Going through the archive I found a text I wrote about the Swedish Spaniel Championship 2017 and thought I would share it with you beause it was so much fun!
I’ve been to my first National! And I promise: More will follow. It was so much fun and so festive and exciting!
The Swedish Spaniel Championship took place on a weekend in November. Cocker spaniels ran on the first day, and springer spaniels on the second. I went as a game carrier for the springer spaniels and it was so educational to get to be so close to the judge. I got to see a lot of nice springer spaniels. Many of the teams were really great. I honestly don’t know if the cocker spaniels were as great, because when you’re competing yourself, you don’t really see much. And when I’m competing, I’m not really paying attention to others either; I’d rather focus on my dog and myself.
I have the privilege to get to both trial and hunt with a friend’s dog, a cocker spaniel named Kat. She started at the Championship already last year, and she’s been in the highest class for some time now. She’s “just” one win from her Champion title. She’s taught me so much and thanks to her, I get much more experience than if I had just been running one dog in Open class.
I have been training Kat during the fall and the training has basically been about us becoming a strong team. I have bonded lots with her and we’ve tried to find our way of working together. It was in fact a bit choppy in the beginning. I have worked a lot on getting her hunting to flow better. I felt it was a bit choppy with me at times. I still have some stuff that I want to solve with her, but she’s a very well trained and reliable dog who takes her job very seriously. What you see is what you get! It’s really neat, because that allows me to focus on learning stuff and not keeping my entire focus on her at all times.
She had been resting from hunting and training for about ten days before the Championship and it turned out to be good for her motivation.
I can honestly say that we hit peak performance. She hunted so well! She kept such a pace and although she can sometimes be a little cautious, she happily threw herself into every thicket I asked her to. She obeyed all my whistles at lightening speed.
We were the last team to start, which also suits Kat. She gets a bit extra eager to go, unlike Tassla who gets way too aroused if she has to wait for hours. The grounds were fantastic, and everything felt very exciting. The area I was appointed was quite surreal. Imagine fir trees standing really close tighter, like a hedge, but all the trees a chopped down a bit. You can see over them, but you can’t see your dog at all. 😉
Kat would be hunting across the narrow path that I was walking on. The judge, who was an Irish man with a big heart, said “keep her tight” before letting me release her. But, I was actually not worried at all and Kat kept track of me so I didn’t need to keep track of her. The grounds turned into slightly more open terrain with a small meadow and a ditch on one side. Our team dog was working so close that it sometimes came over on our side, when it came running out of the “spruce hedge” which still remained on one side.
We had to stop one or a couple of times and wait for them to exchange dogs and for them to shoot on the other side. It all went smoothly. When I was standing there waiting, I looked forward and saw that a little farther ahead, maybe 20 yards or so, there were birds running under some sparse ferns. When we got to move ahead, I hurried up a bit and pushed Kat ahead so that we could catch up with them. When birds began flushing up around us, it wasn’t because Kat was in actual contact with the birds (I seldom think that is the case), but a bird flushed perhaps a yard in front of where Kat came running. When it flushed, more followed. I was maybe a little quick to blow the whistle. She could have been given the chance to follow the bird a little with her eyes. When I blew the whistle, she turned towards me, something I don’t remember her ever doing after a flush. But when shots fell, she began looking outwards again. Kat is not as sharp a marker as Tassla, but I think she saw the bird fall. I saw it in the corner of the eye and had a pretty good sense of where it fell. Anyway, the judge sent me straight away. He hissed “send her, send her” in my ear so I sent her and she ran straight to where the bird fell, which was a bit in a pit in front of some trees, and then she ran straight past it! I was so surprised. She circled around for a while behind the trees. I don’t quite remember the order of events anymore. But I had to ask the judge if I was correct about where the bird had fallen, and he’d marked the same spot as I had. While Kat was working the shooter said that he unfortunately thought it might have been a bit of a bad hit, and that we might have a runner on our hands.
I pushed Kat to go backwards and she took my signals so welland disappeared into the bushes behind the grove. She flushed pheasant after pheasant and I began to feel a little nervous. Yes, they should run after runners, but they aren’t supposed to hunt like maniacs on ground that’s already been covered. “Call her back, call her back” the judge said, and I recalled her towards me. She came rushing towards me and I stopped her in front of the grove again. I then let her go through it not only once but twice, since the judges was now hissing “left, left, left “. I have to giggle a bit at the feeling you have when you’re trying to remain calm and think while someone is standing next to you, hissing orders in your ear in Irish! I can tell you that it didn’t make me any calmer. I should work on that distraction at home, having someone egging me on to do things. I’ll rent an Irish man! 🙂
In this situation I actually tried to think about the fact that she’d now been behind and to the left of the grove – maybe I should try to get her to go a little more to the right and behind it. It worked – I made her go on the right side of the grove but quite close to it – and it was in that situation that the judge said ” left, left”. If I had been more experienced and a bit cooler, I might have dared to say “I am trying to the right now because she hasn’t been there”. But I didn’t even think about it – instead I thought “it must have run really far” politely casted her to the left.
I got to recall Kat and they put in the other team dog in an effort to find the bird. I felt sorry for the other team, they hadn’t seen a thing of what had happened or what we’d done. My team handler got the area assigned and sent her dog. And it behaved in the exact same way that Kat had done. Up, through, behind, back, tightly around on the right hand side and nope, no bird! In the end, the judges went out to look and we stood in great suspense. Should the judges find the bird, both dogs would be disqualified. If my team dog would have found it, only Kat and I would have been disqualified.
Unfortunately, they did find it. Or rather, it wasn’t unfortunate because you want to find the birds fast of course, especially if they are not dead. But from a competition standpoint it was unfortunate. And of course, the bird lay to the right, but maybe eight or ten yards out. And what I hadn’t noticed from where I was standing, was that it lay on the other side an electric fence. A small, low electric fence to keep foxes and other predators out of the fenced area where the pheasants had been released. Three thin wires, of course turned off, but this was probably part of the explanation why neither Kat nor the team dog went far right. They haven’t been trained to cross such fencing. But the wind was also blowing away from the bird, so they didn’t catch scent either. If they had caught scent, they would probably have crossed anyway.
“Bad luck, wrong wind” said the judge and oh, what a bummer! We’ve had such a good feeling and things were going great. But this is the case with the spaniel hunt. You can’t foresee everything. You’ll encounter some situations once, and then never again. It’s the fun part – but also the annoying part.
I’m probably the world’s happiest loser. 😉 Naturally I was disappointed not to get to continue, but I was also so happy with so many things. And it was a fun day so I felt ok anyway. I rarely get disappointed. I might sulk for a while, but it soon passes. I prefer to focus on what’s working and look at the rest as a learning opportunity.
And this day was all about learning. And a very, very fun experience that made me crave more 🙂
photo you can see( from the left): Mark Stewart (judge), Anna Lindholm,
Elisabeth Persson, Mick Finglas (judge).
1st Anna with Wildphoebes Nighthawk “Penny”
2nd Elisabeth with Acke
3rd Elisabeth with Tessa
4th Elisabeth with Debbie
All amazing teams on that podium! Elisabeth started with four (!) dogs and placed three! Anna Lindholm’s Penny won the trial for youngsters last year and was Spaniel Champion this year.I always root for Anna and Penny a bit extra, since Penny and Tassla are cousins <3 Congratulations all!