July 13, 2014

What makes a good handler

Luckiest Man Alive put on a seminar with Pat Burns this week-end at our place in Colorado.  Pat Burns is a very well known Field Trial trainer that has retired from training dogs and is now doing seminars around the country full time.  He has trained many famous dogs and is known as being a great dog man.

One of the round table discussions at the seminar was "What Makes A Good Handler".  It made for very interesting and lively discussion.

One thing that was at the top of the list was a handler who knows how to deal with adversity.  What happens when the dog goes for a different bird than the one you sent for?  How does a handler deal with a dog that didn't take the cast(s) on the blind?  How does the handler deal with the "red zone"...or the last 10 or 20 yards of the blind?  What does one do when a dog wants a different bird next then the one he/she SHOULD go get in order to complete the test more easily?  How does one pull out a bird that the dog didn't see thrown?  These are all examples of dealing with adversity when running a Field Trial.

I remember a trial I ran in Kansas where I was in the last series with a dog named FC CFC Backwater's Boomer.  It was a big water quad and a test that I felt was right up Boomer's alley.  Boomer will get his own blog post one day.  There were 2 long birds, a short retired bird and a flyer last bird down.  After picking up the flyer, I sent Boomer for what I thought was a fairly straight forward short retired and he decided to go out, after I sent him, and get one of the difficult long retired birds.  This is where I had to deal with adversity.  I had to think on my feet and decide which of the two remaining birds to get with Boomer.  LMA has taught me to generally "leave my problem for last" and I chose to satiate Boomer's need to punch and picked the other long retired bird to get third.  He proceeded to get that bird nicely and we just had the short retired left to pick up.  I did not give up, but beared down and decided to get to work and convince Boomer he now had to check down after punching 3 times...and Boomer LOVES to punch.  I set myself up on the mat correctly, used the mat to my best advantage and talked Boomer into that short bird.  He went out and pounded the bird.  Boomer and I placed in that trial (I think fourth?) and it was a success.  But I remember that moment because when I came off line, LMA said to me "you're now a dog handler".  That made me proud.

If your dog doesn't see all the birds...don't admit defeat, but bear down and pull that bird out.  If your dog isn't winding the end of the blind where you think he should, get to work and put him in a position to wind it.  If your dog isn't giving you the cast you want, what cast can you give to get it?

Can you think on your feet?  Can you pull it off when everything doesn't go perfect?

Think about that next time you go out and train.

July 8, 2014

Tough Decisions

I recently had to make a tough decision.  I washed out Hattie.  Particularly hard for me because I washed out Ahti as well just a year or so ago.

Hattie is out of a fabulous breeding and sometimes genetics don't work as we hope they will.

Hattie was an absolute delight to raise, but I was always worried about her.  She never did like to retrieve, even as a puppy.

I have mentioned in previous blogs that when I raise a puppy, I let the puppy set the pace.  I have had puppies with little desire to retrieve (Rip) turn into retrieving maniacs and puppies who were retrieving fools (Ahti) lose their desire as the play turned into work.  I don't worry about pups too much if they have low retrieve desire when they are young, and I didn't worry about Hattie until she was 5 or so months old.  But when I still could not get her to retrieve by the time we started force fetch....that was a worry...

When something was thrown for Hattie as a puppy, she would race out and race back....but never bring back what was thrown.  She had no interest in picking anything up whether it be bumpers, ducks, toys or anything else.

Luckiest Man Alive and I assess 3 factors when evaluating dogs: desire, trainability and marking ability.  When one of these 3 things is very low it becomes incredibly difficult to advance the dog to an All Age level.

We trained Hattie all the way through the yard, but knew the writing was on the wall.  I was hopeful that she would turn around, but she never did.  Hattie just didn't have any passion to retrieve thrown objects and no amount of my yearning for it was going to make it so.

Luckiest Man Alive and I trained Hattie's mother and she has a tremendous amount of retrieve desire.  Hattie's grandmother is my wonderful Darbi, who loved Field Trials up until her retirement last year at 10 1/2 years old.  Hattie's father was a High Point Open dog in the US and is known for his insatiable desire.  Hattie's littermate has already placed in a Derby at 14 months old.  She had all the right genetics and the right start to life, but sometimes it goes the way it goes.

I have no desire to force a dog to do something it just doesn't want to do.

In my travels yesterday, I met Hattie's new family in North Dakota.  She left to go live in Minnesota with my brother's best friend from college.  You see, my brother now has Ahti and his friend had been waiting for a dog "just like Ahti".  Hattie now has a big house, a yard and two kids to play with every day.  I cried when we drove away but this is what is best for Hattie.  It's not that they will love her more then me, but they can offer her a more active life then that of living in a Field Trial camp with a dog that doesn't Field Trial.

Hattie's new family.

I'll see you soon sweet girl.

June 16, 2014

Mother and Daughter

I don't know if anyone still checks this blog as I've been away for so long.  Sorry about that.  I'm going to make an effort to be better.

It's been hard for me to think of things to write about though.  I originally started this blog as a way to chat about Darbi and Miikka and share stories of their puppies.  Since Darbi and Miikka are now retired, it would be rather boring to write about how loud they snore and how all they do now is roll in cow pies.  It's been quite a transformation for me in the past few years to move from an Amateur trainer with 2 dogs to a professional trainer with 24.  

I told Luckiest Man Alive, when I first met him, that I would never be able to have a relationship with other people's dogs like I have with Darbi.  I was right, in a sense.  I will never have a relationship with ANY other dog like I have with Darbi...mine or otherwise.  She is my first, and her and I have a bond that is once in a lifetime.

But I was also wrong in a sense.  I get as much, or more, enjoyment when our client dogs do well as when my personal dog does.  I didn't think that would happen, but it has.  You see, a lot of these dogs come in for training at 6 months old and rarely go home until they retire from Field Trials.  I consider them all MY dogs.  They are all my buddies and I like to think of myself as their "other" mother.  I know their quirks, their needs, what frightens them, the special places they like a good scratch and all their idiosyncrasies. I try to give them as good of a life as a kennel dog can have.  Walks and swims on their day off, knucklebones in the kennel and one on one time spent with them all.  After all, we ask the world of them and how can I expect them to give their heart to me unless I do the same for them?

So, I think I will start writing about ALL my dogs now...owned or otherwise.

But to give homage to my favourite lady...a post about Darbi.

LMA and I are in Canada running a couple of trials and putting on a seminar.  Darbi's daughter, Elmingo's Chasing A Whim, finished SECOND in an Open in Lethbridge this week-end.

I had the "honour" of honouring for "Adey" in the first series and my eyes sprung full of tears watching her.  She is her mother!  Same mannerisms, same movements and same style.  I walked off the honour box with big alligator tears and my wonderful husband noticed right away and said, "she reminded you of Darbi, didn't she".  He knows me so well.  I spoke with her trainer and he said the same thing about Adey that I say about Darbi.  Not the world's greatest trial dog, but just the World's Greatest Dog.  You could hear the affection in his voice as he spoke of her.

Here they are, mother and daughter.  They look more like sisters.  It made my week-end.

April 19, 2014


I'm so sorry I've been "away" for awhile.  Hopefully a few gorgeous pictures will make up for it.

We are home from the winter trip and are catching up on life after 5 long months away from home.

I took some shots of some of the dogs in our kennel before we left.  The Bluebonnets are indescribable when they are out in Texas.  They cover the fields and ditches.

Stanley and Abbey
I raised Stanley.

Ranger and Willie
I raised Willie.

I raised Doc.  He just started his yard work.

Roy and Pebbles.
Fellow Canadians.
I got a third in an Open with Pebbles in Texas a few weeks ago.

Morgan and Dux.
I got an Open JAM with Morgan a couple of weeks ago.

I raised Rip.

I bred Zink.

Turq and Catch.
I bred Turq and Catch made the Derby List just a week or so ago.

Our winter trip ended on a high note.
Abbey WON the Open at completed her FC at only 3 years old.

Silly me forgot to take pictures of my own dogs in the Bluebonnets.  But I love each one of these dogs as if they were my own.

January 24, 2014

Winter Trip goes on...

Sorry about the lack of blogging.  I'll try to be better.

We are all tired, as you can see.

Luckiest Man Alive is tired…
Libby is tired…
And Miikka, in the background, is very tired from bumper collecting…

December 25, 2013


I got this from Luckiest Man Alive for Christmas.

I'm thinking I'm the Luckiest Girl Alive.

A painting of my Darbi done by artist Pete Ferin.  Pete owns "Asia"…a Prize x Darbi pup.

There are no words to describe how he captured Momma D to perfection.  It's as perfect as a picture down to every last hair.  I can't stop staring at it.

Treasured forever.

December 24, 2013

Happy Birthday Princess

It's Libby's fourth birthday today!
We had a princess party with her, Darbi and Miikka.

Darbi, as usual, was less than thrilled with the festivities.

We tried to get Doc (the puppy I'm raising for a client) in for the photo, but it didn't go over so well.
Luckiest Man Alive spent some time chasing the party hat thief.

These are the four house dogs we have right now.

Fun times all around.

Happy birthday sweet Libby and Merry Christmas to everyone.

December 21, 2013

Seminars with Luckiest Man Alive

Luckiest Man Alive (AKA Kenny) has THREE seminars booked for 2014.  He looked at me a little sideways when I told him that, but he's a trooper and they are all for good causes.

Feb 1&2: FREE (FREE!!!!) Avery Seminar with Danny Farmer and Kenny Trott
Location: Anderson, Texas
A couple of handler spots left and unlimited spectators.

July 4/5/6: Kenny Trott seminar for the Manitoba Gun Dog Association
Location: Balmoral, Manitoba

July 11/12/13: Pat Burns and Kenny Trott Seminar for the Centennial Retriever Club
Location: Wellington, Colorado

Send me an email if you want info on any of these.  They should be great learning experiences and great fun.


December 18, 2013

I must be crazy

I think I'm crazy.

As if I didn't have enough to do, I recently became voted in as Secretary/Treasurer of the PRTA at the annual meeting at the National.

The PRTA is the Professional Retriever Trainers Association and we promote ethical standards and conduct for professional dog trainers, have a voice in the world of Field Trials and Hunt Tests and award annual land grants.

Before I took on this position, I have been organizing the monthly Ask The Pro column in the Retriever News and doing the PRTA website.  The Ask The Pro work has been daunting and I think I will have to delegate it off in the next year or so before I get burned out.  The PRTA website is nothing fancy, as I have no web development training, but it is better than what they had (hint: nothing).

And now add Secretary/Treasurer to the duties.

As much as I moan, I actually enjoy the work.  I re-did the PRTA homepage, did a TON of work in Quickbooks and went through a stack of PRTA mail this morning…all before I force fetched my first dog at 8am.  Thankfully Kenny does the morning chores in Texas so I can do some of this extra work.

The moral of the story is: check out the PRTA website.  www.prta.net 

The membership list is a list of pros that are not just paid members, but fellow professional trainers that were accepted into the Association based on a vote of acceptance from their peers.  These guys and gals are the best of the best.  They put on 5-8 Field Trials a year, give away all their money to Field Trial clubs, the NRC/NARC and Retriever Hall Of Fame and try to influence the direction of Field Trials in a positive way.

A great Association that is under recognized in the sport of Field Trials.

December 11, 2013

Back in Texas

It has been a whirlwind few weeks, so sorry for the lack of blogging.  It seems I'm blogging less and less these days, and I probably am.

After the three day drive home from South Carolina and the National, we stayed home for a short time and then hit the road again for Texas for the Winter Trip.

I am happy to be in Texas.  I like it here.  But it is not home.

A picture of our pre-National group in Georgia.  We have all, for the most part, been pre-Nationaling together every year since I've been around.  It is always a fun time.

And Riot, who is a riot, FINISHED the National!!!
Here are Riot's owners, Brad and Diane, along with the Luckiest Man Alive.
And of course the man of the hour, Riot himself.

We are very proud of young Riot. 
2013 National Finalist

I just "happened" to have a Tiara in our truck and popped it on 2013 NFC Trumarc's Dot Com.
It made for a fun bunch of photos and all the more fun because Dottie is so photogenic.
Danny Farmer won the National and it is at his place that we winter in Texas, so we couldn't be happier for him and his wife Lisa.  They are good friends.

That tiara has been around…and won a few Opens, a Derby and now a National.

Training in Texas.
Hattie (not worthy of the tiara…yet…but one day...) and her photo hating Grandmother Darbi.

Hattie is a BIG girl.  We love her.  She's working on force to pile in the yard and is doing great.  She looks like she can mark and has TONS of horsepower.

Luckiest Man Alive said to me today: "I think you have a pretty nice dog there".

I had fun watching her dad "Juice" (FC AFC Fresh Squeezed Juice) at the National.  It was a sad deal to watch him go out in the 8th series, but I saw why he is such an awesome dog.

November 20, 2013


Having a great time at the National in Cheraw, South Carolina.  I have never been to South Carolina before, so lots to look at and see.

We pre-Nationaled at Sandhill Kennels in Georgia for a week.  This is Al Arthur's kennel and it is quite gorgeous there.  Lots of work was done, yet lots of fun was to be had during the week of pre-National.

Handlers at the National waiting to be invited to the line for series 4/5 yesterday.

Luckiest Man Alive having a look at the line.  He is running a young dog we train named Riot.

November 7, 2013

Number 14.

I have a new puppy.  Are you surprised?

Actually…this is not even my puppy.  I am raising him for a client.

This is the 14th puppy I've raised in almost 4 years.  4 puppies a year on average.  Yikes.   I'm becoming a bit of an expert I think.

"Doc" is adorable.  He is an FC AFC x FC AFC breeding and we are all very excited about him.

From the looks of the picture…he has things pretty figured out around here.

October 31, 2013

First hunt

Miss Libby on her first hunt.

October 15, 2013

Chicken Foot

This is what Libby's foot looks like now.  Truly, it's kinda weird looking.  She has been back in training for 2 weeks and you would never know that it was gone watching her.  The nicknames are aplenty though...but "Lucky" still reigns.

I ran Darbi as test dog in one series of a Derby on her 11th birthday.  

She crept and almost broke.  Made me smile.  That alone was worth it.

What really got me though, was that she had no recognition of the "long" gun when I was lining her up for it.  She just couldn't see it.  It wasn't all that long, and not hard to see...but it reminded me the main reason why we retired her...she couldn't see the long guns anymore.  But I was most shocked at how much it has deteriorated since this spring.  Instead of not being able to see the long gun in the Open (looonnnnggg ones), she can't see the long gun in the derby.  Big change for the worse.

I lined her up as best I could and sent her...and her great training took her right to the bird and she pinned it.  I wonder how much she covered for me in the last months she ran trials on training alone?

Sad for me...my horse Zed has been sold and is on to a great, new home.  He could be a bit of a nut at times and he was hard to train the first couple of years...but he brought me so much enjoyment.  He was never, ever unsafe...the steering and the brakes were just not always working.

This is my NEW horse Odie!!  He was only two weeks off the racetrack when this picture was taken and he was pretty incredible on our first ride.  The anti-Zed, really.  I am so looking forward to having a less"hot" horse to ride and I could already tell that Odie will not need two laps to get stopped after a jump like Zed.

After that maiden ride, I turned out Odie in the pasture at our house for a couple of months to have a well deserved vacation after his racing career.  I can see him outside my window as I type this.  Even though he's only here for a couple more weeks before he goes in for training...it has been so much fun having him around.

September 29, 2013

Darbi's 11th

Happy 11th Birthday to just the best dog ever.

Darbi turns another year older today and she is doing fantastic.

She has failing eyesight, but she is otherwise very healthy.  She is on no meds and has not limped on her arthritic feet since she retired from Field Trials.

She "might" have some hearing loss, but I think she hears me just fine and chooses to ignore me most of the time.  That's okay...she deserves to do what she wants.

She is my heart dog.

Darbi and her granddaughter Hattie.  Hattie is going to be at least as big as Darbi.  Darbs is a good sized female.
She's 6 1/2 months and has started her yard work.

Darbi's son Turq, who recently achieved his FC.
He is going grey early like his momma.

Another shot of Hattie.  She comes by those big ears honestly.

September 14, 2013

Field Champion!!

CONGRATS to owner Tim Mueller and his NEW Field Champion "Turq".

Luckiest Man Alive and Turq got a third in the Open today and this titled Turq.

Turq is now FC Backwater Smokin Turq and is from the Prime x Darbi litter of 2008.

Turq is quite accomplished at only 4 years young.

Canadian National Finalist at 2
Qualified for US National at 3
Qualified for US National Amateur at 4

Atta boy Turq.

Darbi and Turq

September 12, 2013

It's gone.

The toe is gone.

Libby had surgery a couple of days ago and all went well.  We go for our first dressing change tomorrow where I will be able to see what her foot looks like now.

She seems no worse for wear and doesn't fuss with the bandage on her foot.

Apparently she can return to work in 2 weeks or so.


September 5, 2013

The Great Toe Debate

I just picked Libby up from the vet...WITH her toe still attached.

She was supposed to have the toe removed today but my vet, Dr. Wonderful, called me to say he was apprehensive and he'd like to reschedule.  You see, this is what I love about my vet.  He is anxious to do a great job because he knows Libby is an athlete and a return to full work is the goal.  He has consulted multiple orthopedic vets and came to the conclusion that he would like one of them there for the surgery.

We are rescheduled for Tuesday when Dr. Wonderful will do the toe removal, along with an orthopedic colleague.

Luckiest Man Alive says he doesn't know what all the fuss is about and he could remove the toe himself no problem with some kitchen utensils, but I doubt his method would have much finesse.

I imagine the rest of the year is a wash for Libby, however she may be back for a couple of trials in October.  I told Dr. Wonderful that I'll do whatever it takes to have her for next year and all the years after that.  The rest of this year just doesn't matter in the big picture.

August 30, 2013

Oops...she did it again.

Miss Libby just could not stand it.  It has been too long since she's had one of her "accidents".  Here we go again.

Just to recount "Lucky", as she's known in some circles, has had:
-broken jaw at 8 weeks
-broken leg at 9 weeks
-almost had her tongue partially amputated at 11 week
-EMERGENCY spay at 16 months
-qualified for Canadian National with 10 staples in her side as a 2 year old

Libby came off the truck limping on a hind leg today.  First terrifying thought was a torn ACL, but a quick exam by me led me to believe she had broken a toe.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.

I took her to the vet and this is what they saw.

An outside toe on one of her hind feet is fractured in 4 places.  It's smashed.  (The crooked toe to the left of it is no deal-they just moved the toe there for the x-ray).

The vet said they would splint it, consult an ortho vet and we would go from there.

We have NO idea how she did that.  Playing in the yard in the morning?  It happened before she had any field training for the day.

The ortho vet consult result is that they are suggesting amputation of the toe.  It is a non weight bearing toe and apparently she will be no worse for wear after the skin flap heals.  Side effects of not amputating is that her toe may never heal properly, re-fracture easily and have a long, slow and potentially unsuccessful healing process.  Not to mention the arthritis she will get in that toe some day.

I've been given my options.  Amputate or splint and hope for the best.

Apparently Libby won't even know that her toe is gone...but I will know and it's hard for me to fathom.

I need to digest this all over the week-end.  It hasn't really sunk in yet.

August 25, 2013

Gordy on the list!

Miikka's kid Gordy made the US Derby List!  If you remember he's the pup I kept from the Arson x Miikka litter and his "official" name is Elmingos Controlled Power Play.

I raised Gordy up until about 5 months old and then he went to his forever home.  He was a delight to raise and continues to be a delight to be around.  Such personality!!!  He's a spitting image of his dad and his Dad was an awesome specimen.

Gordy has a very bright future ahead of him.  I think he's on 9 Derby finishes in a row and has one left before he ages out.  He's a very bright and consistent young dog that doesn't make many mistakes.

Miss Libby and I made it to the last series of the Open this past week-end at a trial in Montana.  She had run a great trial up until then.  She was the only 3 year old in the last series and it certainly was not a 3 year old test.  I needed to get Momma Darbi off the truck to pull that test off....years of experience and wisdom.

Trust me when I say Momma D would have been very happy if that was the case.  She's been driving me a little bonkers lately with her...ahhh...exuberance.

Libby tried her little heart out, but she got confused.  Very happy with her effort.

August 15, 2013

Sun Goddess

Hattie is growing up.

She's 5 months now.  She loves to sleep like a cat with both her front feet curled underneath her and loves to sit in the sun on the bench seat.

Hattie has been a delight to raise and other than having an affinity for wicker baskets, for some reason, she has been very easy.

I see a lot of Hattie's mother (Meg) and grandmother (Darbi) in her, but she also has some of the Chopper mannerisms through her dad Juice coming through.  I love it.

August 14, 2013

Dock Dog

As you know, I gifted my little Ahti to my nephews after she decided Field Trials were not for her.  

A better home one could not ask for.

Ahti and one of my nephews had a chance to practice at a Dock Dog competition before the competitors started.

Certainly not the world's biggest jump, but great fun was had by all.

August 5, 2013

Go Zink!

Congrats to "Zink" (Elmingo's Little Man - Shaq x Miikka) for placing in TWO Amateurs the past two week-ends.

Zink got a third two week-ends ago and a second this past week-end.

Way to go Zink and Rett!!

August 4, 2013

More puppy raising

One point that I forgot to make a couple of blogs ago when it comes to raising puppies, is about pups and water.

I remember I had a young pup at a Field Trial once and he was only about 9 weeks old.  Someone, who thought they were important, came up to me and asked if I had introduced the pup to the water yet?  I responded that I had not.  They told me I was making a big mistake and I needed to hurry up.  Huh?

Different strokes for different folks, but I doubt this certain pup's ability to get off the point at a trial in October when it is 5 years old has anything to do with how quickly I put him in the water out of the womb or not.

My belief on pups and water is that they will get in when they are ready.  Yes, I don't make a big deal about it.

Everyone is in such a hurry when raising pups.  It is as if some people think they will have a better dog if they can do water retrieves at 3 months vs 5 months vs 7 months.  I know people that put little life jackets on their tiny puppies, put them in the water and then they send me videos of the puppy swimming around with a terrified look on its face.  Yes, your puppy got in the water before my puppy...how wonderful.

I start taking pups down to the water's edge as soon as I can, depending on the weather.  And when I get there I don't do much.  I don't wade out up to my knees and I don't make a big fuss about it.  I may toss a twig in the water, or invite Miikka with us to show us how it's done, but it's a low stress, high fun  environment.

Some pups swim early and some swim late.  I've never had a problem raising a pup this way and invariably they start swimming around on their own sooner or later.

No pup that I've raised has been "bad" in the water yet...in fact they have all been quite good water dogs.  Is this because of how I introduce them to water...maybe, I doubt it...I think what I do is teach them not to HATE the water though.

Dogs are good in the water for a variety of reasons.  Pre-disposition/genetics, early training, never being allowed to cheat (throwing cheating marks before we have the tools to deal with a cheat) and a CLEAR understanding of the water in Basics.

Again, how a pup is raised and how well it's Basics are done will determine a dog's water attitude for the most part.  We can make a great water dog hate the water if are not careful, but we can also make an average water dog good and reliable with thoughtful training.

July 28, 2013

Libby does it again

Miss Libby got an Open fourth this week-end!

This is four Open finishes in a row for her, with three placements!  She needs the coveted win to qualify for the US National in South Carolina this November.  Wins in Opens are hard to come by...VERY hard...so I'm not holding my breath, but I will keep my fingers crossed.

This is all very impressive for a 3 year old dog.

We had a great week-end at Horsetooth Retrievers.  First, Second, Fourth and Fifth (Reserve JAM) in the Open...and three of those four dogs are three and younger.  And we won the Qualifying too!

Our future looks bright and all the (mucho, mucho) hard work is paying off.  We have an exciting truck of dogs and they just keep coming.  Willie and Gordy in the Derby look great, and we have a few Basics dogs that are making us smile every day....including my home-raised Rip.

Being a pro is a tough, tough life.  It is exhausting, demanding, never-ending and all-encompassing but it's week-ends like this that make it all worth while...and then some.