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Judgment is such a useful shield, is it not? Some hide behind it. Others keep themselves adrift because of it, whilst others choose to rise with it, above it, in crests of excellence into immortality. And so it was at this year’s rendition of the hour long VCA Walking Championship where courage, sporting knowledge, breed purpose understanding and quality judgment as defined by William S Brown were order of the day. This event greatly honored those who wore the red badge of Vizsla field trial courage.
The weather, the facilities, the course, the administration was “by Vizsla.” Greatly missed was the man and the woman “by Vizsla”, Chauncey Smith & Lynn Worth Smith who were at a Virginia hospital. There is no one in the breed who has done more for the gentleman’s walking shooting dog than Chauncey Smith. There is no marriage or team in the breed who have done more for the breed than the Smiths. As I looked around last weekend at the seventh National Gun Dog Championship, which is their “baby” and listening to Smitty talk about what a Vizsla is, should be,…. for nearly five decades, the bittersweetness of an event all grown up into high class dogs and high class handlers squeezed our red hearts dry. Even with the five thousand acres available to Briar Rose Plantation, one could not turn without hearing Smitty’s sun shining, his crackling voice just a whispering upon the wind. I honestly expected to turn and there he would stand, a proud bird dog man doing what he was bred to do and wedded to the breed.
Kudos to the Briar Rose Plantation whose management exceeded expectations of excellence in hospitality. The gallery was indeed treated special with rides on an antique, hand crafted dog wagon pulled by mules valued at $26,000. The manager and his team had a quiet hands-on policy and were a joy to all. Briar Rose has significant local historical impact as the original house (Hubert House) was built in 1808 as a wedding gift to Thomas Bush and Elizabeth Few by one of the Declaration of Independence signers.
Kudos to the VCA for administrating with national guidance & local flavor. We hope this policy continues as it will bring small clubs with great grounds to national exposure, not enough workers into the national forum and have that event more likely to see financial success as well.
Kudos to the National team from top to bottom.
Kudos to Martha Lacko and the catalog. Diana Boggs contributed the graphics & some text composition. The dog head graphic that peaks through the lettering on many pages is my BISS CH Boondocker ss Mudsville, who is fifteen, daily faltering and not long for this world. I asked Martha to do something nice with him as he has been a very good dog for me. Thank you, Martha. He peeks forever at the Vizsla world as he peeks at me with his great love.
The judges were Bill Monk and Randy Boggs. I For relatively young men they are quite accomplished within bird dogs. But it is not their accomplishments that polished our plates, it was their courage, the right to judgment and the knowledge to expect dogs and handlers to rise to the occasion in the Georgian pines.
Before the breakaway the judges spoke their expectations of dogs and handlers. This year’s oratory saw an interesting twist, the AKC Gun Dog guidelines were followed from top to bottom. Hacking would be penalized. The judges wanted as silent as possible handlers and told all there would be no bumping/aggression at the line accepted. The crowd buzzed. Did the judges realize by their statement that they had given themselves no room for latitude? Did the judges realize the course as set and the grounds were more likely to be a detriment to their wishes? I smiled to myself as I listened to the fritter & buzz of the crowd and wished Smitty had been there to see his dream of how a Gun Dog, of how a Gun Dog handler were "enlightened" and followed through with excellence.
The course ran in a counter-clockwise circle waving in and out as they proceeded through heavy cover, medium to large somewhat cultivated fields, pine tree lines with goodly undergrowth. It was rather difficult to see your Gun Dog, let alone navigate through the snaking course and do it handling your hopefully future National Gun Dog Champion as quietly/efficiently as a Mercedes Benz as enunciated by the judges.
Breakaway & Parts of the Course
I expect the winner was a goodly surprise to more than a few. Why? Because that dog had what many would perceive as a major flaw. Positive judgment is defined by William Brown, long time Editor of AMERICAN FIELD and premier FT judge as (paraphrase) “It is better to choose the brilliant Champion with an understandable flaw than it is to reward the lesser performance with no mistakes. That phrase has been misused since Brown’s time to reward dogs with Championships for interference, alligators on the line, which are not the acceptable flaws that Brown intended. The Vizsla as a breed tends to bump and run, particularly at the breakaway as much as any of the AKC breeds who sport. We in Vizslas have more often than not rewarded those dogs with placement/wins and major places in breeding programs. That mistake in past judgment was assured to have no place in this Championship.
What was the flaw? On one game contact the winner took a large leap forward marking the bird, to remain perfectly in place as he watched the bird fly away; as explained to me by the AKC Rep after taking a judge’s statement for the AKC Rep’s article about the event.
As breed temperament is THE most important feature of dog breeds, so too is temperament as important or even more so to those who select our Champions. A great judge must have sound temperament & courage, even in the face of others flaming judgments against their decisions. This year’s National Gun Dog Championship judges had courage in spades used in positive judging.
One of the biggest enjoyments for this FT & the animals concur that no Field Trial is complete unless Tania Campbell is present & accounted for. Purely by accident is the picture on the left a "great" picture.
I talked a bit to Mark Spurgeon the owner of the winner and he said he felt that his dog did a personal “best” and it was a difficult decision for him to keep in mind as he handled his brace the judge’s instructions about the style they would insist on for their National Champion and handler and enhancing his dog’s performance by knowing when to be vocal and when not to be. Knowing how far to push the limits & still remain a meritorious performance rewarded with ribbons. Mark & Ruger were the essence of “high class”, in dog and man by using courage and knowledge in one package when & where it was needed painting a potential work of art.
It was noted by others how surprised they were at the biddability of almost all of the dogs over the silent handling and the heavy cover where dogs could be lost on point just about anywhere, a task made particularly difficult because of the snaking looping of the course. It just goes to show that the Vizsla can effectively hunt the available cover, even difficult cover, with little to no direction and still exceed expectations. At a sidebar, I would note that there was no line marshall. There too, a line marshall would have been superfluous, something I never would have thought before as true. Despite administrative silence, handlers had no problems getting to the line. I guess the competitors really are more like their dogs, than not. Thank you, one and all.
“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.” Keshavan Nair
AROUND THE NGDC PHOTO GALLERY
Riding Shotgun Debby Fridlund Lynn
Riders are Trish, Carol Gingrich,
Marcia Schlesinger, Karen Bertke & Joan Heimbach
Debby Lynn, ?, Tania Campbell, Darcy Williams,
? and ? on the Friesian (Can you identify "?'s")
Tania Campbell, David Kayser & Medallion being pensive
PLACEMENTs PHOTO GALLERY
We regret being unable to get daytime photos
of the Championship Placements except for "Tuffy".
Last, but certainly not least multiple "CHAMPION" Tuffy retired from competition at the 2008 VCA NGDC with a Third Placement in the NGDC. She has set a benchmark for dual registered & dual registries (AF/AFTCA & AKC) competition.
“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." Aristotle
"Thank you Tuffy, you sent us over the top" SITmUP
As she clearly eyeballs the camera lady.
All photos & graphics for the 2008 VCA NGDC by dlb.