February 11, 2012 was my dog Polly’s first AKC Hunt Test in the Desert of Arizona on the Powers Butte WMA near Arlington, Arizona. My Sister Nancy and I drove to the Hunt Area: we thought; but had to stop and get direction instructions? The lady at the Shell Station pointed west and said to drive on “OUT THERE” until we found Arlington. We did find the Arlington Post Office but the Dogs and the Hunt Test were 10 miles away. Nancy and I arrived late but did experience 3 Javelinas crossing the road in front of us to add anxiety pressure to our new adventure. After arriving at the hunt test we “Officially” found out how to do the “Set Up”/”Air Out” and get ready for the “Junior Test”. When it was my turn I leash walked Polly to the Performance Line and unhooked her while she turned 180 Degrees and looked at me as she always has for her next Command. I could not get her to rotate towards the Shooting Station for her first Mark/Retrieve. Finally the Female Judge said “grab her collar” and I did; so she was now facing the 2 Shot Gun Shooters. The Male Judge raised his hand and the pheasant that flew out of the Station was shot and downed perfectly. I held Polly and she stayed until I gave her the command to retrieve. She ran out to the pheasant but was distracted by an old bottle lying on the ground. After sniffing the bottle she saw the hen pheasant still flopping and went to it; reluctant to grab a live bird. Polly put the pheasant in her mouth and started back to me with the “HERE” Command. The hen pheasant moved and Polly dropped the bird and would not pick it up again. We were disqualified. I called her back, attached the leash, thanked the judges, and left with my tail between my legs. The “Learning” of this adventure was quickly established that my training was not setting polly square to the Shooting Window and that Plastic and Frozen Birds were no substitute for the real thing! Time to get training and be thankful that I was in good health and very “Thankful” the Desert of Arizona did not get up to 120 Degrees.
After a lunch at the Cracker Barrel on highway 10 with Nancy it was time to come home, re-group, set new goals, and plan on getting “Better and Ready” for the next Adventure. I still love my dog Polly and do not fault her for what I didn’t know about the Testing Process. Today the “NEW” Training System is in place and preparing us for the next Hunt Test hopefully in Elko, Minnesota.
In conclusion I was humbled by the strict mental attitude of all the participants at the Hunt Test and also the kind personality of the Grand Marshal: Mary. I still have dreams of the great many Kennel Trucks with 12 openings for dogs with no labels attached and air conditioning on the roof. I missed the name of the Kennels and overlooked the training $ Dollars assembled inside each of the 24 trucks counted.
This was not a gathering of dog owners to toss a few birds and gather later for a few beers with “thataboy talk”. This was an event in the middle of the Lonely Desert with focused participants who were seeking recognition and were also ready to sell their services to the highest bidder. I will not have to attend the next U.S. Open to experience the Professional Participation of Contestants; I will just remember the the Trainer from the California Kennel who swamped the “Senior” level test grounds with his Male Chocolate Labrador Retriever that I have hereby named: “ROBOT DOG”!