Last Updated Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 7:20 CDT: Rolled into lovely Fort Morgan Colorado about two hours ago. Staying at perhaps the best Rodeway Inn (the bottom of the Choice Hotel food chain) in the country - huge room, clean, hot water and best of all, a flat screen tv that's better than the one we have at home. And a three acre training pond right out back - life is good!

Bry is running a double AKC master starting tomorrow, so that's why we went to Colorado first. He got his MH last weekend, and needs two more to qualify for the Master National in Alabama in October and I'm really hoping we can get that nailed down here and not have to worry about it the rest of the summer. Up until two weeks ago he had been pretty inconsistent, but ever since I started taking The Goon along even tho he's not running, Bry seems to be much more solid. So apparently Goon is now Bry's companion pony, which is fine with all concerned. The next 8 days will tell. I decided to scratch The Goon, so he's now retired. He just has too many joint issues to put him through another test - the spirit is still very willing but the flesh just can't recover anymore.

The trip out has been uneventful so far. Gas prices have ranged from a low of $3.35 in Missouri to a high of $3.48 in Ohio, which is way less than I expected just a couple of months ago. Colorado prices are in the $3.70 range, still not too bad. As usual, everyone I have encountered once I cleared the east coast has been annoyingly pleasant and helpful. In another couple of days I'll get used to it, but it always takes awhile. Just this evening a tattooed kid with a hoodie and undoubtedly packing held the door for me at the 7-11. Back home in Baltimore I would have expected a move like that to be followed by a blow to the head as I passed by and my wallet turning up in the inner harbor sometime in July. Vik is flying into Denver tomorrow night, apparently at the same time Nora is flying into Las Vegas to meet Harry.

I get the feeling that this is a very stealth-like Invitational this year. Very little buzz and not much communication from the committee to give folks any updates or news. I miss not having more action on the website with who's going, etc. I guess the lousy economy continues to take a toll on entries, as 37 (now 36) is the least we've had since we started back up again. I'm going to miss most of my buddies from the mid-west and east, but at least quite a few west coast dogs are coming - I really can't wait to see Spirit and Bumper run. "Maggie's Perfect Throw" is absolutely the best name for a dog I've ever heard.

Watching the Heat-Pacers game and just saw John Elway doing a commercial for his car dealership. I don't know why, but it just looked creepy to me.

Will post more this weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2012 10:30 AM MDT: My first test in Colorado since the 2006 Invitational has been pretty exciting so far. I got to the test location outside of Fort Morgan, at the Colorado Front Range Retriever Club, and practically the first thing the woman I checked in with told me was that she was surprised I drove all that way to run their test, as they have a reputation as about the toughest club to pass in the country. Now I just assumed that she was screwing with the new guy, until I watched the test dog for the first series. Shivering a** cold with a brisk 20 mph wind, gusting to 30 – not unlike the 2008 Invitational water blind for those of you that were there. A land-water quad with blind and honor, including two of the memory birds in-line. And a bitchy little angle entry, receding shoreline down the shore water blind with a long entry to the water. Tore up the test dog, and every dog had at least one handle up to the point where Bry ran, #10. So I was a tad nervous to say the least. But Bry did okay with it – not great, and he had two fairly long hunts, but he didn’t have to handle and did a solid, workmanlike blind. We got a good job from one of the judges, and per the Marshall she hadn’t heard those words out his mouth prior to that time, so I figure we are in pretty decent shape, and I hope that having knocked the crap out of everyone with series one, the other two will be a bit less daunting.

Friday, May 25, 2012 9:30PM MDT: The first series continued to be a blood bath – the judges ended up calling back 21 out of 38 starters, but 6 of those called back had double handles so that tells you how hard the test was. The second series was a pretty benign land triple and blind, and although I ran second and didn’t see any other dogs run, I expect that they won’t drop many more from that setup. The judges and marshall were nice enough to let me move up in the order (they had a rotation that started the second series at #14) so I could drive the hour to Denver to pick Vik up at the airport. Both the land series and airport pickup went off just fine, and we’re back to being one big happy family again.

I just assumed that I would not know a soul at the test, but surprisingly enough I met two old NAHRA guys from the 2006 Invitational, Fred Lysinger and Dan Mills. Both had multiple dogs, all of whom did very well – did the mothership proud.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, May 27, 11:50 PM CDT: Lost internet at the hotel Saturday night, and was testing and on the road all day today so won't post much now. Ended up going 1 for 2 in Colorado. The final water blind got us on the last series of the first test. We did okay on the 115 yard keyhole, but had one too many cast refusals on the 80 yard down the shore by all of the old falls on the inline marks prior to the blinds. Hammered the second test though. Biggest thing I'll take from the Colorado tests is that they have many, many things out here that can kill you. Details to follow, but at one point we literally had an armed escort to our vehicle as a result of a rattle snake that was spotted right next to where the escape was parked when i was running Bry.

Expect to get to Flagstaff Monday evening, and hope to have time to post more then.

Monday, May 28, 9:50 PM CDT: Finally made it to Flagstaff late afternoon, and didn't really have time to drive down and check out the test site, so I'll see it tomorrow at the handlers' breakfast. Had a few issues with the hotel - refrigerator broken and bad internet connection, but we ended up changing rooms and got the internet issue resolved so we're in good shape for the rest of the week.

Just to finish up the Colorado story, we just couldn't quite get through the last water series of the first master and blew out on the final blind. The setup was a water triple and double blind. All of the marks fell out of sight in or behind very thick cattails so there was almost no opportunity to handle dogs that mismarked things. The best you could do was handle right before they disappeared into the cattails and hope they held the cast. The first blind was 115 yards to a keyhole in the cattails, and the second was an 80-yard down the shore with tons of scent from the marks. Bry did the marks very well - I did handle on the last bird just because I had it to use, but probably didn't need to. Did fine on the first blind but I just couldn't keep him off the cattails on the final blind. I don't really feel too bad about not quite getting it done - it was just a little over our heads. 650 yards of swimming and 18 minutes per dog if you did it correctly.

The second master was tough too, but not quite as vicious. The opening land series was a delayed quad with a flyer on the way back from the go bird, but as long as the dog didn't break on the flyer the rest of the test was pretty wide open. Unfortunately the wind really picked up after they finished the first series on Saturday, and they couldn't get the second series started, so they restarted on Sunday, which really screwed up my timetable to make it to Munds Park in time to do a little training on Monday afternoon. I did work out a deal with the judges and marshall to run first dog on the final series, a water triple and double blind, with one of the blinds and one of the marks double re-entries. Bry did fine and we blew out of dodge about 4PM Sunday.

And the snake story: As Bry and I walked to the last holding blind on the way to that bitchy final water series in the first master someone tells me that they spotted a snake between our vehicle and the one next to us, but when they went back with a gun they couldn't find it again. So after we hosed up the last series and as we're slinking back to the car I notice that we're the only vehicle still in the parking area - nice feeling, don't you think. But Bill Teague, who is going to be one of the master national judges this year, was nice enough to walk back with me with his shotgun while I left bry and vik on the road so i could get our transport out. There was one other possible snake incident, when one of the dogs picking up a long mark acted like something spooked him, and the test was stopped while the bird boys and other reinforcements checked out the area, again with shotguns. At that point I was damn glad we'd already run that series!

This is a picture of our Beverly Hillbillies travel style and the boys this morning in Utah, on the way to Flagstaff.

Tomorrow things will start in earnest. We're meeting at the test site for the handlers breakfast and meeting and then going out to train. I've been told that Chase broke in training today, which actually might be a good thing since it means we can duplicate the problem tomorrow. Hopefully we can work on it and get him through the test.

Last thing before I quit for the night is to offer condolences to Larry Willson on the loss of his Abby. It's always too young.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012, 9:30PM MST: Today things began in earnest with the Handlers’ Breakfast at 9:00, the Bitch Check and training starting around 10:30, and the opening banquet at 5:00. All were fun with a few occurences you couldn’t make up!

The first rate breakfast was catered at the Foxboro clubhouse, which is a huge log structure that set a nice tone for the event. Following the buffet style breakfast, Lenda Barker, the Invitational Chair, addressed the group and laid down a few of the usual ground rules. Periodically throughout the event a committee member would blow a very loud duck call and someone would win a door prize. The first lucky handler was John Gilbert from the Spokane Bird Dog Association, who won the very fashionable hat below:

Photo courtesy Marcie Carlo

John was so excited by his gift that he decided to investigate the trash pile for anything else of note:

Photo courtesy Marcie Carlo

This is the group enjoying breakfast prior to the start of the program: Photo courtesy Marcie Carlo

This is the outside of the very impressive lodge. As was the case in 2006, Lenda and her committee have secured a first rate venue. Photo courtesy Marcie Carlo

After breakfast we broke up into individual groups and headed out to training sites selected by random draw. Luckily the east of the Mississippi group drew a good spot with both land and a running water pond that was very satisfactory for what we had in mind. Having just run all last weekend I really didn’t have anything in particular I wanted to do, but we did want to get in a significant correction for Dick’s dog Chase who had been breaking on honors to beat the band. And so we did.

Our first series was pretty simple triple with a go bird flyer on the left. After you picked up your marks you ran a testy little 100 yard blind over the fall of the flyer and into the tree line about 20 yards. We ran Chase last, so he had all the previous gunshots and noise to get him wired up. He was a perfect little angel as the working dog, but as expected, he broke on the honor and was racing the working dog to get to the flyer. That’s when I came screaming out of the flyer station like a banshee, running straight at Chase making him feel for all the world like he was about to die. It clearly got his attention as he made an abrupt stop and immediately returned to heel at Dick’s side before I could get a hold of him. I had made myself up to look like Arnold Swartzeneger in Terminator to the extent possible, with the dark glasses and standard AKC Ninja uniform, so the overall effect for Chase was pretty traumatic. We then put him up, with the hope that he is now afraid that the boogey man is always hiding in the blind when he is honoring, and that Dick is the savior, whose side he should never leave until sent. Tomorrow morning just before Dick runs, I’ll just let Chase see me walking towards the line so he’ll maybe think I’m out there waiting for him. Best case is that Chase keeps his butt on the ground for the honor and passes the test. Worst case is that Chase spends the rest of his career no-going because he thinks I’m everywhere. Good luck Dick! ☺

Here is our little training group: Clockwise from left, Women’s Auxilliary member Marci Carlo, Tony Carlo, Dave Mellender, Women’s Auxilliary member Kathy Ofstedal, Me, Women’s Auxilliary member Vicki Pepper, and Dick Ofstedal taking shelter in a replica teepee constructed by a group of roving dwarfs. Photo courtesy Marcie Carlo

The banquet tonight was enjoyable as always, and I’ll try to give you some updates on that tomorrow, but for now I’m beat and tomorrow starts with a 5:15 wake up call.

Wednesday, May 30, 5:50 CDT: Getting ready to meet the training group plus Arlon for dinner at the Outback so I'll try to hit a couple of highlights and try to get more up, including pictures, after dinner.

We did the land series today, at a location a short drive from the main lodge. It was a very straight-forward triple and blind, no tricks, great visibility, etc. No complaints from anyone. That said, for a fair number of dogs it was a real bear, primarily because of a constantly changing, very swirling wind that really played havoc with some of the dogs. First bird was a shot flyer that fell about 40 yards on the right, thrown to the left, then a long bird at 94 yards pretty much straight up the middle, and a left throw at 93 yards. Both of the last two throws were left to right. The issue that got most of the dogs that had problems was going out to the left hand go bird, and missing it just wide right and then catching the scent off the middle bird and heading over to that one. At that point the handler had the choice of letting the dog go and coming back to the left bird later, or biting the bullet and handling back to the left hand go bird. Ike and Bry both did that, and I let him roll and Tony went with the handle. Probably worked out slightly better for me without the handle, but Bry had a very long hunt back left and was so deep at one point that apparently the whole gallery was audibly wishing I'd blow a whistle. I figured he'd hunt back on his own, and if he did try to return to the middle bird I'd handle him then. And that's what happened, but I got an earful when I got back to the gallery.

The blind, which I didn't mention before, runs right through the middle of the copse of trees, probably the full 100 yards. The left hand winger station is visible just under the blue glare spot on the left picture. The center winger station is barely visible in the middle picture at the base of the far tree line, halfway between the left edge of the picture and the first big tree on the left.

Most of the dogs did a decent job on the series, and overall I'm hoping to lose no more than one or two dogs. All the ones I watched did well enough to get called back tomorrow by my book, but apparently there were some worrisome issues with dogs when I was back in the bullpen getting the little princeling ready so we may be down a dog or two for tomorrow. Also some close passes by falls that I wouldn't have called switches but I'm not the judge! I should have the callbacks from DickO at dinner so I'll report back.

Wednesday, May 30, 9:10 CDT:Just returned from a very nice dinner with everyone. DickO was nice enough to treat us on his credit card, for which we are all very appreciative.

Dick has reported that all the dogs are through to tomorrow which is both a first and very welcome news. So a few more pictures from today:

Here we have Jim Tracey, sporting his NPRC shirt, with Maggie's little girl Bumper at the conclusion of their run. They had a nice series with one quick handle that shouldn't hurt them much since it was to get her back into the area of the fall after she had clearly marked the bird initially. I believe it was on the long middle bird.

DickO and Chase in the holding blind prior to their run. They did a very nice job, but it wasn't until after over half of the following dozen dogs had a handle or gorilla hunt that it was apparent how really well they had done. Much to Dick's relief there was no honor and Chase is in great shape going forward.

Dave Mellender and Smoke after their run as last dog. A handle, but in good shape.

Seeing as how both Ike and Bry had some issues, Tony and I figured we should jump in and help out working the test to try to garner some desperately needed goodwill points.

A little gallery action.

A good picture of Ike, courtesy Marcie Carlo. We decided that tony added nothing to the view and cropped him out. Digital pictures are the best!

Harry Williams and Hope just before starting their run. Photo courtesy Marcie Carlo

Bry and me on the final sneak that was part of the walk-up to start the test. Contrary to rumors swirling around the event, those gloves are burgundy, not red as some would have you believe. Frank, note the Four Points camo! :) Photo courtesy Marcie Carlo

Thursday, May 31, 2012, 8:30PM MST: I fear Thursday at the Invitational like Scrooge fears the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. It is always the trail and upland, and neither event is really in Bry’s wheelhouse. I always feel that if I can survive Thursday I’ll be in good shape going forward. Today was everything I feared it would be, and then some.

The day started bright and early at 7:15 AM when our entire little east of the Mississippi training group met at the test HQ to see where we would be doing the trail and upland. As usual I parked on the edge of the parking lot, and rolled down all the windows so the boys could have good air circulation. Well, about 7:30 we noticed that we were the only people there, and determined that perhaps we had missed some sort of significant communiqué by not attending the official pizza party Wednesday night. Figuring that the best place to find everyone was to look first where we were on Tuesday, we headed back to the parking lot to retrieve our vehicles and head out on our search. It was then that I noticed, with a not insignificant amount of alarm, that the automatic sprinkler system had turned on, and that one of the pop-up units was directly under the escape, with several others on either side, all doing their best to keep the inside of the vehicle a cool and moist environment for Bry and The Goon. To make a long story manageable, lets just say that we were able to jump in, roll up the windows, and drive out of the storm. Unfortunately, just after we cleared the parking lot it occurred to me that perhaps I should have given a bit of thought to the critical relationship between the extended sprinkler head and my left rear tire. A quick retracement of our path did indeed reveal that the sprinkler head was now laying prone in the grass. Oh well, a great start to the day. I then went in and confessed my vandalism to the land manager and agreed to pay whatever the bill was. In the end they said it was just a $4 plastic part and let me slide, but it was an inauspicious start to the day.

This is the escape before we were able to move it. The water situation doesn’t look too bad in this view, but that’s because the rotating sprinklers were on their out pattern. The spray from the sprinkler I murdered seconds after this picture was taken is very visible between the wheels.

We did indeed find the rest of the group over at Tuesday’s location, and we were able to get there in time not to miss any of the judges’ instructions. For some reason the 50 vehicles that arrived before us left the only available parking spots with shade open, so we slide right into a couple of large pines and didn’t have to break out the pop-ups. We then wandered down to the handler’s meeting where we found out we were doing the trail first.

The trail. Three holding blinds to the start of the trail on the left. It went straight out about 25 yards, then turned right for about 50 yards and right again for 25 yards to the pile. The long segment was parallel to a narrow ditch/creek and crossed under the dead fall visible in the right picture. Most of the dogs missed the first turn and hunted the field behind before eventually picking it back up. The wind was in the direction of the long section, left to right, so if the dogs got deep they eventually got a wind save. Bry had his usual sphincter tightening run; had to restart him three times but on the third try he pretty much nailed it, and was one of the few dogs to jump the deadfall right in line with the trail. Only two dogs had enough problems with the trail to be dropped. At least one of them thought he was going to get a re-run and was surprised that he was dropped without one.

Bry and I in the holding blind prior to the trail.

Following the trail we had a break while the upland was set up. Here are Dave and Anne Mellender enjoying a quiet moment in the bullpen.

The upland field. Really not a whole lot of cover and what there was is not easy to see in the pictures. Dogs started off from the far right, and quartered about 40 yards to the flush, a chukar. The shooting was more consistent than was the case on the land series flyer, and there were only a couple of untouched birds. Unfortunately Bry got one of them, with the result that I had a very, very long afternoon. But to get back to the test, after the flush you hunted back to the left, parallel to a small creek that you really can't see very well in the pictures. At some point the judges told you they'd seen enough, and you came back to the gallery area from where these pictures were taken to drop your bird in a bucket.

Bry was very steady on the flush, but the gunners barely raised the heart rate of the chukar, which flew about 50 yards and then settled gently to earth, unscathed. I turned Bry loose, and he proceeded to herd the beast into the water rather than actually pick it up. Once he had it marinating in the creek he promptly retrieved it to hand, but I was sure he was out for not really picking it up promptly. I finished out my hunt, which was excellent by Bry's standards, and then retired to the gallery to sulk. By the time the rest of the dogs had run I had worked myself into a depression that Van Gogh would have envied even on the day he cut off his ear.

Harry and Wily after they finished up as last dog to run. They did well and both of his dogs are back to water tomorrow.

After the final dog ran, we retired to the lodge to await the call back list, and while we did that there were some pigeon races that some folks wagered on. Obviously I was pretty anxious to see the call backs, and as a testament to my firm belief that we were out, I bet Dick $20 that I was out and offered that same bet to any other takers as well. I figured rather than sit around and mope, I would bet a few bucks on the pigeon races. That actually worked out well, and I won a few bucks there. Before they were over, Dick came over and said Harry wanted a piece of my $20 I failed bet and I took him up on it. Shortly thereafter I forced myself to slink up the lodge stairs to the list, and lo and behold I was called back. Shortly after that I discovered that Harry (and everyone else) knew I had passed before he took the bet. I can't tell you how proud of him and the rest of the group I am - it is not that easy to put one over on me, but they discovered my soft underbelly and went for the jugular. I think it was done mostly at the urging of my bride, who wanted to make sure I got my payback for screwing with Dick on Tuesday. Overall, it was the best $40 in lost wagers I ever had, and absolutely proves my long-standing belief that if good (everyone else in the east of the mississippi group) and evil (Vik and I) get together, that evil will rub off on the good more so than the vice versa.

I thought I had a picture of the call back board, but it didn't turn out well enough to post. So the dogs not called back are #'s 3 (trail), 7 (upland), 10 (upland), 17 (trail). #'s 11 and 22 were scratches. I'm number 4 to run in the morning so I'm calling it a night.

Friday, June 1, 2012, 10:30AM MST: There is no better feeling that sitting back in the gallery after a last series run, and basking in the glory of “good enough”! Bry had a water series that certainly could have been better, but in the end he came through with a water blind that clinched a pass and I am one happy guy. Dave and Smoke have finished their run, which was very clean, and they are good to go as well. Dick and Chase had a no bird and have yet to run, and Tony is another hour out to run.

The test is a very wide open triple, with remote sit and a 180 degree turn required for the dog to see the putative go bird. The blind is run from a different line, and is by invitation. So far the first half-dozen dogs have gotten the call.

The water marks. Dog is on his own out in front of the handler, with the handler in a holding blind about 10 feet to the side of the dog. First bird was a live flyer from in front of the lido deck of the pavilion. It fell in front of the bridge, from 20-45 yards from the line. The next bird was thrown from left to right on the island, with the arc of the bird going over the tall tree in the middle. 95 yards. If you enlarge the picture on your browser you can see the blind on the island.

The third mark was 180 degrees behind the dog, thrown left to right at 75 yards. It landed in open water just beyond the bank, and for the most part the dogs turned and were able to see it. There were a few issues with the duck calls from the blind not being loud enough to attract the dogs’ attention, compounded by the fact that the generator from the lions club food people was a tad louder than we would have preferred. At some point early on a more robust caller was installed in the gun station, and the generator was relocated behind a trailer and after that there didn’t seem to be a problem getting the dogs to make the turn. It wouldn’t have been much of an issue if the test hadn’t had the remote sit, making it all but impossible to help your dog turn.

This is the blind. Angle entry and 95 yards to the corner cove of the pond, with a testy little keyhole at the end between a very inviting point and a large log. Most dogs grabbed the point as expected, and if your training was solid you got a quick back or angle back to the bird. If not you had a dog that sucked around the point out of sight to the left, and eventually it smelled the blind birds and hooked back in. A few folks went off to the right behind the log (Tony for one) but even then, you only lost sight of your dog for a few seconds (except Tony for one) and then gave a over back into the blind. Basically, if you could get your dog even a few feet past the point it was in the scent cone of the blind and you were home free.

Dick and chase have gotten their rerun, and they did a nice set of marks with a crisp handle on the long center bird, and absolutely hammered the blind. Maybe three whistles, and I’m not entirely sure Chase needed any of them – really nice blind for sure.

Bry had clean pickups on the flyer and go bird, and was on a perfect line to the center bird when for some reason he made a sharp left turn and went right towards the blind. I let him go, and he hunted to the right towards the bird and came into the area of the fall, and then decided to take a swim back in my direction. At that point I just bit the bullet and handled, which I figured was the way to go since I didn’t handle on land. The blind was the real bear, however. Trying to line him up took forever, because apparently the female dog before him had taken a little pee a foot in front of the line, and all he wanted to do was put his nose in that. Eventually I got him sorta lined up, and then a trailer door slammed shut on the left, and he had to take some time to stare over there for awhile. And then back to the pee. Since he seemed fixated off to the left, I lined him up favoring the right, figuring he’s split the difference and I’d get a good initial line. Not so much. He headed off way right, but I got him back on line and his middle was uneventful. Actually his close wasn’t bad, a couple of whistles to get him past the log, an over off the point and he sailed right into the scent cone. Sadly, he realized he was in the scent cone before I did, so there was a gratuitous whistle refusal at the end, but not a problem. And so we passed! And lest you think I’m whining, the Diamondbacks’ ground crew came in immediately after we finished and dug up the offending bit of dirt and replaced it with new.

Friday, June 1, 2012, 12:30PM MST: We have about a dozen dogs left, and so far I think everyone that has run has passed, although there are a couple that are probably a little worried. Tony has run and passed, so the east of the Mississippi training group is 4 for 4. Ike started off like he’d run the test yesterday, and was clean on his marks. His blind looked for all the world like he was going to line it, and as he got closer and closer to the keyhole, one could sense Tony’s spinchter opening up enough to pass a watermelon. And then it slamed shut like Fort Knox with the alarm bells going off. Old Ike cleared the log and immediately decided to have a not so brief mini-vacation behind the log, and on to the right bank. I wasn’t really worried, partly because I figured Ike had a ton of points to give, but mostly because Ike isn’t my dog. But in the end Tony got him back to the left and the bird and all was well. But it was an exciting close to an otherwise dull as dirt run by him.

This is Dick at the start of his blind.

This is Dick at the end of his blind. Well done!!!

Tony kicking Ike off for a mark.

Tony and Ike walking over to the start of his blind. I’m sorry I don’t have a video of his ever so exciting close to his blind.

Jim Tracey waiting to be called to the line with Bumper.

Jim giving an enthusiastic over. There were a couple of those, and as I write this we don’t know if she took enough of them to qualify.

Bob Siau and Auggie heading to the line.

Steve Stevens and Larry White’s dog Gunny going to the line for the blind. Gunny looked great all weekend. Steve, on the other hand, frequently got out of line, including such transgressions as jobbing me out of a first place payout in the second pigeon race, and attempting to scratch Bry just as I was picking him up to run early this morning. I will say that he gives the impression of some level of competence, but I’m not sure if it’s that, or an uncanny ability to hang with great dogs. In any event, he and Gunny did a nice job together.

New bride Marcie Carlo spent much of the morning hanging with the official photographer, and at one point co-opted his rock and very expensive telephoto lens. I was again so proud of my people!

Lisa Griggs heads to her blind accompanied by Judges Dave Cannings, Diane Shepperd and Bob Riggs.

Dick (last name withheld) takes one for the team and risks federal sanctions for disturbing waterfowl by gently moving out two families of geese that decided to improve their sight line for the blind.

Dave Mellender and Smoke going to the line. They were solid all weekend and did Old Dominion RC proud.

Judge Dave Cannings escorts Roger May and Solo to their blind.

Friday, June 1, 2012, 9:30PM MST: All over and back at the hotel. Jim and Bumper made it through, but it wasn't until the ribbon ceremony that we knew for sure. Jim was dog 15, and as God is my witness, the ribbon award for dog 14 took twice as long as any other - about 30 minutes handler time. In retrospect very funny, but at the time we were just dying! :)

And the qualifiers:

1. Dick Ofstedal and Chase - Chase had one of the best tests of any dog, and Dick did a great job handling him

2. Bob King and Kate, with an assist from Lance Sennette who helped Bob at the line due to his vision issues. The three of them were a great team and got the biggest round of applause at the ribbon ceremony.

4. Lisa Griggs and Quick

5. Bob Siau and Auggie

6. Bill St. Clair and Spirit - it was a pleasure finally getting to see Spirit run after following her progress online.

8. Marylouise Cox and Gage

9. Tony Carlo and Ike - solid all the way through, especially when Tony would get out of the way! :)

12. Steve Stevens and Gunny

13. Dick Winton and Cinder

14. Becky Williams and Lindsey

15. Jim Tracey and Bumper - Jim and I have run the last seven Invitationals, from Spokane to New York, and have experienced both success and failure multiple times. So we both have a shared appreciation of what it means to pass, because we know more than most what it feels like not to pass. It was great to see him run Bumper and I look forward to seeing her every year for some time to come.

16. Roger May and Jackie

18. Lance Sennette and Sam

19. Harry Williams and Wily

20. Manny Salazar and Torito

21. Bill St. Clair, Sharon Ventura and Wyatt - I'm not sure, but I seem to recall both of them running Wyatt

23. Roger May and Solo

24. Steve Stevens and Gus

25. Becky Williams and Feather

27. Ed Foster and Tapo

28. Harry Williams and Hope - Harry says that this pass is her last test, but from where I sat she still has plenty left in the tank. But if this was her last test, she went out on a high note, solid for all three days

29. Michael Elmer and Sonny - a solid job all the way through, and as beer dog also received an award from the official photographer for being the NAHRA equivalent of the NFL Draft's Mr. Irrelevant. A nice touch that was very unexpected and appreciated

30. Biff Ellington and Misty

32. Roger May and Butte

33. Larry Housman and Bry

34. Steve Stevens and Seeker

35. John Gilbert and Fire - A nice job with a high entertainment value - John always brings a little extra to the event

36. Ron Keeler and Molly

37. Dave Mellender and Smoke - two in a row for this team

Although he didn't pass, Richard Horst and his two dogs came very close and fought all the way through. He's done a really nice job with his dogs and I'd be proud to hunt with either of them any time. I feel your pain buddy.

Also props to Becky Williams both for doing a good job with dog #31, Moxie for the first two days, and for scratching her on Friday rather than trying to get her through the water series when she was injured. A tough break but she did the right thing. Similarly, condolences to Ivan Muzik who had to scratch due to his dog Eli coming into heat.

I want to thank all the judges and the Invitational Committee and workers. The tests were first rate and judged very fairly and it was obvious that the judges wanted to see handler and dog do well. And Lenda and her group did a great job running the event - it was obvious that they put their hearts into this event and it showed. Thank you again for accommodating me being more of a pia than I usually am. From a late scratch to vandalizing the venue you guys were always helpful and accommodating.

Well, I'm out of gas and hitting the sack. We'll be traveling the next three days to get back to the farm in Virginia, and running Bry on Long Island next Friday so likely won't get back to finish up the blog for another 10 days or so. Check back then, as I have a ton of pictures to go through and get posted and a few more stories to tell. I expect Marcie will be sending me some more pictures too. If you are in one of the pictures already posted and would like a copy that hasn't been compressed email me. My email addy is lshousman at net zero dot com.

Thursday, June 7, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT: Breaking news I had to share asap. One of my peoples forwarded a picture of the motel at which Judge Riggs stayed during the Invitational. Apparently he shunned the HQ motel and opted for an establishment in Flagstaff. I can only assume that he was attracted to either the realism of the covered wagon logo or the proximity to stellar automotive maintenance!

A few pictures in no particular order. First is Dick and Chase – as I already said, they had a totally solid run throughout the week.

Our little east of the Mississippi training group after the ribbon ceremony. We took in a stray handler from Washington as well.

The ladies auxiliary, who were instrumental in all of us passing, also celebrate after the ribbon ceremony. There may have been drinking involved. Kathy is missing, preferring not to be seen in public with this group!

Dave and Smoke – also a very consistent performance.

This is Harry getting his ribbon for Hope’s qualifying. Invitational Co-Chair Randy Hutson passes out his ribbon.

After receiving his ribbon, Harry passed through the Judges’ reception line, apparently moved to kiss Judge Shepperd’s ring. I thought it a bit formal, but seemed to work for him.

After the test was over, but while we were still in the field, the Minnesota folks brought out the Lab Drool. Drinking ensued. Lest my PO see this picture, let me note that I am drinking coke!

Shortly thereafter the ghost of Carrie Nation punished us by conjuring up a particularly stiff wind gust and taking out the canopy.

One of my peoples apparently turned on me, and left a little token for me in our luggage. Bry, however, enjoyed it immensely and it followed us home.

Harry and me sporting our “We Survived Spokane” camo shirts.

Jim and me. He and I are at 7 in a row and still going strong. He had a very close call getting to the event on time. I probably have some of the details wrong, but basically he was scheduled to fly his Cessna into Flagstaff late Tuesday night, but was diverted to Sedona instead. He then had to get a cab to Flagstaff to pick up his rental SUV, drive back to Sedona to pick up his stuff (and Bumper) and then back to Flagstaff to his hotel. He got to bed at 5AM and was back up at 6AM to make it down to Munds Park for the first series.

Marshal extraordinaire Roy Shepperd. Despite the heat and lack of shade, Roy always had the holding blinds full and herded the cats very well. As one of the cats, I can attest to the fact that we were not a particularly compliant group!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 10:00 PM EDT: Finally have a few minutes to finish things up. I have redone the pictures of the land and water series’ with arrows to better explain the tests so you can check back if you wish.

Bry did very well at the Master test on Long Island last Friday, so we didn’t have to do the one in Maryland over the weekend thank goodness. Of course we didn’t get back to the farm until 2AM on Saturday morning so that took the edge off of Saturday. But that pressure’s off now and we won’t have to be running tests in the worst part of summer.

I never got around to talking about the banquet, so let me wrap that up. Overall it was a good time with very good food and a minimum of speechifying. I don’t know how well the auction did, but they had a ton of items so hopefully folks bought a lot of tickets. Other than a few special items, most of the items were awarded based on a separate draw for each item from a multitude of tickets. I thought it dragged on a little long, but I always feel that way. I had a crapload of tickets since rather than take a refund for The Goon’s scratch, I just took it in tickets. Since I had so many tickets, I thought the least I could do was share some of them with the judging panel, in a selfless act devoid of ulterior motives. Sadly, it didn’t work out so well for me when none of the gift tickets hit for as much as a flashlight. Probably not as bad a move as trying to outbid Judge Plagman last year, but close.

The setting at the local golf club was first rate as always, with a nice sized room that held us all nicely but with not much room left over. A neat ice sculpture was the centerpiece in the entrance lobby – a very nice touch.

Here we have Chair Lenda Barker with the ice dog.

And the judges in their Tuesday night finest.

The whole committee. A really stellar job by all.

And my final pathetic picture to illustrate how bad things can get on long road trips. The (free) hotel we stayed at in Flagstaff was clean, comfortable and overall minimally acceptable, but they did have their issues. We had to change rooms to get a working refrigerator, and at one point the maid left the TV remote under the covers when she made up the bed and it took us quite a while to find it. And then the day after that, they somehow switched remotes on us and the one they left didn’t work at all. That resulted in another trip to the front desk for the correct one, with the result that they gave me every remote they had lying around in a drawer and told me good luck!

Well, on that sad note on the hospitality industry I leave you for another year. As always this was a great experience, and in retrospect, while I was not as pumped up as I usually am on the drive out, once I got here it all fell into place. The training day Tuesday with the east of the Mississippi group was as much fun training as I can ever remember. The opportunity to scare the crap out of Chase was priceless. And the fact that all of us passed was very gratifying. My souvenir elk leg, donor as yet unknown, is now proudly displayed outside the door to the cabin in Virginia; I’m just going to tell everyone it’s from a large deer.

Next year is in Pennsylvania, and I sincerely hope as many of you as possible can make it. We have a very experienced test committee already working on things and I guarantee a good time for all but the most curmudgeonly of you. 2014 is going to be in Alaska, so for many of us this will be the last one we can drive to until 2015.

Condolences to all that lost dogs this past year – cherish the memories.

And as my friend Mr. Plewa would say, “Pick ‘em up clean!” Thanks for the use of the hall

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