|Dixie on her blind retrieve.|
|Dixie retrieves to Jan's hand.|
She is well-bred and was well-trained before we ever met her. We have someone in Texas to thank for that, and Hightest Kennels for finishing her. We have kept her whole, dealing with the heat cycles about every 7 months, because we wanted to see if she would be exemplary, and worthy of carrying on her line. Twice now, I have had to get her tested to see if she was pregnant. (Once a Rottweiler broke into our fenced backyard. The gate, which this dog just crashed right through, has since been fortified!)
|Dixie hides under the cammo.|
We have been doing our homework, learning how to read a pedigree, about the importance of titles, hip and eye clearances. Our girl passed those important physical tests, and has a wonderful demeanor. She is really a loving companion as well as an outstanding hunter who does blind retrieves, and delivers birds to the hand. She hunts ducks and pheasant with equal relish.
Yesterday, I drove our girl up to Lodi, California to get a second opinion on our charge. We realized that our opinion, and that of our hunting friends may be slightly biased, and so we sought the advise of Jan Burkholder of Stonewall Retrievers. In addition to having 20 years of experience training dogs, Jan writes a regular column on the subject for California Waterfowl magazine. We knew her opinion would count for a lot, and after exchanging a few emails, she invited us over to have a look at Dixie.
I arrived at Stonewall at 11:00 a.m., just before the shooter arrived. Rick has a dog named Red (a yellow lab, go figure!) in training with Jan and he was on the truck, along with seven other labs and a German Shorthair Pointer, all younger than 9 months, and in various stages of training. We loaded Dixie up and set out for the training pond that Jan leases from a neighbor who has land to spare. This neighbor also has a dog in Jan's care. One at a time she brought the dogs out, gave them a chance at one live bird, of the pigeon variety. Rick only missed one, and she made sure to give each dog a chance at a bird. None of these dogs minded the loud bang of the gun. What was even louder was our Dixie barking and demanding her turn. She was so keyed up, I could not quiet her and I could see saliva dribbling down the kennel vents. Dixie was last to come out.
Jan allowed me to take still photos, but the light was not favorable at this time of day for that kind of shooting. I was amazed at her patience, even with the young chocolate lab that did not want to give up the birdy. Second to last dog to work was the pointer, and Jan set up an upland game scenario for her, hiding a bird under a bush then asking her to find and point to it. Though eager, this dog overshot the mark and I heard Jan say something about not using her nose and relying too much on her eyes. On the second pass the bird was flushed and it flew straight over the pond. Rick got off a very difficult long shot and it dropped on the far side, beyond a thatched knoll in the middle of the pond, just a barely visible black speck floating on the surface. I told Jan Dixie would get that bird for her. We had inadvertently set up a very difficult blind retrieve.
|Poplar Forest Dreaming of Dixie|
We'd like to thank Jan Burkholder for being so generous with her knowledge and time. The next steps are to acquire a copy of "How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With" and see if we can make an appointment for the stud dog Jan has recommended. This adventure is only beginning!