The day started out at 3:00 a.m. Saturday morn, having to leave home at 4:00 to be in Polk, PA for the 8:00 a.m. start of Master braces for Ruby and Dollar. The radar and weather reports were not very promising, calling for 80% chance of steady rain and the radar showing a pretty wet front moving in. Add to that knowledge that from the brace sheets, Ruby was going to be braced with a Spinone for what would hopefully be her final run for her Master Hunter Title and I was feeling like I should just go back to bed.
A light drizzle as I loaded up the dogs and my gear confirmed the weather reports potential accuracy, that I so wished was wrong.
As I drove from WV into MD and on into PA, Westward via the Turnpike through PA, the rain would come and go, sometimes a light mist and sometimes an outright deluge, with wipers on full and still having difficulty seeing.
We were greeted at the PA Brittany Club Grounds by Ruby's owners, Parry and Melisa Tomlin, as well as many friends we've come to know over the years of Testing and Trialing in this corner of PA. The rain was "light" but steady, but the mood of the folks there to help and participate was jovial as has come to be expected, with some joking and razzing going on.
Dollar was the 2nd Master brace out and as we stood at the line with our Bracemate, the skies opened up and down came the deluge. At the break away the dogs worked well, staying in good range and working all of the objectives and edges as we wound our way through the course. Dollar had a solid find about 10 minutes in, in a small grove of trees and stuck hard. His Brittany bracemate, another male and apparently unhappy with the situation, decided to steal point and try to roust the bird out in front of Dollar to no avail. Dollar stood solid the entire time to my joy and satisfaction, as my Bracemate gathered up his Brit. I worked the bird, but couldn't produce it. Our Judges told me to go ahead and work it to the end, blank it and get my dog the He!! out of there, as they knew the bird was buried up in there somewhere and was probably NOT going to fly regardless. We moved on down the treeline and within a couple hundred yards, much to my bracemates chagrin, his Brit found and grabbed up another very water logged Quail. We continued on and entered the bird field in an absolute downpour, with the rain driving whatever scent the birds may have had right into the ground. After working the birdfield for 5 minutes with the dogs seemingly being unable to detect scent, the Brit stuck a point, with Dollar coming in full bore and me praying he was going to stop and honor. At 20 yards Dollar finally stuck and I wiped the sweat off of my brow...or was it rain I wiped from my brow? We were walking up to the dogs when the Brit decided to rip the bird and Dollar could take no more, going with him....sighhhhh, I know what I'll be working on in preperation for Fall Testing. The Brit spit the bird and Dollar promptly scooped it and returned it to hand and I snapped on the leash...Judges: "Thank-you Handlers". So it goes in a day of Testing where ANYTHING can happen! The Judges did have many good compliments for Dollar, confirming what I already knew, that I had a pretty sharp dog. For his very 1st Hunt Test, it was not a failure, but rather a learning experience in where he had holes in Training that I thought I had covered.
What's this?!? A hole in the clouds?!? The rain stopped just as I was walking Ruby to the break away for the final Master brace and what would hopefully become her final run in Master. I was braced with a Spin, a VERY dificult dog to Honor sometimes for those unfamiliar, but that Spin was handled by a Pro with a few National Titles under his belt and with that came the comfort of knowing I was braced with someone whom would work with me to keep both of our dogs out of trouble, clean and hopefully finish out our runs with Qualifying scores. The dogs broke away working well together and 5 minutes in, Ruby had a find in a brush row around a tree and much to my worry, catwalked about 5 feet in on it before locking up. The Spin honored and when I worked the bird, a wet bird popped about 5' and started to walk away. I blanked and heeled Ruby the He!! out of Dodge! We wound through the rest of the course with no finds, though the dogs covered it well, missing no cover. We entered the bird field and were into it shortly when the Spin popped a somewhat "damp" bird and proceeded to catwalk after it to her Handlers humor and dismay. Ruby seeing the Spin's posture promptly locked on Honor and the Spin finally stopped it's stalk for a point. The Spin was obviously out but the Judges decided to go ahead and shoot the bird for Ruby's Honor. This process took quite a few minutes and it showed in Ruby's Honor, as she sat down as the Spin spit the bird at the Handlers feet....ughhhhh! Not enough to fail, but sure isn't pretty either. We continued to work the field and in short order, Ruby had a find on a bird that would NOT fly no matter what, resulting in me having to pick it up and toss it for the Gunners, whom dumped it promptly and cleanly. Ruby made a nice clean retrieve to hand and I thought..."Shewww, we're done"... or were we?? The Judges decided they would like to see another Honor and give her a better chance at a nice Honor and asked that I not display my hand in a "Whoa" fashion to her, as I had to in her previous honor with all that had gone on. I agreed it was not the best and would like for them to see a better Honor from her, though I much wanted to get out of that field with her Qualified. I took her back course while they brought in a sharp DC/MH Vizsla for her to Honor and when called, Ruby didn't let me down, Honoring from 30-40 yards and standing through the Retrieve while I kept my arms firmly across my chest.
Ruby is now: Ruger's Red Lable Ruby MH
She was quite happy that she got to go home with her "Mom and Dad", Melisa and Parry; though I could see in Ruby's eyes that she really wanted to take me home with her!
I know this has been kind of long winded, but yesterday resulted in the culmination of a rather long, strange trip with Ruby; on a day that seemed would be impossible and resulted in a friendship with Parry and Melisa that will last a lifetime and a special place in my heart for a dog that has sometimes been to smart for her own good.
They tell me they would like to try to go after her "Retrieving Dog Excellent" now....and thus the trip continues.