Why did we do this? Well, my husband works with the wounded warriors at Ft. Campbell, KY. One of the programs to help the soldiers during their rehabilitation is to get them out and hunting if that's what they like/want to do. It helps heal mind and spirit and thus, makes the physical healing move along a bit more easily. The program helps the soldiers with injuries understand that there is no limit to doing what they want, just a reassessment of how to go about getting it done.
This weekend, we hooked up with the Vizsla Club of Metro Atlanta. (One of the members of this club, Barben Vizslas, donated our Jo-Jo to this cause for the warriors and that is how Mike and I are involved now in trying to train a vizsla.) The VCMA hosted a Field Trial where many came to compete with their dogs in simulated hunt tests. I have to tell you, I learned a lot and just fell in love with vizslas all over again. In a very short summary, here's what happens. They take the dogs out into a field 2 at a time and watch for them to point out a bird, by scent, not sight. The handler will flush the bird the dog pointed and then fire a starter pistol. The handler will then release the dog to go find another bird or covey of birds. It's beautiful. They take long sweeping runs and then all of the sudden will stop on point and not move. There are various levels of expertise during the trial.
At the end of the field run, there are call-backs for the top 3 or 4 who worked in the field. At that point, the real gunners come in. The dog has to find the point (they make this easy to do) and now has to stay ON POINT through the flush and shot to wing (the shooting of the bird). Also, the dog has to find where the bird went down and retrieve it back to the handler. The combined best runs in field and call-back determine the winners of the event.
Now, back to us. The VCMA invited a few warriors to come down and be the gunners for this event. After all of the competitions, with all the extra birds they laid in the fields, they also took the warriors out to the field for a guided hunt. Brought 2 dogs (Bart, the 3-legged mascot for the WTU in Ft. Campbell and Cutter, a beautiful young boy who's going to accomplish great things) to help point and the warriors were able to bring some birds down after being flushed. I think they walked away with about 8-10 quail when all was said and done.
We all had a great time and it just firmed up my husband's and my desire to keep our dogs on their training schedule so that come fall next year, they will also be out there full swing for these soldiers and their unique therapy programs. This collaboration with the WTU (Warrior Transition Unit) and these dog clubs (VCMA and now AKC) is just beginning but it looks to be a wonderful partnership. Thank you to VCMA for the invitation and hospitality! I know the soldiers loved every minute of watching those dogs show their skills!
Warning: Many pictures and few captions to follow! -grin-
This is our boy Jo-Jo. He didn't compete but here he is at the end of his own point. Just had to include him!
Most dogs were vizslas but a couple were other breeds. Here is a german-shorthaired pointer.
First shot of the call-back and a quick hit by the fellow in the wheelchair. It was a proud moment for all and a great start for the gunners who never felt the pressure of missing! (If they missed, it could cause a dog to falter and lose placement. Something like that, anyway - I'm still learning.)
Retriving the shot!
This one had her first ever retreive. Time to celebrate!
The warriors setting up to shoot whatever is flushed during a call back. The dog is on point behind the wheelchair. You can barely see him back there.
Searching for the scent.
Bart (the dog) lost his leg to cancer in 2008. Since then he's won his Master Hunter title (a HUGE deal for a 4-legged dog, let alone a 3-legged dog)! He's become the unofficial mascot for the WTU at Ft. Campbell! Here he is with a retired wounded warrior as well his owner.
On the guided hunt. Ahh- good times!