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Nebraska and North Dakota Hunt

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Feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you are interested in reserving a pup from our planned litter for Fall 2023. We will not be breeding or hunt testing in the spring due to some family travel obligations.

While I was in South Carolina wrapping up raising our last litter of pups, Charles took Obi, Sally and Duke out to the Sandhills of Nebraska and the prairie pothole region of North Dakota for some mixed upland and waterfowl action. The trip was a great success, especially with the new technology allowing Charles to work his regular job remote for a few days, then hunting a few days.

I don’t have a ton of details except that the dogs covered lots of ground and had plenty of wild bird action.

The first morning in the Nebraska Sandhills with a limit of sharptails. Obi, Sally and Duke.
Duke went solo went some teal (also on Day One in the Sandhills)
The end of the day photo from the first day in the Sandhills: a grouse limit, a woodduck and four teal.

The second day he had to work for his grouse limit, which he didn’t wrap up until the middle of the afternoon. He added one teal to this photo before he headed back to my mom’s house.

Grouse limit for day two in the Nebraska Sandhills. Obi, Sally and Duke.

He spent the next three days working, then picked back up for another grouse limit and a ringneck duck.

Sally (farthest away), Obi (on left) and Duke (in the foreground) pointing an antelope.
Sally, Duke and Obi with the three sharptailed grouse and a ringneck duck on the third day of Nebraska Sandhills.

Charles then worked another handful of days before heading out again. I was really surprised with all of the negative reports that I had been hearing from locals and ranchers due to the drought that he had such great success each day.

His last day in the Sandhills was a super windy day (you can see by the dogs’ head furnishings blowing in the wind in the photo) and he decided to focus on waterfowl for the day. He took Duke out for the three snipe and Sally for the mallard drake. Mallard drakes are super difficult to jump hunt and Charles just happened to pop over a hill and the the duck was right there as he got up from the water. I have never shot a mallard drake.

Duke and Sally with three snipe and a mallard drake for the last day in the Sandhills.

Charles had another first when he shifted his hunting to the prairie pothole region of North Dakota. The very first spot that he and some of our neighbors down here in South Carolina hit had a low flying flock of Canadian geese. Charles was able to snag a goose out of the bunch. Although Sally is pictured here, none of the dogs really knew what to think of the goose flopping around since the largest birds they’ve ever messed with up to that point were mallards and pheasant.

Sally and the North Dakota Canadian Goose from day one.

Although he and the neighbors were there for four days, I didn’t really get a good run down of the bird numbers. As near as I can gather from our texts, the second day the neighbors got three roosters, Charles got two roosters and four ducks.

Griffons, pointers and setters on the prairie, with the neighbor Quentin on the right.

I don’t have any photos from the third day, but the report was that Charles got a pheasant double off of Obi’s point, two grouse and one duck.

The fourth day was another mixed bag, with the neighbors getting one rooster, Charles got three ducks, a snipe and the most exciting part was a Hungarian partridge! This is only the second hun that Charles has shot. I’ve only flushed one covey up in Montana in 2016 but never got in a shot.

The excitement of a North Dakota hun!
Duke, Obi and Sally in harvested corn in North Dakota

So that was a wrap! Here’s the traditional North Dakota trip game bag shot, with the dogs posed underneath:

Obi, Sally and Duke with the 2022 North Dakota game bag

Aside from missing the hunt, I missed seeing the usual people of the towns that we visit down there. They are such interesting characters, I’m glad that Charles went and laid eyes on them. The cafe is still going, the same ladies are at the registers at the grocery store and the gas station owner still recognizes the regulars. Charles headed home after a long journey but the neighbors continued on to South Dakota where they had better pheasant numbers. But to us, sometimes the comfort of tradition beats the number of birds in the bag.

I have more news about some hunt testing success of some of our progeny, some health test results for Duke and social media pages where you can follow some of our pups, but I need to get on with the day for now. Good luck to those out in the hunting fields, Charles will be at it again in a few more weeks. I am going to wait patiently for woodcock hunting down this way after the first of the year. Talk at you more in a week or so.

Everything at once: UT Prize One and Breeding

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We had our first mating between Obi and Ruth over in Valentine, Nebraska on June 20th, so today should be their last day of breeding most likely. Assuming that everything is successful, that puts puppies being whelped at the end of August and going home around Halloween. I will be getting in touch with those on my reservation list soon, but wanted to get a blog post done. My son graduated about a month ago and it has been non-stop since the last week of school in the middle of May. If you’d like to be on my back-up contact list for this litter or are interested in future litters (the next will be planned for Fall 2023 since my daughter graduates from college in Nebraska in the spring), you can email me at bluestemkennels@gmail.com.

On Saturday, May 21st, something happened that we’ve been waiting on for our 12 years in NAVHDA. Obi and Charles got a NAVHDA Utility Prize I and punched their ticket to NAVHDA Invitational 2023. They tested with the Hudson Valley NAVHDA Chapter outside of Charles’s hometown of Newburgh, New York. If you’d like a step-by-step walkthrough of a NAVHDA Utility Test, you can go back to my blog post from October 28, 2021 titled “Our 2021 Utility Tests”. I wasn’t actually at the test this spring, I was at home in South Carolina taking care of kids and dogs, so it is tough to write about something that you didn’t participate in. I appreciate the Hudson Valley NAVHDA Chapter hiring a photographer to document the event, I think that this is something that all chapters should consider doing. Thank you to photographer Jacquie Kuritzky for the use of the photographs!

Obi at the UT test photo by Jacquie Kuritzky
Obi retrieving photo by Jacquie Kuritzky
Charles taking instruction from the judge, photo by Jacquie Kuritzky

She also captured some photos of Sally on her first shot of the Utility Preparatory Test. She didn’t pass, but has plenty of time at the age of sixteen months. The only skill she didn’t perform was the retrieve of the dead duck, which led to the no-pass.

Sally and Charles, photo by Jacquie Kuritzky
Sally has a high-style point like her great-grandmother Sue, photo by Jacquie Kuritzky
Sally retrieving a chukar in the field, photo by Jacquie Kuritzky

The grand finale after the reading of the scores:

Charles getting the water cup for the Utility Prize I with Obi, photo by Jacquie Kuritzky

After our graduation reception here in South Carolina and our youngest son Caleb’s trip to YMCA camp, we headed out to my hometown of Valentine, Nebraska to see my family and have some fun.

Ruth, Obi and Sally wasted no time getting down the road
Puppy Duke is closest to the camera here, it took him a bit to figure out the game: run!
All together now…
Mama Ruth bringing it back in
Then a swim behind the kayak
Taking it way out
Sally and Obi swimming back to shore
Ruth swimming back to shore
Duke swimming back to shore

All of this exercise was right when we got to town around the 14th, long before Ruth and Obi started breeding, so none of this should effect that. We had a good visit in Nebraska and the dogs enjoyed their outings.

The next step is to have a pregnancy confirmation ultrasound in a month, so I’ll let you know how that goes. Charles and I will keep working with Sally to get her UPT skills down for a fall re-test, then Caleb will run Duke in the Natural Ability Test. I need to find somewhere in Charlotte who does Penn-HIP x-rays for Sally in the next few months. I should probably also find a place that will collect and store Obi’s semen in case an accident were to happen. You hate to consider the possibility, but they are dogs.

One other item to note: we are not really planning on studding out Obi. He is a part of our breeding program and it would take a really special female with a fellow breeder friend to get me to stud him out. Stud services come with risks: there are sexually transmitted dog diseases, the female can turn and fight an unfamiliar male; there are just too many bad variables for us to want to do it.

I’ll keep you all posted as things progress here, everyone stay cool this crazy hot summer.

Spring Test Prep

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

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

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

Obi, Duke, Sally and Ruth in the kennels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth running the hills
Ruth creeping through a low spot

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

Domestic mallards and a rooster pheasant

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

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

“R” Litter 8 Weeks and Homegoing

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We had a busy last week with the pups, as my daughter was visiting over the University of Nebraska-Lincoln spring break.

Cordelia and the “R” Litter pups

They passed their vet inspection with flying colors. Their teeth are all straight, their umbilical openings have closed, everything sounded and moved as it should.

The two girls at York Vet

In addition to the trip to the vet, they got some individual crate time in on a day that Cordelia and I went to the gym for a couple of hours.

Puppies crate conditioning in the “dog room” (and hunting junk room)
My head puppy assistant Caleb also got in some extra time with them the last week

We also worked on walking on a leash a little bit. They are used to following me around, so it doesn’t take much to get them to just ignore the leash and follow me around. Since Reba is going to be a dock diving dog, she got to see the retrieving bumper just briefly.

Reba checks out the bumper while on a leash

Other trainers have told me that it is important to only use the bumper for the task that you are training towards, it is not a chew toy or reward item. So this was literally less than a minute. It has been pretty chilly here (for South Carolina) the last few weeks so their time in the water was pretty limited.

Pups in the swamp

There is a little swampy area on the border of our property after it rains, so they were able to climb around in that a bit.

Rosalind will be working some birds, so she got some bird exposure while she was here.

Rosalind sight pointing a wing
Rosalind retrieving a dead quail

The way that I do the frozen dead quail is that I put the pup in an exercise pen so that they don’t have a chance to run off and get distracted by other things. I tie a string to the quail and drag it around inside of the exercise pen to get the pup’s attention. Then they pick up the bird and carry it around to much praise.

Rosalind checking out our bird menagerie

She also got a chance to check out some live birds in the bird pen. Early exposure folks are divided on whether to let a pup get their mouth on a live bird. I used to let a pup play with a live bird, but where we are testing more with pen-raised birds that they are able to catch at times, I would rather just avoid a problem and start them at “look/point only”.

Reba going home to Kentucky with vet Dr. Blair to trail run and dock dive
Rosalind going home with Clint and his wife to Pennsylvania to hunt and blood track

Then first thing Sunday morning, both of the puppies went home. The timing was such a blessing because I would have struggled with only having one of them here. They would have basically needed attention as if I were keeping the pup and I feel so lucky that both of the new owners were able to make it on the day that they turned 8 weeks. I look forward to watching them grow, they are great little girls! (Please note: the 8 week birthday rule is a USDA regulation for dog breeders and should apply to all dog breeders in the United States. Anyone sending puppies home prior to their 8 week old birthday is in violation of APHIS regulations and is opening themselves up to potential US Department of Agriculture enforcement.)

Since Ruth is five and it took us so long to get a male purchased, tested and raised to our specifications, we will be doing another litter in the fall. It looks like it is probably all reserved, but feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com to get on our backup contact list. After the Fall of 2022, our next planned litter is the Fall of 2023. Our daughter is graduating from college in May of 2023 and we need to be able to travel back to Nebraska for that event. Spring of 2024 will be Ruth’s last litter and then she will retire. We will keep a female puppy (or puppies?) from those last two litters. I suspect Spring of 2024 will be Sally’s first litter, as long as everything turns out with health testing.

Speaking of graduations, our son Conrad graduates from Clover High School two months from tomorrow! I am not sure when I’ll be back here blogging, but Sally has her UPT test and Obi has his last UT test (we’re trying for the UT I one more time, I told Charles that he is not allowed to test him ten times like some people do for the UT I) in May at the Hudson Valley (NY) Chapter of NAVHDA. I will also have to keep you posted as to when Ruth comes into season for the next round, I’m hoping that she can hold off until July to come in, but it may be June. She and I will be working out and getting ready. And Duke will be training with Caleb for NAVHDA Natural Ability.

So that is a wrap on “R” litter 2022, good luck to everyone out there training and testing this spring!

“R” Litter Six Weeks and Hunting Ends

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

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

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

Outside is best after 5 weeks old

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

Big puppy with little puppies
Caleb and the pups

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

End of hunting season

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

Sunset with a mixed bag of dogs

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

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

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

“R” Litter Two Weeks Old

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

Rosalind and Reba

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

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

Rosalind face
Rosalind back
Reba face
Reba back

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

Ruth and the girls

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

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

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

South Carolina Quail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome “R” Litter

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Complaining that I only ended up with three beautiful, healthy puppies and a perfectly healthy mama is like getting some really nice stuff for Christmas, but griping that it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I have had friends go into the emergency vet for a c-section and come out with nothing, no mama and no puppies. I’ve had friends come out with puppies and no mama and vice versa (a living mama that is unable to breed again and no puppies). Dog breeding is not a vending machine and it is really whatever mother nature gives you. You cry and pout with the mama, but you have to keep going with positivity for the pups who are here and those who are yet to come. I can’t even count how many times I’ve said “I’m never doing this again” to myself. But I’ve matured as a breeder over the last 12 years and I do it for this:

Whiskey of our “A” Litter 2010 will be 12 in April

Old Whiskey of our “A” litter will be twelve in April. There have been so many great dogs that we’ve made. And we have to push past these times to get to the good ones.

“R” Litter Arrival

I woke up Sunday morning to two puppies nursing and one still born. It was all a very normal birth that lasted from the early morning Sunday until about mid-Sunday afternoon. Ruth never strained with any of the puppies, it was all 2-3 pushes and they came out. About an hour between each pup. There were more angel puppies than I would have liked, but I was at five alive on Sunday night.

Ruth and pups Sunday night

One of those was a girl who was slow to come around after being born and I really worked on to get going. The other was a boy who seemed fine and lively at first but come Monday morning, I saw no signs of any peeing or pooping from him, which really concerned. me. I tried to get both the boy and the girl to take a bottle with limited success. The vet and I both agreed that we just needed time and Mother Nature to sort things out. I tried getting them to take a teat with help, but once again, with limited success. I don’t do tube feeding and I don’t to intravenous fluids to try to save a pup, it just isn’t worth it to me to try and save a pup that could have problems later in life from whatever issues they were having.

Ruth never showed signs of any illness or distress throughout her pregnancy or whelping, nor now. She is shaking off the sadness of the lost babies and focusing on those that are strong and thriving, same as I am.

Ruth and the three puppies today
Ruth and the R Litter Puppies
R Litter Puppy Closeup

Ruth and the puppies go in on Thursday morning to York Vet for examinations and tail docking and dew claw removal. Ruth will have a full exam with blood work done to make sure there is nothing identifiable/viral as the cause. It really could be anything from random congenital abnormalities, a reaction to flea/tick preventative or Ruth unknowingly ingesting poisoned mice. We may never know. But we’re going to do a full blood panel to rule out anything identifiable (brucellosis, canine herpes, a parvo exposure breaking through her vaccination, etc.).

I really appreciate the Griffon breeder community for their insights and talking through theories and next steps with me on this litter. It helps to hear other breeders similar/worse experiences and how to best react and move forward.

(One totally random thing that came up in all of this is that a FB dog friend asked about the bottom of the whelping box. This is a very well-heated interior room of the house. So here’s the layout of the bottom of the whelping box: mom and puppies on top, pine shavings, plywood under the whelping box, tarp that goes under the entire whelping box and kennel and is zip tied to the kennel wire, horse trailer pads that are like wrestling mat type material that is under the entire tarp and kennel, linoleum, cement floor. The puppies are not laying directly on a wood floor of a barn or house. I have tried blankets, towels, and carpet scrap as fabric alternatives but I have found that they are so dangerous, along with gross and unsanitary. The bitch will dig up any fabric I put under them and then I find the puppies and mom all wadded up in a scary way. So I ditched fabric years ago and found that this works best for us. Where there is bare wood showing is where Ruth has shoved the wood chips out of her way.)

Ruth looks healthy and is moving around well, this is her spontaneously running to me this morning, I didn’t call her to get her to run just for a photo. She is producing milk and tending to the puppies as she should be.

Ruth is looking healthy as a mama

So there are two girls and a boy. At this time, all are spoken for. I have decided that I’ve had enough stress with the move, the holidays and having a one year-old pup Sally that I am going to hold off on keeping a puppy myself (so they will all go to owners on my reservation list). Obi and Ruth are young enough to breed again and we’ll be making sure (as much as we possibly can) that we control the environment for potential hazards such as: hold off of flea/tick medication during breeding and gestation (even though the packaging says it is safe) and making sure our immediate neighbors aren’t setting out bait poison for raccoons or poisoning mice without us knowing.

The reality is that we may never know what caused the angel puppies (but obviously I’ll let you know if I find something out). So we’ll just keep trying and praying and hoping for the best.

“Find us ready, Lord, not standing still/find us working and loving and doing your will/find us ready Lord, faithful in love/building the kingdom both here and above/building the kingdom with mercy and love.” – “Find Us Ready”, a newer Catholic hymn by Tom Booth

I will be back on Sunday with the One Week Old pupdate!

Sally’s first wild bird retrieve

Sally brought this woodcock to Charles on Friday

Charles had the day off on Friday and took Sally back out by herself for some South Carolina woodcock. They got into a few more and connected with this one. The first one a week or so ago, Sally found it and just stood there sniffing it, not sure what to do. This time, she picked it up and brought it to Charles. The retrieve in the field is usually the last basic hunting skill that they pick up. Birds are stinky and sharing is not a natural instinct. It takes lots of training and practice to get to this point where they bring the bird back to you. Sally is Ruth’s full sister from Chief and Fire’s litter last year (both Chief and Fire are retired from breeding now). This picture is another great reminder of what this is all about.

R Litter Confirmed by Ultrasound

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

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

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

So this is the beginning of the next chapter.

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

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

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

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

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

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The Countdown Begins

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

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

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

Best of Breed

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

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

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

NAVHDA Handler’s Clinic

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

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Pupdates

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

Moose retrieving a chukar

Moose retrieving a chukar

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

Willow is proud of her duck dummy

Willow is proud of her duck dummy

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

Susan and TracHer in the summer flowers

Susan and TracHer in the summer flowers

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

Mae’s Retirement  

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

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

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

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

Mae and Whisper chilling in my brother's yard

Mae and Whisper chilling in my brother’s yard

Burr season is here

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

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

Spring Training

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

Fire and Charles out working over on Saturday

Fire and Charles out working on Saturday

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

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

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

Thanks again to Ernie for sending that video over!

 

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