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“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.

Preparing for the Storm

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“Now why don’t he write?” – Timmons the drunk wagon driver on Dances With Wolves

If you’ve seen that movie more than once, you get the reference and know that I haven’t been shot full of arrows by natives.  But the weather predictions have kept me hustling to get things ready for the puppies to arrive.  They’re saying that by this time next week we should have 2 feet of snow on the ground.  I am working towards being organized enough to have a dedicated puppy whelping area ready all year around, but the space that I use for those purposes tends to get re-appropriated in the 0ff-puppy season for sorting unused items for charitable donation and storing seasonal/holiday items.  So here it is in all its glory (or lack thereof):

Whelping area and box

Whelping area

That’s just a camera phone shot, so I wasn’t able to get the whole room in, but it is about 12×20 feet so the mama has plenty of space to move about.  The wooden box is the actual whelping box and where the puppies will be born and spend their first few weeks (when we’re not messing with them).  I also picked up an extra large kiddie pool in case I need to do some shuffling when Mae’s puppies arrive.  Other supplies that I’m stocked up on:

1) Wet canned adult and puppy food for the mamas to have extra energy right before and after the puppies are born.

2) Powdered milk replacement and canned liquid goat milk replacement.  Both to give the mamas as they are whelping (they won’t eat solid food while whelping, but will drink milk if it is placed at their mouths) or if it looks like some of the puppies need an extra boost with a little bottle feeding.

3) Wood chips.  My favorite all-around bedding, it keeps things very sanitary.

The room itself will be heated when labor begins and the box will be heat lamped.  All of my dogs are conditioned to outdoor temperatures, so they really are not comfortable in climate controlled environments, but for the comfort and safety of the puppies the females have to deal with being hot for a few weeks.

As the temperatures were warm at the end of last week and on Saturday, I took the opportunity to groom and bathe all of the dogs.  It takes me a good hour per dog at least to get that done, but it’s necessary and good quality bonding time with them.  Sorry, I didn’t have anyone handy to take pictures for me.

I do have some shots of the mamas though, they are both doing fine.  We are a week and a half to two weeks away from Sue’s pups and a month or so away from Mae’s.

Sue is very pregnant

Sue is very pregnant

Another angle of Sue

Another angle of Sue

Mae is definitely showing

Mae is definitely showing

Another angle of Mae

Another angle of Mae

Not only are we waiting for puppies, but we are getting Sam and BB ready for the next level of hunt testing, so it is a very busy time around here.  I feel so much better now that the whelping area is prepared and am looking forward to welcoming Sue’s puppies soon!  If you are looking for a puppy this spring, please know that I currently have 14 reservations with deposit.  I would be okay with taking additional reservations and in the event of not having a puppy available, either returning the deposit or having the reservation carry over to next year.  Feel free to call (402) 682-9802 or e-mail bluestemkennels@cox.net with any questions.

AKC Walking Field Trials and other updates

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Waiting for puppies

Sue is very pregnant and about 3 weeks away from whelping and Mae is definitely showing and about 5 weeks away from whelping.  I really need to get into gear and get the whelping boxes and areas ready!  Right now I have 13 reservations with deposits.  I would be willing to take additional reservations, but at this point have no idea how many puppies I will have.  Anyone who makes a reservation and does not get a pup out of these litters can either have their deposit refunded or have it carry over to next year’s breeding season (I have 2 reservations for next year currently).  Contact us at (402) 682-9802 or bluestemkennels@cox.net with any questions.

AKC Walking Field Trials

Charles and BB participated in the first AKC Walking Field Trial in the area for the year, down in Osborn, Missouri (just east of St. Joseph) over the weekend, put on by the Heart of America German Shorthaired Pointer Club.  This was a much more relaxed atmosphere than the 250 dog trial that we went to near Lincoln last year, it really felt a lot like a hunt test, except that we were the only ones there with kids.

Unknown judge and handler in the Gun Dog stakes

Unknown judge and handler in the Gun Dog stakes

Charles and BB, center, head out for the Amateur Walking Derby run

Charles and BB, center, head out for the Amateur Walking Derby run

There were four dogs entered in each of the stakes that they were entered into: Amateur Walking Derby and Open Walking Derby.  There was a male and female Vizsla pair that was braced together, then BB and a male German Shorthaired Pointer were braced together.  In both stakes, the Vizslas took first and second, BB took third and the GSP fourth.

Charles and BB at the trial grounds with their third place ribbon from Saturday

Charles and BB at the trial grounds with their third place ribbon from Saturday

The weekend's ribbons: third place in both the Amateur Walking Derby and the Open Walking Derby

The weekend’s ribbons: third place in both the Amateur Walking Derby and the Open Walking Derby

I would really like to see more diversity of versatile breeds in the AKC Walking Field Trials.  Charles told me that one couple who traveled from Colorado to St. Louis for a WFT two weeks ago had a Spinone Italiano that was entered.  I would love to see griffs, Weimaraners, Spinones and the other versatile breeds recognized both by the AKC and NAVHDA participate in the AKC Walking Field Trials, not just GSPs, GWPs, Vizslas and Brittanys.  The way that BB is winning over her bracemate is NOT by running like a bat out of hell and ranging far and wide.  That’s not to say that she’s “pottering” as is the technical term for what we normally call “bootlicking”.  She is just diligent in finding every single bird in the field.

On Saturday, the bird planters double planted the field, hoping to get the two Amateur Walking Derby braces covered with one trip.  Well, the GSP had one find and BB had FIVE.  She “cleared the field”, as they call it, and had to plant more birds for the next brace.  They didn’t make the same mistake the next day, but there were still plenty of birds, as the GSP once again had one find and BB had three.  Some of the positive things that the judges said to Charles is that BB is very smart, meaning that she knows how to analyze the terrain for bird cover, understands how to work the wind and the bird scent cone.  Of course, the judges would like to see her range farther, but there really is a place for these closer working dogs in the walking field trials.  It really should be about finds and not about running haphazardly and missing birds.  Like I say, I want to see more diversity of versatile breeds out there so we can show the judges how we do our thing.

The next field event in the area is the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Lincoln’s Hunt Test and Walking Field Trial on March 9-10.  E-mail Tresha Moorberg at lincolngspc@gmail.com if you are interested in receiving premiums.  As BB turns two at the beginning of March, she will age out of the Derby Stakes and now need to qualify for the Gun Dog Stakes.  The AKC Field Trial Gun Dog Stakes require the same skills as the AKC Master Hunter test.  So in the Derby Stakes, you are basically at Junior Hunter level skills, now we need to move up to MH skills.  Our biggest challenge is stone steadiness on point and on honor.  As my dogs are allowed to relocate without commands in the hunting field, they have a tendency to creep when the birds start moving.  We are going to see if we can get Sam and BB ready for Senior Hunter test runs and Gun Dog Stakes walking field trials in time for the March test, but if not, it is something we will be working on all off-season.

Pupdate

Rick sent a great write-up with some photos of Sam and Sue’s 2012 “D” litter pup, Dottie, who is now 8 months old:

I wanted to give you an update on our pup, Dottie, and a recap of our winter hunting season here in Eastern Nebraska.  The drought really took it’s toll on the habitat this year.  We spent a lot of time trying out new CRP fields.  Dottie has really developed nicely over the season. She did a good job with obedience and acclimating to the fields on her first outing in the fall.  She covered a lot of ground, but the experiences were all brand new.  We kept taking her out about every weekend, and by the last hunt in January, she was really doing great hunting out the birds.  We didn’t encounter many pheasants for her to hone her pointing skills on, but it was a great year for quail, and she really did a great job working them out.  Below are a few pictures from the season.
 
Here is a picture from our December 16th outing.  Dottie sees something of interest here.  We saw a few hens this trip, but the field must get hunted a lot because they spooked and flushed out pretty early.
Dottie checking something out.

Dottie checking something out.

December 28th. Rick and Dottie with the first “all Dottie” quail.  She pointed the covey and located the dead bird!  We’re still working on retrieving.

Rick and Dottie got a quail!

Rick and Dottie got a quail!

We went out again on a January 13th Hunt.  This time Joey, my 9 year old son, was able to see Dottie in action.  Once again, all we brought home was a single quail. (good thing we’re not counting on my hunting skills to feed the family all winter!)  Joey sure liked seeing his dog in action.  I think we’ve created a new hunter in the family.  He’s asked to go every week since then.

Joey is fired up about bird hunting with some help from Dottie!!

Joey is fired up about bird hunting with some help from Dottie!!

Dottie and I were very fortunate the last weekend of pheasant/quail season to be invited out to my friend’s land to hunt with him and his griff, “Bear”.  We had a lot of fun and got into a covey of quail that kept us busy for an hour or so.  The dogs did great pointing out the covey after it broke, but we weren’t much of a shot.  We bagged one out of the ordeal. (I can’t come home with just ONE quail AGAIN! 🙂 ).  Luckily, the last field we hit yielded us some roosters to end the season.  We bagged two to end the year.  

Dottie and Bear found some roosters!

Dottie and Bear found some roosters!

All in all, I’d have to say that reflecting back on the season, we had a pretty good first year with Dottie.  Unfortunately, a lot of the CRP land we used to hunt is either out the program this year, or mowed down due to the drought, so it was a tough year to find good habitat for the birds.  We’re really happy with Dottie.  She is just excellent with the kids, and has a great demeanor.

 I’m interested in working with her more this spring.  I’m going to try and watch for any field trials that might be close to Omaha.  I know you guys do this quite a bit, so any help or pointers would be great.

 Thanks Again!

Rick & Dawn and Family

We are seeing if Rick and Dottie want to take a shot at Junior Hunter at the GSPC of Lincoln event in March, looks like she is ready to me with all the wild bird hunting, but I’ll let Rick and Charles talk through that one.

I had hoped to get the pregnant females out on some birds, but we might run out of time.  This weekend we’re finishing preparations on the whelping areas, the weekend after that we’ve got our first Heartland NAVHDA Chapter meeting of the year, then the weekend after that I’ll be hovering over Sue waiting for the puppies to come.  But we might be able to scrounge up some quail and do it this weekend, who knows.  Thanks to Rick for the great write-up and photos, they are always appreciated and enjoyed!  I’ll keep you all posted as to the latest.

Good luck tomorrow to the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon gang out in NYC for the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, I have plans to join you some year (just as a spectator!).  Also, those of you going to Pheasant Fest in Minneapolis this weekend have a good time, hope some AKC griffs make it into the Bird Dog Parade!

Waiting for puppies

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Mae is about 2 weeks along now, so we don’t see a whole lot of belly with her just yet, but Sue is definitely showing that puppies should be here in about 4 weeks!

Sue taking it easy in the house

Sue taking it easy in the house

Sue in the yard

Sue in the yard

The kids got a day off from school on Wednesday for a snow day, so we took the opportunity to sled and hang out with the dogs.  They are always a joy to be around and we never have to worry about them hurting the kids.

Two moms-to-be on the run.  Mae in foreground, Sue in background.

Two moms-to-be on the run. Mae in foreground, Sue in background.

Profile of Mae looking paunchy at 2 weeks pregnant

Profile of Mae looking paunchy at 2 weeks pregnant

Sam checking on the kids

Sam checking on the kids

Here comes BB!

Here comes BB!

BB and Sam tearing it up.

BB and Sam tearing it up.

Sam giving Conrad a kiss

Sam giving Conrad a kiss

BB and Sam having a good time while Cordelia sleds down the hill.

BB and Sam having a good time while Cordelia sleds down the hill.

All four dogs outside: BB, Mae, Sam and Sue

All four dogs outside: BB, Mae, Sam and Sue

All four dogs inside: Mae Sam, Sue and BB

All four dogs inside: Mae Sam, Sue and BB

 

We will continue to give you updates as the two mama’s pregnancies progress.

Pupdates

We received a couple of updated photos from our “A” litter of Sam and Sue.  Brothers Whiskey and Winston are looking good and all grown up!  Here’s Whiskey out on his last chukar hunt of the season this year in Nevada.  I just love his big mop of hair on his head!

Whiskey age 3 up on the mountain

Whiskey age 3 up on the mountain

 

His brother Winston has a bit shorter “do” on top.  Here he is on the left, with his big “sister” Stella, a German Wirehaired Pointer.  They live up in Minnesota and you would never know that they are two different breeds by looking at them.

Winston the griff on left, Stella the GWP on right

Winston the griff on left, Stella the GWP on right

 

Thank you to Whiskey’s owners Pete and Deborah and Winston’s owners Kelvin and Nancy for sharing the updated photos.  Even though there is snow on the ground here, the robins have returned and that is a sure sign of the spring (and the spring births) to come!  Keep checking back for the latest!

 

 

 

 

Hunting Season Ends, Puppy Season Begins

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Puppy Season Begins

Sam and Mae mated from January 12-15, so that puts us with another litter around March 15th.  So Sue will whelp around March 1st and Mae will whelp around March 15th.  It will be a busy spring around here!  Sorry to be out of touch as of late, but we are also working on a big development for our family and kennel that we aren’t prepared to announce just yet, but hope to have the news finalized by mid-February.

For those who are looking for a puppy, I do want to be up front that I currently have 14 reservations for the two litters.  I could very well have two large litters and have no problem producing more puppies than that, but there are no guarantees.  We are planning four litters for next spring/summer breeding season, so anyone not getting a pup this year could hold their reservation over to a pup next year.

Sue and Mae are definitely looking pregnant and I will be sure to get belly pictures of them next weekend.

Hunting Season Ends

Charles and Matt have figured out the new game in these parts and had some end-of season success with Sam and BB.  Last weekend Charles got a couple of wild quail, but no pictures, so we had to resort to the picture in the house after dark.  Conveniently, Sam retrieved one and BB the other.

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Charles and the dogs took two male bobwhites the weekend on Jan 19th.

Yesterday they returned to the field for the final push for the year, as wild upland season in Nebraska ends on January 31st.  Charles took one hen quail, with Matt filling the game bag for the day with 2 male bobwhites and the elusive Nebraska rooster pheasant.

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Matt, BB and Sam in the parting shot of 2012-2013

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Can you see the griffs? Matt, Sam and BB take on some quail.

Pupdates

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Nate and pup Ben, from Sam and Sue’s “B” litter of 2011 from near Palmyra, Nebraska.  Here’s what Nate had to say:

It has been a while since I had given you an update on Ben.  He is doing fine and we really enjoy having him.  He is an excellent family dog and we are starting keeping him in the house more and more so we can spend more time with him.  He does well hunting (I need to work on his retrieving) but our hunting has been very tough this year.  I couldn’t find any birds in my grouse spot this year and pheasants and quail have been very few and far both at my place and in central Nebraska.  Finally had a good half of day of hunting yesterday in central NE that would have been better if I would have shot better but that is the way it goes.  I am going to try to do some things this spring after season to make up for that like participating in hunt tests, buying some birds, and maybe even go to a preserve (which I never thought I would say).   I have attached some pictures of Ben pointing some birds this evening.

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Ben two years old from our “B” litter

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Ben pointing, from behind

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Ben checking out the snow

Of course TracHer up in North Dakota continues to have adventures with her griffon pals Mr. Favor and Zephyr and people, Susan and Tom.  TracHer is also practicing wearing her cross country skiing harness, to join everyone on their next trail adventure.

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 We hope that everyone has had a good beginning of the New Year.  We are looking forward to more griffon adventures ourselves.  Charles is planning on putting on what we’re calling the “Old Bitches Hunt”, where he plants some farm raised quail for the two pregnant females and me to hunt up, since I’ve missed the last part of the season while Matt and Charles figured out the new game for this area.  We’ll take it slow and easy, but we think it is good for the pregnant females to hunt to send the hunting endorphines to the pups.
I’ll get some pictures up of Mae and Sue next weekend, but until then, stay griffy!

Mid-season Slowdown, Pupdates and Happy Holidays!!

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After the big hunting trip to North Dakota for Sam, BB and Charles, filling the game bag has taken a pause.  It isn’t that we haven’t tried!  Charles went out for deer the first two weekend in November on our friend’s land on the Platte River and saw deer but didn’t have any good shots.  Our freezer is full of birds anyway, so I think he was really just getting out of the house.  The latter part of November and the first part of December he’s gone out for ducks, pheasants and quail, with very few sightings and no shots.  There were two weekends where he drove 3 hours one way (in different directions), even going down into the Flint Hills of Kansas, but still no luck.  We are hoping that when the snow finally comes (we’re at a historical record for days without snow), that we might be able to come across a few roosters, but are really looking forward to our planned grouse hunt on the Sunday before Christmas up in my Nebraska Sandhills home.  For the most part we’ve given up on Eastern Nebraska this year and are going to turn our attention to getting Sam and BB trained up to take a shot at some legs of the AKC Senior Hunter test over the course of 2013.

Looks like we’re getting closer to breeding with Sue and I suspect that Mae won’t be too far behind.  I won’t have an exact calendar of events until pro-estrous (bleeding) actually starts, but there are definitely changes going on and I just have to keep watching.

Yet despite our slow time here lately, things appear to be going well in other parts of the country with our puppy owners!  Aaron of Ohio and “Pepper” from Sam and Sue’s 2012 “D” litter (age 6 months now) posted an update on our Facebook page saying:

Pepper, aka Derry, from the D litter is doing very well. We worked her on quail in a call back pen all late summer and early fall until the quail “went native”. On Monday we decided to shoot over her for the first time after a fair bit of work with a starter pistol. She pointed and retrieved two chukars with no concern for the gun fire. She trailed a wounded bird to a groundhog hole where it escaped. She is also doing great in the house.

It’s so exciting to keep up with all of the pups and how they are doing, knowing how much joy a good dog brings to the home and field.  Randy and “Roxy”, from Sam and Sue’s 2011 “B” litter, out of Utah are having an outstanding year.  Randy wrote:

Man, has the light ever came on with Roxy.  She did all that could ever be wanted while hunting Iowa, North Dakota, and Utah this year.  Best all around dog I have ever had in the 50 years of hunting.  I will attach a few pictures.  Thanks you guys for making my hunting career come together.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge:

Randy, Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female) and company after a great day in the field

Randy, Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female) and company after a great day in the field

Randy and Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female) had a great time in North Dakota!

Randy and Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female) had a great time in North Dakota!

Another great day for Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female)!

Another great day for Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female)!

I really love the last photo of Randy and Roxy because aside from being absolutely gorgeous, it’s a great shot showing that she looks exactly like Sue’s head on Sam’s body.  Of course, having a hunter say that you’ve given him the best hunting dog that he’s had in 50 years of hunting makes a person feel like a million bucks!!  But that is our goal!!

Cliff down in Oklahoma and his pup “Belle” out of Sam and Mae’s 2012 “C” litter, which is 9 months old now, are having a great time thus far in Kansas and Oklahoma:

Wanted to give you a quick update on Belle.  We’ve been out every week since the season opened in OK & KS.  I had to work the weekend of Nov 10th & 11th, but that was just as well  because it was so warm and windy.  Belle & I hunted the following Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning in KS.  Saw very few pheasants (no quail) and bagged the only one I shot at.  That was Belle’s first pheasant.  Attached is a picture of us with #1.
 
The following weekend in KS we got 2 more pheasants.  The Saturday after Thanksgiving we hunted Kansas once again and got into a covey of quail and bagged 2 birds.  Belle as having rock solid points and also found a bird that had been hit and flown a considerable distance to which we only knew a general location.  With the quail, Belle made the connection that she was to bring them back to me, so she now brings the birds back to me in addition to fetching the paper daily.  So far the hunting reports across the state of Kansas are what I have experienced.  The bird population has been severely impacted.
  
Yesterday was opening day for pheasants in OK.  When I got up it was 59 degrees and windy.  The high got up to 76.  I should have had my OK limit (3 roosters), but missed the easiest shot of the day Crying face.  We saw a good number of birds, but with the weather most flushed far ahead.
 
Overall, I am very pleased with Belle’s performance.  Responds to commands, hunts close, has a great nose, does not flush birds wildly, and has learned to hold point and to find and retrieve downed birds.  I just need to keep giving her the opportunity to hunt so that we can refine her skills.  I have attached additional pictures.

Cliff and Belle (9 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) with her first pheasant

Cliff and Belle (9 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) with her first pheasant

Belle (9 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) and the Oklahoma opener game bag

Belle (9 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) and the Oklahoma opener game bag

Awesome success, Cliff and Belle, so happy for you!!  It gives us hope that there is still upland bird hunting to be had out there since honestly, we’ve been in a bit of a funk about how things have been going lately.  I have pictures from the 1990’s of Charles and our Brittany “Sheaf” going out every weekend and getting a limit of pheasant here in Eastern Nebraska.  It really hurts my heart that those days are probably gone and we’re going to be stuck with three options: 1) extended bird hunting safaris to the Nebraska Sandhills, North Dakota and other states with sustainable bird populations 2) joining a hunt club 3) buying and planting our own birds on the local dog training wildlife management area or on a friend’s land.

Okay, back to something happy for the holidays!!  Joel and Jenn from Kearney, Nebraska shared this picture of Roxy’s brother, Mowgli, from Sam and Sue’s 2011 “B” litter.  He looks like he enjoyed the snow that they had out there!  What a face!

Mowgli (18 month old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) chillin' in the snow

Mowgli (18 month old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) chillin’ in the snow

Keeping in the holiday spirit, Sal and family in New York were kind enough to mail us a Christmas card with a cute photo of Belle’s brother, Chester, also from Sam and Mae’s 2012 “C” litter (9 months old):

Merry Christmas from Chester (9 month old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon)

Merry Christmas from Chester (9 month old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon)

Many thanks to all of my puppy owners for making this blog fun to put together and read!  You really go out of your way to take the time to send us great photos and write-ups and it is appreciated more than I can ever express.  We put a lot of time and love into our puppies, so it is a big warm fuzzy to see that loving spirit carried on in their lives in their forever homes.

Wishing all hunters and lovers of griffons, our puppy owners, friends and family the Merriest of Christmases, from Bluestem Kennels and the Upchurch family!

"Not a creature was stirring..." Clockwise from top left: BB, Mae, Sam and Sue.

“Not a creature was stirring…” Clockwise from top left: BB, Mae, Sam and Sue.

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!

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