The NFL has their combine and last week was my Spinone combine. The guys haven’t pointed a bird since November and haven’t retrieved one since January, so I just wanted to take a look at them before we began our summer training. I didn’t do any training or give corrections other than a couple of “whoas” – it was just a matter of setting up the scenarios and let the dogs worked them.
Tracking consisted of dragging a goose wing for roughly a 100 feet with a couple of direction changes thrown in. Doc lost the scent but was able to pick it up again and found the wing without much trouble. Mia did an excellent job of tracking to the wing. For whatever reason, this particular video didn’t turn out too well.
I placed Pheasant wings about 250 feet out. By the time I planted Mia’s wing and brought her into the pasture, I had forgotten where it was and cast her in the wrong direction (more about marking and casting in an upcoming post). Regardless, she was able to hit the scent cone and work back to the wing. As with her “aunt Sophie”, retrieving is done on her terms. Doc doesn’t care about taking a straight line to the mark always ends up in the right place.
Point and honor
I braced Doc and Mia for pointing and honoring. Doc went on point which Mia honored from a good distance. I planted another wing and this time had Doc “stay” while Mia hunted. When she went on point, I called Doc and he honored nicely. There was a time when Mia was a speed demon like Doc, but she’s become a much more methodical hunter, and by this time, there was a lot of scent out in the pasture for them to work through.
In all, I was happy with Doc and Mia considering their 4-month layoff and it will be interesting to see what they look like after three months of consistent training.
With well over 100 therapy visits, Elvis earned his Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA) title this week, spending it by conducting therapy visits and attending the Idaho Science and Technology Charter School.
It’s been a busy week for the big guy, beginning on April 21 with therapy visits to the Idaho State Veterans Home. He and Glory, the VA Home’s live-in Emotional Support dog, or PTSD dog, renewed their acquaintance. Following our visit, I took Elvis for a walk around the Portneuf Wellness Complex where he enjoyed watching the ducks.
On Monday, we were invited back to the Idaho Science and Technology Charter School to give several classes a presentation on Spinone and therapy dogs. We both enjoy giving the presentations and when Elvis wasn’t sleeping, he was having interacting with the students.
His work week ended Friday April 28 with therapy visits to the hospital’s rehab center and an assisted living center. One of the residents told us how much Elvis’ monthly visits mean to them and even though there are a variety of activities each day, it’s not the same as the companionship of a dog.
Hope you enjoy this 7 1/2 minute video of my 2016 bird hunting season, featuring Elettra, Mia, Doc and Elvis. As always, there are some “never before seen” photos and videos.
Since Doc didn’t get a fair chance to hunt on Friday, I took him again on Saturday. We first had to drop the rescued Lab off with the local Animal Control officer but I felt good about it: first, the officer has Labs and hunts with them so she knows the breed; second, they will keep her for a week and if not claimed, will send her to either a foster family or no-kill animal shelter.
The Rescued Lab
As we suspected, she is about a year old and has already had one litter of puppies. The poor girl is a mental wreck and terrified of everything so it’s our guess that she was either abused or traumatized by her ordeal. It was also possible that she was dumped rather than lost.
Waiting for Geese
Literally thousands of geese were in the air but not many coming over the bluffs where I set up. We waited for over an hour and I got one shot, but the goose was a little out of range. So as we did the day before, went down the river to hunt ducks.
Doc gave me a real scare when I saw him with his nose about a foot from the butt-end of a porcupine. Thankfully I was able to call him away, and the porcupine waddled down the hill, comically tripping and rolling as he went.
We hunted the river and I missed two shots on ducks we flushed, then climbed out of the canyon only to find the duck blinds still occupied. Some flights were headed our way so I “Whoa’d” Doc and hunkered down so as not to be seen and maybe get a shot myself.
Doc’s Duck Search
A group of four ducks came overhead and the hunters in a nearby blind dropped two of them. After visiting with them for a few minutes, I asked if they had found both of the birds since they didn’t have a dog. The lady who had knocked down of the ducks was still out searching for it, so I offered Doc’s services.
We searched awhile and when she finally gave up looking for it, I took Doc much farther downwind than where she had marked it’ fall. It didn’t take Doc long before he caught the bird’s scent and worked his way up the scent cone for about 25 yards where he found the duck.
After a short chase through the sage brush, Doc caught it and made a perfect retrieve. I called the lady over and delivered her bird, and we left with a bunch of hunters duly impressed with Doc’s abilities.
Although I’m not a goose hunter I won’t pass up an opportunity when it presents itself. So December 24, I took my little huntress Mia and set up on some bluffs overlooking the river, hoping to bag some geese during their morning flights out to the fields.
It seemed as though the flocks were flying everywhere I wasn’t, so I moved from place to place in an attempt to position myself under their flight path. I would set up under a Juniper tree and then shoot as they came overhead. After missing several shots, I dropped a big Canadian goose and Mia did a nice job of finding and retrieving it.
That was one of the last flocks of the morning, so we returned to the truck and I drove about a mile down the river to hunt ducks. As Mia and I walked the river bank searching for a place to get down to the riverbed, she went on a solid point. I assumed it was a Pheasant hiding in the brush and since the season was closed in this region, praised her and called her off her point.
I found a way down to the river and we waited for awhile but no ducks flew within range, so I decided to go down the river where there was more open water. We hadn’t gone far when a wounded goose flushed from the brush – the goose was what Mia was pointing earlier.
I dropped it on the edge of the ice and Mia made a nice retrieve. With two geese in the bag, I was done hunting for the day but Mia wasn’t.
Returning to the truck with my gun unloaded, carrying the goose, I wasn’t paying attention to Mia who went on point, and I stumbled onto a flock of partridge. I watched them land on a knoll so after depositing the goose at the truck, we went after them. The birds were still on high alert and flushed well out of shotgun range. I didn’t see what direction they flew but we spent the next half hour or so hunting them without any luck.
Elvis conducted his therapy visit at the VA home on Friday, then followed it up on Monday with a trip to school. We were invited to the Idaho Science and Technology Charter School to give presentations on therapy work, and Elvis was a big hit.
I gave an overview of the Spinone breed, training therapy dogs, types of therapy, and the impact that therapy dogs have on those whom they visit. Elvis demonstrated some of the tests that he needed to pass for his certification, followed by a question-and-answer session.
They all enjoyed petting him and were amazed when I demonstrated how to strip a Spinone. Everyone got a laugh out of Elvis when he made himself at home in the “poof” chair, which was much too small for him.
It was a visit they’ll remember for a long time to come, and we opened their eyes to the world of both therapy work and the Spinone.