AWPGA Eastern Regional Specialty 2023

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The American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association hosted an Eastern Regional Specialty in York and Wellsville, Pennsylvania from March 17-19. Friday we held three dog shows at the York Expo Center: Sweepstakes, Supported Entry, then Regional Specialty. I was the trophy chairperson and having three shows back-to-back made for lots of organizing. I did not show any dogs, but messed with the trophies and took some photos. I was not able to log all of the placements, but do know that GCH Bear Hug Sing Second JH “Enzo” owned by my South Carolina griffon neighbors just down the road, Lonnie and Marsha Carroll, took Best of Breed in the Eastern Regional Specialty Show.

The hostess with the mostess was Marcia Hoff, this whole event was her brainchild and it was fun to be a part of. Many of the folks in attendance I had not seen since the 2014 National Specialty in Maine.

I’m in the orange with Amy Caswell-O’Clair and her husband Matt O’Clair seated with Rosie.
The trophies for the shows that I hauled to Pennsylvania
Bluestem puppy owner Clint showed up with his family and my puppy Rosie from the “R” Litter
Enzo and Zach following their Eastern Regional Specialty Best of Breed win

I don’t want to post too many of the show photos because I want to save most of them to be printed in the Griffonnier, the magazine of the American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association.

On Saturday and Sunday, the club hosted AKC Hunt Tests at the York Pointer and Setter Club in Wellsville. So many thanks to our hosts there and to the judging panel, especially Jerri Stanley and Loren Rogers who gave me lots of tips. Sally went four passes in four runs in AKC Senior Hunter, thank you so much to Charles for working so hard to train her. Duke did a lot of things right, but enough wrong on each of the four runs to not get any passes.

My new friend Gwen and Duke and I. Photo by Marcia Hoff.
Sally and I will the four AKC Senior Hunter ribbons. Photo by Marcia Hoff.
Our best scorecard with all 9’s.

It was a great but exhausting weekend with lots of effort put forth by many people. Sally and I will attempt to get our last SH pass in a few weeks, with Charles trying his hand at AKC Master Hunter with Obi and more attempts at AKC Senior Hunter with Duke.

My reservation list for Fall 2023 pups is starting to fill up, should you decide that you would like to get on our list, it would more than likely be for a Spring 2024 pup. Email bluestemkennels@gmail.com with inquiries.

Good luck to everyone who is training and testing this fall, best wishes to all those with pups on the ground!

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.

Ruth’s AKC SH Pass

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Feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com to enquire about our 2022 litter plans. As of right now, AKC/NAVHDA Wyo Plainsman Kenobi, NA I “Obi” and Bluestem Peaches En Regalia, NA I “Ruth” is a for sure planned litter for Spring 2022. That very well may be it, I am watching Fire’s recovery from her litter this year to decide whether or not she’s up for having another or if it is time to retire her this summer.

Also, feel free to reach out if you feel like you would like to be considered for Fire’s retirement home (AKC/NAVHDA Bluestem’s Prairie Fire, NA I with an AKC Walking Derby placement and around a hundred wild birds both upland and waterfowl). She is 7 years old and in good health, giving her a good 3-4 years of hunting left, and another 3-4 years of being a good pet. Right now our griffons are living to be around 15 years old, with Sue being our oldest retiree at 17. Fire would be spayed and through recovery before re-homing. She really needs a hunting home, whether it be a family or a retiree. She is a great bird-finder and retriever both in the field and in the water. I do not charge a re-homing fee to a high quality home, but please realize that I will ask lots of questions because she is my beloved family member and I want her to be in a good place. She is the first dam that I’ve bred myself. I will get some photos together and make another post once I’ve made my final decision on whether to have her retire this summer or next.

Sally is growing! She’s gained about five pounds since her siblings left. I’ve lost one of my favorite throw pillows to her attacks and one of Charles’s pair of shoes has taken a beating to the chews. She still has a few housebreaking accidents a day but is getting better. Here she is getting her second round of shots last week.

Sally at the vet at 11 weeks

Over the weekend of April 10-11 Charles took Obi and Ruth down to the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of Nebraska’s AKC Hunt Test at Branched Oak Field Trial Grounds. Obi was having rotten behavior with his bracemates, so no passes for him, but Ruth managed to bring a ribbon home on Sunday! This is Charles’s first AKC Senior Hunter pass with any of our dogs so it is pretty exciting. As he gets closer to finishing her title, I will explain the ins and outs of the AKC Senior Hunter Test, but I’m on a time crunch right now and need to just post the pic and move on with the day.

Charles and Ruth with their first AKC SH ribbon

I am pretty much caught up with email except the ones that I’ve gotten over the last week, so hopefully I can get on those over the weekend and stay caught up. Four dogs take a lot of walking, I’ve had to step down from lifeguarding so that I only have one out-of-the-house job of substitute teaching now. My oldest son is wrapping his junior year of high school and there are so many papers, projects and tests to help him study for! And my husband’s firm was acquired about a year ago, so there could always be some surprise changes there. I’m working on getting as minimalist as possible in case a move comes up. It sounds like all of the new owners are enjoying their pups and so that feels like an accomplishment and job well done.

Good luck to other breeders with pups on the ground, owners with new pups getting them started and everyone training and testing this spring.

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.

North Dakota Hunting and Hunt Test Pupdates

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AWPGA Health and Genetics Database

Fellow Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breeders and owners: please participate in the AWPGA Health and Genetics Database.  You do not have to be an AWPGA member to participate.  We are looking to collect as much pedigree and health information as possible, so that we can go forward with a clearer picture of where the breed is currently and make appropriate breeding decisions. http://www.awpgadb.com/

2014 Hunting Issue of the Griffonnier

I am now co-editor of the Griffonnier with Amy Caswell-O’Clair from New Hampshire.  The first issue that I’ll be working on is appropriately the Hunting Issue 2014.  If you are an AWPGA member and have hunting training tips, hunting tales and photographs, or game bird recipes, please e-mail them to griffonniereditor@cox.net by November 30th.  If you aren’t an AWPGA member, please consider joining us: http://awpga.com/beamember.html.  We will be having our annual gathering in Fall 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa and would love to have you all join us.

Pups Hunting in North Dakota

I’m getting good reports out of North Dakota from both my puppy owners and Charles.  Here’s Susan’s North Dakota hunting party, with our pup TracHer from our 2012 “C” Litter from Sam and Mae.  Susan and TracHer are on the far left of the photo.

Susan and TracHer with friends and family.

Susan and TracHer with friends and family.

Susan said that the numbers were great and that they all would have had their limits if their shots had connected.  I know that feeling!

Ernie is having fun in North Dakota with 7 month old Duncan, from our 2014 “H” Litter from Sam and Mae.

Duncan and Ernie with a pheasant limit

Duncan and Ernie with a pheasant limit

Ernie has also picked up a GoPro camera and got some video of points and retrieves from Duncan.  GoPro seems to have improved the distance perception in the newer models, it seems more true to real sight.  I couldn’t be more pleased with this footage, what great work for a 7 month old pup.  

Hunt Test News

Congratulations to Sal and Chester (TracHer’s littermate) on two AKC Senior Hunter passes at the Long Island (New York) Viszla Club the weekend before last!

Sal and Chester with SH ribbons

Sal and Chester with SH ribbons

Also, congratulations to John and his pup, Cle, who is our Fire’s brother, on his NAVHDA Natural Ability Prize III at 8 months with the MidSouth NAVHDA Chapter in Pelham, Tennessee over the weekend.

More North Dakota

The dogs and Charles rolled into North Dakota mid-day Sunday, giving them some time to hunt in the afternoon and evening.  He took his first ever Hungarian Partridge then.  (Sorry for the low quality phone photos)

Charles's first Hungarian Partridge

Charles’s first Hungarian Partridge

I received another truck and bird photo mid-afternoon today, a drake redhead and two nice roosters.  The story on the duck is that he was working a slough surrounded by a cornfield when a group of ducks got up from the pond.  Charles tucked down, with this one flying in range.  The duck landed in standing corn and little Fire retrieved it.  He took the two roosters an hour or so later within 5 minutes of each other, but saw nothing else the rest of the day.  Still a nice bag.

Drake Canvasback and two roosters

Drake redhead and two roosters

Good luck to everyone else in the field out there!

North Dakota Trip, AWPGA Nationals, Nebraska Pheasants and other news…


When you go three weeks without blogging, stuff piles up, so I apologize if this seems a bit like a random barrage.  What most people come to my website for is to find out about new litters, so I suppose I will start there.  Mae is starting to have changes and Sam wants to be in the kennel with her, so by the looks of things we will have a breeding between them within the next month.  So, let’s project that they breed at the beginning of December; that would have puppies being whelped at the beginning of February and going home at the beginning of April.  This is all just my somewhat educated guesstimation and by no means guaranteed.  Mae is 6, so I suspect that she will have a litter around the same size as last year, which was 4.  BB (who lives with us) and Velma (who lives with a friend) are set to have their first litters this year.  They should come into season anytime between now and April.  I will not breed after late March because any pups after that would interfere with being able to take a summer vacation before school starts for the kids and hunting season starts for us.  Right now I have 12 reservations with deposit and other folks trying to decide.  I could have anywhere from 12-30 pups if all goes as I plan, but it isn’t up to me.  Feel free to call (402) 682-9802 or e-mail bluestemkennels@cox.net if you would like to discuss things further (I know I still have a couple of callbacks and e-mails, so bear with me another day or so to let me get those returned).

October 19-24 Charles, BB and Sam met up with Lou, Murph and Midge in North Dakota for a pheasant/duck hunt combo.  Also along was deer camp friend, Ozzie, and Lou’s father, Lew (AKA Lou Senior or Old Lou).  They saw some stuff.  They shot at some stuff.  They stayed in a cabin and cooked on a Coleman stove.  I’ll spare you the second-hand details and get down to the bird totals and photos.

Saturday, October 19, 2013: Charles and Young Lou got 3 sharp-tailed grouse.

Sam brings in the sharpie retrive with BB on backup.  Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Sam brings in the sharpie retrieve with BB on backup. Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Sam bringing the sharpie into Charles.  Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Sam bringing the sharpie into Charles. Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Young Lou, Murf, Sam, BB, Midge, Old Lou, Charles and the sharpie

Young Lou, Murf, Sam, BB, Midge, Old Lou, Charles and the sharpie.  Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

The day's stringer of sharpies back at camp.  Photo by Charles

The day’s stringer of sharpies back at camp. Photo by Charles

Sunday, October 20, 2013 – skunked

Monday, October 21, 2013: Charles got 2 roosters

Charles and the first pheasant of the trip.  Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Charles and the first pheasant of the trip. Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Tuesday, October 22, 2013: Charles got a rooster pheasant and a mallard hen late in the day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013: Charles got one rooster

Thursday, October 24, 2013: Young Lou got two roosters (no photo available)

Random pic of Lou cooking since there is no pheasant pic.  It snowed Saturday night, so this must be Sunday morning.

Random pic of Lou cooking since there is no pheasant pic. It snowed Saturday night, so this must be Sunday morning.

The trip was more about the memories and the time spent together than the bird totals anyway.  I hope that the guys enjoyed themselves even without game bags overflowing.

The griffon masters

The griffon masters

As Charles was driving home from North Dakota, Cordelia and I were on the road to the American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon National Specialty in Greeley, Colorado.  We missed the fun hunt, specialty show and annual meeting, but managed to see the supported entry show on Saturday and go to the banquet.  We also had an awesome sojourn into Boulder to shop and eat on Pearl St. and do some hiking in Boulder Canyon and at the Flatirons.

Cordelia and Charity in Colorado for AWPGA Nationals

Cordelia and Charity in Colorado for AWPGA Nationals

It was great to catch up with some griffoniers and talk dog nerd talk freely.   AWPGA National Specialty 2014 is on for Kennebunk and Union, Maine from August 25-31.  In addition to the events held this year in Colorado, they’ve got the Korthals Cup back on and there will be AKC and NAVHDA hunt testing opportunities available (in place of the fun hunt), and an interesting grooming and handling seminar.  I hope to make it out, but it is cutting it awfully close to the opening of dove and grouse Sept. 1.  I encourage any and all griffon enthusiasts to join the AWPGA and attend a specialty, so much fun!  Here are Susan Edginton’s photos of this year’s specialty dog show, if you want to check those out:


Last weekend also had plenty of excitement!  Charles and Matt went out on Saturday in search of rooster pheasants and actually found some!  Nebraska Game and Parks planted 4000 pheasants this year on public land across Eastern Nebraska (finally).  If you’ve read my blog during pheasant season over the past few years, you know how much I like to whine about the decline of pheasants in our part of the state and how much NGPC needed to stock.  Well they have heard the desperate pleas of the hunters and “did us a solid” (as my kids would say).  The Pheasants Forever Rooster Road Trip party took 17 pheasant out of Northeastern Nebraska in one day off of public land.  We are very excited for this pheasant season in Eastern Nebraska, now that we know that we actually have a chance.  Both Matt and Charles took their limits and Charles got a quail too.  In total he said that they saw 20 pheasants and 50 quail.

Mid-day bag in Southeastern Nebraska

Mid-day bag in Southeastern Nebraska

End of day bag.  One of Matt's roosters somehow got away.

End of day bag. One of Matt’s roosters somehow got away.

By the time they pulled into the driveway, it was dark and the kids and I were in the middle of dinner, so no great photography went down.  Sorry.

On the same day we found out that our new male was born!!  He will be coming from Bourg-Royal Kennel in St. Lambert-de-Lauzon, Quebec, Canada, the same kennel as BB.  Different parents, both French imports.  We are very excited to bring him home around the first of the year!

Cristal and the 4 puppies: 1 male and 3 females

Cristal and the 4 puppies: 1 male and 3 females

Announcement in the last Griffonnier with the parents' credentials

Announcement in the last Griffonnier with the parents’ credentials

And the blog post wouldn’t be complete without some pupdates.  Here’s Midge (who went on the North Dakota trip), from Sam and Mae’s 2013 “F” litter with a big haul of pheasants from Montana.  Charles said she is a hard charging little dog with a great coat and lots of prey drive.

Midge and Montana Pheasants

Midge and Montana Pheasants

Midge’s older sister TracHer from Sam and Mae’s 2012 “C” litter has been having a great season up in North Dakota and is showing off all her skills.  According to Susan, “Gorgeous day today….we limited out 50 miles from home. TracHer retrieved 4 of the six birds, one in water with cattails.”

18 month old TracHer on retrieve of a North Dakota rooster

18 month old TracHer on retrieve of a North Dakota rooster

TracHer on left with Tom, Susan with Zepher (griff unrelated to my dogs) and their friends, the week prior to the close-up photo

TracHer on left with Tom, Susan with Zepher (griff unrelated to my dogs) and their friends, the week prior to the close-up photo

And one of my first dog babies, Whiskey from Sam and Sue’s “A” litter 2010, took his girl Andi out on her first duck hunt out in Nevada.  They did so awesome and I love how much Whiskey is Sam Jr!

Andi, Whiskey and some ducks

Andi, Whiskey and some ducks

Well, that pretty much wraps it up for right now.  Charles and I are heading out on Saturday in hopes of some pheasants and ducks.  We are still debating about where, but it will be pretty close to home.  I’ll keep you posted.  Until then, stay warm, winter is coming!

Our First NAVHDA Utility Test

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On Saturday, August 17th was our first North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) Utility Test in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter.  In the running were Sweetgrass Plainsman Samson “Sam” age 5 and Bourg-Royals CB Bluestem “BB” age 2 with my husband Charles handling both dogs.  The Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter is one of the best in the country and folks come from all over to participate in their events.

They come from far and wide...

They came from far and wide…

The Natural Ability dogs were first in the field on the day, with Sam as the first Utility Dog who ran.  His very first point was not on one of the planted chukars, but was a wild rooster pheasant!  The gunner said that he was twitching to fire, but it isn’t that time of year just yet!  Sam did fairly well on his first three finds, but it just started to get out of control.  The field was packed with birds and he was finding them every 45 seconds in some places.  He just came apart.  Sam has been hunting wild birds his whole life but has only received steadiness training in the past year, so he just couldn’t handle the overwhelming number of birds.  His pointing and retrieving never fail, but his habit of breaking on the shot came out in full force.  He probably had 10 total finds, but only held on maybe 3 or 4 of them.  Afterwards, Apprentice Judge Leo Boman told us that we need to go ahead and make a correction with the dog in the field, not letting him mess up over and over without trying to right it.  This is different than AKC, where the dog is supposed to work without correction and commands or face an order from the judge to “pick up your dog” (meaning you failed).  So that was a great tip for future handling.


Charles walking in on one of Sam’s points

Although it shows Charles carrying a shotgun, it is not loaded and only the two chapter gunners do all of the shooting for the test.

A bird in the air, Sam breaking on the shot

A bird in the air, Sam breaking on the flush

Sam on retrieve

Sam on retrieve

Charles was pretty disgusted as he walked out of the field with Sam, but I knew that was where the dog would make mistakes and his time to shine would come later on in the day.  We had to shake it off quickly because we were running 2 out of the 3 utility dogs that day, so it was a short break until it was BB’s turn.

BB has become an outstanding field dog and proved in this test that she is ready to move on to Master Hunter runs in AKC (American Kennel Club) Hunt Tests.  She had 4 or 5 finds and every single one was textbook steadiness.  There was even a point where Charles chose to run after a bird to try to flush it and BB just stood there stone still.

BB stands steady with a bird in the air (see it up between the trees?)

BB stands steady with a bird in the air (see it up between the trees?)

BB retrieves to hand

BB retrieves to hand

Another bird in the air with BB standing steady

Another bird in the air with BB standing steady

BB on retrieve

BB on retrieve

Moment of Impact: BB stands by as a bird gets hit in front of the smaller cottonwood

Moment of Impact: BB stands by as a bird gets hit in front of the smaller cottonwood

We walked out of the bird field with BB feeling as if we’d taken our first steps toward a Utility Prize I.  We were very hopeful.  It was time for a delicious lunch of chili and cornbread.  You can’t beat the food at NAVHDA tests!

The next order of business was the duck search for the utility dogs.  Sam was up first and we had no worries about his performance.  Swam the full 10 minutes and searched the pond thoroughly.  He did not find the duck, but that isn’t the point of the exercise.

Sam going hard on the duck search

Sam going hard on the duck search

BB’s weak spot is the water.  With Sam always dominating the retrieves while we are duck hunting, she just hasn’t had a chance to get fired up about it.  She did an okay search, then came and sat down by Charles at around the 7 minute mark.

BB out on the duck search

BB out on the duck search

Afterwards we talked to Dan Griffith, who is a full time trainer of German Wirehaired Pointers and a very experienced Utility Tester.  We were wondering if Charles should have re-cast her out into the pond.  Dan told us that if you re-cast without judge’s instructions, it is automatically a one point deduction.  If the judge wants you to re-cast, they will tell you.  Do not re-cast on your own.  Another great handling tip for the future.

The Natural Ability dogs did their duck retrieve first (which BB had no problem with at her test, NA Prize I with a perfect score of 112).  The setup for the Utility dogs was that they walk on leash on heel through a set of posts to the blind.  The dog is released from the leash and “whoaed” behind the blind.  Shots are fired and the dog has to stay steady behind the blind.  The dog is then moved just outside of the blind so that he can mark where the throw of the duck lands.  More shots are fired and the duck is thrown.

Sam marks the throw.  You can see the heeling posts in the foreground.

Sam marks the throw. You can see the heeling posts in the foreground.

We were in no way prepared for the 50 yard duck retrieve that they set up for the Utility Dogs.  The throw was way outside of shotgun range and it is only because of Sam’s absolute love of swimming and water that he was able to pull it off.  We had not trained for that distance at all.

Sam brings in the duck

Sam brings in the duck

At that point, we knew that it would take a miracle for BB to get that duck.  She did great in the blind and I saw her mark the throw, but she got distracted by the decoys next to the shore and would only go about 20 yards out to search (within shotgun range).  We tried to cast her farther, but to no avail.  BB did not get the duck and received No Prize as a result.

The final event was the track.  Flight feathers are pulled from a pheasant or duck and left in a pile at the start.  The pheasant or duck is either allowed to run and hide on its own, or if a carcass is used, it is dragged to a particular spot.  Sam never follows a track from point A to point B.  He knows that the bird is there, he just wants to go to points C. D, and E, then pee on them, then find the bird.  So he did the track…sort of:)

Sam comes back from his track with the duck

Sam comes back from his track with the duck

BB does an amazing job of tracking and always goes from point A to point B flawlessly.  But as she didn’t get the duck, it was all for naught.  So we ended the day with Sam earning a Utility Test Prize III.  It was our first test and I was just happy to bring home a prize, especially on Sam who has just been a wild bird hunting dog for so long.  BB was perfect in everything but the water.  We will hunt her alone on wild ducks down in Missouri for early teal season in a few weeks and then Nebraska High Plains duck season a few weeks after that.

It was a great time in Sioux Falls and we learned so much from folks.  It was great seeing Cliff Koele of Coppershot Griffons, home of several NAVHDA Versatile Champions, who recently announced his retirement from testing and breeding.  He will now focus on fishing and mentoring other breeders/trainers.  We had so much fun with all of our fellow handlers, the volunteers and the judges.  We learned and laughed.  It’s just dogs after all.

Congratulations to our fellow griffoniers who also participated in the weekend from Aux Lake Kennel!  From left to right: Keith Feldhaus and Deke UT I, Scott Moore and Josie as observers, Rick Jones and Jessie NA II and the godfather himself: Larry Woodward and Holly UT I.  Thank you Kim Jones for allowing me to use your photo.  We had a chance to spend time with the Joneses since Jessie ran on Saturday, but only saw everyone else briefly as we were ships passing in the night.  Their UT dogs ran on Sunday.

Aux Lake Crew

Aux Lake Crew

Wow and a big thank you to the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter for a great test.  We will be back.

I have so much more to write about, but am just out of time for today.  I will be sure to post again later this week before hunting season starts on Saturday!!  I have some pupdates that I need to clear out of my queue before I get way behind!  Talk at you later this week.

The Latest Happenings

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To those shopping for puppies: Our 2013 breeding season has come to a close and all puppies have homes.  Feel free to call (402) 682-9802 or e-mail bluestemkennels@cox.net if you would like to discuss our breeding plans for 2014.

Mae’s litter has all gone home and I’m boarding a pup of Sue’s for one more week.  We’ve really become attached to “Reagan”, the name that her new owners have chosen for her.  Maybe they’ll chicken out at the last minute and we can keep her;)  She still has accidents in the house, but I’d say she’s 3/4 housebroken.  She comes when her name is called 90% of the time and even when she doesn’t come, she knows that you are talking to her, but she’s just trying to opt out of obeying.  I’ve seen her chase tweety birds in the yard and she picks things up on her own to carry around in her mouth like a good little retriever.  She keeps up with the big dogs running the property.  I sure hope her new family is ready for her, because she has lots of juice!  She does really well in the crate and I can keep her in there without protest for 5 hours or so and can handle about the same time in the outdoor kennel/run with BB.

11 week old Reagan striking a pose

11 week old Reagan striking a pose

Reagan and I on Mother's Day

Reagan and I on Mother’s Day

Phone pic when Reagan was carrying the bumper

Phone pic when Reagan was carrying the bumper

More beautiful puppy families!  Danny flew in from Austin, TX on the 8th to pick up “Flora” who will now be known as “Fern” and took her home as a carry-on.  That is how we brought BB home from Quebec, so I know that can be a challenge.  Danny just sent me an update today and it said:

I know this note is a little late, but I just wanted to update you on Fern.  She is awesome!  She’s fitting in to her family well.  Our Airedale, Alli, seems to accept her alright.  I do think that having a puppy around makes her nervous, though.  Puppies have a lot of energy for a 10 year old dog to handle!  When I got her home, I think she was shellshocked…the airplane ride was a little traumatic for her.  Her personality is about 180 degrees from when I picked her up at your house.  She is very outgoing and loves being by her family.  I think she loves the kids a little too much!  Very nippy.  Poor kids don’t know when they can pet her safely without getting bit!  So far she seems very eager to please.  She likes to play fetch with just about any object.  Her favorite thing to play with is frozen duck wings.  Fern just goes bonkers for these things.  Potty training is going pretty well.  She has adapted to the kennel and doesn’t really whine but for about a minute, then just curls up with her little toy and sleeps.  We’ve had a day or two of no accidents.  Most of her accidents have been our fault, not paying attention to her when she goes to the door.  I’ve been working with her on “here,” “sit,” and “down.”  She will do anything for a treat.  
Anyway, I just wanted to keep you up to date with Fern’s new family and her progress.  So far, she has been a great addition to our family.  Also, it seems like she is going to shape up to be a serious hunter.  

Danny and family in Austin, TX

Danny and family in Austin, TX

Chris and Elysia in Ohio had “Frieda” flown out to them in Dayton, Ohio.  Chris is a dog handler with the US Army, so I know that she is in good hands!  Elysia sent me a note and photo too, “She’s beautiful!  And doing great.  She loves the kids, gets very excited when she sees them.  She’s pretty calm with us though.  We’re missing one kid in our picture because he wasn’t being cooperative.  They’ll be plenty more pictures though.  Happy Mother’s day, we hope you had a great weekend!  And thank you again for everything!”

The Pritchett family in Dayton, Ohio

Chris and Elysia’s family in Dayton, Ohio

“Fern” also flew out on Friday the 10th and is now living in Helena, Montana with our friends Louie and Lindsay.  Lou is a childhood friend of Charles from back in upstate New York, they belonged to the same deer hunting camp back in the day.  Fern is now known as “Midge” and has a 7-year old male griff friend, Murf.  He’s fixed, so there will be no Murf/Midge progeny, but we hope that Midge turns out and we can tap into the great studs in Montana.

Lindsay, Frannie, Lou and the dogs

Lindsay, Frannie, Lou and the dogs

Gabe practices stacking Midge

Gabe practices stacking Midge

Last weekend was the Heartland NAVHDA Chapter spring test.  BB and Sam were tested in the Utility Preparatory Test.  Even though she had the higher score of 164, BB did not prize because of lack of water search.  She was in the middle of her heat and come to find out she had a nasty case of worms (courtesy of a dead squirrel she gnawed on in our woods), so we felt bad that it was sort of our fault that she bombed.  It was really too bad because she aced the field work and even if she had given a III performance in the water, she would have had a prize I overall.  It was just sort of a strange deal, because she had no sign of being ill until that day.  She had been staying in the house full-time to help me babysit Reagan and to keep Sam from freaking out about her heat and we had seen nothing wrong until that day.  I’m just thankful that nobody else got sick and we were able to get it treated.

Charles giving BB the release command (file photo from her NA test)

Charles giving BB the release command (file photo from her NA test)

Sam’s field and track were okay, but he was the star of the day in the water, taking home a Prize II with a score of 163.

Sam and Charles (file photo from AKC test in March)

Sam and Charles (file photo from AKC test in March)

I’ve had folks asking me about what I’m writing for Lion Country Supply http://www.lcsupply.com/.  I have been updating their product descriptions and will be branching out into blogging and product reviews once I get through the catalog.  I am so excited to be connected with such a great company and look forward to having a long career of dog writing ahead of me.

Next up is the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of Central Iowa and the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of Eastern Nebraska’s double/double AKC Hunt Test Memorial Day weekend at Yankee Hill WMA near Lincoln.  We’ll see if we can get a pass in SH for Sam or BB, it has been eluding us at this point, but we’ll keep trying.  Call me or shoot me an e-mail if you would like to participate and I can forward on the premiums, it closes on Tuesday so you might have to overnight them!

I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend, but don’t forget about the sacrifices made by the armed forces.  I’ll be thinking of my Dad who passed away in 1998 at the age of 49 as a result of complications from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam.  I know that he looks down on all of this dog craziness and smiles.

“E” Litter – One Week Old

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It never ceases to amaze me as to how quickly these puppies grow!  They’ve gone from the size of bratwursts to the size of really fat guinea pigs in a week.  Good job mama Sue!

"E" Litter at one week old

“E” Litter at one week old

I have registered the litter with the AKC online and have sent the litter registration paperwork to NAVHDA via mail.  Just to make sure that my future owners are clear, I will give you the paperwork to register the dog individually, as I have not built the individual puppy registration into my price.  That also gives you the right to register your dog with whatever name you would like, I only fill in the kennel name “Bluestem” at the front.  I also want to make sure that everyone is clear: these dogs leave with “limited” AKC registration and “breeding restricted” NAVHDA registration (which is normal for reputable breeders).  If you wish to breed your dog down the line, there are additional hunt testing and health clearance steps that we will go through.  Contact me for details.

Also, if you are an individual shopping for a puppy, I have decided to stop taking reservations for this year’s puppies because I feel as if I have a full roster.  If Mae has more than 9 puppies (which the current number of reservations I have for her litter), I will let everyone know.  Otherwise, feel free to call or e-mail if you would like to talk about next year’s breeding plans.

As far as the puppies go, about the only things they are doing right now are eating and sleeping.  They are just getting old enough to where I can let the kids hold them.

Conrad (almost 9 years old) holds a pup

Conrad (almost 9 years old) holds a pup


I filmed two videos of the litter on their one week old birthday, the first is of them just sleeping:

The second video shows their other favorite activity, eating:

Mae is doing well and getting bigger, I don’t have a picture of her for this week as of yet, I will work on that over the weekend and try to get something up either Sunday or early next week.  Charles is headed down to Branched Oak Trial Grounds this weekend to run BB and Sam in Senior Hunter on Saturday and Sunday at the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Lincoln’s Spring AKC Hunt Test and Walking Field Trial.  Joining him on Saturday will be Rick and his 9 month old puppy “Dottie” from Sue and Sam’s last litter (the “D” Litter of 2012), who will be giving the Junior Hunter course a shot.  Sounds like it is going to be a rainy one, but I hope to get some pics of everyone up by the clubhouse.  So send us good vibes for success on the hunt tests and continued health with the puppies!  Do not hesitate to call me at (402) 682-9802, e-mail bluestemkennels@cox.net, or just leave a comment on this page if you would like to get in touch.

“E” Litter Arrival…the rest of the story

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Our first clue as to the imminent arrival of the puppies came over the weekend, when Sue started quietly whining pretty much constantly.  I took her temperature on Sunday at it was normal, around 101F.  A funny aside about Sue’s personality is that when she’s with the people, she’s going to be retrieving you something…anything…(I swear that these are candid and not posed)

Sue on Saturday with a deer antler and a cow skull from our flower bed bone pile

Sue on Saturday with a deer antler and a cow skull from our flower bed bone pile

Sue picking up the kids dirty socks

Sue picking up the kids dirty socks

Sue brought me a "double retrieve" a kids pj shirt and an alligator puppet

Sue brought me a “double retrieve” a kids pj shirt and an alligator puppet

I took her temperature again three times on Monday, each time it was between 98-99F.  They say that when this happens, the puppies come within 24-48 hours (and since I’ve been doing it, it has been true).  I just use a human ear thermometer to take the temperature in her ear.  I am sworn to never do a rectal temp on anything, man nor beast.

Tuesday morning we started walking the yard and property quite a bit.  When I went to make lunch, Sue was hanging out next to me in the kitchen being her normal self: head up looking at me and tail wagging.  All of a sudden her head dropped and turned away from me, her tail stopped wagging, she let out a low groan and I saw the tightening of her puppy belly.  So we walked and walked and walked all afternoon.  About 3 PM she started going into the “poop pose” with nothing coming out pretty frequently.  She began nesting in the dog houses and in the leaf piles under the bushes.  But her water hadn’t broken yet and I had an early evening obligation, so I put her in the whelping area and was away until about 7.  When I got home, she had been asleep in the whelping box and nothing had happened.  So we walked some more and her contractions seemed to be getting stronger.  A black sort of mucus plug looking thing came out while squatting at one point, but still her water wasn’t broken yet.  It was time to put the kids to bed at 9, so I put her back out in the whelping area around 8:30.  The kids took awhile to get around for bed, so I didn’t get back out there until around 9:30 PM.

I was all dressed up to take her back out walking, but this time I had a towel and a flashlight in case she accidentally popped a puppy out on to the snow.  But as I was walking to the door of the room, I heard the distinct sound of a puppy squeak!  I threw down my stuff and tore off my outdoor gear.  She had made quick work of things because I could see where her water had broken while waiting for me at the door, but she was in the box with her first puppy.

Sue and her first puppy around 9:30 PM Monday

Sue and her first puppy around 9:30 PM Tuesday

Having given birth naturally to three children under the care and observation of a nurse midwife very much influences my practice as a puppy whelper.  I totally see myself in the role of the midwife: checking on the mother regularly, but assuming that our bodies know what to do and that mother nature will make things happen properly.  So I give my females plenty of space to do their work bringing life into the world.  I checked back with Sue around 11 PM and puppy number two had arrived.

Sue and two puppies around 11 PM Monday

Sue and two puppies around 11 PM Tuesday

I went and grabbed a couple more hours of shut eye, but Sue was hard at work between 11 PM Tuesday and 1:30 AM Wednesday, as by my check-in she was up to 6 puppies.

Sue with 6 puppies at 1:30 AM Tuesday (there is one under her front leg).

Sue with 6 puppies at 1:30 AM Wednesday (there is one under her front leg).

By the time I was up again at 4:30 AM, two more puppies had arrived on the scene, for a total of 8.  I was able to get Sue up to go outside to go potty and I checked her stomach and thought she was done.  I also went about cleaning out the whelping box and freshening up the chips, assuming everyone had arrived.

Sue and the 8 puppies at 4:30 AM on Wednesday

Sue and the 8 puppies at 4:30 AM on Wednesday

I had an obligation Wednesday morning that I went ahead and attended to, as all of the puppies appeared healthy and Sue had everything under control.  When I went to check in at noon, I knew from past experience that I had better re-count the puppies.  Sure enough, a ninth one had arrived.  It was limp and cold, when I picked it up at first, I thought it was stillborn.  But it was alive, just barely.  It had a small, triangular head and was just odd looking, almost like a mole.  So, I called him “Mole”.

Sue and 9 pups at noon on Wednesday.  "Mole" is on the far left, turned away from the teats.

Sue and 9 pups at noon on Wednesday. “Mole” is on the far left, turned away from the teats.

From my first discovery of Mole, I tried to bring him around.  He was too weak to get to the teat and I had to force his mouth open to even take a bottle.  No matter how hard I tried he would never get warm, even if I sat right in front of the fireplace and rubbed him as much as I could.  Every time I went to the box, he was pushed over into a corner, cold and alone.  I really knew something was off when I finally did get him on the teat, as he was strong enough to suckle, Sue pushed him and my hand away.

I had made the appointment to get the pups tails docked and dew claws removed at the vet’s office on Thursday morning at 10:30 AM.  Before we made the transition out into the big world, we did a small one into the living room, just as something in the interim.  Plus a warm fire is always nice.

Puppies enjoying time by the fire before the vet's office.

Puppies enjoying time by the fire before the vet’s office.

9 puppies sleeping, "Mole" is on the left

9 puppies sleeping, 1 day old, “Mole” is at the top

I really adore my veterinarians, Drs. Andrew and Susan Kliewer of Heartland Animal Hospital.  Of course it is cool to work with another husband and wife team, but the best part is that I just feel like we share the same philosophy when it comes to animals and we really “get” each other.  So I showed Susan “Mole”, I talked about what had been going on, my concerns and interventions.  She told me that she had a friend who had recently nursed a pup like “Mole” back to (what was thought to be) health, only to have it get kidney failure at 6 months old.  The persistent coldness showed that he had poor circulation, he had a strangely shaped palate, an improperly shaped skull…there were just too many problems to overcome.  So we elected to humanely euthanize him.  I really appreciate all the support from my dog friends on Facebook when that happened, it helped me feel better.  I knew it was the right thing for the puppy and for the breed and for myself (I was spending the majority of my time, including getting up a night, fussing over him), but it was still sad.

But hey, we have 8 gorgeous healthy puppies and that is something to be so super excited about!!  Here is their debut on YouTube: 

And right afterwards, I took these still shots of them resting:

8 healthy puppies at 2 days old!

8 healthy puppies at 2 days old!

Sue making sure that everyone is having a good nap

Sue making sure that everyone is having a good nap

Sue's way of telling us to go away is when she sticks her head between us and the puppies

Sue’s way of telling us to go away is when she sticks her head between us and the puppies

So now everyone is good, Sue included.  She seems very relieved to have all of the puppies out of her belly.  She can go back to trying to catch the squirrels in the backyard when I let her out.

Sue looking svelte waiting to come back into the house after a run in the backyard.

Sue looking svelte waiting to come back into the house after a run in the backyard.

She even felt secure enough today to come upstairs and visit me while the puppies were taking a nap.  That made me happy, as the first day I always have to feed and water her in the whelping box because she doesn’t want to leave them.

Sue came up for a visit while I blog at the kitchen table.  She brought me one of the kids sweatshirts.

Sue came up for a visit while I blog at the kitchen table. She brought me one of the kids sweatshirts.

Well I need to get my rear in gear, the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Lincoln’s cutoff for next weekend’s AKC hunt test is tomorrow at 6 PM, so I have to hustle to get our entries in.  BB and Sam are going to do some Senior Hunter runs.  I’m hoping that we can get Rick’s pup “Dottie” from Sue and Sam’s “D” litter last year signed up for Junior Hunter too.  Should be a great weekend reuniting with the local dog crazies at the first event of the year at Branched Oak Trial Grounds.  I’m excited that they are having a 100% walking stakes only (no horseback) AKC field trial that weekend too.  Love to see the foot hunting dogs get some respect.

Oh and I do have a pupdate, from TracHer in North Dakota from our “C” litter last year out of Mae and Sam.  Tom and Susan got a GoPro camera that Tom is wearing here on his chest while he’s cross country skiing with Susan and the dogs.  TracHer is almost a year old and looks like she’s having a great time snow diving!  That’s one of her griffy buddies Zephyr along with them.  

I’m in the process of getting e-mails out to everyone with reservations for puppies, so if you have a deposit down with us, please keep an eye on your inbox.  I should have a status for everyone written up by Sunday.  Oh gosh, I almost forgot the Mae update!  She is due sometime around March 18th, so I need to get ready to go through this all over again:)

Mae sporting a puppy belly as she chomps on an antler Saturday.

Mae sporting a puppy belly as she chomps on an antler Saturday.

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