t putting on weight at all. Like I’ve said before, the most intervention I will do is helping a pup on to the teat and giving a bottle. I won’t try IV fluids or tube feeding like some breeders do, that is just too much intervention that could possibly be bringing up a defective pup that will pass early in life. Little boy stopped eating Monday morning and was gone Tuesday morning. We have two sisters who are going strong and their eyes are now open.

Rosalind and Reba

I finally got Ruth’s bloodwork results back late Wednesday. Although there were no answers, I am glad that it was not a viral outbreak that would potentially impact the future. The working theory is that we switched to an oral chewable for flea and tick when we moved to South Carolina. She was due for that at 30 days gestation. The package is marked “safe for pregnant females” and I was worried about an infestation with year-around bugs down here. So I gave her the chewable. Many fellow breeders and vet friends say that they’ve seen similar outcomes with the flea and tick chewables, and that the study to mark the medication safe for pregnant females was a very small sample size. Ruth had an unplanned litter right when she turned two that had nine healthy puppies, so it isn’t her. And we may never know the full answer, but this is where the collective thoughts are at this point. DON’T GIVE PREGNANT FEMALES FLEA AND TICK CHEWABLES.

I’ve decided to call them Rosalind and Reba. Rosalind has the blaze face and a little bit longer coat. Reba has the shorter coat and liver face.

Rosalind face
Rosalind back
Reba face
Reba back

Their eyes are just opening, so it is tough to get very photogenic pictures of them since they are so squishy at this point.

Ruth and the girls

Ruth really does not like cameras. She is a little bit more used to the still camera, but she growls at the camcorder.

Here is the first video of the “R” litter at two weeks old: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQ-PNpvfzl0&t=3s&ab_channel=CharityUpchurch

I take the puppies out of the whelping box and put them on a sleeping bag to help them practice using their legs. I try to keep the wood chips under them, but Ruth is always digging them away. Once their eyes get good and opened, they will start to use their legs more and more. Then we will introduce puppy mush and they will really get going.

South Carolina Quail

I had no idea that bird season was still open down here until Charles mentioned that he was going to head into North Carolina with a buddy to chase some ruffed grouse. That fell through due to his buddy’s doctor’s orders and Charles didn’t want to hunt someone else’s spots without them.

So luckily the neighbor across the road just happens to run pointers and setters. Who knew that when we randomly picked our house sight unseen, that we’d pick one right across the road from another bird hunter? So Quentin and Charles headed out for some central South Carolina quail yesterday, even though woodcock closed at the end of January, quail goes until the end of February. Charles got two and Quentin got one and a rabbit. Charles forgot his chaps and his legs are full of blackberry thorns. The brambles down here are horrible, if I go work at cleaning up the thickets on our property, I end up pulling thorns out of me for days.

Charles said it was fun to watch our dogs work with other upland breeds, he thinks that it makes them better.

Sally with the pointers with Quentin going in.
The full bag for the day on Quentin’s horse trailer dog box.
Sally with the South Carolina quail

The bag limit down here is twelve per day, so we were excited that they found some! Obi ran with the setters but didn’t have any luck.

So we’ll just keep plugging along here on raising puppies and doing some late season hunting for a few more weeks. We’ve got a little surprise catching a flight into the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport this week and you’ll get to see it in our next blog post next week too.

Oh and congratulations to all of the NAVHDA Invitational Invitees in this month’s Versatile Hunting Dog, a lot of familiar names in there in the Wirehaired Pointing Griffons! And a Griff on the cover even! Keep up the good work everyone.

Puppies on the way and first South Carolina harvest

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We are expecting our “R” litter from Obi and Ruth in the next week or two. I currently have 18 reservations with deposit. The largest litter of Griffs registered in recent times is 16 puppies, so I assume that I have homes for this bunch. If you are interested in waiting until our Fall 2022 litter, email bluestemkennels@gmail.com. Once the spring litter is two weeks old, I should know where my fall list stands.

Here are some updated photos of Ruth sporting her very pregnant belly. It doesn’t seem to slow her down much!

Pregnant Ruth running in the yard
Ruth side profile
Another belly shot (a little fuzzy phone pic)
Pregnant Ruth running in the snow (I circled her so you can see her)

Now it is just a matter of waiting for puppies to arrive! We just finished our whelping box setup this morning. It will be so nice to have them in a bedroom in the house instead of the heated garage. That way I have a bed right next to the whelping box in case of all-night puppies!

Ready for puppies!

This will probably be my last blog post until after puppies arrive. As they are being whelped, I will keep my Facebook page up-to-date. Then I will contact folks who have reservations once we are done whelping and I’ve had some rest. Finally, I will make a post here to the website.

First South Carolina Woodcock!

Charles is getting Sally ready for her UPT in May up at the Hudson Valley NAVHDA Chapter in New York. This is the NAVHDA chapter nearest to Charles’s hometown of Newburgh and he thought it would be fun to get up there to run some tests. He will also be re-testing Obi in UT to see if he can get a Prize I.

In the meantime he is trying to figure out the hunting game in these parts and he and Sally had success this weekend. They only saw one woodcock pop out of a cane swamp on some public land and they were able to put it in the bag. Charles is pretty sure that this is his first woodcock and it was Sally’s first wild bird.

Sally’s South Carolina Woodcock
Our South Carolina Woodcock

I was really excited to hold a bagged woodcock, as I’ve only flushed them in the Missouri River Valley back in Nebraska while out exercising dogs maybe three or four times. I’d only ever seen photos of them up close. Their feathers are much more colorful than a snipe and their bodies are stubbier.

Here’s a random photo of Sally training in the yard with Charles back in November that I just noticed in my files.

Charles and Sally doing yard work

Here’s another random photo of Obi bringing me a stick the other day when I had my good camera out.

Obi with a stick in the driveway

Having snow on the ground in South Carolina is pretty fun and we are so glad that it isn’t day after day with feet of snow piling up like it was back in Nebraska. I think it will be all melted by tomorrow. But for now I will throw on my boots and go muck around in it with the dogs.

Keep an eye on my Facebook page for the latest on the puppies whelping and keep us in your thoughts and prayers for good health.

R Litter Confirmed by Ultrasound

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The Bluestem Kennels “R” Litter was confirmed by ultrasound today! Please see the earlier breeding announcement blog post for additional photos of the parents and our “About Our Dogs” page for pedigrees and health clearances. Right now, we have 11 reservations with deposits. This is going to be a large litter so there is a possibility that if you put down a deposit and made a reservation now, that there could be a puppy available. We are also repeating this breeding in the fall, so if you get on the list and don’t get a spring pup, you could get a fall pup: bluestemkennels@gmail.com.

Why do back-to-back litters? Ruth is young, in her prime breeding years at age 5 and we are finally in a place where we can expand our breeding kennel. She is the great-great granddaughter of Am/Can CH Duchasseur Moustache, UT I, an AWPGA Hall of Famer from Quebec, Canada. The Quebecois bloodline was joined with our strong foundation blood from the upper Midwest US. A fantastic combination of health, hunt drive and family companion.

Obi is a new start for us, coming out of a small breeder in Wyoming. He has hips in the top 10% for the breed recorded by Penn-HIP. He is the most silly, gentle male we have ever owned as a family dog. He also has great biddability and is easy to train. We have high hopes to eventually take him to NAVHDA Utility Prize I in his life.

So this is the beginning of the next chapter.

I had to stay outside during the ultrasound due to COVID restrictions. York Vet in York, South Carolina
Ultrasound photo taken by the vet tech
Ruth resting with her little sister Sally a couple of nights ago

As we read test scores and judges evaluations in NAVHDA’s Versatile Hunting Dog magazine, as well as talk to other owners and breeders, it is tough for us to decide where to go next with bringing in outside blood again. We are keeping a male from this litter, so our backs are a little against the wall to come up with a mate for him somewhere. Now that I’m within halfway decent driving distance of Quebec, my eyes wander up there (also because I love the food and hanging around Vieux Quebec “est tres bien”). But I need to do my research on any new paperwork and veterinary requirements. But that is not where we are right now!

We need to focus on getting ready for the puppies. They are taking over the guest bedroom from the guests. I will finally have a whelping box with a bed next to it, like I’ve always wanted. So now it is just time to watch and wait! I will post more pictures of Ruth as she gets bigger and some of Obi training and just playing in the yard (once this rain goes away).

Happy New Year from Bluestem Kennels! Going into our twelfth year of puppies in style!

Sally’s NAVHDA Natural Ability Test

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We are planning a litter for spring 2022, but I’ve decided to hold off until we’re done with Ruth and Obi’s Utility Tests before we take on any more dog tasks (interviews, deposits, etc.). I’m shooting for the first week of November to have all of the health clearances, pedigrees, test results, etc. loaded on to the website and get a formal breeding announcement made. Then we can start talking about puppy placement.

The goal of testing Obi and Ruth are not Prize Ones, with the move and Charles’s new job there hasn’t been gobs of training time to get to that point. We will be happy to pass.

Caleb was the first junior handler for the Foothills Chapter of NAVHDA, they are a new chapter based north of Charlotte that was started in 2020. There are two other chapters in the Carolinas: the Carolinas chapter and the Tarheel chapter. Folks at the Foothills chapter were very friendly and nice to visit with. We were very thankful for judges Ed Harrington, Tim Clark and Leon Hardy for taking time out of their lives the weekend after NAVHDA Invitational in Iowa to come and judge this test.

Caleb walking Sally down to the field

These photos are all taken from very far away because I wanted Caleb to handle Sally and not have her distracted by me. This was a little over a week ago, Sunday, September 26. We were at Quail Haven Hunting Preserve in Harmony, North Carolina. She was the eighth dog to run the test and so the field was pretty stinky. We all love to make excuses as to why our dogs didn’t do what they were supposed to in tests, so here’s mine. Sally had fours on everything except “Search” was a three (I think she was hesitant with the stinky bird field) and “Desire to Work” (she’s never been wild bird hunting before, so this is all still new) was also a three. She probably had some of the most bird finds on the day though, but as one of my favorite judge quotes goes, “This isn’t an Easter egg hunt”.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
Caleb kicking up a bird in front of Sally
Sally pointing a bird. It isn’t stylish but got the job done.
Caleb and Sally wrapping up their field work
Good flying quail are tough to come by, but Quail Haven has them.
NAVHDA Natural Ability Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
Sally and Caleb after the field

The tracking portion of the test was next, Caleb did not want me over with the handlers and judges, so I stayed behind at the clubhouse. She did great on the track, went right to the bird and pointed it. Caleb walked over and picked up the bird (now it lives in our bird collection).

Caleb and the other handlers way over yonder at the track

The final portion of the test was the water and the evaluation of attributes. She did great on the water, Caleb threw a couple of bumpers and she came back with both of them. All of the dogs tested both days retrieved their bumpers, the judges really appreciated that and brought it up at the reading of the scores. Some dogs won’t go for the bumper and they have to use a dead bird at the water (which is a hassle).

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Water
Sally retrieving the bumper
Evaluation of attributes

Everything came back clear from the evaluation of attributes and coat was judged Medium Dense/Medium Harsh.

Caleb, age 12, Sally, age 7 months with judges Ed Harrington, Tim Clark and Leon Hardy

Caleb and Sally ended up with a Natural Ability Prize II with 103 points. Pretty darned good for a first time 12 year old handler and a 7 month old dog who hasn’t been wild bird hunting yet. Thanks to Charles for taking the time to help Caleb learn how to handle a dog in a hunt test and to all of the volunteers for putting on a great test.

Next up on our dog adventures, Obi and Ruth will give the Utility Test a shot. Obi got a Prize III on the Utility Preparatory Test and Ruth got a Prize II, so it will be interesting to see how those scores line up with the new ones.

Good luck to everyone out there chasing the sharptailed grouse around, it was so strange not going out to the Nebraska Sandhills for the opener. Charles is headed out that way after Thanksgiving and I am terribly jealous. It is beautiful here in South Carolina and the people are nice, but the east coast is crowded. I know that I will be super happy to be here come February though.

Congratulations to the new NAVHDA Versatile Champions in the breed, I know of at least two. I’ll wait for the magazine to say for sure. And everyone up in Pennsylvania for AWPGA National Specialty, have fun! I really wanted to go, but my oldest son is a senior this year and it is the end of the first quarter, so I have to tutor him to get through midterms.

I’ll catch back up with you all after the Utility Test is done. I’m pretty sure we’re down in South Carolina with the Carolinas chapter, so it will be fun meeting another new NAVHDA bunch.

NAVHDA UPT Passes and Move News

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Thank you to the Central States NAVHDA Chapter and the judges present who made Obi and Ruth’s UPT tests possible. Obi passed on Saturday with a Utility Preparatory Test Prize III and Ruth passed on Sunday with a UPT Prize II. I wish that I could have been there to photograph the event, but our upcoming move kept me at home. Thank you to Pam Robinson of Robingun Small Munsterlanders for the photographs. Obi’s mistakes were in the field and Ruth’s were in the duck search. But we passed! It will be a few months before we hit the testing grounds again, so it is good to have this under our belts.

Obi with Charles and our youngest son, Caleb, on Saturday
Charles and Ruth all wet on Sunday

In other news, we somehow managed to avoid the bidding wars and drama that are going into home purchases in the Charlotte/Rock Hill region and went straight into contract on a nice house and almost three acres with a little barn between Clover and Lake Wylie, South Carolina. It is 20 minutes to the Charlotte airport, so an easy shot should we need to get home: there is a direct flight between Charlotte and Omaha, which is important since our daughter will still be here finishing up at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the next couple of years and my mom and brother are still in Valentine.

This is my first half-way-across-the-country move since I was four years-old when we came back to Nebraska from the San Fernando Valley in California (where my mom grew up) back in 1978. I still vividly remember the trip in the green Gran Torino station wagon towing the red VW Beetle full of stuff.

Charles has been here since he started at UNL in 1991, when he rode the Greyhound Bus from New York to Omaha.

But I know the folks down in the Clover area are good people and we look forward to experiencing their own version of rural culture. And there are lots of good Griff friends and family on both sides nearby and that makes it easier.

I gave away all of my snow shovels today. That was an awesome feeling.

We’ll be pretty bogged down in the move with not much news until we’re settled in South Carolina, probably mid-July. So hang tight fans.

And a big shout out to Susan Davy and TracHer from our “C” Litter with Sam and Mae who has almost all of her AKC Master Hunter legs up in North Dakota at 9 years old. Griffs never give up!

So keep training and spoiling your dogs. My dogs just got themselves a tiny farm, which we are all excited about.

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