Sunday, August 31, 2008

Even more evidence..


by Lexiann Grant
In the following article, author Lexiann Grant, was interviewed by a student intern at the Miami Herald on the subject of canine emotions and intelligence. The questions and answers below are a summary of that interview.

Question Miami Herald Intern (QMHI):
Are dogs more intelligent than we give them credit for being?

Answer Lexiann Grant (ALG):
Absolutely. For most of the thousands of years that dogs have lived side by side with humankind, they were viewed in primarily a utilitarian manner -- as hunting aids, or farm workers. This relationship was self-limiting in that humans did not expect more and were unaware of canine potential.

When we look at what a dog can accomplish without special training, say, saving the life of a loved one by warning them of a fire in the home, it is even more amazing what they can be trained to do. Early on we learned to develop their natural instincts to do such things as guard livestock or hunt, now they help us in many capacities including serving as ears for hearing impaired persons, leading the blind, as arson detection dogs and much more.

As humans ask "What can a dog learn to do?", we raise the expectation and discover that dogs are capable of learning a great deal more than originally believed, and that they are capable of using that knowledge to interact with humans in helpful, meaningful ways.

The scientific community, in particular animal behaviorists, have only recently begun to study animal intelligence on a serious level. The findings of some of the initial studies are astounding -- that some non-human animals can comprehend abstract ideas, symbols, new concepts, and, can analyze situations and choose varied but appropriate responses for their reactions.

Personally I believe that there has always been much more to the canine mind than what we have in the past permitted ourselves to perceive. Believing this is no longer the wishful thinking of a pet owner anthropomorphizing their own thoughts onto those of their dog's. Rather, dogs have recognizable intelligence.

Do dogs have a similar state of mind as humans? Do they share our emotions? For example, when a dog's owner returns home after being gone and their canine companion shows happiness or is excited, is it because their human is back and the dog is truly happy that they have returned, or do you think they know food is now available to them?

Intellect or intelligence, and emotion, are two different things. However, in addition to intelligence, the field of animal emotions are also now being investigated in depth by scientists. The result? Animals do have recognizable emotions. Many animals, particularly the dog, are social animals. In order to live in a society or pack, or even within a human family, it is necessary to use intellect to survive and maintain order.
Emotions come into play when the members of an animal social group interact with one another -- playing, respecting the pack leader (or head human), appearing to be lonely or missing another pack member when they are gone. Are they the same as what humans feel? I can't know for certain, but I strongly feel they are similar and serve similar functions.

Do my dogs miss me when I'm gone? Are they happy when I return? Yes, I believe they are. I've had this discussion with a few trainers who believe that dogs are intelligent enough to know that when their human is gone, they can't get the food necessary to their survival. These trainers believe that everything a dog does is done out of what they instinctually know to be in their best interest. However, I have seen instances where food is forgotten, or someone else is providing the food and the dog still appears sad when their human is away and happy when they return. In my opinion that makes the "instinct to please in order to survive" theory less of a complete explanation.

The bond, the connection that I share with my dogs is primarily one of emotion. I do not have dogs for them to perform tasks for me. And I certainly don't have them just to provide the items necessary for their survival. I choose to live with dogs because of the emotional relationship that enhances and enriches my life.

What do these emotions, this emotional interaction, do for the dogs? The connection is not one way, but is reciprocal. I feel my dogs loving me and I believe they feel my love for them. We play together, I laugh, they look as if they are happy. At night we cuddle up together and there is a comforting peace. My dogs are healthy and content. And given a choice, I don't think that if they could, they would chose to live anywhere else. The food and shelter may be equally as good elsewhere, but they would remain here because of emotions -- the emotional bond that nourishes their minds and souls*, not just their bodies.

* This raises another issue: Do dogs have souls? I'll leave that discussion to the philosophers and theologians for now! Personally I think that every living being has a soul.

Do dogs understand our verbal communication to them, or have they just memorized certain sounds and motions of ours?

Studies have shown recently that dogs, cats, horses and some other animals recognize certain words or sounds. As in human societies, each culture has it's own language or dialect, as well as symbolic gestures. In order to live within the bounds of these societies, members of the society, and even outsiders who wish to become a part of the society, learn the special words or motions in order to communicate more accurately with one another.

This could apply to dogs living with humans: They learn our language and gestures in order to conduct the communication necessary to live with us on our terms. Do they understand us? They appear to understand very well much of what we say to or request of them on a regular basis.

My dogs clearly comprehend what I mean when I say to them, "dinner, sit, treat, stay, walk" or "ride." Trainers and behaviorists explain that this recognition is the tone we use when we say these words to dogs that causes them to react. However, if I speak in a normal tone they still respond appropriately. If I use an excited voice to say words meaningless to them, such as "laundry" or "light," they ignore me.

What about when we don't say or gesture any communication to them? When we purposely block body language so it can't be said that they are just reading the motions we make? I have witnessed too many episodes of dogs responding appropriately to a human, interacting with them, to not believe that they somehow understand us.

A non-doggy person might call me crazy, but I carry on conversations with my dogs. It is an outlet for me that provides a compassionate audience. Although their response is non-linguistic, they do communicate with me and are an active part of the conversation. When I'm sad, they snuggle and are gentle and loving, not playful or rough. When I share good news with them, they respond by jumping around or by bringing me one of their toys. To me, this illustrates in the dog, a certain degree of intelligence and emotion, as well the ability to read, understand and interact with us.

Whether it's words, tone, gestures, body language or even telepathy, it doesn't matter, it's all communication.

How long have you observed and read about canine behavior?

Casually for 20 years, more seriously for seven years. I am an award-winning dog-columnist and freelance writer. I have served as educational liaison for a local dog club, and volunteer with various dog rescue programs. My husband and I have shown our dogs in conformation and agility and have trained them for obedience; some of them are therapy dogs. In college I studied philosophy, sociology and psychology.

What are your overall views of our canine friends?

I enjoy their company, their behavior and watching them think. I love them immensely and cannot imagine my life without them in it. Because of a dog -- their emotions and intelligence -- I:

Have a career;

Have been lifted from depression;

Found a new, more profound meaning in my life;

Coped successfully with a long recovery from chronic illness;

Learned what is truly important in my daily life…and what is not;
Know about love freely given and received without judgment.

If you believe dogs experience emotions, do you think that they are the only animals who do? Why? What other animals do you feel possess this state of mind?

As I stated above, I believe that every living being has a soul, and if they have a soul, then it probably follows that they must also experience emotions as part of their life.

Other animals which I have observed personally, or about which I have read in various studies that have shown to exhibit emotion and intelligence include a large variety of primates, bears, pigs, horses, cattle, cats, a few various rodents, elephants and so forth. For those interested in learning more about animal intelligence and emotion, readers can research the work of Marc Bekoff, Jane Goodall, Rupert Sheldrake or Mary Lou Randour; these are just a few of the scientist currently working in this field.

As we enter the new millennium, humans are being called to review their relationships with pets and all animals. We share one world together, are all part of one creation. Since we have domesticated some animals and placed others in captivity, it is our responsibility and duty to care for them with the utmost respect for their lives and well-being and this includes their emotional and intellectual well-being. Through this stewardship, we can come to fully realize the depth and joy of the bond we are privileged to share with dogs…and other animals.

Lexiann Grant; copyright 2000, 2001

Saturday, August 30, 2008

More on canine intelligence

Science is finally coming to see what those of us who have spent a lifetime studying our canine companions have known all along... That dogs are highly intelligent animals capable of strong reasoning.. I'm glad to see them finally getting their due.


The Intelligence of Dogs
Research Discovers Canine Cognitive Abilities
© Joy Butler

Dec 15, 2007

Scientific studies in recent years show that dogs apply earlier learning to new situations, perform selective imitation, and understand human gestures and new words.

Dog lovers have long touted the intelligence of man’s best friend and are sometimes accused of anthropomorphism. However, in recent years, science has made some exciting discoveries concerning canine cognitive abilities.

Dogs Apply Earlier Learning to Different Situations
In a study at the University of Vienna in Austria, dogs used touch screen computers to show that they could categorize photographs. They were trained with treats to select a dog picture over a landscape picture. When they were shown a different set of dog and landscape pictures, they continued to select the dog pictures, demonstrating that they could apply earlier learning to a different situation. Researchers tested further by presenting the dogs with contradictory information to see if they were capable of forming concepts. When shown pictures of an empty landscape and a landscape with a dog, they continued to select the picture with the dog.

Dogs Selectively Imitate
A Border Collie named Guinness has been able to identify different landscapes, different faces and even different dog breeds. She, like most of the dogs tested at the Clever Dog Lab, seemed to enjoy watching the monitor. Guinness was also taught to open a food dispenser by pushing a handle with her paw. Dogs will instinctively use their nose for most situations like this but when other dogs observed Guinness using her paw, they also used their paw, indicating that they figured there must be an advantage to this method. However, when they observed Guinness with a ball in her mouth and using her paw, they usually used their nose, indicating that they figured the ball in her mouth was the reason she used her paw. They did not simply imitate her actions but selectively chose to imitate when it seemed appropriate.

Dogs Use Logic in Learning New Words
Another Border Collie named Rico was able to identify more than 200 toys. Researchers then placed a new toy among seven familiar toys and, using a word Rico had never heard before, ask him to fetch the new toy. Seventy percent of the time, Rico fetched the correct toy, indicating that he understood that the new word must mean the new toy.

Dogs Understand Human Expressions
In other studies, dogs as young as six weeks showed amazing ability for understanding human expressions such as finger pointing or gazing at certain objects. Juliane Kaminski, of the Mac Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany says, “When it comes to understanding human behavior, no mammal comes even close to the dog.” Perhaps that’s why they came to be known as man’s best friend.

It seems that science is finally catching up to what dog owners have known all along. There really is more going on behind those big, soulful eyes than just sleep, eat, and play. Dogs truly are intelligent animals who use logic, feel emotions, and form strong bonds with humans and other animals.

Welcome aboard..

We've added a new blog to the list.

It's called For Love of Birds and Dogs, and it fits well with what we're all about here at the Bombshell. Take a look and enjoy!

And by the way... he's got a great flask!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Where our gundogs came from...

It's a well know fact that prehistoric Man and dogs have had a symbiotic relationship going back tens of thousands of years, long beforew the mere recorded time of "Modern Man". So the relationship is a strong one, and we each depend on each other far more deeply that we imagine.
Hunting is a common thread, and probably one of the more important ones that brought man and canine together.
Man has refined the breeds over the years, often to the detriment of our friends, by introducing genetic flaws that plague our beloved dogs today.
But, here's a look at how our breeds got started, and how man started on the path of the greates alliance ever known...


Genealogical map reveals 10 top dogs
12:23 16 February 2004 news service
Will Knight, Seattle

All of the hundreds of breeds of modern domestic dog, from the Afghan hound to the chihuahua, can be traced back to just 10 "progenitor" breeds, say US scientists.

Deborah Lynch of the Canine Studies Institute in Ohio, and Jenny Madeoy, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Washington State, studied canine physiology and behaviour, historical records and the available genetic information.

"It's a new way of thinking about purebred dogs," said Lynch. "For the first time we have identified progenitor breeds for each type."

Humans first domesticated wolves about 15,000 years ago, most probably to help them hunt. Domestication involves selectively breeding a species so that they can be controlled more easily. The latest genetic information suggests that the domestication of wolves first occurred in Asia.

Top 10
The researchers believe that by 10,000 to 12,000 years later, 10 "progenitor breeds" of dog had been created to fulfill different roles alongside their masters. It took a further 5000 to 3000 years for people to create the 300 or so pure breeds known today.

Retracing this breeding process is not a simple task, as the modern dog breeds show more physiological variation than is seen for any other species of mammal.

The 10 progenitors identified by the researchers are: sight hounds, scent hounds, working and guard dogs, northern breeds, flushing spaniels, water spaniels and retrievers, pointers, terriers, herding dogs and toy and companion dogs.

The sight hound, specialised for coursing game, is thought to have emerged in Mesopotamia around 4000 to 5000 BC. Modern breeds such as the greyhound and Afghan hound are found at the end of this branch of the canine family tree.

The scent hound meanwhile appeared around 3000 BC, characterised by a highly sensitised sense of smell and a body suited to warm weather. The bloodhound, foxhound, and dachshund are all thought to have descended from this dog.

Working and guard dogs probably emerged in Tibet around 3000 BC, with modern descendents including the rottweiler, the St Bernard's and the bulldog. At roughly the same time, toy and companion breeds apparently emerged in Malta. Modern descendents include the poodle and pug.

Genetic tree
"It's always interesting" to have this sort of family tree, says Gordon Lark, who is studying canine genetics at the University of Utah. But he says developing a genetic map, rather than a genealogical one will be more useful for understanding canine evolution, behaviour and health.

Scientists are expected to finish sequencing the dog genome within a year. This genetic data could be used to identify and treat dog illnesses, especially those common among purebreds.

And Lynch believes similarities between canine and human genetic code could enable scientists to use this information to study the genetic causes of some human diseases as well.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle, Washington.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Time for some serious conditioning

The grouse season in the Northern zone of New York opens on September 20th. My dogs stay in fairly good condition all year, but it's time for some serious work!
Dogs that are out of shape are prone to injury early in the season, just like all athletes, so it just makes good sense to get them some work as a preventative measure.
As we've mentioned before, swimming is a great form of exercise, particularly during warm weather, and my dogs get to swim in the bay, as the picture of Holly shows. They also get roaded on a regular basis. Not from horseback or an ATV, but the old fashioned way... manually. Pulling harnesses are required, but it's not only great exercise for the dogs, but the person holding all that muscle back also!
It's also becoming cool enough in the mornings to run the dogs freely, and they just love cutting loose!

Anything that you both enjoy will work... Frisbee, flyball, or sticks... be imaginitive. These are also good for improving retrieving skills..

Don't let an out of shape dog, or handler, put you out of action for the early season..Start the work now, you'll both enjoy it!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Who wants a good laugh??

If you do, get on over to A Piece of the Purest Challenge and listen to the latest post, titles a Good Ass Whuppin..

These good ole' boys had me laughin' out loud!

Quote of the day...

Our dogs will love and admire the meanest of us, and feed our colossal vanity with their uncritical homage. ~Agnes Repplier

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Some history, and the macbre, from the ADKs

Little Canada, as in the article that follows, is a short hike from my camp in the Adirondacks. We catch the State trail to John Pond. My wife and I, and the dogs, have gone back there many times over the years, and we always stop and pay our respects to Peter Savarie and Eliza King, the children buried amidst the State Forest preserve..

I though that some readers may find it as interesting as I do...


January 25, 1982

When any change is contemplated to a given piece of land, such as the erection of a government-funded building, I am asked to testify in writing as to whether the land has historical value.

There is an area that has such definite interest in the history of the Town of Indian Lake that attention must be called to any suggestion to change it. This area is, since hearings held in 1914, the property of the State of New York since the inhabitants were unable to produce sufficient evidence, such as deeds, of ownership. Its location is the mid-section of Lot 15 of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase and was known as “Little Canada.” One of the first settlements in the Indian Lake area, it was inhabited principally by French Canadians, who came here originally for lumbering, then turned to farming. The records of the hearings as to ownership of this and other lands in Township 15 are on file in the office of the County Clerks of Hamilton and Essex Counties.

Township 15 was originally owned by the Finch Pruyn Company. It was sold to the Indian River Company which, prior to 1914, sold it to the State. People on the land were to be allowed to remain provided they proved private ownership. This caused the New York State hearings in 1914, held primarily at Indian Lake Village.

An interesting sidelight was provided in the hearing on Lots 22, 2?, 46, and 47, the suit against Sarah Farrell on June 13, 1914. Loucks, who introduced each case, stated:

“I would like to have the record show in some of these cases that Finch & Company and John McGinn and the Crandalls kept what they called the Township 15 book, in which they kept an account of land that had sold and amounts paid. That was kept in the offices at Glens Falls, and at the time of the death of George C. Finch, certain papers were removed from the vault, and so far as we can ascertain, that Township 15 book has never been seen since. We have made diligent search at the offices of Finch Pruyn, and the International Paper Company, and have interviewed Mr. Root, who kept the book, and other people who had a right to know, and made demand on Griffin & Ostrander to produce it. We have not been able anywhere to find it or get any trace of it. The book ought to contain a record of all these transactions. It is in the possession of somebody down there probably very close to the Indian River Company, and we have tried to impress on them that it is their business to produce it. I think that book would throw much light upon all these transactions. We also investigated Mr. McGinn’s, looked through his books and papers, and we were unable to find anything there either. Jerry Finch claimed they took it away. He makes the assertion with some vigor.”

Although many of the residents of Lot 15 were adjudged rightful owners of the property they occupied, the people of Little Canada, were, without exception, ousted from their lands. Principal land holders so affected were Mrs. Mary Savarie, widow of Gideon Savarie, in Lots 113, 114, 127 and 128; Abraham King in Lots 112 and 113; Augustin DuMars in Lot 112; and Mrs. William Starbuck, occupant of the original Eldridge property and of the house known as headquarters for the Finch, Pruyn lumbering operation in Lots 104 and 105. Eldridge once kept a store here.

A road following the outlet of John’s Pond in Lot 102 and joined by a stream emanating from a location near Chimney Mountain, comprised the center of the community. The road has been kept open and bears State markers for the use of State residents and visitors for recreational purposes.

There were burials in this area, principally of children, who died in the dread diphtheria epidemic of 1897. We know the approximate burial places of three children of Joseph Abare and of two Porter children (across the stream from the former mill pond). But the Town has definitely located and maintained the graves of two children, placing crosses on their graves, with a fence surrounding these. This cemetery is located on State Surveyor D.C. Woods’ map of June and July, 1903 as in Lot 114.

Their names and histories are well documented and tin-type pictures of the two deceased are available from a relative, Henry King. They are half-brother and sister:

Peter Savarie, born May 1, 1886, son of Gideon Savarie and Olivia Moquin (or McQuin).
Eliza Amelia King, born April 13, 1883 of Abraham King and Olivia McQuin.
Each was baptized in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Minerva and the records are documented there:

“Peter Savary, baptized May 30, 1886, born May 1, 1886. Parents — Gideon Savary and Olivia McQuin. Sponsors: Peter Savary and Anna Farrell”

“Roy (King), Eliza Amelia, baptized May 6, 1883, born April 13, 1883. Parents — Abraham Roy and Olivine McQuin. Sponsors — Celestine Savary and Ida Roy.”

The circumstances of their death are given in the book, “Adirondack Folks” by Ted Aber, beginning on page 92:

“The small log house was in Little Canada, a satellite community of Indian Lake, located five miles from the Milo Washburn mill pond just over the then Hamilton County line. It had been settled by Frenchmen from Canada. The families of Dumars, DeMarsh, Starbuck, Abare, Gasper and Bram King, and the Savaries were among the settlers. At one time, it even sported a store run by “Old” Eldridge. Some years ago, Henry King found a board of paper and tin that denoted the store’s location. Words on the sign showed that Eldridge had let someone have a barrel of flour.

“The dreaded and little understood black diphtheria visited Indian Lake in the 1890’s and Little Canada was not spared. A small log house in Little Canada bore a distinctly somber note one night. Its inhabitants wore tired, drawn faces. The limited conversation was in whispers. In separate rooms lay Peter Savarie and Lizzie King, aged about 15. They were gravely ill.

“As moments passed, young Lizzie King closed her eyes forever. Young Peter Savarie must not be told. Shortly, without warning, he began to sing hymns. Pausing a moment, he would say, ‘Yes, Lizzie, I’m coming.’ Within the hour, the young man had also succumbed to the illness. They were laid to rest in a little cemetery of the small community. Their father, Bram King, had a brother and a sister, who also died of diphtheria and were buried nearby. Bram himself was stricken, but went to Canada and was cured; he never returned...

“Little Canada became extinct around 1915, the State acquiring most of the land. But Henry King often walked to the scenes of his boyhood, now overgrown with brush and trees. On one occasion, Henry and Earl King were in Little Canada night-hunting. Nearing the silent graves of Lizzie King and Peter Savarie, the two young people who had died there of diphtheria, the men heard a rumbling, moaning sound. As they continued onward, a vibration could be felt at their feet. They began a quick retreat. Then the noise and vibration withdrew up the road. Henry late erected a snow fence around the grave and has kept it intact ever since.

“Henry has clear tintype photographs of Lizzie and Pete. The pictures hung on the wall when the house burned down, the photographs remaining intact and undamaged.”

The town and county historian, in conjunction with legal assistance is now preparing to acquire and see to the upkeep of all such cemeteries in the county and is currently prepared to place a marker, with the names of the interred, at the entrance to this particular grave site.

This is being done under the provisions of Section 291 of New York State Laws Relating to Cemeteries:

“291. Burial grounds. 1. The title of every lot or piece of land which shall have been used by the inhabitants of any town in this State as a cemetery or burial ground for the space of fourteen years shall be deemed to be vested in such town, and shall be subject in the same manner as other corporate property of towns, to the government and direction of the town board. In any town the town board may adopt regulations for the proper care of any such cemetery and burial ground and regulating the burial of the dead therein. It shall be the duty of the town board to remove the grass and weeds from any such a cemetery or burial ground at a cost not to exceed five hundred dollars...”

The implication is clear and contained in many existing deeds that access to such cemeteries must be assured. The present road is passable for four-wheel-drive vehicles but improvement has already been agreed upon by the Town of Indian Lake.

Someone has made the suggestion that the road might be closed to vehicles at the county line between Hamilton and Essex County. A part of Little Canada crosses a corner of the Town of Johnsburgh, or perhaps put more clearly, the corner of the Town of Johnsburgh intrudes into Little Canada. The suggestion of a demarcation here is neither feasible nor historically appropriate:

Little Canada, as an historical area, would be truncated.
According to D.C. Wood’s map, the cemetery is perhaps just across the suggested demarcation line.
Although the road to John’s Pond crosses the boundary, John’s Pond itself is in the Town of Indian Lake, according to the State Conservation Department map.
John’s Pond remains a recreational and fishing area for numbers of the people of Indian Lake, just as it once did to their ancestors who inhabited the area.
There are other historical reasons for maintaining this relatively short vehicular road to John’s Pond.

The original road to Indian Lake from North Creek cane from Thirteenth Lake in Warren County and joined the present Little Canada road. The original Indian settler of Indian Lake, Sabael Benedict, was last seen when he set out over this route from Thirteenth Lake one night in 1855. He was reputedly 105 years of age. Someone wrote a poem accusing “Sav’ree” of his murder. Whether true or not (the subject is receiving further study), his death presumably occurred near the Savarie house farther up the road toward John’s Pond (see D.C. Wood’s map).

Still another historical fact, although requiring more research, is the naming of John’s Pond, and John Mack Bay on Indian Lake. A nationwide Place-Name Survey is now being conducted under the ægis of the Federal Defense Department. The Hamilton County and Indian Lake Town historian has been named to find the origin of all names in Hamilton County. It was known that about the time of the Civil War, a man remembered as John MacKenzie came from Canada, and lived in the area, giving his name to these locations. I would regard the first as fact, but would feel that the name, MacKenzie, is perhaps not correct. More probably, that name was an Anglicized version of a French name.

It is our contention that New York State’s rich history should remain available to the public. With further study, the county and town historian, will petition the State to allow markers to be placed at the more important house sites in the Little Canada area. We believe that this relatively small area, known for its exceptional beauty, should be made accessible to all who may care to visit.

Respectfully submitted,

Ted Aber, Historian

Hamilton County and
Town of Indian Lake

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A timely reminder.

This was sent along to me by Dan Thomason of Sure Thing Gordons, a guy who knows a little bit about the breed and gunning over them. It's a timely article from the Pointing Dog Journal, and something we should all be starting to consider with bird seasons just over the horizon.

August 2008

Get in Shape
by Steve Smith

I hope this doesn't sound like I'm pounding on the table, but every year, I hear from subscribers who lost dogs, either for the season or permanently, because of the sort of thing I'm talking about here. It's a subject that needs to be discussed.

The season's coming, for some of us in the North, sooner rather than later. In a few short weeks, grouse and woodcock seasons will be open in a number of states, and in the West the prairie bird and chukar seasons are right around the corner. So, is it too late to get your dog in shape?

Long walks in the summer with your dog on a leash just don't do it. Bird dogs run, and to get into shape they have to be run. We need to slim them down, too, if they've spent the off-season lounging on the couch watching Sports Center and eating Oreo cookies.

Unfortunately, a lot -- maybe even most -- of us don't slim them down and tune them up like we should; we all do some of it, but most of us, and I mean us -- don't do enough. We spend as much time doing that as we do practicing our shooting or running laps at the high school track to get ourselves in shape. Our dogs are very often also the family pet, and we let their conditioning slide. When the season opens, we pay for it by having an out-of-shape dog whose lack of energy severely limits the time we spend in the field. So we do what we can do, and he gets into shape slowly, over the course of the early season, maybe longer if he’s past the canine life mid-point.

And in the long run, if we're willing to accept the limitations of an out-of-shape dog, that works; all this is supposed to be fun, after all, and the dogs eventually round into shape. The problems start when we take an out-of-shape dog into the early season fields or coverts and drive him to perform like he's spent his life working for a professional guide. Here's some things to keep in mind if you’re hunting your out-of-shape dog in the early season.

1. Early seasons or the first part of any season can be hot, in fact, they always are. Heatstroke kills dogs. We know the South Dakota horror story from a few years ago -- 100 or more dead dogs opening day in 90-degree-plus heat. Some of those dogs were in shape. Doesn't matter. In that kind of heat and that level of activity, an out-of-shape dog just goes down sooner, that’s all. If it's really hot, don't hunt at all. The last thing we want is to kill the family pet because we really needed another shot at a Hun or woodcock.

2. Water. Water. Water. Constantly, like every 10 minutes. Dogs cool through hydration-evaporation, so the hotter and drier it is, the faster that happens. When they dry out, they heat up, and when they heat up enough, they go down.

3. If he's running with his tongue out constantly, he isn't scenting anything to speak of. Pick him up.

4. Don't get too ambitious in your hunts; the first trip or two shouldn't be a four-mile jaunt across the prairies. Your dog is going to run anywhere from three to six times farther than you walk. We have to remember that he is seven years older than he was last year. I ran Sam my pointer the other day, just a quick morning outing because of the heat. I had her down for a little over a half-hour, and she ran, according to my Garmin Astro, a little over two miles, and that was in a woodcock cover. I walked maybe 400 yards.

5. You're going to have to do the thinking for him. He's got drive, that's what makes him good. But the drive will do him harm. You, not your dog, have to decide when he's done for the day. We should never let our eagerness to start the season get in the way of our common sense.

6. If you have multiple dogs available to you, run them individually for short periods if it's handy to do so. A dog will do better a half-hour on/half-hour off/half-hour on than he will for an hour straight.

Good luck, and have a safe season.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A "True" Champion..

This piece, taken from "The True Citizen" of January 3, 2007. A look at the life and times of Harold Ray, one of the driving forces behind the famed "Smith Setters" of Elwin & Inez Smith. Mr. Ray, along with then wife Sherry, were the force to be reckoned with on the All-Age circuit for decades. The number of champions they brought along was truly staggering.


A look into the world of renowned shooting-dog trainer, Harold Ray
By Elizabeth Billips Associate Editor

It was a clear October night in 1959 when the skinny 17-year-old stumbled off the southbound Greyhound in front of Johnson’s Service Station.

He’d sat on that bus for two solid days, twiddling his thumbs through stops in every two-bit town from Maryland to Georgia.

He’d been on his own for three years already but didn’t have much to show for it – just a small roll of bills, a hand-medown suitcase and a promise of a steady job with bird dog trainer Fred Bevan.

He stepped under the streetlights, took

a deep breath and decided to never look back.

The bus rumbled off toward the next town, and Mr. Bevan’s newlywed daughter Marianne stood waiting for him, along with her husband Billy Hopper.

They eyed her daddy’s new hired hand and wondered if he’d make it.

“He was just a young kid … a teenager,” Billy says, remembering the travel-worn boy who hardly said a word as they drove down the dark highway to the Bevan’s place.

Billy never imagined that boy

would grow into a legend.

Forty-seven years later, Harold Ray kicks off his muddy work boots by the backdoor and pads around his cabin in socked feet.

He’s no young man anymore, though his quickness has a way of deceiving.

Portraits of dogs with names like Tomoka, The Performer and Destinare hang behind him like heroes.

Across the den, a modestly framed resolution from the Georgia Senate commends him for being one of the most successful shooting dog trainers in the entire world.

There’s stock behind that claim – 80 championships, 67 runners-up and 21 futurity wins.

That’s also why he was elected to the Field Trial Hall of Fame in 2006 – the very year he turned 64 and finally met the minimum age requirement.

“A lot of people have better dogs,” Harold says. “They just don’t know how to show them.”

When Harold puts on his sweat-ringed leather hat, it means business.

He’s been wearing it since the dark, quiet hours before dawn.

It’s not yet nine, but the kennels are clean and the predator traps have been checked and reset.

Soon, he’ll saddle up old Ed and start working the dogs on the back of the farm.

All 53 of them go to yipping when the backdoor swings open and they see Harold’s measured strides getting closer.

“You can’t lose your temper … they won’t forgive you,” Harold explains as he unlatches the gate. “If you scold them, it’ll break their hearts – and that will show up later in their style or point.”

Something in Harold goes soft as the puppies clamor for his attention in a whirlwind of wagging tails and flopping ears.

With only one or two litters a year, they’re both his pleasure and his livelihood.

He laughs aloud as they bounce off his belly with redclay paws.

If Harold gets two champions from the bunch, it’ll be a good year.

“You can only bring out what’s in a dog … you can’t make something that’s not there,” he says. “If I do my job right, a dog will show the same natural qualities she showed as a puppy, but with more control.”

The six litter-mates have known Harold since before their eyes opened.

He held each one close in those first few days, letting them take in his smell and the feel of his farm-rough fingers.

When they were fat-bellied babies, he led them around the farm with their mother, letting them explore and socialize on their own terms.

Now, they go with him to the pasture where the Tennessee Reds are hatched and bred.

Harold looks for glints of their champion bloodline as they sniff out quail, point and chase.

“It’s like raising kids, really,” he theorizes. “Anybody can break a child, or a dog, through fear. But to be successful in the end, he has to respect you … not be afraid of you.”

Life without dogs doesn’t work well for Harold.

He knows. When he was 19 he left them for a construction job in New Jersey.

Where there had been dirt roads and the howl of the kennels, there were suddenly traffic snarls and jackhammers.

The work crew spent day after day piecing together cement and steel that would become the Atlantic City Airport.

Huge jets would take off from the runways they poured, their seats full of travelers bound for vacations and lives all over the world.

But Harold just wanted to go back to the place he realized was home.

He mailed a letter from New Jersey, asking Mr. Bevan for his old job back.

Mr. Bevan agreed, but after a few years, growing pains hit Harold hard and he began to grow restless again.

This time, he bypassed the big city and took an offer from dog owners Elwin and Inez Smith.

They were Pittsburgh folks who frequented the field trials and spent summers on their Burke County farm. In a sport associated with English pointers, they were known for their fine English setters.

Within days, Harold packed his bags and sealed his future with a gentleman’s handshake.

He was back, and the Smith setters would soon be famous.

In 1969, Harold won his first field trial championship with Susan’s Lady Bird.

The names of the champion setters would change over the next 38 years, but the winning wouldn’t.

He’s won at least one championship every year since and has no intentions of slowing down.

“He’s very serious … one of the best trainers anywhere,” remarks Nell Mobley, a longtime officer of the Georgia Field Trial Association. “If Harold has a dog he doesn’t think will win, he won’t even consider putting him in.”

The sun breaks through the clouds as Harold’s son, Doug, pulls the trailer between the stables and kennels.

He was reared there on the farm, along with 40-something litters of English setters.

His dad is still carrying on the Smith tradition, though they’re no longer there to enjoy it.

Mr. Smith died back in 1991, and his widow isn’t able to spend summers on the farm or travel to the trials like she used to.

But she always comes back in February when Harold hosts the amateur field trials amongst the 1,600 acres of rolling hills and ponds.

“I never get tired of looking at this place,” Harold says as he stops along some high land and stares down at the stables and cabins.

It’s his now. The Smiths gave it all outright to the man who put their setters on the map.

The dogs spring off their hind legs and strain against their collars as Doug loads up the lucky three they’ll work that morning.

“When this trailer pulls up, they know it means something fun is going to happen,” he says.

He handpicks Affirm, Nicodemus and Barbaros and drives toward the clearing where his dad is waiting.

“We spend six days a week chasing quail,” Doug says as he hops out of his truck to shoo several of the 4,000 or so back into the underbrush. The longevity of the 130-odd coveys depends on full feeders, good plantings of grain and cover, and the trapping of egg-eaters like raccoons, possums and coyotes.

While Harold works the Smith setters, Doug trains pointers for Fred Rowan, the CEO of OshKosh B’Gosh and Carters.

Working together has made them both stronger handlers, but the competitions are tense.

“It can be tough sometimes … real tough,” Doug says. “It’s a game, but a very, very serious one.”

The men take turns working their dogs, letting one run ahead while the other hangs back with his trainer.

Affirm, who goes by his callname, Andy, shakes with excitement as Harold unclips his leash.

He loops past the pines and bounds through the lovegrass until the scent of a quail hits him like a glass wall.

When Andy points, the world stands on-end.

The horses stop on their own accord, and all is quiet save the occasional clink of a bridle or bit.

The setter stands like a trembling statue, his tail straight as a lightning rod.

Beneath his shorn coat, muscles vibrate like the end of a tuning fork.

Two years of good training hold him steady while Harold unholsters a pistol and fires a blank above the covey.

The birds fly up and scatter behind the gunpowder cloud, but Andy restrains himself.

Satisfied, Harold rubs his fingers along the setter’s tail and gives him a few good pats on the haunches. “Good boy, Andy,” he says in the sing-song voice of a new parent. “Yes, you’re a good boy.”

Andy doesn’t just have good training, he’s got a good bloodline. Like every Smith setter, he was birthed by a champion mother.

“There’s very little experimentation,” Harold says referring to the four or five different crosses from which every setter is sprung. “We got something that worked, and we stuck with it.”

It’s worked so well, a line of Smith setters is thriving, and winning, in Scandinavia.

More than three decades ago, Hans Rasmus Astrup came to Burke County from Norway in search of the famous setters.

It was a good investment. The offspring have won more than 600 hunting awards for Kennel Sletthallen over the years.

“The dogs the Smiths sold him in the seventies are dead, but they’re still siring pups,” Harold says, thumbing through a coffee table book full of glossy photographs of Astrup’s champion dogs. “The line is living on through frozen sperm.”

Back in Burke County, the late morning air turns so thick and still, even the lovegrass stops its dancing.

Harold reins his horse off the trail, discerning the slightest ruffling of feathers.

The dogs nudge in, but the birds sit like stones to wait them out.

With no breeze to carry the scent, the dogs are at a loss.

Sensing the problem, Harold pulls Barbaro out of the brush and leads him back to the horses.

He’s bothered by the weather, but not the missed point.

“Sometimes you’ve got to know when to stop,” he says, swinging a leg over the saddle and heading for home. “If you’re not careful, you can do more harm than good.”

“It’s non-stop around here,” Doug offers between unsaddling horses and strapping setters to the eight-harness ATV for a four-mile run.

Besides the 53 dogs that need to be worked, fed, cleaned up after and loved on, there’re 16 field trial horses with similar needs.

“We’re just a giant daycare for animals,” he laughs as a setter licks him square on the mouth.

Harold takes the finished dogs off for their run. Some of them will be competing in the Georgia Field Trials at Di-Lane, and he wants them tip-top.

“To win with a dog, you have to know him so well,” Harold says, after the dogs have had their run and cooled off in the troughs. “You can’t assembly line train them … you have to build a personal relationship with each of them.”

The man who’s known as one of the world’s toughest field trial competitors looks out over his

farm and rubs the soft part of a setter’s ear between his thumb and forefinger.

He talks of champions like True Citizen who are buried in the little cemetery near his cabin, and laughs at himself as he brushes away a stray tear with his knuckle.

“Somebody once told me, ‘Ask a lot, but demand little,’ and I believe that,” he says. “You have to teach a dog to think for himself, then step back a little and let him be his own dog.”

Words of Wisdom from the Master..

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Required Reading!

Today's edition of Terrierman's Daily Dose should be required reading for all folks concerned with the health, welfare, and future of our canine companions. And, that should be all of us!
I've been railing about this subject for years. The rise of canine genetic diseases has becdoming alarming, and for the good of dogs that depend on humans, something needs to be done about it, and NOW!
Also read Inbred Thinking, also on Terrierman's site.
These articles are too important to pass up!

There will be a test!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

FC Sure To B

By High Energy x Belmor's Classic Lady

Bred and owned by Jim D'Amico, NJ

In Jim's words....

""Bee" showed great style and animation from an early age. She did well in her puppy and derby seasons, placing about 80% of the time. Her one fault as a trial dog is her desire to hunt, for she wants to check every likely piece of cover. (italics mine) Her 'lucky' trial is TarTan where she won her first puppy points in 1985, her derby points in 1986 and finished her open championship in 1988 by winning firsts in Open Gun and Amateur Gun. Bee is well on her way to her amateur title with two majors, one a four pointer. She has run in several American Field Championships and though she has not yet placed, she has received fine comments on her attractive gait and lofty style on game."


Jim D. knows Gordons, and gundogs in general, and I find it interesting that he would comment on the age old question of whether good trial dogs make good hunting dogs. I've seen trial dogs picked up because they were actually hunting likely cover, instead of staying on the course and seeking distant objectives. Man often does not plant birds where a hunting dog would think birds should be. And, therein lies the rub..
It's true that a smart dog knows the difference and can make an adjustment on the fly, but dogs that smart are not the norm. Dogs are very much creatures of habit.. they tend to do the same things and perform the same way in similar situations.
Pure trial dogs have difficulty adjusting to the woods. Pure hunting dogs have difficulty adjusting to the FT format..
Dogs that do both?? Well, here is an animal that can be pure dynamite in the field. But, it's often pretty rare... Trialers are usually trialers, and hunters are usually hunters, and it's often a case of "never the twain shall meet."
I get the opportunity to work with a number of trial dogs that are rejected for one minor fault of another. They, more often than not, turn into "brag dogs" for the owners lucky enough to get their hands on one of these dogs. And for good reason. They're well bred, have the necessary genetics for handling and biddability, and can raise the hair on the back of one's neck with their animation and style!

Where do I fall in the mix??

Somewhere in the middle. I'll never be an avid FT person, but that does not mean that I don't like to run my dogs from time to time in local FTs. But, I'll always be a hunter first. I cherish my time alone in the woods with a shotgun and a Setter, each of us doing what we were born to do.....

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More from "The Far side"

The Far Side

I miss Gary Larson's Far Side alot! It was something that I looked forward to in the newspaper every day.
Gary Larson had a particular insight into a dogs mind, and I could list hundreds of cartoons featuring dogs that just made me laugh. My wife used to buy me the calendar for the upcoming year every Christmas. I never was much on calendars, but, The Far Side always started my day off with a laugh..
Pictured here is a classic with Ginger, and what dogs hear when we speak to them...


Monday, August 11, 2008

Free Tibet, Free Cymru!!

Independence Cymru
Wales and Scotland represent the last relic of English colonisation. The English were ejected from France after the death of Joan of Arc and from Eire in 1921, but the government at Westminster continues to exert its control over its remaining colonies. Wales has always been a nation with its own distinctive culture and language.


The above from Alad in Dyfed (Duvith, phoenetically)at Independence Cymru, (Koomri, phoenetically) Cymru being Wales, announces the final push for Welsh independence from England. The language is in resurgence after being nearly totally stamped out, the people are fiercely independent, and the movement is a strong one. My grandfather was an Englishman living in Wales, but I believe that he would also be in favor!

The Welsh are Celts, much different from the English in many ways. More of their medieval culture is still intact, and a Celtic warrior resides in the heart of every Welshman!

Read more about the fight for independence at the above mentioned blog, and the others in my Welsh Heritage list to the left...

Free Tibet, and Free Wales!

Friday, August 8, 2008

The sound of an Adirondack Rattler...

I find myself, like a lot of people, both fascinated and intimidated by poisonous snakes. While I've given up my fear and loathing of snakes, for the most part, I would still give a New York State Timber Rattler a wide berth!
While my part of the Adirondacks harbors no rattlers, in the Tongue Mountain area near Crown Point and Lake George, there is a thriving population. Timber Rattlers are considered non-aggressive, but one false step while noy paying close attention on the trail can lead to an unfortunate situation, both for the human and the snake. And, I'm sure that I don't need to add that a Timber Rattler is a pit viper that can turn a pleasant afternoon into a fight for survival rather quickly...
I also listen to NPR alot. I don't like their politics, or their liberal slant on many subjects, but many of the programs are highly enjoyable...

So here is the sound of an Adirondack Timber Rattler, and a little information on the species from the folks at NPR...

Enjoy! And when your in the woods and here this sound... FREEZE!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Tale of the Fox

subtitled.. A failed experiment...

I received this A Grade Utica Fox as a gift, and a much appreciated one, from a good friend. It's a beautiful gun, and in my preferred 16 gauge. The problem??? I just can't shoot it well!
The stock has too much drop. That could easily be remedied. The double triggers also foul me up on occasion. That problem could also be worked out with more practice. The barrels are only 26 inches. This fault cannot be overcome!
The gun is a lightweight, and those 26" barrels just make me whip the gun around with no discipline. This little shotgun starts too fast, I end up way ahead of a target where I don't like to be, and end up slowing my swing for the target to catch up... A bad situation, to say the least.
This shotgun could be a killer for me with 28 inch, and possibly ever 30 inch barrels, but those 26 inch tubes are the dealbreaker for me..
It's a pretty gun, and I love to pick it up and fondle it, but that as far as the love affair goes...

So, as always, the search goes on for upland nirvana in a fowling piece... I'd love a classic Fox or Parker in 16, or even a pretty Elsie, preferably with a "hard to come by" single trigger. I know that the purists out there are likely pulling out their few remaining hairs. But, I have to be what I am, and I have to use the most effective tool for myself.

Maybe CSMC will introduce a 16 gauge RBL next??

One can only hope!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Our thanks go out to the folks at The Cold Duck blog for taking note of our efforts here at "The Bombshell". Cold Duck is a great little site that I visit often. For those that have never seen the fantastic woodcock video, click here.
Thanks again to the kind folks at The Cold Duck blog.
New this week is also "grousers, formerly five smart guys who hunt, and Mr. Mike,". This is another interesting site that I have been reading for some time now. The reason I haven't added it earlier is that these folks hunt birds in upstate NY, in similar areas as myself. I always tell folks who ask that there are no birds in these areas, so I was just trying to keep things on the quiet side. But hell, they deserve recognition too for putting together a great blog..
Another new site I came across on Dr. Wayment's Birddogdoc Chronicles is The Upland Equation. This is a very enjoyable site! The gentleman is a former hunter who was forced to give up the sport for a time, and came back to it later in life. The joy of his return to the uplands with a dog and gun clearly shows through in the author's writings.

I recommend that everyone stop in and get to know these blogs. There is a lot of great reading and information posted on these sites..

Give 'em a try...

Monday, August 4, 2008

A good day for a dog quote...

"We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. Its the best deal man has ever made."

Nuff said...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dogs n' Chips

I've had all my dogs microchipped for some time now...

While I don't know if it would help if we got seperated, my feeling is that it certainly couldn't hurt.
But, my wife works in a Veterinary office. They do not routinely scan for chips, as I think they should. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some dogs from the areas hard hit made it North, and into the practice where my wife works. The dog's were put out for adoption without scanning for microchips. My wife mentioned scanning, and some dogs were subsequently scanned, and a few found to be chipped. But, I believe that no attempt was made to contact the owner(s).
After placing a call to my local municipal shelter, they will neither confirm nor deny whether they scan for chips or not. Hmmmm, sounds like a world power not willing to disclose the presence of nuclear weapons.

Microchipping is inexpensive, and I still consider it money well spent on the odd chance that it reunite myself with a lost dog, but, I still tend to question it's effectiveness.
It could be a great tool if folks would routinely scan for them.. Let's hope that happens as they become more and more prevalent...