I had a great weekend judging the Open at River King with Andy Whiteley, and with our head janitor here - Chris Atkinson - as our apprentice.
First, like Chris, I marvel at folks like Steve and Kate Miller, who busted their butt all weekend, and didn’t have a dog in any of the four stakes. Every weekend at field trials across the country, folks like Steve and Kate, are sacrificing their weekends so that others can have fun. Kudos to all of them.
Second, judging is a pleasure when you have a co-judge like Andy, who is kind, generous, understands dogs, and keeps his cool under pressure. Andy and I - with input from the head janitor - set up a triple that we all thought would challenge the dogs. We were wrong. The first five dogs got our birds clean. If we had continued, we likely would have called 50 of 60 back - or more. And we would have been forced to come back with some nasty poison bird land blind.
So we scrapped our test - and blamed it all on the janitor. What good is an apprentice, if you can’t blame him for your mistakes? Or the weather? Or the no-birds?
Well, when you lay an egg, the pressure is really on. Andy and Chris kept their sense of humor through it all, even after a rain delay really put us under the gun.
But, I think we recovered with four good hard tests and as fun a pair of land blinds as I can recall. (For those of you that know Paul Sletten, ask him how Sally bailed him out by giving him a cast that was simply breathtaking)
It really helps when you have two good dog men - like Andy and Chris - with you.
Third, nothing beats watching good dogs and handlers on good grounds. It’s a real joy.
Fourth, what do I think of the apprentice program? I think you need to ask the head janitor about that.
But, I can tell you that I had a great time with him and Andy.