"Your life is made up of two dates and a dash. Make the most of the dash."

If I've learned anything from last year, it is that life is unpredictable. More than ever I recognize the brevity of life, and I am determined to make the most of every healthy, living moment I have! No moment is wasted, because you learn something with every breath you inhale. Breathe deeply!
Saturday, October 1, 2022
  GCWC Scent Work Trial day #2   

Some days you are the windshield...not today! After having a killer day at the trial yesterday, today Dolphin and I went 1 out of 8 searches...yikes! We were in 3 Excellent searches and 1 advanced., so this was a lot more difficult than what we were used to. We did managed to squeak out a lone qualifying run in Excellent Buried on our very last search of the day. Dolphin was extremely distracted with the scents on the grass, as today containers and exterior were all on grass (yesterday they were on concrete). This is something we will have to learn how to work through. Dolphin was just a little more distracted today, his head wasn't in the game. Oh well, we will have those days. We will go back to training, and hopefully do another trial in the spring.

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Friday, October 7, 2022
   Agility Seminar   

Pizza and I did a 3 hour agility seminar this morning. I can't say enough good things about her - she was focused and enthusiastic for the full 3 hours, a complete rock star. I had people sit out in the ring for several of her runs and she never even looked at them. On the one hand, this made me so happy! On the other hand...damn! How can I train this visiting in the ring issue if she never ever does it in training? I can't train at trials! Ugh. My only hope is to do as much training and positive reinforcement in the ring for the next 3 months, and then maybe try a trial again in 2023 and see if there is a difference. Man, when she is running and focused, it is a fantastic feeling running her!!!

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Saturday, October 8, 2022
   Hunt test in Shiloh, OH   

I am adding a couple of new chapters in my upcoming book "1,001 Ways To Fail A Master Hunter Test". Oh, and remember a year ago when I swore I would never enter the fall test at this location because the cover was ridiculously high? Yeah...should have stuck to that. But...in my defense I was supposed to be in Florida this weekend, so this was at least something I could do to take my mind off of my ruined trip.

Lucky Pizza was in the first Master brace. She was fantastic off the start line, and very early in the backfield she went on a nice solid point. It took me forever to find the bird...actually I never did find it. I heeled her off, and proceeded to knock the bird up. She froze, I blanked it, and we went on working...nice job, Pizza!

When we got to the bird field, my heart sunk. The cover was indeed just as bad as last year - standing well over my head for the most part (and I am 5'9"!). Worse than last year - they had much fewer paths mowed into the field, so when your dog was hunting, it was impossible to figure out where they were or to get to them quickly.

Finally Pizza went on point deep in the high cover, about 6-7 feet off the path. Thankfully I could clearly see the large chukkar she was pointing. I waited for the gunners to get in position and I flushed the bird. They shot it, and it landed in the middle of heavy, high cover, and neither Pizza nor I could even see the fall since we were standing in cover over our heads. I sent her to retrieve in the direction of the bird, and she hunted for it...and hunted and hunted and searched and searched...came out and I sent her back in several times...what seemed like hours went by, but in reality it was just enough time to take up the remainder of the few minutes I had left in the bird field, and we ran out of time without being able to complete the retrieve. Such a disappointment! However, she was fantastic on her bird work, so I was super happy about that.

Noodle was in the third brace. She broke away like a field trial dog and was HARD running the entire backfield. On the plus side, she was running so hard there was really no danger of finding any birds in the backfield (though she is so solid this was not really a worry). We got to the bird field and the difficulties were magnified because with her big run and that high cover, I rarely caught a glimpse of her. Luckily, she finally went on point and was nice and solid and waited for me to find her. I flushed the birds, gunners shot, and I sent her for the retrieve.

Here's where things got weird. On her way to the retrieve, she slammed to a point. I thought she was pointing the downed bird (which was about 20-30 feet ahead of her). I kept commanding her to "get it" but she stayed locked up and ignored me. What a good girl!!! I finally left my spot and went to her, and there was another chukkar right under her nose. Even though I was telling her to "get it", she stayed string and fast on this second bird, what a relief! I turned to the judge and asked what he wanted me to do. He was confused. He proceeded to go to the other judge and have a lengthy discussion about how to handle this. I am watching my dog, and she is getting more and more intense on that bird, and they kept talking and talking and talking. Noodle stayed solid the entire time, I couldn't be prouder of this! Finally the judge came back and told me to work this second bird. I flushed it, gunners shot it, and she went out and did a gorgeous, direct retrieve to hand. Yay!

Then things got crazy. My judge tells me to send her to retrieve the first original bird. I looked at him like he was crazy - at this point and this long of a wait (remember, they spent at least 5 minutes discussing the first retrieve before I ever did it) Noodle didn't even remember there was a first bird shot. So I sent her out on the retrieve again. She was thoroughly confused, because she JUST completed her retrieve and really didn't understand what I was asking. The judge was adamant that I keep trying to do the original retrieve, so i kept sending her out and sending her out and sending her out...next thing I know her bracemate comes crashing through the high cover and interferes with her retrieve. Knowing she is not supposed to retrieve the other dog' bird, Noodle came straight back to me. I was told to send her out again, which I did, but I could see in her eyes she was wrecked and confused, and when he gets like this she gets a little scrambled.

Finally I advocated for my dog (why the hell didn't I do that in the first place???) and told the judge that at this point my dog had no idea what I was asking her to do, and I was moving on. The other dog as on point right on the other side of the tall cover, so the judge told me to bring her in for her honor. I did, but Noodle was so scrambled she ran right by the dog and went in the cover, still thinking she was supposed to retrieve. UGH.

After I leashed her up, the judge tried to tell me she should have gotten that second retrieve, and that "in retrieving tests" she would be expected to do double and triple blind retrieves. I reminded him that this is NOT a retrieving test, and NOT a requirement. The judge's response was "You are right, this fail is on me". Not much consolation when I spent $50 and failed an otherwise awesome test.

Weird things always happen in hunt tests, and I find it fascinating how the dogs, handlers, and judges handle it. Every master test I run is educational. This knowledge truly is power, because I am going to use it to become better, and to help others become better...stay tuned!

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Monday, October 10, 2022
   Honor honor honor   

I had the opportunity to do some field training with a friend. I brought Noodle, and we both practiced honoring back and forth. Her first one was ICKY - clear sight of the dog on point and I had to get after her 2 or 3 times before she stopped solid. After that, we had three amazing honors (OK, 2 amazing honors and one passable one). She had one where she stopped waaaay ahead of me and I didn't even realize the other dog was on point, but she did! Of course, this is training, and she knows it. She doesn't have the huge adrenaline rush she gets at hunt tests. We have another hunt test this weekend - 2 more chances to try and finish not only her Master Advanced title, but her AKC Master Hunter Award of Merit (12 MH passes). I am hopeful...guardedly hopeful.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2022
  Progress in the field, yes!   

Although I am super bummed that we are not in Florida right now, and a little heartbroken at the condition of our property after Hurricane Ian, I walked in the field today and couldn't' help feeling thankful that circumstances made it so that I didn't miss this gorgeous and glorious fall day.

I worked with my field trainer today, and worked a bunch on Noodle honoring. She was outstanding. OK, I am convinced that she truly understands the whole honoring thing and knows what she is supposed to do, which means that when she blows it off at a test she is doing it deliberately. Of course, today once again she was in uber-training mode. Well, all I can say about this weekend is that I have trained as hard as I could and left nothing to chance...it's up to her now. It's a bit of a helpless feeling, but in a way it is a bit satisfying because I know deep down that I could not have trained any harder. I grabbed every opportunity to train, left no stone unturned. What will be will be.

We put out 6 birds in launchers for Dolphin, and worked him alone. I am overly excited to report that he did not break on a single bird today! We are working on not only getting him steady, but keeping his intensity up. He would go on point, I would walk up next to him. If he flinched or moved even a smidge, the bird would get launched, I would blank the gun, and collar him away. Several times he stood beautiful and staunch, and we let him really soak in the scent before launching the bird. I really think he is starting to get it! He points so beautifully, is a joy to watch. I am still taking the slow road with him, I think if I do things right he could really turn out to be outstanding...just have to go about it in a different way and on a different path than the girls took.

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Saturday, October 15, 2022
   A fail and a BIG pass!   

Today was day #1 of the Greater Cincinnati Weimaraner Club hunt test, and I was READY! Pizza got to go first, and we soon found out that the bird field was chock full of birds leftover from the ratings test yesterday. She hunted wonderfully, and really hard! She went on point early, but the gunners missed the bird so we had to move on (note to self: Be careful of talking to the judge when your dog is holding steady after the flush...could have been very bad!). Her second bird came soon after, and she was steady as a rock as I flushed and the gunners shot fairly close. Unfortunately it was a messy quail with feathers coming out. She completed the retrieve, but she set it down a bunch and it took a lot of convincing on my part to get her to bring it to me. On we went, and immediately she went on point on another bird! This one was shot, I sent her for the retrieve, and it was more of the same - it was completed, but not very well. She had a beautiful honor from a distance, and then pointed another bird which thankfully the gunners missed (whew!). That was a LOT of bird work in such a short amount of time. Unfortunately although she had nice scores in the other categories, she received a "4" on retrieving, which failed her. Bummer, but we will keep trying.

Noodle was next, I barely got a breather before I had to head back out. The girls were in back to back braces, and since I had the only two master hunter entries they both had to run with bye dogs.

Noodle actually stayed fairly under control in the backfield (I didn't lose her this year, yay!), but she reached the bird field way ahead of me and was already hunting. She had a beautiful solid point, the bird was shot, and she did a perfect retrieve to hand with no command. She soon went on point on another bird, but the bird flew over her head and towards the judge so a safety was called. All that was left to do was the honor, and this was the part I was the most nervous about as we have been working hard on it all week! She got ahead of me and stopped on her own at the sight of the other dog on point...YES!!! The bracemate broke on the shot and chased, the judges debated on whether this would be considered an honor since there wasn't an honor through the retrieve. Since I memorized the whole dang rule book, I know that page 30 outlines the rule that states an honor through a failed retrieve does complete the honoring requirements....so after a bit of a debate we were done, and she passed with an average score of 8 - enough to finish not only her last pass needed for her Master Hunter Advanced title, but also her AKC Master Hunter Lifetime Achievement award for having 12 Master Hunter passes! I am beyond excited, this was a big goal of mine this year and WE DID IT! I swear, there is no end to what this little girl can do, she is truly my ride-or-die girl.

Noodle is now: "GCH CH Luxe All You Can Eat Spaghetti BN RA MHA MH12 MX MXJ XF CGC TKP SDX RD VX3"

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Sunday, October 16, 2022
  Day #2 at the hunt test   

Noodle got the privilege of going first at the hunt test today. Yesterday and today I had the only two Master Hunter entries, but thankfully there was someone with a couple of wonderful retired Weimaraners that she ran as bye dogs for me. Sometimes your brace mate can make or break your go, so having good ones was a definite plus.

Noodle was wise to the game and the course today, so when I released her from the start line she took off like a bullet, and was into the bird field in minutes. However, I still had to walk the entire back course, but luckily she was well-behaved in the bird field without me (according to witnesses LOL!)

Noodle hunted really hard, and there were LOTS of birds to find! She went on point fairly quickly, I flushed, bird was shot, and she did a nice retrieve to hand. We went on and soon found another bird, this one flew over the judges so a safety was called. The next bird was a wild flush as she was running, and she stopped nicely and waited for me to walk up and heel her off and release her. For as wild as she looked at the start, she was being very obedient when I asked it of her.

Noodle's bracemate went on point, and I brought her in on the honor. She was charging ahead and I had to really caution her to make her slow down so she would notice the other dog. She did stop, and I stood next to her while the other dog worked the bird. When they shot and the dog went for the retrieve, Noodle hopped forward an inch or so but stayed put. I quietly "whoa-ed" her to caution her and she stayed put the rest of the time. However, the judges told me they wanted to see her honor and hold without me cautioning her, so they went ahead and set up another honor.

At this point, Noodle was pretty wild-eyed and I knew this was going to be a big challenge. Her bracemate went on point again, and I sent Noodle ahead of me towards the other dog. I KNOW she saw that dog, but turned her head and kept running. I called her to come back, and on her return back she did finally stop. I stood next to her and made sure I said nothing. Of course, crazy things always happen to me at hunt tests, and this one was no different. The bird flushed backwards over my bracemate's head, and landed about 5 feet in front of Noodle! She hopped an inch, I said nothing, and she stayed put. At this point all I could do was stand there and mentally try to will Noodle to stand still. Her bracemate came right up and picked up the bird right in front of her and retrieved it, and Noodle (although a quivering, vibrating mess) stayed put! Whew!

This was a nice Master Hunter pass #13, although I felt her scores were a little harsh considering how well everything else went. Oh well...I know that some judges just like to score generic passing scores and although that bothers me, there isn't much I can do about that...YET.

Next it was Pizza's turn. Man, Pizza was on fire, hunted beautifully! Her first pointed bird was shot at and it looked like a miss as it looked to have flown down on to the path. The judges gave me the option to go ahead and try to retrieve it or heel off. I chose the latter, and we heeled off and went on hunting. Pizza's second bird was a nice solid point, a good flush by me (yay!), and they shot it. I sent her in for the retrieve, and when she went out to the bird, it flew up in the air. It had only been winged. It landed again and she did get it. The bird was flapping and squawking like crazy, and Pizza only put it down once to readjust, and delivered it right to me. Probably one of the best retrieves I have gotten out of her in a long time!

We had a beautiful dramatic honor (I may or may not have done a fist pump in the air when I saw her do that from a distance LOL!). We held nicely through the retrieve, and then the judges had a little meeting and decided they wanted to see another retrieve from Pizza to see if she could do a "clean" retrieve (i.e. not put the bird down to readjust). Damn. I just KNEW this wasn't going to go well, and boy I was right. They planted a bird, I flushed, they shot, I sent Pizza for the retrieve. I noticed the judges and the gunners were all standing around me, and Pizza put the bird down multiple times, and ended up dropping it about 5 feet from me and coming to me, leaving the bird. That was a big FAIL. In looking back, I wonder if having the people (judges, gunners) around me is putting too much pressure on her to retrieve to me. It seems whenever I get into that scenario, she fails the retrieve. I seem to have better luck with her retrieve when there aren't any additional people around me adding pressure. This might be the case, or it might just be some coincidence. I don't know. What I DO know is that I have GOT to fix this retrieve and get it better. I need to get her enthusiastic about the retrieve. She goes out with TONS of enthusiasm, but the return trip is not good, and it's almost like she doesn't like the bird in her mouth.

But to further dispel that notion and complicate things, when I leashed her up, she did pick up the bird, and I walked all the way back to the van with her carrying the bird in her mouth on leash. Hmmm...this is a puzzle, and I am determined to figure it out. I am not willing to force-train her, so we will just have to find another way.

Of course, tonight as I was out in the yard playing with her and Dolphin, I penned Dolphin up and threw the toy for Pizza and she retrieved three times in a row beautifully to me (for lots of praise and treats). I am going to do this every day, making it the most fun and positive experience for her so that she just gets into the habit of retrieving and enjoying it...and once that is solid we will move to throwing a dead bird for the retrieve. I have 3 weeks until our next test...we can do it!.

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Thursday, October 20, 2022
   Ups and downs and downs   

I don't know what's gotten into Dolphin, but his agility classes yesterday and today were awesome - he was on fire!. Super fast, motivated, he was incredible.

Yesterday I took Pizza for some field training with my friend, and she hunted amazing - there were birds EVERYWHERE and man she was finding them! The last bird was finally shot successfully, and her retrieve SUCKED. Argh! I had been practicing a retrieve at home the past few days and she was doing great! I have to get my mind wrapped around this problem and figure out a solution. And yes, I am obsessing about it. That's how I operate.

The worst thing that happened this week was Noodle...she had her agility class today and started off awesome, but towards the end I noticed that tiny little limp came back. I have rested her all week, with just a little bit of free running time out on the property. Back home we went, back on Carprofen and more rest. I am so worried, this is so unlike her. I have so many plans for her coming up, I pray she has nothing serious going on.

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Friday, October 21, 2022
  Agility in the morning, flying out at night   

Dolphin!!! We headed to Zanesville for an agility trial. Sadly, I had to pull Noodle from the trial. Dolphin was a bit...um...wild to start! Master FAST was a tran wreck, he was so wild he was all over the place. I am OK with that...he was SO happy how could I not be?

Master Standard was awesome - smooth and fast and under control for a really nice Q and he actually won the 24" Master Standard class...woot! Master Jumpers was a bit on the edge, and we had the trifecta - a knocked bar, a missed weave entrance, and the wrong end of the tunnel. BUT, he was fast, motivated, and happy. I'll take that!!!

I flew out at night to Raleigh, North Carolina for step #2 in my personal little goal...and I attended the AKC hunt test judges' seminar. I am excited!

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Sunday, October 23, 2022

The judges' seminar yesterday was AWESOME! I learned so much. I may possibly have asked a few too many questions, but I got a lot of the information I was looking for and I feel much more confident in my journey. Make a change - be the change, right? Yep!

I had the bonus of getting a chance to talk to a friend who lives out there and is an outstanding dog trainer. She gave me some great advice for Pizza, as I feel like the pressure of me and the judges is possibly what is turning her off on the retrieve. She suggested instead of standing square at her, I should turn slightly sideways so my shoulders aren't facing directly at her, to help lessen the pressure. Also, don't bend down, just stand more casually. I got home today and tried it with Pizza, and she did great! I think I might move to a dead bird this week and up it a little since she is retrieving her bumpers and toys great at home. I like having a plan. It may not work, but a plan is a plan and my crazy obsessive brain is now satisfied.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2022
   Growing Frustration...   

So every day this week I took Pizza outside several times and threw the rope ball or bumper for her to retrieve, she retrieved every time right to hand, fast and enthusiastic. I gave her tons and tons of praise and rewards. I stood sideways and was more inviting. Then we went field training today and she botched TWO retrieves. Ran out, picked up the bird, set it down numerous times, and only got it to about 5 feet from me before dropping it. What is extra frustrating is that she was outstanding in everything else. She had two HUGE long distance intense honors, she went on point one time a good 25 feet from the bird, another time she was at least 100 yards from me when she went on point and held perfectly while I walked (slowly) to her. She is doing EVERYTHING else flawlessly, but that retrieve has gone to hell since last year and I am not sure why, or what to do about it. Do I add more pressure? Take pressure away? I don't know, I have tried both with no real results...sometimes the retrieve happens and sometimes it's a definite NO.

When I run into these things that seemingly have no solution, it really gets to me. But leave it to Noodle to cheer me up - this evening I got her out and I see NO limp. I did some fun double retrieves in the house just to remind myself that I CAN actually train a retrieve successfully...my Noodlehead always raises my spirits when I need her. Even Pretzel got in on the action, he was retrieving toys like a fiend! He always loved retrieving (Dolphin gets that from him for sure!).

Oh well, back to the drawing board. I will figure something out. There is no time limit...please, someone needs to keep reminding me of this. The girl already has her Master Hunter. We will get through this blip in training eventually.

On the plus side, both Dolphin and Pizza were outstanding in their agility classes today. Pizza was especially amazing...I am actually having a little hope and excitement for getting her back to the agility trials in January.

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Thursday, October 27, 2022
   Ugh. Just ugh.   

Noodle stayed home from agility class today, I am hoping this nice long rest will heal whatever is bothering her in her leg or shoulder. I took her to my friend who is a canine massage therapist, she did find a knot in her right shoulder that she worked out. I am hoping and praying that she is healed...I am so afraid to take any chances with her right now.

I had brought home a dead quail from yesterday, and I brought it out to do some retrieving with Pizza in the front yard. She has been doing so awesome with retrieving the toys and bumpers, I thought it would be a nice transition to do the same retrieve in the same place, but with a dead bird this time. Yeah...nope. She went out super enthusiastic, but did not want to bring it all the way back to me. She set it down multiple times, got it to within 5 feet of me and that is it...a carbon copy of what she did yesterday when we trained. Is it the bird? The texture of the feathers in her mouth? I have no idea at this point.

I threw the bird for Dolphin just for fun, he ran out and was so surprised to actually see a dead bird and not the usual toy. He picked it up and brought it to me but was WAAAAAY overly excited about it and I had trouble getting it back from him. I'll take that enthusiasm!

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Saturday-Sunday, October 29-30, 2022
   Scent Work Seminar   

I spent the weekend with Dolphin at a Scent Work seminar. It was an all-day affair both days. We got a lot of good information to help us continue our training. The two days were very long, and I was proud of how good Dolphin was - hanging out in his crate all day with just brief moments where he got out to run the searches.

Saturday evening when I got home, I took Dolphin and Pizza out in the front yard mainly to let Dolphin burn off some steam. I brought out a new toy - a giant tennis ball. Dolphin for some reason is obsessed with tennis balls, but I never let him have any since he could easily choke on them. This one was huge, no choking hazard. Dolphin was WILD about it. Pizza was trying to get into the action, so I put Dolphin inside and threw the ball just for Pizza. She went bonkers for it! Here is an interesting thing - she treated it like it was a bird...picking it up, setting it down several times, finally only bringing it to about 5 feet from me. A lightbulb went off in my head...it's not about the bird or the feathers or anything other than she DOESN'T want to give up the bird to me, just like she DOESN'T want to give up this ball to me. Her crappy, stilted retrieve is all about possession. Now how do I go about fixing this? I have to think on this a bit...

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