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Before I die I will shoot a snipe and other tales from the prairie…

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My poor neglected readers, I can tell that you miss me.  Yet hunting season is upon us and who needs any other muse?  I typically write forwards chronological, but today I’m feeling reverse chronological.  That way my title makes sense.

Snipe, Sora and Early Teal

Charles and Charity ready for some fun

Charity and Charles ready for some fun

Yesterday we hit the local swamp in search of snipe, sora rails, and early teal.  It is a pretty popular swamp, as there were a couple of sets of duck hunters in there before we were.  Since we were late to the party, we went to the other end of the parcel.  We spent an hour or two there and each of us missed a sora rail.  At that point we figured that the duck hunters had moved on, but first Charles wanted to go to town for a hot dog.

So when you roll into small town Nebraska with a crazy dog box in the back of your truck with dog heads hanging out of it, a travel carrier on top with stickers from all over the country, and both of you are dressed in camo: you are crazy old man bait.  The old man had some great tales: how he had just intentionally ran over a whole flock of turkeys (because of the myth that they kill pheasants and grouse.  He even showed us the carcasses in the back of his truck), his pheasant hunting escapades in South Dakota, how much he wants to retire to Oklahoma (really? why?), he showed us pictures of his purple ’67 Dodge Charger, then proceeded to do a massive burnout with his pickup (when you squeal your tires on purpose) on his way out of the gas station.  I love Nebraska.

We went back to the main parking lot of the secret swamp and had the place to ourselves.  But the duck hunters had left their mark.  Shame on them.

Party foul

Party foul

Once we got up into the swamp, Charles got a sora after I missed a few.  Then with his keen eyes, he spotted a couple of teal on some open water about 20 yards ahead of us.  I love how teal just let us jump them, we never get away with it with mallards.  Charles grabbed Fire by the collar and I grabbed BB (here is where good heeling training would come in handy, but we’re pretty rusty), and we crept up to the pond.  When the two teal jumped, Charles hit the one in the lead with his first shot, I hit the one behind with my second.  Both were really solid hits, his to the head and mine to the body, so we didn’t have any flapping in the water (which I hate).  Fire was right out on the water retrieve, which BB proceeded to steal (bad dog).  Fire went back out for the second duck too.  Chief had no clue really, we just had him out there for exposure.

From there we made our way out to the snipe field.  It is sort of a wet field that cattle graze so that the grass is all short.  It is really muddy in places and where is isn’t muddy it is pocked with deep cow hoofprints.  This place kicks my butt, I have yet to shoot a single thing there and I’ve been hunting it for years.  It has even claimed a pair of my rubber boots: I sank in and couldn’t get out, so I had to walk by to the truck in my socks.  During dry years, we stumble across the embedded boots every now and then.

We worked the eastern end of the field to no avail, we figure the flights aren’t in yet.  We work the central part of it, and again nothing.  Right as we start to slack off and let the dogs work ahead…BB locks on point and Chief and Fire proceed to bust a flock of about 10.  Out of range, no chance of a shot.  Yet the way that snipe work there are always stragglers.  Charles knocks a couple down.  I proceed to whine about how many snipe he’s shot and how I’ve yet to hit one, so he lets me walk ahead.  I proceed to blast away at another 5 with no success, while he bags a couple more.  As we’re walking back, BB again locks on a solid point.  I go in for the flush and yet again miss the snipe.  But wow, to have a dog who knows how to point snipe, that is pretty awesome.

Charles with four snipe, a sora, and a teal

Charles with four snipe, a sora, and a teal

Charity and Fire with a Teal

Charity and Fire with a Teal

AWPGA National Specialty 2015

I just had to drive a couple of hours over to Des Moines, Iowa for the National Specialty this year.  It kicked off on Thursday morning with a fun hunt at Doc’s Hunt Club in Adel, Iowa.  I accidentally left my camera at the hotel that day.  But we had a good turnout and folks took turns taking their dogs out with birds.  I sent all of my dogs to the Sandhills with Charles, so I didn’t have any.  We did a lot of visiting and had a burger and hot dog lunch in the clubhouse.  There was a tracking seminar held in the afternoon, but I have worked AKC Tracking tests with our local kennel club before, so I skipped and sat in the hot tub, then took a nap:)  In the evening, we had our annual meeting and welcome reception.

Friday was the big show.  It was great to see so many owner handled dogs.  Remember Gino Troy from the NAVHDA test in May?  Well his bitch took Best of Breed.  Yay, Gino and Brie (and his breeder Kristi Rogney of Whiskeytown Sporting Dogs).

Best of Breed Ring

Best of Breed Ring

L to R: Kristi, handler, Brie and Gino

L to R: Kristi, handler, Brie and Gino

We were free for the rest of the afternoon and evening, so I found a new home at the Court Avenue Brewing Company in the Historic East Village of Downtown Des Moines.  The people there were so friendly and the atmosphere so nice (like a mini Old Market Omaha Upstream Brewery), that I thought that I’d give them a free plug.  If you need some beer and grub in Des Moines, this is the spot.  It was packed on Saturday for the Iowa vs. Illinois St. football game, but I had the place to myself on Friday after the specialty show.

Court Ave Brewery Des Moines

Court Ave Brewery Des Moines

AWPGA steins

AWPGA steins

We had a great time at the banquet Saturday night following the supported entry show, where I won a set of four of cool beer steins in the newly launched pre-banquet games (pictured here with 24 oz. each of Nebraska Brewing Company India Pale Ale).  I had the winning bid on the silent auction of two books to add to my collection of dog books in French that I can’t read.

French Griffon Books

French Griffon Books

So, that puts learning French on my to-do list over the next few years.

The food was excellent and so was the company.  There are some things in life that I just love above all others.  Food is one of them.  From left going clockwise: roll, seven layer dessert bar, pork chop, potatoes, creamed corn, green beans with bacon, spring green salad, and a fried boneless chicken breast in the middle.

I took some of everything.

I took some of everything.

Jay Hoth of Switchgrass Sporting Dogs was solo, with Lisa back in Oklahoma looking after the kids.  He had some company at the banquet: Sheryl Dierenfield, Shona Welle, and Kina Palmer on his right all from Colorado, then myself and Julie Baker, both from Nebraska on his left.

Jay Hoth's big date

Jay Hoth’s big date

I wish that I had won this sign in the games, but I didn’t.  Some of my other problems:

Addiction

Addiction

I was able to put my amateur auctioneering skills to use at the live auction.  When I was a child growing up in Valentine, Nebraska, there just wasn’t a whole lot to do sometimes.  So my dad would take me to the sale barn to watch cattle being auctioned off.  Between that and all of my time spent as “auction model” in my younger days for Pheasants Forever, I was able to pull it off.

Charity auctioning off a cool welcome sign

Charity auctioning off a cool welcome sign

I was under the impression that supported entry on Sunday was later than it was, so keeping with tradition, I overslept the morning after the banquet and missed it (last year in Maine, I overslept and missed my flight).

It was a small turnout, only 37 dogs entered in the specialty show, but we managed to have a heck of a good time regardless.  Great job, Ruth Vogel and the 2015 specialty committee.  Next year, we will be turning it up in Helena, Montana Sept. 19-26.  Hunting seasons will also be open, so we’ll be there!

Sandhills Sharptailed Grouse Opener

Charles and the dogs had a great opening weekend in the Nebraska Sandhills chasing sharptailed grouse.  They limited out within two hours of their start time each day.  Only 8 shells shot and 6 birds in the bag!  I kept saying to myself in Des Moines, “I can’t believe I’m missing opening weekend to watch a dog show”.  But I’m pretty committed to my dog club friends and glad that I didn’t miss them being in the neighborhood.

Opening day limit. From back to front: Fire, BB, and Chief

Opening day limit. From back to front: Fire, BB, and Chief

Day 2 limit, back to front: Sam, Fire, and Chief

Day 2 limit, back to front: Sam, Fire, and Chief

Parting thoughts

I have probably missed around 100 snipe in my hunting career, so I’m going to be in pursuit.  Probably starting tomorrow.  I’m taking at least a semester away from teaching and am just going to hunt and dog train full-time.  I had thought about going solo and doing Wyoming sage grouse in a week, but I really need to get into shape (and save our money) for duck opener in the Sandhills the first week of October, and North Dakota mixed bag mid-October.  Here’s sort of my goals/timetable:

  1. I’m going to handle Chief for the first time in NAVHDA Natural Ability in the Spring.
  2. Charles will NAVHDA UPT Fire in either the spring or fall of next year.
  3. We’re going to train BB back up, giving her a year off from whelping, so that I can handle her in NAVHDA UT in the fall of 2016.  Depending on where Fire is at, she may also UT at the same test with Charles.
  4. In the next 2-3 years, I want to do Nevada chukar.  I am not in shape enough for that terrain.  Also, I have Montana staring me in the face next year, I’d like to chase some mountain grouse (blue, spruce, ruffed, ptarmigan) and the sage grouse while we’re there.  Time to get to work.

I was super excited to see Brian Koch make contact with the Himalayan Snowcock in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada within the last couple of weeks.  He doesn’t have this pic up on his Ultimate Upland website yet, but here’s the photo from his Facebook page:

Brian's Himalayan Snowcock encounter. Photo by Brian Koch ultimateupland.com

Brian’s Himalayan Snowcock encounter. Photo by Brian Koch ultimateupland.com

That is one for the bucket list!  Keep chasing birds

Hunting season ends, breeding season begins…

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It has been absolutely arctic around here.  We stayed close to family and did not venture out for grouse, pheasant, or Canadian geese while we were in Valentine.  It was very cold outside and several of us were sick with colds.  It has stayed cold down here in Bellevue, so nobody has been out anywhere except for the yard.  But the good news is that while we were hunkered down in Valentine, we think that Sam and BB got the job done.  So, fingers crossed, BB is about 3 weeks along.  Velma has just become fertile and is with Ben down in Springfield, Nebraska.  They will stay together for two more weeks and see what happens.  So if Mother Nature smiles upon us, puppies in March.

Yet if you call or e-mail me, I’m going to refer you to another breeder.  I currently have 16 reservations with deposit on file and just have no idea how successful these litters will be.  We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and wait and see.

The dogs have been coming in the house quite a big with the cold temps, but I didn’t get the camera out until we were outside today.

Caleb let himself into the kennel with BB and Sam while Charles and Conrad were shooting archery.

Caleb let himself into the kennel with BB and Sam while Charles and Conrad were shooting archery.

IMG_5056

Conrad getting his archery practice in!

BB and Fire on a tear in the woods

BB and Fire on a tear in the woods

Fire on a lope, you can still see the shaved patch on her abdomen.

Fire on a lope, you can still see the shaved patch on her abdomen.

Fire and Caleb

Fire and Caleb

BB, Sam, and Fire

BB, Sam, and Fire

Sam

Sam Profile

Fire Running

Fire Running

BB heading in

BB heading in

Sam

Sam Eyes

Sam looks on while BB and Fire battle in the yard

Sam looks on while BB and Fire battle in the yard

Pupdates: Christmas Cards 2014

It’s funny that both of the cards that I received from puppy owners were from the “C” litter of 2012 of Sam and Mae.  Not that I can say anything about Christmas cards, I just don’t send them anymore.  I figure I send everyone a card everytime I write up a blog post, right?  Some cute photos of Chester from Long Island, New York came in Sal’s Christmas card:

Happy Chester

Happy Chester

Running Chester

Running Chester

Peaceful Chester

Peaceful Chester

A cute card from the owners of his sister, TracHer, far right, up in North Dakota.  Susan in read with Zephyr, also a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (but not from us).  Tom with Max the baby German Wirehaired Pointer and TracHer.

Susan Card_NEW

We hope that everyone had a great holiday season and is ready to tackle the New Year ahead.  Charles is talking about one more hunt before the Jan 31 close of season, but I’m out of time.  I will keep everyone posted with breeding season, please join NAVHDA and the AWPGA, and stay warm!

So much to be thankful for…

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I really should not be blogging, but I know how much y’all have been missing me.  Well, not so much me these days as these fab updates from our owners.  But that comes later.  First of all, I wanted to say that I had no idea how much work it takes to run an AKC breed parent club.  Boards, committees, and lots of blood, sweat, and tears from dedicated volunteers.  I am really stressing about my first issue at the helm of the Griffonnier, but it looks like it is coming together well.  “How do I get this Griffonnier,” you say?  You have to join the AWPGA: http://awpga.com/

Another awesome must-have magazine is Versatile Hunting Dog from NAVHDA.  I’m excited/embarrassed to be in the November 2014 issue.  Guess how you get Versatile Hunting Dog: you have to join NAVHDA.http://www.navhda.org/.  I went ahead and scanned a copy of the article so that the non-members can check it out.

VHD Article

VHD Article2

Thanks again to New Englander Jason Wade for coming all the way out to Nebraska/Iowa to put it on, and to Tracey Nelson for being a great hostess.  Also thanks to the people who let me ask about their recent Handler’s Clinic experiences: Susan Davy, Dan Dorfschmidt, and Matt Heard.

I was also recently published in Tufts University Seabird Ecological Assessment Network’s publication Field Guide to Beached Birds of the Southeastern United States.  The field guide will be used to help citizen scientists to identify bird carcasses.  They needed a photo of a female canvasback carcass and found it here on the blog.  Here is the link to the guide, my photo is on the bottom left hand corner of page 72: https://app.box.com/s/k01qk2eic0ojc0h0tjv7.  I’m always happy to donate my work in the name of science and conservation.

Birthday Hunt

Hunt

I bagged my first official shot-it-all-by-myself Nebraska rooster on my 40th birthday.  That’s about the best present I could get.  I’ve been attributed to some Nebraska roosters in the past, but it was always up for debate since others had also put pellets in it.  But not this time.

I love chocolate cake, but I love birthday roosters more.

I love chocolate cake, but I love birthday roosters more.

So that was the high point of the hunt.  The low point of the hunt was at the end where we had to cross this shallow creek into a fallow field that was all plowed up and uneven.  I tripped on a giant dried up dirt clod and didn’t even catch myself.  It was a full-on face plant into the dirt.  I may not be known for my gracefulness, but I have become an expert in totally wiping out safely while holding a firearm.

Oh yeah, and Charles got a rooster too.  But you expected that.

That is my poor photography skills with the glare, not evidence of any supernatural forces.

That is my poor photography skill with the glare, not evidence of any supernatural forces.

Pupdates

Bob and Ed, who hail from Minnesota (and from our “E” Litter 2013 between Sam and Sue), had a great hunt up in North Dakota this year:

What a fantastic trip to North Dakota for Ed again this year!  5 guys hunting and we brought home our limits even with the tough wind we had.  Ed’s performance was fantastic and I could not ask for anything else from him.  He is a solid pointer and retrieves to hand with no hesitation.  He proved his worth when he found a bird we knocked down which ran into a cattail slough.  I am once again very happy for having found you while researching the breed. I can’t wait for our trip in 2015! Bob

Ed, Bob, and the birds in ND.

Ed, Bob, and the birds in ND.

Trucks, dogs, and birds is where it's at!

Trucks, dogs, and birds is where it’s at!

Jealous!  In more news from North Dakota, Susan and TracHer (2012 “C” Litter between Sam and Mae)  took out some roosters in the western part of the state:

A good friend got permission from an old high school classmate who farms in western ND, but north of I-94 (where the famed pheasant hunting area is) yesterday.  I experienced an all time first in my hunting life.  I shot a double, and was the first in our party of 3 to get birds.  I end up in that category of, I GOT ONE! only to be told by the guy hunting to either side of me, that no, they got it.  I’m a little slower to shoot so do better when I can get away from the others enough to get a bird on my own time, and it happened in spades yesterday!!   TracHer did great again…in the pics she is bring my bird back to me, with our friend Don Winden in the pic as well.  There were, indeed, a huge number of pheasants out amongst the oil drilling rigs and wells…The birds seem to have adjusted alright for now.

TracHer on retrieve with Don looking on.

TracHer on retrieve with Don looking on.

Closeup of TracHer and the pheasant.

Closeup of TracHer and the pheasant.

TracHer and the cows

TracHer and the cows

I love how she manages to shoot with a gun and a camera!  I need to work on that.  Staying in the North Dakota theme, Ernie put together this cool video with footage from his GoPro and some tunes, “Country Boy” by Aaron Lewis and “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynard.

Here’s a photo of Ernie and Duncan (from our “H” Litter 2014 of Sam and Mae)

Duncan, Ernie and a North Dakota pheasant limit.

Duncan, Ernie and a North Dakota pheasant limit.

A bit closer to home, it looks like Rob and Maggie of Omaha (from our 2013 “E” Litter between Sam and Sue) had a great trip to South Dakota:

Maggie did fantastic for the start of her second season. She works perfectly in my opinion. She stays close, her drive is fantastic, she is very methodical and thorough yet not too slow and her nose is awesome. She points solid and does a great job at retrieving, especially the sneaky ones that are hard to find. When I turn her loose I almost never even have to direct her. Just when I think that she might be nearing a range that I would consider being too far out she puts her head up to check where I am at and readjusts to stay in the working distance that I prefer. Sometimes it’s like she can read my mind. I’m sure I am biased but I just can’t say enough about how well I think she hunts. I love this dog! Take care. Rob

Rob, Maggie, and roosters.

Rob, Maggie, and roosters.

Taking it way down south, I got an update from Charbel in Mexico with Freyja from our 2014 litter of Sam and BB.

I’ve been off the grid lately with lots of work but finally manage to find some time for R&R. Sorry I couldn’t send you pictures sooner but here are a couple. This is Freyja´s first hunting trip in the beginning of November, we went Dove hunting, it wasn’t a good weekend because of the climate but we manage to get a few doves and the dogs had a lot of fun.

I have her leashed to me or to a long check leash since she still need to learn that there is no point in chasing flying birds, she will run all the way trying to follow a bird that fly’s by specially falcons when they are kiting the area and she tends to draw out thorns like a magnet, specially one I hate don’t know how its called but its a round seed fool of thorns that acts like Velcro. Took me more than an hour to remove all the thons from her, the bright side is that the thorn never actually gets it the skin but it does tangle in the hair.  But I would let Freyja run free after every hunting morning.

The second morning while we were lunching in the field she dash into a corn field, after a few minutes suddenly a entire covey of quail flush out and 2 seconds after that Freyja came out of the field with that smiley doggy face she makes. We were all shocked since no one was expecting that. It was amazing!!!

This weekend we are going to be flying to Mexicali Pheasant hunting I´ll send you pictures after we come back.

 Best Wishes, Charbel

Freyja ready to go.

Freyja ready to go.

Charbel and Freyja taking a break from dove hunting for a selfie.

Charbel and Freyja taking a break from dove hunting for a selfie.

Four labs and a griff cooling off.

Four labs and a griff cooling off.

Freyja coming back in.

Freyja coming back in.

Wow, thank you owners!  You force me to come back and blog even when I don’t think that I want to.  Then when I’m done, I see how much fun you have with your pups and it makes everything worth it.

The week of Thanksgiving is upon us, isn’t it?  So that means that we go hunting, right?  I hope so.  I’ve been stuck at home the last couple of weekend with deer season.  Charles didn’t see one big enough to shoot out in the Sandhills last weekend and went out yesterday for a doe along the Platte River and didn’t see anything.

We really should be thankful to God every day.  As my grandfather says, “You’ve got a roof over your head and food on the table”.  We take important things for granted, like clean water.  1 billion people on Earth don’t have access to clean water, and we’re lucky enough to be able to fuss over hunting dogs.

I am thankful for you, my readers, for hearing what I have to say and enjoying what my kind puppy owners are nice enough to share with me.

News Galore: Upcoming Breeding, AWPGA National Specialty and Pupdates

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Upcoming Breeding

Sue is coming into the very first stages of heat.  I’m going to take photos and document the whole process for a future article, which I don’t think will be of much interest and will probably kinda gross out some of my readers, but when I was getting my internet education and book learning on the physiology of a female’s heat cycle, the only photographs I could find were from toy dogs and it helped me out some, but I would like to get it down for the future of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed.

But back to Sue, she is probably 2-4 weeks away from breeding, so that puts whelping in February-March and puppy homegoing in April-May.  I currently have six reservations with deposit, therefore the entire breeding may already be sold, but there is a possibility for additional puppies from this litter.  We will also have a litter from Sam and Mae this spring, so if you haven’t yet made a reservation there is still time for 2013, but I get phone calls and e-mails daily, so if you are looking for a pup from us this year now is the time to get in touch with us either by e-mail at bluestemkennels@cox.net or phone (402) 682-9802.  For information about our current breeding dogs, please click on the “About Our Dogs” button up at the top of the page.  This will be Sue’s fourth and last litter.

Hunting Season Progress

Charles, Sam and BB had a great trip to North Dakota at the end of October, make sure to check it out on the Hunting Blog (versatilehunter.com or just click the button at the top of the page).  We’ve all taken a mid-season break, Charles has been spending time in the deer woods (even though our freezer is full of birds and I keep begging him not to go since we don’t have room for one) and I’ve had a spell of illness.  I know that Charles and his friend Matt have a trip to Kansas planned for next weekend, but I probably won’t get out in the field until Christmas, as I had surgery on my upper jaw a couple of weeks ago and I want that to fully heal before putting a shotgun up to my face.  So my dog time has mainly been spent in just daily exercise and socialization.

Caleb and Sam enjoying some play time

Cordelia and Conrad having a slumber party with BB

A Brief History of the AWPGA

I recently had an e-mail question from a puppy buyer about the AWPGA vs. the WPGCA.  I might as well take the time to explain it here for everyone’s benefit.  Back in the 1980’s there occurred what I call “The Great Schism”.  Similar to the medieval division of the Christian church, Griffondom came to a loggerhead and there were two groups who could no longer co-exist.  The WPGCA was the original breed club in the United States, but many of the controlling individuals were concerned that the hunting ability of the purebred genepool at that time was compromised and that there was an irreparable genetic depression that required an infusion from another breed to avoid total collapse in not only the health of the breed, but in their abilities as Korthals intended.  Therefore this group decided to crossbreed with the Cesky Fousek, a similar breed from then Czechoslovakia.  A detailed history of the breed and the club can be read in Joan Bailey’s book Griffon: Gun Dog Supreme.  Mrs. Bailey was part of the crossbreeder element and stayed with the WPGCA, so the breakup is not mentioned in her book.

In crossbreeding, the WPGCA created dogs not recognized by the American Kennel Club or the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association.  They intentionally created a designer hunting mutt.

A brave group of individuals decided to leave the WPGCA and form the AWPGA to preserve the purity of the breed and retain purebred status with the AKC and NAVHDA.  Through concerted private effort across North America, AKC/NAVHDA breeders took steps to ensure that the genetics and hunting ability were bolstered.  Importations of purebred griffons occurred at that time and continue to this day from the Netherlands, Germany and France.  Hunt testing through NAVHDA and the AKC has been emphasized.  Participation in AKC conformation dog shows is yet another important element to make sure that our breeding stock is fitting the original mold intended.

The effort has been an astounding success.  The breed had its first sporting group placement at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 2011 by GCH Fireside’s Spontaneous Combustion.  Griffons were the second largest group of Utility Prize I dogs tested for their Versatile Champion title at the NAVHDA Invitational this year.

We continue to promote genetic diversity through a team approach, making sure that our bloodlines do not become too tightly inbred by buying breeding stock from one another or utilizing outside studs.  With 30 years of hard work behind them, the veterans of the AWPGA can declare a victory in this battle and us youngsters can appreciate their efforts and continue the work that lies ahead.

AWPGA National Specialty

Every year in October the AWPGA has their National Specialty dog show and convention in a different region of the United States.  This year was the midwest region’s turn and it was being held right up the road in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Plus it was being chaired by my friend Kay Farris, who is just an amazing lady.  She has handled her own dogs to conformation championships and is organizer extraordinaire for the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter, which also moonlights as an AKC club called the South Dakota Pointing Dog Club.  Kay and I have gotten to know each other through showing our dogs this summer up in Minnesota, plus she has been test secretary at all of the testing we’ve done or have considered doing in Sioux Falls.

I almost cancelled my reservation to nationals at the last minute.  It was my first time going and breeders have a bad habit of thinking that we have seances with Korthals himself, know exactly his intentions for what the breed should be and everyone else just doesn’t quite have it exactly right.  I thought for sure that I would be picked on and snubbed as a newcomer.  But I was excited to meet the people that I had been talking to online and at a minimum I knew Larry and Paula Woodward are nice, as we’ve tested with them around here before.  So we went.  Charles, BB and Sam met Mae and I on the night of Wednesday, October 24th on their way home from North Dakota at the host hotel, the Best Western Ramkota Inn in Sioux Falls.

We had decided to attend Thursday’s NAVHDA Natural Ability test handler’s clinic for a couple of reasons.  The first being that even though Charles handled BB to a Prize I with a maximum score of 112 at the Heartland Chapter’s Spring NAVHDA Natural Ability test, we were winging it to an extent.  We knew the elements that were to be tested, just assuming that our normal training and exposure for hunting would suffice and it did.  Yet we wanted to learn the specifics of the judging of the elements being tested.  Secondly, I’d been dying to meet one of the presenters, Bill Jensen.  Bill has owned and bred Wirehaired Pointing Griffons as Alder’s Edge Kennel of Minnesota for decades and has also served as a longtime NAVHDA judge.  Joan Bailey’s book Griffon: Gun Dog Supreme gives credit to Bill and his late wife Barb as being instrumental in establishment of the breed in North America. (You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them)

Bill Jensen gives instructions for the field portion of the handler’s clinic

Early morning lots of big, fat, wet snowflakes fell upon the dog walkers.  We were all walking griffons, so we greeted one another with a nod or a grunt, but it was too cold and dark for proper introductions just yet.  Luckily, Kay had accounted for the morning weather for our NAVHDA Natural Ability test handler’s clinic that day and we were first meeting for explanations from and discussions with our presenters at the hotel up until lunch time.  In addition to Bill, we had two other experts present: Larry Woodward of Aux Lake Kennel in Kansas who has successfully handled in countless NAVHDA and AKC tests, including NAVHDA Invitational and AKC Master Hunter.

Larry Woodward (left) giving additional instruction for the field portion of the handler’s clinic

Our third expert was NAVHDA judge and new griffon breeder from Connecticut, Mike O’Donnell.

Mike O’ Donnell prepares to throw a chukar into the water for a dog who was struggling to retrieve the bumper

There were close to the maximum of 25 attendees at the session, with most of us being relatively new to the breed (we’ve had griffons for 8 years, compared to some who have 30-40 years) and spent a good three and a half hours at the hotel talking to the experts about training and testing.  We then went out west of town to the field grounds and had a delicious lunch of chili, BBQ sandwiches and fixings graciously prepared by Cliff Koele (also an expert handler for NAVHDA Invitational and breeder through Coppershot Griffons of Iowa), Rick Farris (Kay’s husband, UT I handler and Dakotah Griffons breeder) and the other members of the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA chapter.

Field lunch on Thursday, Cliff Koele standing in the middle

After lunch we hit a very cold, wet and windy field to practice judging two different pups in a mock NAVHDA Natural Ability test.  The first had never been tested and had little field training, whereas the second had a Prize I with a 112 score on the test.  It was very interesting to judge each of the elements and talk to one another and the judges about we agreed or disagreed on the scoring.  By the time we wrapped everything up around 4 PM, we were down to less than half of the number of people we started with due to the cold and wet.  Even though Charles and I were very underdressed (we thought we were tired of wearing our hunting gear and foolishly wore street clothes), we shivered our way through the end, but there were many from the southern climes that just weren’t used to it.  We really enjoyed the clinic and it was a great way to get to know our fellow attendees before the whole social scene hit.

There was just enough time to head back to the hotel and thaw out before the welcome reception Thursday evening.  There were lots of yummy hors d’oeuvres (you know, snacks) and as one of my friends said, it was “Facebook comes alive!”  It was fun to finally talk face to face to some of the people I had been chatting with on the internet for some time and have a few drinks with them, but the festivities didn’t last too long because Friday was an early morning at the dog show.

Chatting around the hors d’oeurves table, the folks I recognize (from L to R): Pat McKinley, Vicky Foster, Amy Caswell-O’Clair, Bill Jensen, not sure of the lady getting food, Charles Upchurch (at the back of the room), Meghan Sweeney-Vos, Anne Summerfelt (I think, back of her head) is facing Dawn Connor-Wood, with Kristi Rogney on the far right.

The dog show folks started rumbling around the hotel at about 5 AM, getting the dogs walked and gear loaded up to move over to the fairgrounds, we were setting up grooming tables between 6-7 AM, with the first of the griffs in the ring at 8 AM.

Reserved grooming area for Wirehaired Pointing Griffons. Jody Kirtley grooming, Willie Garrou grooming, Brooke Garrou walking dog.

2012 National Specialty bling, organized by Tajia Retzlaff and Meghan Sweeney-Vos

Mae and I had spent months practicing conformation handling at the local dog club, but you never know how a dog is going to perform from one day to the next.  I am an inexperienced handler and Mae was really a stubborn pain, so this was her first and last time in the ring.  I was very shocked that we actually took home a ribbon, I call it my pity prize.  We took 2nd in Hunting Bitch class and I’m so tickled over it that this is still my profile picture on Facebook:

Charity and “Mae” AKC/NAVHDA Little Lady Aspen NA II take 2nd place in the Hunting Bitch Class at the 2012 American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association National Specialty

Close-up of my ribbon

The whole day was very emotional and intense, especially seeing between 25-30 griffs in the ring for the Best of Breed competition.  I have no idea how long it took the judge to evaluate all of the dogs, but it felt like time was standing still and that nobody was breathing.

Everyone in the ring for best of breed. This one is tough to label, I see Lisa Durand’s pro handler on the far left, I see Lorraine Rothrock with her back to us with the blonde ponytail kneeling down and Larry Woodward is on the very far right with the blue shirt.

Dawn Connor-Wood’s female “Wilo” won best of breed, which was met by many tears from the owner and much excitement from the crowd.  The full results from the National Specialty dog show are available at http://www.onofrio.com/execpgm/wbsrbred?wtsrk1=EMPI1619041WPG

Wilo’s handler, Dawn Connor-Wood and Wilo, 2012 Best of Breed.

We were supposed to go into the annual meeting one-half hour following the dog show, but everyone was so emotionally drained from the intensity of the morning that it was delayed until our pizza supper in the evening.  Many of us spent the afternoon touring and shopping in Sioux Falls.

Pizza dinner and annual meeting. Front table (L to R) Meghan Sweeney-Vos, Tajia Retzlaff and Kendall Santos.

The annual meeting lasted around four hours, from 6 PM until 10 PM, but it still felt like we had only scratched the surface of what we all wanted to talk about.  I’m sure that if we had started the meeting at 1:30 PM as was planned, we would have been there all day AND all evening.  It was all very civil discourse and debate.

Many of us did the dog show on Saturday, others ran in the Korthals Cup competition, which I never made it out to, but I assume was very similar to the NAVHDA or AKC Hunt Test formats.  But my highlight of the day was the Saturday night banquet and auction.  Not only was the food delicious (prime rib and all the trimmings), but we all just really had a good time after getting to know each other over the weekend: having drinks, sharing more stories, cheering for the award winners and bidding up auction items to fund the club.  There were a lot of laughs shared that night, it was awesome.

Kay Farris addresses the crowd at the banquet

There were folks still going Sunday morning, some headed back to the dog show, others back to the Korthals Cup with the final event of the wild game lunch at the field, but Charles and I needed to go home. The kids were crying that they hadn’t seen their dad in two weeks and mom had been gone too long.  I wish we’d had more time to chat with everyone in Sioux Falls, it just felt so crazy and intense the whole time.

There are so many people I’ve neglected to mention and shout out to, I’m just going to run down a list.  Thank you, Dick Byrne (Flatbrook’s Sporting Dogs, California), veteran member, for making us feel welcome.  Thank you, Kristi Rogney (Whiskeytown Sporting Dogs, California), then acting president, for tactful management of the annual meeting and of course, your friendship.  Thank you, Dawn Connor-Wood, for an amazingly professional treasury report.  Thank you, Willie and Brooke Garrou, for hanging out with us at the specialty dog show.  Thank you, George Kline, for being a humorous emcee of the banquet and just an all-around funny guy to hang around (oh, and I got the car magnet that you sent us, thank you again!!!).  Thank you, Patty Geist of Kearney for showing up so that we weren’t the only Nebraskans!  Thank you, Vicky Foster for helping me in the show ring, you are my new hero for expertly handling your own dog in both the show ring and field tests.  Thank you to Glenn Kroese for showing me how to put my show lead on the dog correctly after the judge got after me about it.  Thank you, Elaine Hunsicker (Fireside Sporting Dogs, Maryland) for chatting with me about “The Great Schism” at the dog show, it was cool to finally meet someone in person who was there when it happened and willing to talk about it.  Thank you to Julie Carlstrom (de Jac Pine Kennels, Wisconsin), judge at the Korthals Cup, for chatting with us about our recently acquired co-owned female, NAVHDA de Jac Pine’s Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. I know that Charles would like to thank Mike O’Donnell for lots of good conversation.

Thank you to all of our other many new friends that we’re so excited to hang out with again next year in Colorado.  If you are a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon enthusiast, are reading this and are not a member of the AWPGA, please consider joining by going to awpga.com, click on “The Club” at the top, read the By-Laws and the Code of Ethics in the dropdown menu, then go all the way to the bottom of the dropdown menu and fill out an application form. Then plan on joining us in October of next year in Denver, Colorado for the 2013 shindig!!

Pupdates

Seven month old TracHer, from our Sam/Mae C Litter  is out chasing lots of pheasants in North Dakota!

Seven month old TracHer, female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, practicing her retrieve on a pheasant in the snows of North Dakota.

TracHer’s C Litter sister Frankie, who lives in Colorado, took a trip to Kansas where she worked hard searching the fields, having some stylish and staunch points.

Frankie, 7 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, searching the fields of Kansas for some roosters.

Five month old Gomer, from our Sue/Sam D litter is learning how to retrieve antlers out in Illinois.

Gomer, five month old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, looking handsome in the yard.

Gomer’s D Litter sister Dottie followed along with some other dogs on opening weekend in Nebraska.  She’s just learning the ropes with pointing and retrieving, but loved to pose for this photo.

Dottie, female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, 5 months, with some Southeastern Nebraska roosters

Thanksgiving!

Wishing you all a very blessed Thanksgiving.  I am very thankful for my readers, who seem to enjoy partaking of this silliness.  I am also thankful to be healthy enough to finally write a post, as obviously I’ve been holding it all in and had to spend most of today writing!