It’s with tremendous sadness that write this post. Sky, Lexi’s half sister and my third pointer, padded away on Wednesday, 1/6. She was almost 5 years old.
Sky had a health issues all fall. They escalated in the middle of December. She was in pain and had trouble walking. She improved from Christmas to New Year’s day, but on Saturday, 1/2, things went down hill.
We admitted her to Angell Medical Center’s emergency unit on Tuesday morning. After a lot of testing and consulting with their vets, we decided euthanasia was the only way to end her suffering. We put her down Wednesday evening.
I love English Pointers, especially ones from strong Elhew lines. So I was excited to see this litter of pups from Northern California’s Blackney Kennels. These great looking dogs are full of potential. And they’re darn cute, too.
According to the breeder’s About Us page: “Blackney Kennels breeds Elhew English Pointers for hunters and competitors, and their families, who desire an outstanding representative of the finest line of pointing dogs ever developed. Our objective is to produce dogs of the highest quality, conforming to the Elhew standards: high-powered, highly intelligent, highly biddable, conformationally correct and strikingly beautiful, with ideal companion-dog temperaments.”
3 Questions for kennel owner Daniel Riviera
1.) Dogs & Doubles: Why did you pick Brigadoon & Aviatrix? What strengths were you trying to bring together?
Daniel Riviera: First, this is a “pure” Elhew breeding. I have had Elhew pointers for the past 20 years and have been thrilled with them. I agree entirely with, and want for myself, the kind of dog Bob Wehle developed. For the low-volume breeder, who wants the highest quality, consistent litter, I believe breeding within the Elhew family, which is broad and has many lines, is the best route.
Specifically, I like, and want to breed, a high-powered, exceptionally athletic dog, who is exciting, even thrilling at times, to watch work and with whom to partner in the hunt. I want the dog to be highly biddable, meaning responsive and communicative in the field, highly intelligent, beautifully structured and marked, with a handsome, correct head and a straight, cracking tail, and a warm, outgoing, engaged, and expressive personality and temperament. Both Brigadoon and Aviatrix meet this description.
Brigadoon is a powerfully built, beautiful dog, with good bone and substance, and tremendous vitality – excellent qualities in a sire. Aviatrix is finer boned, sharply outlined, with great intensity. I felt they would be a good combination because I did not want to go further in either direction, toward more bone or toward more refinement. It seems to have been a good choice as the pups show both good bone and substance, and beautiful emerging outlines.
Brigadoon and Aviatrix share many desirable traits, so their strengths are compounded in the pups. Just picking one of their strengths, both Brigadoon and Aviatrix are notably tenacious. When we were just beginning to work Brigadoon on birds, when he was still a little tyke, we shot a chukar for him and it unfortunately dropped into the middle of a huge blackberry bush, common in the open fields around here. Before we could stop Brigadoon, he was crawling into the middle of the blackberry bush and was soon crawling back out, pushing through the vines, ignoring the stickers, with the bird. It was quite amazing.
I should add that both Brigadoon and Aviatrix are very healthy dogs, and so far, knock on wood, have not been prone to injury. The pups they produced are very robust.
2.) Dogs & Doubles: What traits are you hoping to see in these pups? What will set them apart?
Daniel Riviera: I want to see a robust, beautiful dog, with a handsome head and cracking tail, forward, engaged, with a warm, loving personality. The ideal hunting-companion dog, who may also be competed successfully in shooting dog and comparable stakes. This is what I am seeing in the pups. I began with pointing dogs nearly 30 years ago, showing Vizslas (a wonderful breed) in conformation. This litter is so uniformly excellent you could finish the championship of every one of these pups. I wish I could keep them all.
3.) Dogs & Doubles: Say I’m a potential customer, what’s your elevator pitch on your pups? Why should consider them, what will I get from them?
Daniel Riviera: The ideal hunting-companion dog, beautiful, thrilling to watch and to hunt, rewarding to own every day of the dog’s life.
I spend a LOT of time with my dogs–most of my time, really. I work from home, and so Lexi and Sky are my constant companions: A run in early am, in the office together all day, a walk in the PM, repeat.
But not this July and August. Both girls went to Wild Apple Kennel at the end of June for summer training, and they’ll be there through this month.
Sky and I headed up to northern NH on Saturday to say “hello” to Lexi and Craig Doherty. Craig runs Wild Apple Kennel, and this is the second season he has worked with Lexi.
Lexi left for training camp at the end of June, and this was the first time the Sky has seen her since then. After they had a moment to reacquaint, we put took some pigeons out for them and ran a couple other dogs Craig has in his kennel this summer. Overall, a great day.
Paul Fuller of Bird Dogs Afield just posted this great interview with legendary pointer breeder and field trialer Ferrell Miller. If you’re into bird dogs, you should make time to watch the whole thing.
And if you don’t know much about Pointers, this short video is a nice introduction to the breed. It also features Ferrell Miller, and is worth watching just to see Mr Miller in the field working his dogs.
I never set out to be a Pointer guy. Back before I got Puck (my first pointer), I had never even seen one, except for in books and magazines. Then one day I was flipping through an issue of the Pointing Dog Journal, and I noticed an add from a Pointer breeder near me.
“Perhaps no other breed of bird dog has had more selective breeding based solely on their performance in the field than pointers. Even so, pointers are also excellent hunting companions and house pets.
In addition to our English setters, Jerry and I always have owned pointers. We’ve bred, trained, competed and lived with them for more than 20 years and are now producing our fifth generation.”
So far, it’s been several days of ups and days. We’ve been finding birds, but not many. Some of the woodcock have been holding for points, but the grouse have been flushing wild.I saw these birds flush on their own, so I know Lexi was not pushing them up. I’ve never seen such skittish grouse.
It wasn’t until today that we got into a significant number of woodcock. They were right where they should be this time of year – in an stand of Alders – and in about 30 minutes we put up 12 birds. Lexi had solid points on three of them. I missed them all. On the others, a couple flushed wild and Lexi bumped the rest.
Bumped birds are one of the frustrations of breaking in a dog, and it’s hard for me to remain calm and patient when I see Lexi pushing birds into the sky. She’s also had her share of long pauses/false points. After a while, these things drive me mad.
I strapped my pointer cam on her so I could get a better look at what she was doing in the woods. The videos below are what we shot. There’s a long and short version. Take a look and let me know your thoughts.
You can’t hunt on Sundays in Maine, but you can run a bird dog. So Lexi and I made it out this AM for a little photo safari/training run. Lexi hit birds the first place we stopped, and in about 45 minutes she pointed 2 grouse and 2 woodcock.
I saw the grouse flush wild before I could get all the way to Lexi’s point. The same thing happened with one of the woodcock. I flushed the second woodcock out from under a perfect point. Talk about proud.
I can tell Lexi is still figuring out how to handle these birds, and she may have pressured the first three a bit too much. Compared to how she did yesterday, she’s learning fast. With a little luck, I should kill her first wild bird for her tomorrow.
I was up in northern NH last weekend visiting Lexi. She’s about 1/2 through her summer training program, and she’s just starting to get out in the woods to chase wild birds. She turning int great bird dog — very easy handling and a real strong bird finder.
I took her out for a couple hours and hit a few spots. Lexi moved 3-4 grouse. I only heard the birds. The woods were too thick for me to see a thing. Here’s a quick vid of Lexi plus some pics of what we saw (and a vid of a slithering little guy we came across). Enjoy.
Has anyone ever seen pointers like this in the US? The ones in this video are fantastic looking dogs. Maybe I’m seeing things, but they look a bit different from most EPs I’ve seen over here – leggier, deeper in the chests, and with blockier, squarer heads. Their points are lot different, too. They do get the job done, though.
I like a dog that points, and when it points I want it to look proud, confident and sure. Take a look at these pointers to see what I mean. These are POINTS! — the kind of dog work that’s thrilling to look at and shoot over.
Lexi and I headed out for our first day in the field last Saturday. Lexi did well, but the birds were scarce. We moved two grouse and zero woodcock (and we hit two of my best woodcock spots).
The day started in some classic New England upland coverts – overgrown farmland broken up by plowed fields — plenty of tumbling rock walls and old, craggy apple trees. Lexi hit the first spot with crazed exuberance, bouncing and leaping like she was electrified. She seemed thrilled, but not sure why. We hunted into a birdy looking tangle and after a few seconds of high-octane tail wagging, she popped into a point. I thought she had her very first bird. It turned out to be a dud, though.
Lexi began by ranging out 10-20 yards and keeping a close eye on me. I walked her into the birdy-looking spots and tried to show her where to hunt. By the end of the day, she had started to hunt on her own. Her range was about 40 yards, and she was more independent and bold. She came when I called her, and quartered on command. Not bad for a five-month old pup.
The past week has real warm throughout New England, and I’m not hearing a lot of good things about the woodcock. I’m hoping to find some migrants tomorrow. We’ll be pushing further north and hitting spots that should have some local birds. With a little luck, Lexi may have her very first point. My fingers are crossed. Wish us luck.
My new English Pointer Lexi is almost 21 weeks old now, and she’s growing fast. She’s up to 20lbs – almost 1/2 of how much she’ll eventually weigh – and her dexterity and coordination is improving. Training wise, she knows her name, and she’s picking up some basic commands: Come, Down, and NO (she hear’s that one a lot). I’ve been working on getting her to turn and quarter on command, too, and she’s picked it up very quickly.
Here are a couple videos of her. I shot this first one last Sunday. This was Lexi’s first time in thick, weedy cover, with limited visibility, and it took her a little while to get used to it.
I shot this next video on Tuesday. This is Lexi’s first visit to the local doggie daycare facility. While Lexi has been exposed to lots of other dogs, she’s seen this many at once. This video was shot within minutes of her being introduced to the pack. Lexi handled the situation very well.
These are all things our new pup Lexi loves to chew on. We’re on day six with her, and so far Lexi is sleeping through the night, and we’re not having any messes in her crate or in the house. The chewing and the nipping is a bit of an issue, but I’m sure it will resolve itself soon.
For all you out there who’ve raised a pup before: What tips and advice do you have for us? What did you do right? And what do you wish you had done differently? Please let us know.