Chapter 17 - Work continues

Working trials training seems to occupy us more and more, both in a physical sense and also in our mindset, so the show scene in 2009 was again a bit on the back burner. The trouble with working trials, at least the way we go about it, is that there are relatively few actual events that we go to, so that it seems as though not much is happening, but like the swan, there is a lot going on out of the public gaze. Crufts had us with only dear old Limerick with us. She did her bit by winning veteran bitch, and enjoyed her day being the solo dog for a change. A large part of the rest of the year was taken up with puppies and their mothers’ recovery form the process, so we came to the club show with a degree of freshness and anticipation.

Once again, the club, I hope deliberately, had a judge who gave us a super day, and I am not talking about winning prizes. When you go to “big” shows, it often feels as though the judge hasn’t a lot of interest in the breed, but I think it is fair to say that unfailingly, the club show has been blessed by judges who have cared for the exhibitors and their exhibits, and it makes such a difference.

As for results, Orchid was reserve best bitch for the third year in succession… always the bridesmaid….but we were absolutely thrilled when Harvey (Pines Hapi), from the “Egyptian” litter, took BiS at 21 months old. He had had a few “issues” at Crufts, so this was particularly satisfying for his owners, Susi & John. Away from the ring, he has taken to Schutzhund work like the proverbial duck to water, it is so good to see these dogs fulfilling their potential.

There were a couple of other shows of note at the tail end of the year. Firstly, Acorn and her brother Isa made their debuts at Midland Counties in the “not separately classified” classes, and both came away with reserve best of sex, apparently wonderful wins for puppies, but it did help that there were only 5 dogs in the competition. Acorn did beat her brother for best puppy, though.

The other show to mention was Working Breeds of Scotland, which Elaine judged. This involved a stay away, an early morning flight, and a long wait for a ring to judge in, some shopping and sightseeing in Edinburgh and very intermittent lights in the hall. The trouble with judging is that there is only one winner ultimately, so not everyone went home happy…but we did.

As a finale to the year, Whistle got her open UD qualification on a cold and stormy day in November in Devon. The culmination of her work was a 10 minute down stay “out of sight” (the handler), which, against all our expectations, with the wind blowing a gale and the rain lashing, she achieved. Since Mercedes died, Whistle has lost a lot of her confidence, and this was probably the ultimate test for her. It is hard to describe the joy with which that test finished.

The next stage for Whistle is Championship UD, the same tests as for open, but greater precision is required, so the marking is perhaps a little harsher. So far in 2010, we have tried to achieve the standard twice, at Tewkesbury and our favourite Upottery, just missing out both times. At the first trial, although Whistle got enough overall marks, she totally missed out on her sendaway, as she couldn’t make out a target to go for, and agonisingly at the second trial, she was short by three-quarters of a mark (in 200), having messed up her heelwork, of all things (the sendaway wasn’t too good either!). Journeys home on those days were unhappy affairs, but soon enough, training is resumed for the next attempt.

On the showing front, at Crufts we were very proud to watch DJ go BoB and then rush to catch the group in the big ring, but the “home” girls fared rather less well. They did however do their bit, meeting the public at “Discover Dogs”. This event can test the dogs’ temperaments and stamina, but it is an excellent way for the breed to be looked at by a general public that would not otherwise know a Hovawart from a bar of soap. By and large, the girls have always rather enjoyed the attention they get, but inevitably they are very inactive on the following day.

Elaine continued to prioritise the working trial competitions, so it came about that a residential training weekend clashed with Welsh Working Breeds championship show. At the time, our dearly beloved blue van (over 200K miles on the clock) was undergoing major surgery in the local garage, and hors-de-combat for the duration, but with careful planning and nifty map-reading (we don’t entirely trust the SatNav, to be honest!) it proved possible for John to drop Elaine, Whistle and Acorn at the training “camp”, dash to Builth Wells for the show, and get back in time for the bought-in fish and chips at the training venue.

Actually, it would have worked very easily but for the fact that, despite John’s inadequacies as a handler, Orchid was awarded BoB, and was honour-bound to stay for the group. She carried on the good work at Birmingham National, winning BoS, with Acorn winning the junior class into the bargain.