What a day! I’m emotionally drained. That handling a Spaniel can be this exhausting! But today, Tassla and I had our best trial so far!
We had two runs. The first one lasted maybe 20 minutes, and had quite a stretch in tailwind. Perhaps I did let her run a bit wide there at times – my great challenge as a handler – but she responded to EVERY whistle and worked very well. In the end, she flushed a bird far out and facing away from me, which is difficult. She sat down nicely, but unfortunately it wasn’t a good shot. The judge told me to recall her, and she came straight away. When coming in she got one of her ”fits” that she’s had a couple of times before after close contact with game. She kind of screams and throws herself flat at my feet. It really looks and sounds bad – like I’ve been beating her. But I picked her up, and the judge seemed to view this as happening outside of our run, because he wanted us back in to get to see retrieves. He only patted her on the head a bit absentmindedly.
I must confess that returning to the group that had been standing right behind me felt a bit awkward. They all looked very skeptical. They had heard Tassla screaming and one of them wondered if I had hit her, but simultaneously said ”that doesn’t seem like something you would do, so it seems odd”. No, that really isn’t something I would do! I have become really upset once (not during training) and yelled at her. But that was two years ago. But people who don’t know me can’t know that. Luckily, Lisa was with me and could confirm that Tassla has done this before. She was with me the first time that it happened. That was the first time Tassla flushed a rabbit and came into close contact with it. We both thought that she was injured and rushed up to her to check her out. But two minutes later, she was her normal happy self again. I really don’t know what is happening when it happens, but it’s like a system overload of some kind!
Anyway. The second run took place about an hour later, in a field of beans. My only thought was ”keep her in hand, for crying out loud”. She flushed quite soon and the pheasant was shot. I sent her to retrieve, and lo and behold. Every pheasant in the county was probably hanging out there, because bird after bird took off. Tassla handled it so well. She offered the sit, I sent her again, she sat at the whistle – at least 20 birds took off and she handled all of them. I don´t know how many times I sent her out and she sat down. Then – I’m guessing I was a bit flustered at this point – I sent her on a clear left hand side retrieve. The judge told me to wait until the birds stopped flapping around, but I somehow didn’t have time to listen to that. She grabbed the bird, fought her way through the field of beans and delivered the bird (not well, I had to grab it quickly). I could see that her hold was unsteady. Another bad sign was that the judge let one of the shooters check the bird. But no one said anything; we only cracked jokes about the crazy situation. I was so proud and happy! She handled that situation with the skills and dignity of an Open class dog, my Tassla. She responded to every whistle (and there were a bit too many of those, haha), in all that chaos.
And I thought that we’d placed, which felt so good. But no, we hadn’t. Without explanation, we got a 0. I really didn’t get it. Had I completely misunderstood the situation? Luckily, one other person had been watching us, waiting to release her dog, and she didn’t get it either. After the official critique had been given, I went up to the judge to ask him. I described what I had seen when she was working, and he agreed with me! But then, why a 0? He wasn’t sure and went to check his notes and speak to the shooter again. And what had happened was that Tassla’s mouth had been too hard, she had damaged the game.
The judge apologized about not having said anything in the field. He didn’t want to mention it in the official critique, since it might be a sensitive issue. He was just trying to look out for us. Good, I got the explanation I needed! It was a very nice and helpful judge. I’m not happy about Tassla’s hard mouth, BUT I’m not that surprised. Warm game is very exciting and Tassla was a bit over aroused through out the day. Her grip has always been a bit on the loose side and somewhat unsteady. We worked on that on cold game last year, but I haven’t worked on maintaining those skills. Getting access to warm game to work on the grip to the extent that we need is going to be tricky. But I WILL succeed. Just watch me.
Over and out.