TylerS Posted August 27, 2012 Share Posted August 27, 2012 Last spring, I tested Remy in Natural Ability. It was my first test, with my first hunting dog. I was nervous, but thankfully the dog knew more than I did and went on to get a 112 Prize 1. I thought I was nervous then, but the butterflies were 10 times worse at this weekend's Utility Test. This was the culmination of two full summers of training, combined with a very full fall of hunting. If things didn't go well, there was nothing I could do about it. It wasn't like we skimped anywhere -- we didn't cut corners. Every week since mid June, we trained 3-4 times a week religiously. Training grounds were 45 minutes away. Birds were scarce. Patience became short. But in the end, I guess the pain -- especially force fetching him myself last summer -- was worth the pleasure. Test day started off cool and rainy. Thunderclouds and lighting forced everyone to take shelter in the large pole barn at Brewer Lake. It was the Red River Valley Chapter's first ever double. Nine NA dogs and six UT dogs were preparing to give it their all. With me was my wife, Erin, who came training nearly every time I went out. My training partner, Andrew, and his dog, Asic, also were getting ready for the UT. And his wife was there for support, as well. Everyone who'd helped me through the training process was there, too: my dog's breeder, Jeff Jalbert, fellow RRV NAVHDA members Dan Pforr and Keith Kemmer. St. Croix NAVHDA member Travis Bischof. And his son, Brad, who is just 19 but already has a VC to his name and mentored Andrew and I through the entire process. I may have trained my dog myself, but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many knowledgeable and helpful folks. Finally the clouds broke and we headed to the field. I was running third; Andrew fifth. He had been sixth, but a dam in heat got bumped to the last spot. It was a blessing. Despite the cool morning, we knew it was going to get warm in short order. I prepared Remy -- my 2-year, 3-month GWP -- the only way I knew how: We went for a walk. There was a small two-row road to the north, surrounded by bean fields and CRP. Seemed like a good spot to let him empty his tanks and burn a bit of nervous energy. Oh who was I kidding. I had some nervous energy, too. We did some walking, he did some sniffing. I woahed him a couple times, for which he obliged. We heeled a bit. Nothing serious, and nothing too intense. We got back to the truck and knelt down. I gave him a little pep talk, told him whatever he did was going to be OK by me. Said that he'd have a big rawhide waiting for him at home no matter if he blew it or not. Just wanted him to know that I was proud of him for putting up with me. I don't remember walking up after the judges called me. My head was swimming in a dazed cloud of anxiety. Remy pulled ahead a bit and I didn't begrudge him. The butterflies in my stomach were playing hop scotch with my GI tract. The judge talked a bit to lay out the field. I knew what we were doing, and he knew I knew. But it's all formalities. Everything is a formality. Then, Remy was off. With the wind at our back, I was concerned he'd overrun a bird on the first leg. He took off to my left and began a big sweep up a hillside. I whistled him to come back, and he obeyed...miraculously. That was all he needed. For the remainder of the 30 minutes, Remy worked like a dream, sweeping left 75 yards, than making a hard turn and charging back the opposite direction right in front of us. I'd never seen him work so well -- ever. Then, suddenly, Remy froze. One of those neck-bent-90-degrees hard points. I nearly woahed him, but held my tongue. He didn't budge, and I set up my gunners on either side. Remy must have nailed the hot scent as he was making his pass. The chukar was hiding 10 feet in front of his nose. I kicked it once, it hopped up and hitched a ride on the wind -- and straight at the judges. By some miracle, the bird dodged right and the gunner got a clear shot. One shot. Bird down. Remy still motionless. I could see his haunches quivering like a vibrating cell phone on a marble countertop. I touched his ear and said "fetch." The word startled me a bit -- it was louder than I'd planned -- but Remy took off like he'd been fired from a canon, picked up the bird, the returned it to hand. I watered him, remembered to breathe again, then sent him with a "find the birds." Despite the field apparently being "loaded with birds," we were having a tough time finding anything else. It was getting warmer, and Remy got birdy on several occasions without producing a point. I began to worry he was blinking birds, and I thought I heard the judges whispering about planting a chukar to work. Just then, I saw Remy hit point again. Just like before, I had an instant notion to "woah" him, but hesitate. He was staunch, and I knew the bird was close. It was, as I positioned the gunners, I saw the chukar about five feet in front of Remy. A bit close for comfort, but he was holding. I kicked the bird into the wind: bad choice. It hit the now gusting breeze and B-lined it right over the top of a gunner. He swung like a swivel, fired once -- and missed. His second shot seemed send a few feathers flying, but the chukar landed feet down. I looked at the judges for direction. "Send him" they said, so I did. Remy blew out so fast I thought he'd set a grass fire. And despite a little time spent tracking the downed bird, he came up with it in short order and returned it to me. We were at about the 20 minute mark, and the last 10 minutes felt like an eternity. We watered the dog well and tried hitting bird spots, but he never produced another find. When told to leash Remy, I felt uncertain. Were two bird finds enough? He'd done everything right, but given the supposed amount of game on the landscape, would those paltry points produce the desired Prize? The rest of the day was a battle of nerves. Remy's duck search -- his favorite thing -- went flawless. He charged straight across the water, hit the cattails, then burned up the right side. After 150 yards without a bird, he turned back, raced past his initial point of entry, caught scent, then trailed back into a thick peninsula of dense cattails. He came back with the duck -- only one of two produced that day -- and just inside the 10 minutes. I was ready for the resend, but the judges were satisfied. I leashed him and went back to the truck. Marked retrieve and drags were flawless. Even so, I was nervous that one little mishap, one little mistake, would be the end of our good streak. Finally back at camp, we waited for scores to be read. They read them in order -- and after a lengthy round of thanks to volunteers and sponsors. It was all fine and dandy -- and much deserved -- but I wasn't sure if I'd be able to handle it. The first two dogs were no scores. I was getting nervous. Then they read off Remy's name -- Top Shelf's Kashisking -- and his attributes: coat medium coarse, teeth missing 302, 301 misaligned. I felt like they were dragging it along on purpose. I buried my face in my hat and tried to remember to breathe. The judge read aloud, listing all 4s until about the halfway point. "Well you get the idea," he said. "Tyler looks like he's going to pass out, so we'll just speed this along. All 4s. 204 Prize I." The barn erupted. I thought I was going to cry. All that stress. All that pressure. All that work. It had come to this, and we'd done it. It never really sank it -- still hasn't, in fact. My training partner wound up with a 172 Prize II. He was a bit disappointed, but still happy, especially considering there were three no scores in our group. Now, thank God, we will get to reap the benefits of all that hard work. Hunting season is right around the corner, and I plan to see Remy do what he loves to do best: find birds. Then next year, the training starts again. We have to prepare for the Invitational now, after all... Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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