Whether they be gundog, terrier, hound, working dog or one of the toy breeds, I think we all remember one of our canine friends a little more fondly than others. The reasons for this seem to vary greatly.
For someone like me who came to shooting and gundogs a bit later in life, I had a variety of “working dog” breeds before we formed our more recent attachment to English Springer Spaniels and German Wirehaired Pointers.
Being raised on a succession of cattle properties in Australia we always had Kelpies or Australian Cattle Dogs (colloquially known as Blue Heelers) to work the cattle. Boxer and Paddy were the two best working dogs we had. Tough, no-nonsense dogs who ruled the farm. Both were good snake killers as well and that was important back in those days when as kids we roamed the properties from daylight till dark looking for adventure.
Later when I joined the Army and married and we started a family, we bought a blue roan English Cocker Spaniel named Sam for our two young lads. Coming home and grooming Sam each afternoon was also a good pressure release from the stressful job I had at the time. Sam was a sound representative of his breed and did a modest amount of winning in the show ring. It was while showing Sam that I encountered my first Rottweiler – it was love at first sight.
I had to wait almost 2 years for the pup I wanted from imported German lines. He was named Jubal by the breeders and we left it at that.
As Jubal grew, we got into the fledgling sport in Australia of Shutzhund Training and Tracking. Jubal was a natural at both. We then started doing search and rescue training with a progressive thinking group of dog owners in Melbourne. Jubal was also a wonderful family pet showing great loyalty and love for our two boys. Bold as brass usually, he was reduced to a nervous wreck by thunderstorms and would often seek refuge under the boys beds – often with them as company.
Jubal was then joined by a female named Octavia (Tavey) who went on to be my dog of a lifetime. Tavey was a handsome bitch and easily attained her Australian Championship. More importantly she was smart and helped teach me many things about dog training. Once again we did Shutzhund Training and Tracking together. We trained with the Victorian Police Dog Squad when they were looking at possible alternatives to their reliable German Shepherds. She really enjoyed our weekend outings together going through the combat obstacle courses we had on the various Army bases we lived on.
When I left the Army and was working in Israel, Tavey came over to live with my new wife and I. It took a lot of work by my wife to win Tavey over and to get her to accept that there was now another female in my life as well as her. Tavey was an amazing ambassador for the breed there. She finally succumbed to cancer at the age of 13. A whole community was saddened by her passing. The amazing vets and nurses were just as distraught as we were when we had to make that terrible final decision to say goodbye. Even now I well up at the thought of that day long ago.
After losing Tavey my wife and I decided that due to our globe-trotting lifestyle we should get a smaller breed of dog. My wife had been raised with Irish Setters but after a lot of research we settled on an ESS from one of England’s top show kennels, Mompesson. And so it was that Mompesson Giglio (Rupert) came to live with us in Tel Aviv. He was an instant star with celebrity like status. He was a good representative of his breed and won all the national and international shows he entered during his 4 years there. He went on to become and Australian and Israeli Champion and a Royal BOB winner.
Rupert had a mischievous but loveable nature and he won the hearts of everyone he came into contact with. He returned to the UK with us to live out his last four years. He liked coming rough shooting with me and enjoyed his long swims in the trout streams more than anything. Rupert will always be my wife’s favourite, her definite once in a lifetime dog.
We have had a succession of Springers since – all home-bred – many line bred back to old Rupert. Many of them became Australian Champions, one even became a very handy yard dog on our cattle farm outside Canberra.
When we had moved back to Australia in 2001 I was able to hunt duck and deer once again and had therefore purchased a German Wire-haired Pointer bitch from England.
Kate was a lovely dog who hunted well but would not readily retrieve – a trait that has been passed on in her progeny. Funny thing genetics. Because our jobs continued to take us back overseas, Kate ended up sharing the majority of her life in the care of very good friends of ours who loved her just as much as we did. Kate passed away in their care in 2014. Her ashes are here with us in Jordan along with Rupert and a couple of other old favourites.
In 2007 I was fortunate enough to be given a black and white roan GWP bitch from the Kobnko Kennel in Australia. Meg had a “slick” coat and therefore had no future in the show ring. Her father was a nice dog imported from the US with NVDA “hunting credentials” and her mother had always shown strong hunting interest so I decided to try Retrieving Trialling with Meg.
Meg is not a brave dog but she is biddable and very loyal and it was those traits that allowed her to become the first GWP bitch to win a Novice All Breed Retrieving Trial in Australia and to become a 3 from 3 Restricted Trial winner, fast tracking her into the very competitive Open Class – dominated in Australia by Labradors and GSPs.
Another overseas posting prevented Meg and I from progressing further with our RT work but a 3 year posting to the UK allowed Meg to reach her true potential as a game bird hunting machine.
Under the tutelage of long time friend and A-Panel HPR Judge Trevor Rigby, Meg and I became a formidable pair on rough shooting days and her working as a picking up dog in Norfolk and down in West Sussex. Her RT background held her in good stead and Guns and fellow Pickers Up were often surprised at our abilities at very long distance retrieves.
While Meg may never replace Tavey in my heart and mind as my top dog, she is a very close second and with a few years hunting still in her, who knows, maybe she just might.