Just under two years ago, on April 3, 2011, Tooey started her retriever hunt test career at the Marin Retriever Club 2011 Spring Hunt Test. Today, she completed her retriever Junior Hunter title with a pass at the Greater Pacific Northwest Retriever Trial Club 2013 Spring Hunt Test. (The spring in between, she was busy having puppies.)
Tooey does have a few idiosyncrasies:
- Tooey likes working with Russ, but she likes me to be there to watch her. She just runs better for him — more focused, more willing, and more energetic going out to get the bird and bringing it back in. But she wants me to be there to watch her. While she’s moving from holding blind to holding blind on her way to the line, she looks around until she finds me. That has meant that I must go find some place in the gallery to stand, call out to her so she knows where I am, and then stay standing there in that very spot until the series is over and Russ brings her to over to me.
- She doesn’t like wet hunt test birds, whether they are retriever hunt test ducks or spaniel hunt test pigeons. If they’re wet, she puts them down and then picks them back up before bringing them in. On the other hand, in actual hunting, she’s perfectly happy to crash into whatever water there is to bring back something Russ has brought down.
- It’s better if you can practice a few weeks beforehand at the hunt test grounds, and have that practice include strangers out in the field throwing birds. That way, when strangers pop up out in the field during a hunt test, Tooey doesn’t have to stop and sit in the middle of her run to wonder, “Who ARE those people and WHAT are they doing here?”
In a pinch, the land series could have stood in for a water series. The field was crossed by numerous ditches filled a foot or so deep with water. The line was set up just on one side of one such ditch, and for each of the marks, the dog had to splash through (or leap over) at least one ditch. From the dog’s point of view, the ditches were camouflaged really well, and several dogs stopped at them as if the ditches were walls. Conditions were great: overcast or sun breaks, light breeze coming down the field toward the line, about 45 degrees F.
The land marks were straightforward. The field was interspersed with patches of 2 foot cover, but was generally only about 1 foot or less. The first was about 65 yards, and the second, a live flyer, was generally about 85 yards, except when the bird decided to hook back over the road rather than out over the field.
Tooey marked her birds really well. She trotted pretty much straight out and straight back, with very little hunting. And on those land birds, she did a beautiful delivery to hand from the heel position.
So, Team Tooey went on to the water series. Russ was clever. The trek out from the parking lot to the pond was about 1/4 mile. Because he was slated to be the #4 dog, he arranged for me to take Tooey to just outside the test area while he attended the handler’s meeting at pond’s edge. That meant that since dogs #1, #2, and #3 weren’t there yet, he and Tooey were ready to go first. And that meant that Tooey’s birds would start out dry. Later dogs could easily get birds that had been used in the water once already, and so were likely to be wet to the skin and stinky.
Like the land marks, the water marks were clear cut. Both birds landed with a splash into the water, with the first one being 40 yards out and the second one about 60 yards out. The second bird was a bit tricky because it landed next to the bank in a dark shadow cast by the surrounding trees. But again, Tooey went straight out and straight back.
All was happy going until she dropped her 1st wet bird on the bank and proceeded to bop it with her nose several times. After only a few moments, she picked it back up, carried it a few feet, and then dropped it again. And then, after several long heartbeats, she picked it up and delivered it to hand. She pulled exactly the same routine on the 2nd water bird, only this time with maybe one fewer drop of the bird.
We didn’t know exactly what this bird-dropping would do to Tooey’s chances, but when all the dogs were done, after a long wait, Tooey’s name was called and Russ was handed that beautiful orange ribbon.
So now Tooey is done with retriever hunt tests. She has her show championship (CH) and her retriever Junior Hunter (JH) title, so next we’ll tackle the Obedience Companion Dog (CD) title. It would be great to have two All-Around IWS in the house.