This morning, the Greater Pacific Northwest Retriever Trial Club put on a lovely small hunt test. It was especially lovely because this, the last of the local hunt tests this year, was the test where Carlin and I passed his first retriever Junior hunt test.
Patrice and Carlin, 1st retriever Junior Hunter pass
Because Russ was gunning for the test, we got to St. Louis Ponds nice and early, while it was still cool. Carlin and I ran last (number 11), so while Russ was helping out, I “aired” the dogs and myself, drank some water, and waited while the judges, bird boys, and gunners got themselves organized.
As in all retriever Junior tests, there were four birds to be retrieved: two ducks on land and two on water. And as with many Junior tests, the judges of this test, who also judged the Senior-level dogs yesterday, used almost the same marked retrieves for the Juniors as they had for the Seniors. Almost, but not quite. The first difference was that the Seniors ran the marks as doubles, whereas the Junior ran them as singles. The second difference was that starting line for the Junior dogs’ land marks was actually moved back farther away from the areas of the fall by about 5 yards, making the Junior marks longer than the Seniors’ marks.
The first mark was about 65 yards away. The dog had to cross a shallow ditch, run through some taller cover, and find the bird in a patch of mint. I held on to Carlin’s collar and signaled for the bird. The bird flew, came down and landed, and then three v-e-r-y long beats later, the judge said “11.” Fortunately, Carlin had stayed sitting, so all I had to do was say, “Take It!” — our command for him to go out and retrieve the bird.
But did I say “Take It”? No. I said “Dog.” Sometimes, some judges don’t call the dog’s number, they just say “Dog.” I’ve listened to judges say this during Cooper’s and Tooey’s retriever tests for years, and “Dog” is just what came out of my mouth. And when I said, “Dog,” Carlin took off for the bird. Now, if this had been practice, I’d have stopped him for leaving on any command other than “Take It.” But this wasn’t training — it was a test. I let him go.
Carlin, like his uncle Cooper, is a very good marker. He saw exactly where that bird fell and ran straight out to it. His nose went down, so I know he found it. He poked it a couple of times. Finally, I came to my senses and whistled him to come in. Fortunately, he picked up the bird and came back to me with it.
The second land mark was about 75 yards away, with the live flyer falling into a patch of 8″ inch tall grasses. What made this mark tough for some of the dogs was that it was in an area of dappled shade in front of a stand of trees. Those dapples and dark trees confused some of the dogs, but not Carlin. He ran straight out to that one, too. He poked it a couple of times, and then looked up. Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! This time, I was marginally faster at whistling him in. He picked this one up, too, and delivered it to hand.
So, we were called on to the water.
The water marks were about 80 yards. The start line was up on a sloped five foot bank, and the dog was to run down the bank, swim diagonally across the pond, go up onto the opposing bank, and pick up the bird. The first water mark had the bird falling at the water’s edge, and the second falling into some 16″ cover about 10 feet up the bank.
Patrice and Carlin at the water line, calling for the first bird
As usual, Carlin put on a show with his water entry. Very enthusiastic. I could hear appreciative comments from the judges as I watched him swim diagonally across the pond toward his first water bird.
The bird had landed on the shore, but by the time Carlin got there, it had rolled into the water. Carlin was (reportedly) the only dog to swim directly to the bird, rather than searching the bank. He snatched it up and turned to swim back with it.
He didn’t swim quite straight back to me, though. For a few yards, he was seriously considering swimming out in a perpendicular line to the bank, instead of diagonally across the pond. This would have meant that he would then have had to run the bank back to me. But fortunately, at some whistling from me, he changed his mind and corrected his line to be more diagonal again. That meant that he had to drag his duck through a tree limb floating in the water, but he did it. When he got back to the bank, I could see that he had the duck by one wing. I told him to Hold it, but instead he dropped it, got a better grip, and then delivered that bird to hand.
By this time, he was amped and more than ready to go. I lowered my voice on my third command to “Sit,” and he finally sat. Once he sat, I could call for the bird. His last bird was launched and fell about 10 feet up the opposite bank into a patch of 16″ tall cover of grasses and other little bushes.
Fortunately, while the bird was in the air, he stayed sitting, and when the judge called “11,” I said “Take It,” and he was off. He swam straight toward the duck, dashed up the bank and found his bird in the cover.
Before he could stop and poke at it, I whistled him back in. He grabbed the bird, and did the nicest water entry he could do with a duck in his mouth.
This was another diagonal swim, which he did quickly. He came up the bank, and delivered the bird to hand, and we were done. As we left the line, one of the judges said, “Nice job,” and I knew we had passed.
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