We spent this weekend in rural Iowa, at the spaniel hunt test sponsored by the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America. We had a great time. The weather was near-perfect. We saw lots of corn, of course, but also cows, sheep, horses, a flock of vultures, an eagle, and dogs. Spaniels, to be precise-- lots of them! Words used to describe the setting included "pastoral" and "bucolic." (Hey, I don't get to use these words very often, and they are, in this case, accurate.)
The club put on a very nice, well-organized event. It was obvious that a great amount of planning had gone into laying out the various courses on the field and in the water, and the forethought was much appreciated. Randy Capsel and test secretary Cheryl Clark also invited all participants to a turkey fry at their farm on Saturday evening, which provided (in addition to yummy turkey and trimmings!) a nice opportunity to socialize with the test crowd. Often there is no organized social event in the evening (understandably, given the amount of effort that goes into organizing a test and the amount of energy both organizers and participants put in during the day), and this gave everyone a nice chance to get to know some new people who share a common interest in field training their dogs. We enjoyed cheering on old friends and making some new ones, too.
Saturday, there were about 14 entries. I was a little concerned, because the course was bordered by a roadway, but they had angled the course away from the road, and it never was a problem. Wooster was near the front of the pack, so it was still nice and cool when he and Michael took the field. Wooster had two beautiful flushes, but for some reason, all of yesterday's birds flew toward the gallery, making it impossible for the gunners to shoot. Poor Woo! So, they pitched a dead bird for him, which he dutifully brought to Michael. Best of all, when Michael called him off on the 2 flyaways, he responded INSTANTLY! I didn't have a great view of the hunt dead, so it was a little nerve-wracking for me to see Michael directing him without being able to see the dog doing his thing. It was a great relief to see him heading back in to Michael with the bird firmly in his mouth. The water available at this test was beautiful. The entry was somewhat steep, and there were some decoys in the water (to simulate a duck-hunting scenario). Wooster went right in, ignored the decoys, got the bird and came back. Again, I didn't have the best view, and I thought he had come directly back. However, I later learned that there was a shoe sticking out of the mud that Wooster went to investigate briefly. However, he did finish the retrieve quite handily after that. Michael then "retrieved" the shoe (couldn't resist the pun) so that it wouldn't be a distraction to the other entrants.
Today they had a much smaller number of participants. the cover in the field they used today was somewhat heavier, and there were some trees. This was quite different from most of the tests we've been to, but I thought it also realistic (in that you might not always have a clear field). Wooster trailed the first bird a good distance, then put it up. The gunner, in what looked like quite a heroic shot from the gallery's perspective, brought it down right away, and Wooster easily retrieved it. He trapped the second bird, but fortunately, it did not try to "resist," as the bird in Michigan had done. I could see it flapping a bit, but he brought it back with very little hesitation and did not "chomp" it. (Good boy!) I didn't think his work today on the hunt dead was his best performance in that task, as I thought he might have taken a better line from Michael; however, he did locate the bird in short order. Finally, he had another beautiful water entry. The course was set up at a slight angle, so it was no surprise to me that he elected to swim the shorter distance to the bank and walk back aroun the pond to get to Michael. Again, however, he did complete the retrieve.
So, they ended up with "legs" on both Saturday and today, finishing Wooster's Senior Hunter title. Way to go, Michael & Wooster! Michael & I stopped for a celebratory dinner on the way home. We didn't go so far as to buy Wooster his own steak dinner, but we did each end up with a doggie bag to share, and the boys loved their steak treats!
This week, we'll be prepping for Watson's next appearance in the conformation ring, next weekend at Rockford/Freeport, IL. Tonight he had a bath and blowdry in preparation for the grooming the poor guy will be enduring this week. The Clumber entry is small (Watson & 2 class bitches), but we're also looking forward to having a chance to watch the larger Field spaniel entry. And best of all, it's within day-trip distance. Should be a fun weekend! Wish us luck...