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!