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.