On this cool almost-Autumn morning, Russ, Tooey, and I ventured over to Carnation, Washington to compete in another retriever Junior Hunt Test, this one put on by the Puget Sound Labrador Retriever Association. (Cooper came, too, but alas! to his sorrow, he didn’t get to compete — he just had to listen to gunshots and duck calls all day, poor boy.)
Tooey was in the Junior B group, which started with the water marks first while the Junior A group was doing their land marks. The Junior B judges decided to use the same marks that the Seniors had had the day before, only as singles instead of the double that the Seniors had done. (Later I heard that the Junior A judges simplified the water marks for their group.)
The start line for the water series was located on a bank maybe 6 feet above a long channel of swimming water. The right-hand mark was down the bank, across the narrow width of the channel (maybe about 10 yards wide), up the opposite bank, and then about 40 yards farther to the area where the live flyer would most likely fall. (You can never tell exactly where a live flyer will fall — it all depends on how far the duck flies before it gets shot.)
To the left along the length of the channel, there was an island topped by weeds, brambles, and grass. A dog swimming that water to the left-hand mark would go down the bank into the channel, swim the length of the channel past the island, hopefully ignore the decoys at the water’s edge, and climb up the opposite bank onto a grass-covered promontory where the bird had landed.
Tooey ran third — enough time for Russ to see what some of the difficulties might be. On the right-hand mark, while they were down in the channel swimming, some dogs lost their mental picture of where the duck had landed. On the left-hand mark, some dogs got sucked in by the island, thinking, as they swam near it, that the island is where they should get out and look for the bird.
The right hand bird was first, and Tooey’s performance was pretty straightforward. Down the bank where she hesitated briefly, swam the water slowly (Russ joked that there must be a “no-wake zone” down there), climbed up the opposite bank, and trotted the distance to the bird. She grabbed it up and brought it back. She did drop it on the bank near the start line, but then picked it up again to adjust her grip, and delivered it nicely to hand.
The left-hand bird was tougher for many dogs, but Tooey handled it beautifully. She swam past the island only getting up onto the submerged edge of the island at its far end. She then swam the rest of the way, got onto the shore, briefly sniffed the decoys, and then climbed up to the promontory to find the bird right away. This bird she delivered without dropping it first, halleluiah!
With such nice work, we were not surprised that she was called back to the afternoon land series. The land series was held at the back the property just east of a nice stand of tall cottonwood and oak trees (so the gallery and dogs could wait in the shade). The marks held in a long grassy area bounded by blackberries on the left, a gradual hill in the middle dotted with fallen-over decoys, and which then fell into a swale on the right. The first bird was another live flyer that fell into the right-hand swale at about 75 yards. The left-hand mark was very short — pretty close to the blackberries, about 50 yards out.
The live flyer was first. The gunners threw the duck, which then hooked right, was shot, and fell right behind the gunner’s station, out of sight of Tooey, the judges, and the handler at the line. The judges offered Russ the option for a “no bird,” which would mean he’d have to go back in line about three dogs. Tooey was amped, though, so he declined the offer. The gunners retrieved the first bird, threw another, and shot that one. That duck had flown a better pattern and landed in the swale where they had intended the flyers to land.
Tooey zoomed out, disappeared briefly into the swale, and then reappeared as she went straight to where the first bird had fallen, right behind the gunners station. Ignoring the gunners and finding no duck there, she then went back up the hill to the decoys. No duck there, either, so she went back down into the swale and along its length, out about 150 or so yards.
I could see Russ touch his whistle, thinking about getting ready to try to handle her to the bird, but he stopped himself and waited while she worked it out. Tooey then turned and started coming back toward the line on her own. On her way, she must have winded the bird. She trotted over to it, grabbed it up, brought it back at a deliberate pace, and delivered it to hand (without dropping it first, again halleluiah!).
The left hand bird was much more straightforward. A short out and back, done and thank you. She and Russ did a great job during this test, and I am very proud of them both. This is her third pass of a retriever Junior Hunt Test. If/when she passes one more, she’ll have her Junior Hunter title.