Geriatric Handlers And The Dogs That Love Them

| April 28, 2013 | 0 Comments
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We thank the author, Glenda Brown, who granted us permission to reprint this article that was originally printed in the Golden Retriever News.

Jeanne von Barby with Leica (CH.Elysian’s Lil Leica Reprint CDX, TD, WC, JH)

Jeanne von Barby with Leica (CH.Elysian’s Lil Leica Reprint CDX, TD, WC, JH), two veterans out training together. Jeanne is really pleased as she was able to signal for the marks to go down without losing her balance in the process. As she watches Leica leaving with style, Jeanne wishes that she, too, could move as quickly.

ger•i•at•ric \ˌjer-ē-ˈa-trik, ˌjir-\: adjective – of or pertaining to geriatrics, old age, or aged persons.; noun – an old person.

Since dogs naturally get old, I thought it would be very relevant to discuss veterans – those on the other end of the leash!

Terry Woods and Glenda Brown with their Golden Retrievers - Tizzy and Bart

Terry Woods on the right with Tizzy (Tiznow or Never,**) and Glenda Brown on the left with Bart (FC-AFC Glenhaven Htrs Mn Baronet MH, OS, FDHF) are long time training partners. They are standing in a lovely field. The sad part is neither can remember just why they are standing there. The good part is they still (at least in that moment in time) can remember each other’s name.

Veterans have a great deal to offer to training groups, to individuals, and to those persons wise enough to take advantage of the years of accumulated knowledge – about dogs, about Goldens, on field work, and on life itself. Often, they have 30, 40, or 50 years or more of useful experience from which to draw.

It is important if you wish to utilize a veteran properly to be kind and compassionate. When you use terms such as “over the hill” be sure that it is obvious you are referring to a feature of the terrain. When speaking to them, find out which ear is the good ear, and try to talk into it. Do not yell at them to hurry up when they are on their way to a gun station or to plant a blind, they are going as fast as they can! Ignore drooling.

Remember, their vocabulary may be somewhat different than yours. Terms such as a pinch of salt, a lump of butter, and a handful of flour have as much meaning to them as the term “gigabyte” does to you. To them, “gay” meant happy and full of joy; “four on the floor” was used to indicate that when in college and a young gentleman was visiting you, the two of you must sit in the lounge with all four feet on the floor at the same time. The housemother would stop by frequently to be certain this rule was being enforced. “Hot” meant the temperature was very high. “Silicon” was an element we read about in chemistry; actually, it was a tetravalent nonmetallic element.

Elisabeth Lampert and Abbey (Tealoaks The Game’s Afoot SH, WC)

Elisabeth Lampert preparing to send Abbey (Tealoaks The Game’s Afoot SH, WC) for a mark. Both look extremely intent—-Abbey because she is waiting to be sent and Elisabeth because she is trying to remember Abbey’s name.

When physically training in the field with a veteran handler, the following can be expected: A rather lengthy bending over before returning to an upright posture can occur when a veteran is picking something up from the ground. Be patient. If this goes on too long, a tactful helping hand can be used. The one offering help must be very careful not to nudge too hard as that can cause a veteran to topple onto the ground and this can exacerbate the problem.

You may hear the same stories repeated and/or comments made earlier may be made again. One of the best ways to deal with this is to seat two or more veteran handlers together within the training group. That way, none of them will recognize that this is occurring and the veterans will enjoy themselves immensely.

You may hear creaking noises coming from joints. This is a normal occurrence and should not cause any alarm. If one of the veterans, usually of the male persuasion, has his head drop to his chest, his eyes close, and appears somewhat unconscious, do not call 911 immediately. Check for a pulse and/or if a mirror or a shiny metal object is handy, place this in front of the mouth and see if it steams up. If so, allow him to continue in this state until it is his turn to come to the line. If no pulse is detected or a mirror does not steam up, as long as the body isn’t interfering with your training, finish out the day as there is obviously no hurry. Do check on his dogs and be sure they are aired and watered.

Vince Kovalcik with Rip (Millcreek Riptide Outtomyway CDX, MH, CCA, WCX, VC)

Vince Kovalcik with Rip (Millcreek Riptide Outtomyway CDX, MH, CCA, WCX, VC). Vince claims the cane is actually to beat off snakes and all rumors to the contrary are incorrect.

It is always nice if a lunch break occurs. It gives the veteran time to regroup and regain energy. It is especially helpful if a glass of wine is offered with this lunch break.

By now you are probably wondering is there an “up side” to training with a veteran. As mentioned above, there are many years of accumulated knowledge that you may tap into if you listen wisely and ask good questions. Over those years, the veterans have seen a lot of good dog work and some extremely good dogs. They have encountered all sorts of training problems and learned a variety of solutions. Like the wise old trial dogs or the seasoned hunting dogs, they know where the birds should be and where they shouldn’t be. What might be something you are seeing for the first time, they may have seen at least a minimum of fifty times. They know when it really is a problem and should be dealt with quickly; and they know when it isn’t that “big a deal.”

They can tell you extremely interesting stories about the history of the breed as in many of the situations, they were there when history was being made. They may have been involved in the writing of the rules under which you run and can explain to you just why certain rules are written the way they are. They knew many of today’s top trainers when they were just getting started. In some cases they knew the trainers’ parents – occasionally knew them before they even were parents!

Rodger Armstrong in the holding blind with Zoom (Teal Oak Pedal to the Medal TD, MH, NA, NAJ, WCX, **)

Rodger Armstrong in the holding blind with Zoom (Teal Oak Pedal to the Medal TD, MH, NA, NAJ, WCX, **). It appears that Zoom is listening to Rodger with great interest. Actually, he is warning her that if he cannot get up from his kneeling position without outside help, she is not to go to the line by herself.

A lot of these veterans have had some very, very good dogs themselves. They have trained them and run them earning a variety of titles; competed in a lot of Nationals—Open and Amateur; run numerable hunt tests; shot over a lot of birds. If you don’t use what they have to offer wisely, than more fool you.

I asked a few veterans to contribute some photos of themselves as well as to write a paragraph or two about training while being somewhat beyond the first bloom of youth. When I reminded Jeanne von Barby of the old adage “Bosoms up, tummies in” when photos are being taken, we had a long discussion as to just how at this stage we could accomplish that. Standing on one’s head can be somewhat awkward and probably at this stage, actually might wreck havoc. We finally decided you will just have to take us as we are – crinkled skin; sagging bosoms; droopy rears; and an occasional vacant stare. It is up to you to find the beauty within.

Steve Low with Pilot (Lacrosse Adirondac Co-Pilot)

Steve Low with Pilot (Lacrosse Adirondac Co-Pilot) launching from a mound for a long mark. This photo does not indicate that it took two persons to help Steve make it to the top of the mound—Pilot bounded up there on his own.

And To The Veterans Them/Ourselves

Barbara Branstad has the following advice: You’ve spent a lifetime accumulating knowledge; now’s the time to share that knowledge. You may no longer be able to throw that long bird to the island (Be realistic – could you ever make that throw?), but you can certainly pass on all the wisdom you’ve gathered over the years. And, of course, tell all your stories – hey, this is a new audience! If you have been judging for years and you’re asked to do so again, by all means accept (an editorial caveat – if you can’t see very far or hear whistles blown, you might want to demur.)

Steve Low with Pilot (Lacrosse Adirondac Co-Pilot)

Pilot is either kissing Steve from love or trying to make sure he is awake and ready to go—-none of us were sure.

Ask to be paired with a newer judge – this will be the person to go out in the field on set up day while you stay at the line with the radio and yell instructions. Offer to judge a picnic trial, a fun hunt, or a WC/WCX for your local club. Spend time teaching your co-judge all the fine points. If there are several veterans in your club or group, perhaps you all could offer to hold a mini-judging clinic or seminar. Go out in the field with your club members, help them set up some tests, and run some dogs. Then talk about what was right with the test, what could have been improved? Why did it work? Why didn’t it work? This accomplishes several purposes.

First you’re passing the torch of knowledge on. Second, it lets you and others enjoy a day in the field doing what you’ve loved to do for years. And third, if something hap – pens, you have plenty of people to help you up when you fall or to call 911 if it’s serious. Enjoy!

Jeanne von Barby: Over the hill? Nah. We just consider ourselves wiser and more seasoned in the ways of the world. We like to think that deafness hasn’t occurred due to progressing years, but rather from having a gun shot over, in, and around our ears for many years! I think we find that we don’t take training as seriously and if a mistake is made, it’s OK. Lunch is the highlight of the training day, sitting around and passing around junk food and beverages. On the days where the weather turns miserable, we sacrifice ourselves and go to the wonderful local restaurant only a few miles away. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have traded the years of camaraderie for anything!

Sue Armstrong: I can only think of one advantage to being a “mature” handler – white hair at hunt tests!

Vince Kovalcik: I was almost a senior citizen when we got started doing field work with our Goldens. It was after our daughters were married and had moved out of state that Fran decided to join the local Golden club and we found out all the fun things we could do with our dogs. I have finished two Master Hunters and am working on a Senior Hunter dog at present. We’ve also gotten lots of Junior Hunter titles and WC and WCXs. The summer I was using the cane was the result of my falling off a ladder and fracturing a hip. The cane was very helpful in getting around in the field, and also in pointing out the birds when I wasn’t holding a gun!Fran doesn’t allow me on ladders anymore. (Author’s comment – we really think Vince carried the cane to fend off geriatric groupies!)

Rodger Armstrong with Zoom (Teal Oak Pedal to the Medal TD, MH, NA, NAJ, WCX, **)

Rodger, ready to go hunt test training decided to sit down briefly and contemplate his upcoming training strategies. Zoom, having seen this happen before, joined him for a nap!

Category : General

About the Author ()

Glenda Brown owns both Goldens and Labradors. She is on the Board of the LRC and is the field liaison to the Golden Retriever News. She is a Founding Member of the CRTA, has judged a Master National Hunt Test and the National Amateur. She has competed in conformation, obedience, tracking and hunt tests but her primary venue is field trials. Her husband competed in agility---with some of the field dogs. She has and has had Field Champions with both her Goldens and her Labs.

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