Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Eve Morning

December 24, 2009
Athens, GA

Our first day off, of a 13-day Christmas Break - yay!

That Kinda Day

December 18, 2009
[at home]

Sink Inspector

December 18, 2009
[at home]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dog At The End Of The Tunnel

December 15, 2009
[at home]

A packet came today, including a poster tube of which Tessa was quite wary. Here she is inspecting it.


December 6, 2009
Seneca, SC

Monday, December 7, 2009

Full Circle

When I saw the bird field this weekend I was reminded of the urban fields Tessa grew up in and that she has loved so much from the beginning - that high fall grass where the birds hide!

We started out on a check cord at the Southeast Clarke Park, me leading her into the grass to expose her to, well, grass, when she started hunting up song birds and some migrant birds that settled in the grass at dusk. It was the first lesson I received from Tessa. She was 4 months old.

What a nice coincidence that exactly 13 months later she would earn her JH in a field just like it.

Jubilee's Absolute Autumn Punch, JH!

December 6, 2009
Walhalla, SC

We're done - Tessa earned her Junior Hunter today!

Her scores were 8 in hunting ability, bird finding and pointing, and 7 in trainability.

After losing her in the field for about five minutes yesterday, I attached a bell to her collar for the Sunday run and that was a tremendous help - I couldn't hear her when she was at the far end, but at closer range I was able to tell which direction she was running and was able to keep pretty good tabs on her. Other than that, I thought we were somewhat of a mess today , with no excuse at that. The conditions were perfect but it seemed to me that Tessa didn't settle in just quite right - she hunted wide and very fast and I feared she would overrun all the birds. She finally stopped to point but when I got there I couldn't find a bird, nor feathers (Tessa later returned to the spot, pointed again and that time I was able to flush the bird).

As I mentioned in yesterday's account, the bird field was a long field with high grass and two "hazards" on each side - on the right there was a wire fence along a busy road, and on the left was the Enchanted Forest, full of (flyaway) birds (but sadly off limits). We were advised to be careful not to let the dogs enter the woods or they just may never reappear.

We were able to avoid the woods on Saturday but on Sunday, after quite an unproductive while, in the field, one judge hollered that Tessa had been sucked in! By the Enchanted Forest, that is! I ran over, and was advised by my judge to get her out of there very quickly. That's when she went on her first point, right by the edge, and although I wasn't sure if this counted or not (the woods were considered out of bounds), I fired my pistol when the bird flushed, and she chased it deeper into the woods - of course! I was like a deer in the headlight and obviously unable to think clearly. The judge came to the rescue by telling me to pick up my dog (meaning, to lead her out of there). I whistled, and by the grace of God she came back around, pointed again and that's when I - literally - picked her up and carried her out of the woods as I didn't want to pull her off a point, then sat her down and led her by the collar into the field where she was supposed to be.

At that point I thought there was a good chance that we failed today and that my NC friends that didn't make it to the event will be able to watch her perform some other time after all - she was all over the place! But at least she did find a few birds and pointed every time before time was called. "Pick up your dogs!"

Easier said than done. Ideally, you call the dog, she comes, you leash, and walk out of the field. The judges stopped to write out the score cards, and the ATV arrived to plant more birds for the next brace which was to start in a few minutes but my Tessa would not come back! In fact, she ran further out, all the way to the far, far end of the field! And every time I sort of caught up with her, she ran off again - always 100 feet ahead of me. I would have thrown myself on the dog had she been close enough. The bird planter stopped to help, and I was able to grab her when she went on another point, and off the field we rushed. That just had to be a low trainability score; thankfully; it had happened after the test (still, not a good last impression).

Needless to say, I was delighted to see she passed (obviously, the junior level is judged with much more leniency than the senior level, and personally, I can't really fault the dogs for wanting to hunt 100 birds in the woods rather than find the few in the field). Her scores were 8 out of 10 in bird finding, pointing and hunting ability, and 7 in trainability.

So she ran 5 JH tests and her average scores were 6.25, 8.25, 7.25, 8 and 7.75 out of 10. Nothing stellar, but I think it truly reflects as to where we stand given the training and exposure (or lack thereof) she had. At any rate, it's always fun to watch her hunt. 

JH - Third Leg

December 5, 2009
Walhalla, SC

We drove to South Carolina today to enter in another hunt test, and Tessa got her third leg towards the Junior Hunter title.

I dreaded the weather, per forecast cold with an 80% chance of rain and even a possibility of light snow in the morning. However, when we arrived at 11 a.m., the sky cleared and gave way to the most beautiful day - no misery at all!

I had taken Tessa to the dog park prior to wear her out and she arrived in a calm state. We walked around some but she didn't quite appreciate the mowed field with its stubbles which bothered her. Fortunately, as soon as we walked past the bird field, she realized what this was going to be all about and forgot about her feet.

We were called to the line at 2 p.m. By then the wind had really kicked up with gusts all over the place. Amazing how the conditions can be so different each time, from no wind to too hot to too much wind (conditions would be perfect the next day). Too much wind that is shifting around means that the bird scents are blown all over and it's difficult for the dog to pinpoint the bird, so that was my main concern as we released the dogs.

Again, she was gone so fast I had to run after her and it took me a while to catch up. I saw her from afar and to my dismay it looked like she carried a bird in her mouth - something I did NOT want to happen! She disappeared and reappeared without bird. It turned out that what I saw was the German Wirehaired Pointer that ran with her - mistaking his beard for a bird from afar. Gee!

The grass was so high that she was hidden from sight most of the time. The field was separated from a road by a wire fence running along the right side. On the left side of the field were woods. I had been warned that most flyaway birds head for the woods, and knew it would be tough to get a dog back out of the woods (where they are not supposed to hunt) once he/she realizes just how many birds there are compared to the field. So I immediately headed for the right side of the area, with my dog. It took Tessa a while but she finally found and pointed two quail huddled together; I flushed them and they flew towards the fence, Tessa in hot pursuit. I called Tessa back but she wouldn't listen so I walk up there to grab her, only to see that one of the quail had settled by the fence and she was pointing it. I flushed it again, it flew through the fence, and for a moment I thought Tessa might jump after it, but I was able to redirect her.

I vaguely remember her being under the judge's horse at some point, touching noses, but thankfully that moment passed without incident.

Then it became somewhat unsettling. She pointed some feathers, but resumed her hunt, back up towards the fence, remembering where the quail flew earlier, me running after her, and all of a sudden, she was gone. Out of sight, no sound, gone. I called. I whistled. Nothing. For five long minutes (a third of our judged time), I had no idea where my dog was; knowing that the handlers should always know where their dogs are, it occurred to me that we might have just failed the test. I didn't care - I wanted my dog back. I searched up and down that fence convinced she had jumped it and had by now left Oconee County, or possibly, South Carolina. The judge rode up to tell me that she couldn't see her either - bad news. Thankfully, by then the spectators had picked up on what was going on and pointed out that she was on the other side of the field - by the woods; how the hell she got there I don't know! Beam me up, Scottie! And then she came running, as if to say "Mom, check it out, I just found a goldmine!". At that point we were told to pick up our dogs - time up.

Her qualifying score: 8 out of 10 across the board - hunting ability, trainability, bird finding, and pointing.

Watch Out For Flying Objects!

November 28, 2009
Sandy Creek Park, GA

Today, Tessa had a play date with Stella, another GSP, and Shane the Irish Setter. It went well and no one was injured!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

November 26, 2009
Athens, GA

I am thankful for very many things today, one of them being this wonderful dog, my sweet Tessa.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve

November 25, 2009
Athens, GA

Fall Arrives At The Park

November 18, 2009
Sandy Creek Park, GA

Saturday, November 14, 2009

JH - Two Legs

November 14-15, 2009
Jersey, GA

After failing her first Junior Hunter test in October, Tessa ran again this weekend and qualified both days. Her scores were:

Hunting ability [9] Bird finding [9] Trainability [8] and Pointing [7] Av. 8.25
Hunting ability [8] Bird finding [8] Trainability [7] and Pointing [7] Av. 7.25

The conditions were a little tough - warm to almost hot, no wind and a very dense bird field. The conditions though were offset by plenty of birds and Tessa had a blast! I was a little worried that she might bump a few - as I did myself - but luckily she didn't.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

ShipAway Pt. 2 [Newborn]

November 7, 2009
Newborn, GA

After the Cotton Gin Festival, we proceeded to Newborn, GA to explore the abandoned fertilizer building. The latest Rob Zombie movie was filmed in this small town in Newton County earlier this year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

ShipAway Pt. 1 [Bostwick]

November 7, 2009
Bostwick, GA

Team MilkaWay met with Team Shiphome and other like-minded photographer friends today, to check out the Cotton Gin Festival in Bostwick and drive around the countryside afterwards. It was a fun group and all had a good time. It was Tessa's first big outing since her spay and colitis from which she finally seems to recover.
The above photo was taken by my friend Don Blankenship.

The group.

Dorinda the designated dog walker.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Are We There Yet?

October 23, 2009
[at home]

Nope, my dear - six more days!

On October 19, Tessa got spayed. I was dreading the expense and more so the 10-day downtime but it had to be done!

Update 11/10/09: We made it through the 10-day recovery with the help of the crate and the leash, thank God! However, the spay was followed by a corona vaccination which was followed by a really bad case of "dietary indiscretion"/colitis with several days of bloody diarrhea. Tessa is currently on Flagyl and Sulfasalazine, i/d canned food and Pedialyte and is slowly recovering. She has lost 6 lbs which is entirely too much but her appetite is great and we should be back on the normal food by tomorrow.

Monday, October 19, 2009

JH: 0-1

October 18, 2009
ZZ Farm, Baldwin County (GA)

Tessa ran her first Junior Hunter today. The Junior Hunter (JH) is the first of three AKC hunting test, and a most basic one. Pointing breeds are judged in four categories:

Hunting Ability: Dog is scored from '0' to'10' on the basis of whether or not it evidences a keen desire to hunt, boldness and independence, and a fast, yet useful pattern of running.

Bird Finding Ability: Dogs are scored from '0' to '10' based upon demonstration of intelligence in seeking objectives, use of the wind, and the ability to find birds. To pass the test, the dog must find and point birds.

Pointing: Dog is scored from '0' to'10' in this category on the basis of the intensity of its point, as well as its ability to locate (pinpoint) birds under difficult scenting conditions and/or confusing scent patterns.

Trainability: Dog is scored from '0' to '10' in this category on the basis of its willingness to be handled, its reasonable obedience to commands and its gun response. If the handler is within reasonable gun range of a bird which has been flushed after a point, a blank pistol must be fired.

To pass the test and earn a leg towards the title, the scores must average out to 7, with a minimum of a score of 5 in each category. To obtain the JH title, the dog must pass the test four times. Tessa received a score of 8-6-4-7 respectively - not enough to qualify for her first leg. But while I was disappointed that she didn't show one of her nice points, I was very pleased with her performance, especially her nice cooperation.

Being new to all this, I was quite nervous. I decided to walk along with the first brace (dogs are run in twos) to see how things worked and wow, those dogs were mighty, mighty close to the horses. The field was very overgrown, making it difficult to see the dogs and what they are doing. So I was getting a little more nervous. It didn't help that the little Vizsla didn't find a single bird. Apparently, they had been very stingy with the birds, planting about two per brace.

Tessa was braced with Dexter, a 2-year old GSP who is really already at the SH level but was run through the JH anyway. He passed both Saturday and Sunday with pretty good scores. Dexter is an all-business dog that I had met before and I was very relieved to learn that they would run together, as I thought they have a similar work ethic and I was pretty sure they would not run out there trying to play with each other, which will result in a fail if it carries on for too long.

Dangerous Poindexter "Dexter"

We were brace No. 3 and started our 5-minute walk down the trail to the bird field; when we asked to release the dogs they were off like two rockets - what a sight! Both Tessa and Dexter hunt wide, and they covered quite a bit of ground in no time. Now the trick is not to over-handle your dog, because each time you ask it to do something, non-compliance will affect the trainability score. So my plan was to just let Tessa do the hunting and keep quiet. My luck had it that within two minutes Tessa was sidetracked on the wrong trail and the judge asked me to call her back. Uh-oh! Will she come back to me? Please come back to me! And please don't mess with the horses (Dexter's bracemate from the previous day was disqualified because he wouldn't stop bothering the horses; and this was Tessa's first real exposure to horses in the field). I whistled and to my delight she came running at 100 mph, skirted right between the two horses without so much as a glance at them, straight as an arrow, completely unfazed. I started to relax.

When we arrived at the bird field and the clock started ticking (15 minutes to find an point a bird), the first thing she did was stop to eat some horse manure. Then she took a dump herself; we were losing time while Dexter was out there hunting. I started watching her closely for a point. I walked, she ran, and sometimes I ran too to keep up with what she was doing; she figured out immediately where birds had been, and the judge suggested I take her somewhere fresh, these were old bird sites, so I did, and Tessa came along without any fuss. Close to the end she stopped, I could hear the birds chirping in the briars, and she worked all around them, but never went on a convincing point. I thought she may have pointed just enough, and when the birds flushed, I fired my pistol (blank). Hey, at least I got to fire! Then the judge said "15 more seconds". "Oh my" I thought, and "hunt 'em up Tessa", taking her the direction the quail had flown but nope - time up. With a score of 4 out of 10 for pointing, we failed the test but an 8 on hunting ability wasn't too bad, especially since hunting ability cannot be trained for.

The bird field

That was at 2 p.m. At 5 p.m. after the last brace, there was the free for all, and whoever was still there headed for the bird field. Not two minutes into it she pointed, and pointed, and pointed. Oh well!

I would have loved to bring some orange home tonight but I am actually okay with how it went, she was so much fun to watch. I don't know all the scores from today but I overheard a few other fails. One of the dogs in the first brace scored 0-0 on bird finding and pointing. It happens.

We Train In The Rain

October 17, 2009
Jersey, GA

Today was the last NAVHDA training day of the season. It was supposed to be mostly sunny, instead, we had some drizzle that later turned into rain. Tessa found half of her birds and overran the rest, but was very keen and had some good points. Unfortunately, she caught and killed one - which I had been able to avoid up until now.

The cooperation was also not very good, with her running wild not even caring to know where I was, which is not like her. I was fearing the worst for the next day's hunting test.

"Who Let That Dog Out?"

October 15, 2009
[at home]

Tessa checks out Texas, a humongous Bloodhound-St. Bernard-Mastiff mix as big as, well, Texas, who has fallen into the habit of wandering our neighborhood and hanging out at our place.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Horses 101

October 11, 2009
Clarke, Greene & Oconee Counties, GA

Tessa is going to run in her first JH next weekend and there are a few aspects of it that still make me nervous - the fact that she will be braced with another dog and that the judges will be following us on horseback. Tessa has not had much exposure to horses (my bad).

So today she got a crash course in horses. We drove around three counties stopping at various horse pastures. Overall, it went well. She no longer barks at them. Instead, she watches them, and if they come close enough, she is trying to get them to play. Does she really think these are supersized dogs that smell funny? Who knows.

The horse thing is still a little bit of a wild card but I feel better about it now.

At The Vet

October 8, 2009
South Athens Animal Clinic
Athens, GA

You blink and before you know it a year has passed and it's time for the shots again. Tessa was vetted up today: DHPP, corona, kennel cough, rabies, heartworm-lyme-ehrlichiosis test, fecal check, and thorough physical exam. Because she had a reaction to one or several of the vaccines last year she was pre-treated with benadryl and kept at the clinic for observation. She did just fine - not even the benadryl slowed her down. We did skip the leptospirosis shot entirely because it is known to cause reactions.

When I picked her up, one of the vet techs had her 12-year old German Shorthaired Pointer at the clinic for shots as well. She brought Megan out and we took both dogs for a brief potty break. Megan is very lively - if it wasn't for her grey face you would never think she is a senior! So I guess it's true what they say - these dogs don't slow down until two years after they die.

Sawdust Memories

October 3, 2009
Sawdust Cemetery
Siloam, GA

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Jail Bird Dog

October 3, 2009
Greensboro, GA

I have been to Greensboro so many times but have never seen the Old Jail open. Today it was. I am not sure how often that happens but judging from the heavy duty cobwebs on Tessa's nose when we came out, I assume it is closed most of the time.

The Old Greene County Gaol was built in 1807 and is the oldest standing masonry jail in Georgia. The downstairs has two cells where prisoners could be chained to the wall if needed. There was no natural light, no ventilation and no heat. The upstairs features two more cells with natural light, and now equipped with a chandelier, and a trap door for hangings. Hanging was the legal method of execution in Georgia from 1735 to 1924. In 1873, George Copeland was hung here - twice. The first time the rope broke just as the trap door was released. It was common practice that if you survived your hanging, you'd be set free, but George Copeland was not so lucky and hung a second time.

A creepy place for sure.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Training Day [1]

September 26, 2009
Jersey, GA

We arrived at 7 a.m. and I took Tessa for a warm-up run through corn and sorghum fields followed by 3 planted quail and one fly-away, followed by a walk through the woods to hunt up the fly-away and some of its friends. Her first few points were not very impressive, but they were there, and they got a little better with each bird. I kept her on the check cord to stop the bird chasing.

I don't take the camera into the field with me needing to concentrate on what the dog is doing, and it was no different today. My heart stopped when she slammed into a beautiful point in the woods, and no witnesses or way to record it. Well, it made me very happy nonetheless until I flushed the bird and held Tessa in place with the check cord.

Upon returning to the car I decided to grab the camera and walk back to the woods to see if she can reproduce, and she sure did! This time I was ready. She held the point for at least one minute, plenty of time for me to grab some shots before I stepped on the check cord and flushed the bird. These points made my day...

As folks started to proceed to the ponds, I let her run all the fields again, looking for leftovers and flyaways, and we practiced whoa, recalls, whistle commands, turning, etc. which all went very well.

We ended up spending 7 hours out here today. We watched a very impressive albeit unsuccessful live duck search, then Tessa bungled the dead duck retrieve which was mostly my bad. She did make up though by retrieving a sinking quail out of the water by diving for it. She never saw it but smelled it while swimming by. I had no idea they can do that although I had my suspicions, because Tessa tends to get sidetracked on the water sometimes, sniffing the water surface and searching under the surface.

Overall this was a productive training day - much better than last month's.

Training Day [2]

September 26, 2009
Jersey, GA

About 5 hours into the training day, we proceeded to the wayback pond and did a few duck launches. Tessa's went wrong, I don't think she was ready for it. We positioned ourselves at the other side of the pond across from the dock where I put Tessa in a sit-say. We fired some shots in the air from both sides, then they launched a dead duck into the water, whereupon I was to fire the starter pistol then release Tessa to fetch the duck. The starter pistol jammed and I got a little flustered, and then Tessa didn't know what to do. She knows what fetch means, and she loves the water, but I don't think she put one and one together, maybe never noticed the duck. She just looked at me as if to say "What? Fetch WHAT?" A rock was launched near the duck, and Tessa went in. At that point the duck was closer to the dock than to me at the far side, but Tessa grabbed it and swam it all the way back to me - well sort of. She dropped it at the shore and wouldn't pick it up again. I think I should have done a live duck search first.

Tessa, Greta and Ada are inspecting the dead duck. Yup, it's dead alright :(

Little Ada, a 4 months old German Shorthair, retrieves the duck in team work with Greta. Ada was also the one who retrieved the bumper that Tessa left floating in the pond. Ada was awesome. This is Ada:


Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Dock Jumpers

September 26, 2009
Jersey, GA

Gun dogs ARE fun dogs! Although they like to look all business in the field.

After another successful and very long training day the pups relax at the wayback pond. John started it all when he wouldn't let Smoke off the dock to get the duck, leaving it to him to either jump from the dock or forget about the duck. He jumped.

While Tessa is an enthusiastic swimmer, she has never jumped from a dock. This one was about 5 feet high, and I wasn't going to start her here, it seemed a little too high for a first-timer. I turned and walked towards the car to grab my camera when I heard a splash and by golly it was my Tessa who had just leaped into the water all on her own! Unfortunately I missed her first dock jump. I was ready for the second one though:

Dock jumping is now on our list of things to do. I believe there are some clubs with the proper setup in the Atlanta area.