Thursday, June 27, 2013

One morning

Prescott had a good day today but he's not long for this world.  For some reason it's prompted me to recall the first time I lost a dog: 

It was morning; although one that started so much earlier than usual the boy couldn’t guess the time; both darker and colder than it was whenever he awoke at his real home. It was never difficult to get up when he was here, which was fitting as it was also never easy to sleep. This wasn’t his room, his bed, or at that time even a ‘bed’ at all.  At least he had sheets now; but the sheets were washed with some soap that smelled decidedly different than anything he smelled at home. Sheets that were washed with a working man’s jeans, t-shirts and socks, then hung on a line to dry. They were neither soft nor smelled of anything pleasant like flowers or a mountain meadow. When he got up that morning, just like two weeks ago, these same sheets would be taken off the couch, roughly folded and put on a their shelf in the hall closet, ready for his next overnight stay in a couple of weeks. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


We've stopped tests and have brought prescott home to be comfortable.

Mojo requested

The call I just received was not good, and not one I wanted.  

Step one-we are going to do chest films of the big guy to see if his cancer has metastasized. If that is the case, it's just a palliative care situation.  

History lesson:

It may be a surprise to learn that the big guy is a survivor.  I've always said he has the heart of a lion but was cursed by his genetics and his cancer is just further proof of that.

Nearly three years ago I took him to the vet b/c his behavior had changed.  It sounds odd, but he was being much more compliant, needy, and obedient.  Some owners probably would have thought he was just maturing-it would have made sense given his age; and I was hoping that was the case as it was ABOUT TIME! He's a smart pup and, I think because of that, could be somewhat of a knucklehead at times.

The vet gave me a 'sure, we can do a bunch of tests, spend a bunch of money, but we'll probably find out that he's just getting older'. Unfortunately I let this be my guiding light, probably because it was what I wanted to hear. However, a few months later his symptoms hadn't improved, and a few had been added; among them was an increased thirst.  I could barely keep his waterbowl filled.

I took him to another clinic- the Vet School where I was working at the time. I always tried to avoid going to the vet school first; not b/c they aren't HIGHLY skilled- because they are- rather it's that they want to spend money on lots of tests before they have a conclusive diagnosis and once having a diagnosis they have lots of expensive treatment options.  I've never received the country doctor advice that involved simple household cures, but I always hope to.

The call I got that afternoon was along the lines of " have a very sick boy here".

Short story-large mass on his liver, compromised liver function, the prognosis is not good.

We elected to have surgery to remove the tumor.  It was not the most advised solution, but I have great confidence in the surgeon on hand, and figured my boy was worthy of at least being given a fighting chance.

That was Thanksgiving 2010.

He lost a lobe of his liver but he's generally done very well since.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

strange dream

I don't put too much stock in dream interpretation, but I'll do my best to honestly recount last nights dream...

In the dream I was looking through two litters of brit pups, all around 6 weeks old. The pup was being offered as a free gift, and since several had been sold I wouldn't get first pick.  I was smart enough in my dream to ask to see the sires and dam.  (Yes, sireS. Dream weirdness-one dam but two sires. Could happen? Technically...'s a dream and I'll just let it roll.)

I saw several pups that were interesting and had potential, but those of interest were from sire #1 who was off-site so I couldn't see.  The available pups (more dream weirdness-all the pups were mixed up and running loose- lots of fun to have 16 pups running loose, but how they knew which pups were from which sire is beyond me, and why they showed me pups that I couldn't have...)

Sire #2 was their personal dog, and on site, so they were able to bring him from the kennel.

This sire, for all intents and purposes, had the conformation of a british bulldog!! The owners, friends of mine, swore up and down that it was in fact a Brittany and even had it's papers (replete with titles-even thought this particular dog had never been in the field), but the dog had pigeon toed front feet, bad nasal respiration, high clipped ears, and short hair.  The coloration was correct at least.

I wound up not taking one of the pups.

My take-away from the dream?

Ask to SEE the sire and dam.  I don't know enough to read a pedigree and understand why and what all the outcrosses were meant to instill in the line.  Pedigrees can be fantastic, but still not produce the dog I want.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Psychology of previous investment

Illustrative of going down to the rabbit hole of blogs and gun-dogs:

Recent video post on DogsandDoubles:

I assumed I was watching a UK production because they seem to have a lock on the documentation of all things spaniel (much like we in the US do all things 'pointer').  I'm used to seeing dogs and handlers I will never meet but who provide my quasi-correspondance course in working rough shooting dogs. I should have known I was wrong just from the range of the dog-far more leggy than what I'm used to seeing in Paul French videos.

The range is what I expect and generally see from my Emmie.  However, their pattern is far superior, not to mention being steady.  I appreciate the control and I know that I am the main reason I don't see it. Having a steady dog with a tight pattern is a good thing, and they should rightfully be proud. It takes considerable work both to create and to maintain.

Not only do I know the folks (and the dog) but met and trained with them at a Paul McGaugh spaniel clinic in 2012.  In fact one of our conversations turned out to be one of the most valuable at the entire clinic and I have mulled over it ever since and have come to this conclusion:

My primary issues with training my dogs: psychology of previous investment (I am going to repurpose it from its original definition).

A trip to the training field (20 min drive).
Birds, usually a 50 min drive each way.
Price of birds (quail = $3.50 w/min of 12,  Pheasant = $15, chukar = $10 ).
Prep the training field for the particular training session.
Time away from my family to train.
The sum; time and money (time being the more valuable) is not inconsequential.

Set up field for a steadying drill.
Hup dog.
Cast dog.
--------------at this point the psychology of previous investment comes in and I freely admit to my failings as a dog trainer.

Let's say, from the get-go, the dog doesn't do a good pattern-she lines straight out, thereby missing parts of the field.
I SHOULD hup her and put her butt right back in heel.
Regain control.
Re-establish goals.
If necessary I SHOULD discontinue that particular training goal and go into remedial training before returning to the field.

One of the reasons I have a spaniel rather than a pointing breed; my access to training fields is somewhat limited and I can do a lot of work in my typical suburban yard.  So when I'm in the field and find that what I had been working on in the yard isn't quite sticking, the tendency is to push through rather than step back; introducing a vicious cycle.

What to do?

For starters, I'm going to build a pigeon loft....

Friday, June 14, 2013

Keep driving

There's something about just planning a hunting trip that satisfies; sometimes it's even better than actually taking the trip. 

Being visited by my far too frequent friend, insomnia, I've been (re)reading my fine literature collection; mapping out a trip for us this year.  Do we go to MI and the forests of the U.P.?  Do we try the paper co lands on ME?  I'd love to do one of the lodges-Libby Camps but that's a bit above my pay grade, right? 

One unique group of literary treasures I've acquired are older copies of Wing & Shot and Grouse Point Almanac; "gifts" to the gun club from an elderly gentleman who was soon planning to shuffle off this mortal coil(or more likely had succumb to haranguing often ladled on both piles of old magazines and the men who hoard them). Either way, I have them now and they are really a fun glimpse into the not too distant past.  

An older gentleman came to one of our scout meetings many years ago with several issues of Boys Life from the 50's. The boys uniforms were different, but recognizable. The scouting activities had stayed the same. I have no idea what they put in Boys Life these days, or if it even exists. I hope I'd still recognize it, but I don't hold out much hope. 

Planning a trip. What to take, where to stay, and for how long? 

"Where to stay" opens up a bit by looking through these magazines, in a way that current publications don't.  There is a permanence in the written word; even and especially in the advertisements. I can envision the conversation around the dinner table at a lodge in a guides home. The family figures they can afford to run an add for a year or so, but not much longer.  The margins on hunting camps being so thin. They take a chance.  Maybe they invite an author up to hunt for free if they'll just write about the experience.  

Not many of these places continued to advertise or advertise after those few issues, but many are still out there.  I've looked for them online. 

I probably won't find hollows of George Bird Evans, and if I did there would probably be a condo on it and no grouse. But I can look at these old adds and articles and glean something that might lead me to a wild flush and an authentic hunting camp.  

Wherever it winds up being I'll probably drive and I'll start the trip with this:


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When is it too hot to train?

When is it too hot to train?  Probably when it's too hot to fish:

Too hot to fish

On the first hot day of the year it's important to remember that real news still percolates to the top.

The temp when I got home? 93.  Humidity 80%.

It's too hot.

Time to start getting up early to do training because my dog doesn't have the sense to self-regulate her activity level. Heat can kill a  I nearly lost her in her first year b/c I had no idea that she would simply run herself till she dropped.  Scary time.