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!!


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


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!