Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Road to Recovery

     The road to recovery is paved with lots of interesting twists and turns. Those of you who follow, and check in on my blog regularly probably know I had a wee bit of orthopedic surgery this past winter. Fortunately I'm well on my way to getting as back to normal as the procedure will allow. In fact I can once again properly mount a shotgun, so.... Anyway, the surgery also sucked up lots of my free time by way of having to transition from working a rotation, to working a Monday thru Friday administrative job until I'm fit for full duty. The fact that I'm also preparing for (studying 3-4 hours daily) an up coming highly competitive promotional exam hasn't allowed me too much time for outdoor activity.

     I have been spending a lot of time training and working Ginger, and in a couple of weeks we will be participating in a few hunt tests trying to get the 3 remaining passing scores she needs for her Master Hunter title. The admin position I'm occupying has allowed us to travel north every weekend to train with a group of like minded spaniel enthusiasts, and put a lot of polish on Ginger.

     The admin position also afforded me the time to participate in another spring activity I love; coaching high school rugby. Though I had to assume a bit of a different role this season, as I was forced to be less physical, and hands off so as not to aggravate or injure my wrist, I was as dedicated to the club as always. I'm am pleased to report that once again the boys of the Milton RUFC Wildcats made it to the D-2 state finals for their 4th year in a row. While we were unable to get past the physicality, and fantastic offloading of boys of the Lincoln-Sudbury RUFC we made it. And, in making it to the finals we prevented our crosstown rivals, Brookline RUFC, from being there. All in all, it was a fantastic season, and I am happy to have made a small contribution to the sport.



Sunday, April 3, 2016

Action Alert; More trouble in Mass

     Well, it seems that our representatives here in Massachusetts really do, once again, think they know more about everything and anything than their constituents. Back in March of 2013, you may remember a post I put up about a bill that was introduced which tried to limit how dogs are housed, and imposed a curfew on outdoor dogs.

     This time a bill has been introduced which would mandate that anyone who wishes to breed a dog or cat in Massachusetts must be licensed, their home inspected to insure it is adequate for whelping, and restricted to 1 liter per animal per year. It also makes it a violation to transfer a dog or cat to another owner, whether for sale or just given away, without said license, as well as forbidding the breeding of their arbitrarily selected "dangerous breeds. This bill makes it a misdemeanor for those who don't comply, and naturally prescribes penalties; not less than $500 per animal and up to 90 days incarceration. The bill was introduced by Senator Mark C. Montigny

     As a sporting dog owner, who regularly campaigns in hunt test and trial, and plans to breed I see a big problem with this bill. First of all, what does the state of Massachusetts know about sporting spaniels, and their breeding? Or any dog for that matter? And the inspection? The bill doesn't set any standards of acceptable whelping and raising space, so the decision will be arbitrarily made by the animal control officer conducting the inspection. As for the animal control officers, well, qualifications may vary by community, but I can tell you that around here they are selected for that coveted city job by who they know. Not the kind of authority I want inspecting my home (not that I want any authority inspecting my home). I also disagree with the "dangerous dog" section. Sure, there are some breeds that have a predisposition to be "sharp", but anyone who has been to a dog show can tell you that there is nothing "sharp" about the "dangerous breeds" being shown. This section is grossly unfair to those show dog enthusiasts in Mass that happen to be involved with breeds on the list. In fact, it's contrary to common sense; we want those people breeding those dogs. They're in the game, and understand the responsibility of breeding responsibly. One also must wonder how long it will be until a sporting breed makes the "list". A lot of people have been bitten by Golden Retrieves of late, and some lines of German dogs are known to be "sharp". 

     So, if you are a Massachusetts sportsman it's time to take action. Take the time to pick up the phone, or compose an e-mail, and let the appropriate senators know of your disapproval of this kind of misguided, uneducated over-reach. You can find your legislators here.

     Here is a link to an alert by The Sportsmen's Alliance on the same issue. http://www.sportsmensalliance.org/news/alert-massachusetts-senate-bill-targets-all-dog-breeders-and-sellers/ 

    Also, I would like to thank the Facebook page administrator, Brice, at Patriot Sporting Spaniel Club for alerting me, and many other, by both posting this on the Facebook page, and bringing it up yesterday at the club meeting.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Spring Woodcock

     Spring is a great time of the year. The days get warmer and longer, the snow melts away, the trout start rising, and the woodcock move north again. Woodcock make great training birds. They tend not to run too far, hold tight, and flush nicely. They are also quite fun to watch. We've got a few spots nearby where we know we can find woodcock each spring, and frequently take Ginger for "woodcock  walks". Today we flushed 7 birds, 5 off of Ginger's nose, and 2 kicked up by my wife as she walked the trail. Later, at sunset we returned to watch the woodcock do their sky dance, something neither my wife nor I had seen before. If you've never seen the woodcock's spring aerobatic ritual you're missing out.

Screen capture of the woodcock in the above video.

Photos and video by JNR.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

P.E., by JNR - Flushing Dog Training Day.

     With the hunting seasons now closed what does one do? Well, get ready for the upcoming field trial and hunt test season, of course. That is what these Cockers, Springers, and Golden were doing.

Lots of running,......

Lots of retrieving,......

A bit of patience,...


Some directing,....

And of course, connecting.

All photos were taken by my lovely and talented wife, JNR. Thanks, dear.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

When Simple Just Isn't; Part 2

     Sometimes I don't think things through very well. This is one of those times. I  know I promised you all a Part 2 to the story of my dog breeding adventure. I've realized, however, that what I didn't tell you in Part 1, what I meant to be Part 2, isn't very exciting. I sit here at my computer wishing that I'd spent a few more minute writing part 1 and concluded the story. But I didn't, so,.....

     ...Having made the decision to leave Ginger in Maine for the week it was time to get her back. Sadly, she was either unable, or uncooperative, and her and Tommy never tied. We won't be having puppies this go around. To make things easier for Jim's wife we decided that we'd drive back up to Maine to retrieve her. It should be noted that both my wife and I very much enjoy the state of Maine, and go there often for a number of reasons. It doesn't take much to convince us to head north. So we again pointed the car north, and were off to Maine.

     It's here where the adventure part of this trip begins to take form. The meteorologists began talking about snow, again. We soon realized that unlike the previous week when we'd driven up in the snow, this time we'd be driving home in the snow. With our knowledge of the imminent white stuffs arrival we made a couple of quick phone calls. First we called the hotel and had our room changed to a dog friendly room. Should you find yourself in Belfast Maine, with a dog, and in need of lodging, the (newly renovated) Belfast Harbor Inn has a few dog friendly rooms. Next, we made arrangements to pick up Ginger that evening on our way in, rather than on Saturday morning on our way out. We already knew what the road to the kennel can be like in the snow, and didn't feel like taking any chances. Following the same theme, the previous weekend we'd driven up in my wife's Toyota Rav-4. This time we decide to give the all-wheel drive traction of my Subaru Outback a spin. Glad we did, too.

     The next morning, after a few beers, a pizza, and binge watching Brain Games in the hotel room, we awoke to a blanket of snow as predicted. Tuning in to NECN (New England Cable news) we learned that basically it was only snowing in the mid-coast area. Once we made in far enough south, the Booth Bay area, we'd be out of the storm. This certainly wouldn't be as slow going as the previous weekend when we'd driven the entire route in snow. We slowly packed, enjoyed the free continental breakfast, and inquired with the hotel staff as to which route they'd recommend to go south. Then we were off, making our way slowly down route 1, on our way home. Two weeks in a row my wife would be navigating slick, nasty roads. She's the best.

      So,.....the weatherman. I think it would be fair to say that everyone has had their fair share of "damned weatherman" moments, cursing the TV or radio when the forecast has been off and they're stuck in a down pour or a squall. I have.  Well, the weather forecast was wrong. And I sure am glad it was! The snow line ended well before the Booth Bay area, and we were cruising along shortly after we left Rockland. Soon we were the only car on the road covered with snow.

     And that's about it. See? I should have just put it all in Part 1, right?

     Puppies will have to wait for a little while longer. Hopefully our next attempt won't be in the wake of a surgery, and relatively free of snow. I learned that Ginger's mother, Bee, was a reluctant breeder, and had the same result the first time an effort was made to breed her.  Looking forward, not having to worry about a litter allows me to continue working steadily towards our goal of finishing up Ginger's quest for a Master Hunter title. We will attempt to breed her again, but I have yet to decide if it will be in the fall or next year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

When Simple Just Isn't; A Reproductive Adventure. Part 1

     Nothing in life is really simple, is it? Some things sure seem to be. Other things certainly don't seem to be terribly difficult. According to some television commercials there are thousands of unwanted puppies out there, so how difficult could breeding a dog be? Well, it sure isn't simple.

     My wife and I decided a while back that we'd breed our Springer Spaniel, Ginger, at some time. Over the years we'd scouted out potential mates at hunt tests and field trials. After a while we decided on a mate, and approached the owner. He was in agreement that our two dogs had the potential to contribute some nice pups to the spaniel world. All we had to do was wait for the right time. Well, the time had come, or so we thought. Ginger, who usually comes into heat around the end of March, and then again around the end of September, decided she didn't want to wait until March, and came in early, mid-January. This meant I had to do a bit of scrambling. So phone calls were made, and vet appointments scheduled. Straight off we got Ginger checked for Brucellosis. What is Brucella, you ask? In short, its basically a venereal disease a dog can pick up, though not necessarily the same way humans do, and is bad news. There was also Progesterone timing tests to be done. What? I was beginning to realize how little, despite having a seasoned mentor, I knew about dog breeding. Just because a bitch is in  heat does not mean she is ready to be bred. In addition to estrogen, a certain level of progesterone must be achieved to successfully breed. A minimum progesterone level of 5 is needed for a bitch to be bred, and then one has 4-5 days to get it done before she starts to come out of heat.

     Fortunately for us there is a vet which specializes in reproduction somewhat nearby. Fortunate for them I wanted to do this the right way and opened my check book,... several times. So began the testing. Jan 29th, Progesterone level 0.8. Feb 1st, Progesterone level 2.2. We're on the right track. Feb 3rd, Progesterone level 5.3. Showtime!! All I had to do now was fill the gas tank and head north to Wildwind kennel in Maine where Ginger's suitor, Tommy, awaited. But, nope. We had a small unrelated issue. I was scheduled for orthopedic surgery on Feb 4th. That's right, Ginger hits optimal breeding hormone levels the day before I'm scheduled to have a few bones screwed together, and another removed completely from my wrist. Well, theoretically there is a window of a few days to get the breeding done.

     The morning of the 5th, against my surgeons wishes, my wife and I pointed the car north and we were off to Maine. Full disclosure; I was not behind the wheel. I was somewhat sore, and under the effect of a prescription narcotic, and the lingering effect of a nerve block. Did I mention that a snow storm had blown in, and that most of the east coast was getting some pretty heavy snow? Not the best conditions to drive 220 miles. But puppies are important, so off we went, limping slowly north on the Maine Pike, and a few other roads. It was slow going, and we stopped frequently, but we eventually made it almost all the way there, but not without a little help. Unfortunately the snow got the best of us, preventing our passage about a 1/2 mile from the kennel. Mercifully Jim drove down from the kennel in his truck and helped us get unstuck and accompanied us the final stretch. After the long, rather treacherous drive in the snow my wife could barely contain her joy at seeing Jim's familiar face when he pulled along side us on that snowy hillside, and I think we both thought she was going to jump out of the car and give him a big hug. He certainly deserved one.

     Now that neither surgery nor snow had kept us from getting Ginger to her rendezvous with Tommy, we introduced the two to each other and let nature run it's course. Except that it didn't run. Not right away. Anyway, we had the weekend, and could commit even more time if it was needed. Perhaps the two of them just needed more time to get to know each other?

     My wife and I had booked a couple nights at a hotel in Belfast, just a short drive from the kennel. Again Jim took mercy on us and insisted that we stay the night with them, as the snow and the driving conditions really weren't getting any better. We agreed instantly. That evening we enjoyed some great conversation over a bowl of delicious venison chili with Jim and his family. The next morning we carried on right where we had left off over some  eggs and sausage. Of course we intermittently took a break from socializing to put the dogs together, after all, that's why we were there.

     About mid-day the next day, my wife and I began making preparations to depart for Belfast. Unfortunately the dogs hadn't tied yet, though there appeared to be some signs of hope. We would leave Ginger at the kennel with the hope that some magic would happen between her and Tommy. Before we left we were fortunate enough to meet up with Dan, a friend of Jim's we've met on a few occasions field trialing, and his wife, who came by the kennel to see Jim and his family. Some tentative dinner plans were made, and we were off. At the hotel in Belfast we kicked off our shoes, quickly got comfortable with the view of Belfast Harbor, and relaxed a bit, my swollen wrist held aloft on a large pile of pillows. Phone calls were made, dinner plans solidified, and a reservation secured for later that evening.

     Dinner in Belfast was terrific. We managed to put together a bit of a congress of spaniel folk. Jim, Dan, and their families, joined my wife and I, but we were also fortunate enough to be joined by Brad, owner of the Upland Journal Bulletin Board, and his wife Jo Anne. Brad and his wife are also spaniel people, sharing their home with both a Springer and a King Charles Cavalier. I initially met Brad, through the Upland Journal, at an event he'd hosted some years back. Jim also participates occasionally on the UJBB, and prior to meeting Jim for the first time at a trial we had corresponded via the UJBB. And to make the world even smaller, Jim's wife, Denise, and Brad's wife, Jo Anne, had crossed paths, and had mutual acquaintances as a result of working for the same company. The dinner conversations naturally revolved around spaniels, training, and hunting. Of course, me not being able to enjoy a beer due to the pain meds I'd been prescribed, coupled with the fact that I dutifully managed to hold my hand aloft like a student trying to ask a question, I became a bit of a target, rightfully so, when the situation presented itself. We didn't solve any of the worlds problems at dinner, but by the time the evening ended we all were certain that we were all pretty much cut from the same cloth.

     Sunday was scheduled to be our last day in Maine, and the outcome of the weekend would be a deciding factor in what came next. Unfortunately Ginger and Tommy had yet to tie as of dinner the previous night. We'd have to wait a bit longer, and see what happens. We packed our bags, and headed to the kennel once more. Sadly, the two of them had still not managed to tie. It was decision time. Jim was packing, preparing to head down south for a couple of months where the weather was better, and dogs could be trained. This didn't mean the breeding couldn't still happen; we knew we could leave Ginger in Maine with Tommy for a bit longer if needed. We were also given the opportunity to take Tommy home with us, the idea being we take both dogs to the repro-vet, and have them "assist" in making the breeding a reality. Being only the third day after my surgery I wasn't comfortable with having to care for another's dog one handed and sore, so we elected to leave Ginger in Maine for the week and hope that nature would run it's course. And at that, we said our good byes and headed home.

     And,....it must be said again,.......Thank You, Jim, Denise, and Deanna. I can't thank Jim and his family enough for their hospitality. They made us feel truly welcome at a time when we really needed a break.
To Be Continued in Part 2

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mapping A New Road

     I don't know too many New England based sportsmen or sportswomen who don't own a DeLorme Gazetteer for one state or another. Many have several different state Gazetteers, myself owning 6. The DeLorme Maine Gazatteer is one of the, if not the most, recognizable atlas around.

     There is a change brewing for the Yarmouth Maine company as Garmin begins making a bid to buy them. The word on the street is that Garmin have already signed a lease for the DeLorme location in Yarmouth. It is unclear if the print version of the Atlas and Gazetteer will still be published by Garmin, but this sportsman, and I'm sure a lot more, hope they continue the tradition of printing these invaluable references for all 50 states. Sadly, however, Garmin have already announced their plan to close the small shop located in the DeLorme building.