Sometime back about another hunt test, I wrote a blog post titled When the rules give you an advantage, take it. It concluded:
If the rules let you do something to your advantage, do it. Use whatever opportunities for training you can get. And then be grateful when it all turns out all right.
That could have been the theme for today’s entry, too.
Saturday, Tooey did a beautiful job hunting and flushing pigeons in the landwork portion of the Spaniel Hunting Test put on by the Western Washington English Springer Spaniel Club. She quartered precisely, smartly flushed up two pigeons, and retrieved the one downed by the gunners, and delivered it to hand. (Such an amazing and wonderful improvement from the last series of spaniel hunt tests she participated in.) Her work was good enough that she was invited back to test at the water.
This was a worry. Tooey hates, hates, hates wet pigeons. More often than not, when faced with retrieving a pigeon out of the water, she’ll go out to the pigeon willingly enough, but then simply pushes it to near the shore line, and then refuses to pick it up and deliver it. And that’s exactly what she did on Saturday.
Tooey pushing a pigeon through the water — photo by Richard Liebaert
So Tooey was out, and we made the long drive back home without a ribbon.
After some debate, Russ and I decided to come back for Sunday’s test (May 25th — also put on by the WWESSC), and try it again. Not that there was much hope of doing any better, but Tooey has actually passed three of these Junior spaniel tests*, so it’s always possible that she’d agree to deliver a wet pigeon at least one more time. But not likely.
But then, I had an idea. I looked at the hunt test premium again, and it said that juniors would be tested on “Pigeon and/or Chukar”. (Hunt test premiums out here almost always say pigeon and/or chukar for juniors, but they almost always get pigeons regardless.) Tooey loves chukars as much as she hates wet pigeons, and on our training day on Friday, she happily retrieved and delivered a wet chukar to hand. (We didn’t have any pigeons to practice with, so used a frozen chukar instead.)
So since the premium specified pigeon or chukar, I suggested to Russ that if Tooey was called back to do the water work on Sunday, he might ask the judges if Tooey could have a chukar instead of a pigeon. We thought there would be chukar available, since that’s what the Master and Senior dogs were tested on.
Like on Saturday, her land work today was fabulous. Conditions were good — cool, cloudy, not raining, with just a bit of dew on the foot-high cover.
Tooey and Russ waiting for their turn on the field — photo by Richard Liebaert
Quartering beautifully and searching likely cover, she flushed up three pigeons in pretty short order. And since the gunners didn’t bring any of those three down, they threw a bird for her to retrieve, and she delivered that one neatly to hand. So Tooey was indeed called back to the water to give it another go.
Good girl, Tooey! — photo by Richard Liebaert
When Tooey was called to the water, Russ walked to the line, got Tooey into a neat sit in heel position, and then turned to the judges and asked, “Would it be within the rules for us to have a chukar instead of a pigeon?” The judges were surprised by the request, but one obligingly went to see if the bird boy had a chukar. He did, but the judge reported that it was one that had been pretty badly shot up and had guts hanging out. Russ replied, “Perfect!” We think that response surprised the judges as well, but they let Russ have what he asked for.
And lo and behold, when the bird boy threw the chukar into the water, Tooey leapt in, swam to that chukar, grabbed it up, swam back, and delivered it quickly and neatly to hand.
And halleluiah! combined with her lovely land work, that retrieved chukar gave us what we’d been working for — Tooey’s 4th (and final) pass toward her Junior Hunter Upland title. Who cares that by this time, the rain was coming down steadily? When she delivered that chukar, I whooped so loud it could be heard in the parking lot. Earning this title took a long, long time, and we had many times considered quitting, but today’s pass was totally worth it.
Russ and Tooey with her 4th Junior Hunter Upland ribbon — photo by Patrice Dodd
As soon as the AKC records it, Tooey will now be known as Ch. Stanegate Second Thoughts CD RN JH JHU. And with this fifth AKC title, Tooey now qualifies for the IWSCA Quintessential Versatility Award, too!
*Tooey’s Spaniel hunt test passes:
- Northwest English Springer Spaniel Club – August 12, 2012
- Puget Sound English Springer Spaniel Association – August 31, 2012
- Western Washington English Springer Spaniel Club – May 27, 2013
- Western Washington English Springer Spaniel Club – May 25, 2014
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