2023 Goals & Vertigo

It’s been a roller coaster year so far. Keeper and I began 2023 at Bad Habit Gundogs in St, Jo, Texas just like we have the two years before. The goals for this year were “simple”…get Keeper qualified for both U.S. Nationals (he was already qualified for both Canadian Nationals) and to finish one or both of his Canadian titles. Piece a cake, right? Well, not so fast!

We began in Kansas where Keeper and I finished two of the four trials, but with no placements. He ran very well but the competition was tough, as always in Kansas. From there we came back to St. Jo for the North Texas field trial and an old monster reared its ugly head. During the second contact of the 1st series my vertigo became so severe that I became completely disoriented and basically wandered into the gallery while Keeper was flushing a pheasant out beyond our wing gunner. We were called back for the 2nd series, but I was unable to continue and scratched.

Icy roads prevented us from going to the two Huntsville, Texas trials and then we were off to Tennessee. The photo above was taken at the Bird Dog Hall of Fame annual induction dinner. I shared a table with 100 year old, WWII veteran, U.S. Navy Captain Garette Lockee, a co-founder of the Hall of Fame. The two of us enjoyed an amazing conversation over dinner.

1st place and the Guns Award in the Missouri Amateur stake!

From Tennessee we were off to Missouri where Keeper ran a near perfect trial and I was able to hold it together during all three series. In the end, we finished 1st in the Amateur, punched Keeper’s ticket to the Amateur National, and won the Guns Award! Our first ever! This award is presented (at only a few trials) to the dog that the field trial gunners would most like to spend a day in the field hunting over. It’s an incredible honor!

Then in Ohio Keeper had two outstanding series and we were back for the 3rd, standing very high in both judges books. During the 3rd series vertigo again overtook me and, in the words of one of the judges, Keeper and I became “disjointed”. Even so we finished 4th in the Open behind three outstanding pro-handled dogs and punched half of Keeper’s ticket to the National Open. But I was done. Exhausted. Tired of trying to maintain my balance in the fields where we run our dogs.

So I reached out to Graeme and Lorna Baxter and their daughter, Amelia, about coming back down to their beautiful training facility in Texas for a much needed break. And they graciously agreed. Our plans to run four trials in Wisconsin and Minnesota will have to wait for another year.

Later this week we leave for North Dakota and then Montana to wrap up the U.S. spring trials. After that there are two trials in Alberta in June where we will pursue Keeper’s Canadian titles. So it hasn’t been easy, but we keep going. Keeper is an amazing dog, the one I’ve waited a lifetime for, and I just try to keep up.

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