An excerpt…The young pointer quartered into the wind, his gait as effortless and graceful as a whitetail buck’s, his tail a high-waving baton. His black-on-white coat gleamed; his rippling muscles worked in perfect coordination; his eyes, set in a chiseled, classically handsome head, shone like dark jewels. His nose cleaved the air like the prow of some mythic vessel, testing, sifting, winnowing, searching for the tendril of scent that changes everything, the skein of shimmering vapor that connects a bird dog to the object of its desire.
When the connection happened, the pointer was transformed. It’s often said that a bird dog “strikes” scent, but in fact it’s the other way around—the bird’s scent strikes the dog. It has the force of a physical blow.
Now, as if an invisible chain had hooked his collar, the pointer skidded 90 degrees clockwise and came to rest in an altered state, his sparking kinetic energy harnessed, his focus screwed down to a beam of white-hot intensity. For a moment he stood with majestic style . . . but then a quiver in his tail betrayed his faltering conviction. He took a cautious, stalking step, and then another and another, drawing up on the scent, reeling it in, taking out the slack until he could establish an unshakable bond.
“Whup-whup,” cautioned the man closest to the dog. His voice was soft, his tone reassuring. “Whup-whup.” That was the message the young dog needed to hear. His doubts dispelled, his instincts and training validated, he stood proudly, even defiantly, on point. He stayed that way, too, maintaining his resolute posture as the man stepped in front of him, scuffing the grass and making an exaggerated show of flushing before tripping the release trap, launching the pigeon, and firing his blank pistol. The dog turned his head to mark the bird’s flight, but held steady.
The man, professional trainer Robert Hall, knelt to stroke the pointer’s back. “This dog’s just 14 months old,” he said, an unmistakable note of pride in his voice, “and he hasn’t been pressured at all. He does these things naturally. They all do.”
“That’s so impressive, Robert,” I said, marveling at the performance I’d just witnessed. “I only wish Bob Wehle were here to see this. He’d be wearing a smile as big as Minnesota. The style, the precocity, the eagerness to please—all the qualities he valued in the Elhew pointers are right there.”
“That’s what we like to hear,” said Jerry Havel, the third man in the field that brisk October morning and, as the proprietor of Pineridge Grouse Camp & Kennels, Robert Hall’s employer. “We’re totally committed to these dogs, to preserving the legacy of Bob Wehle and Elhew Kennels. We’re in this for the long haul.”
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