An All Dog, A Scout’s Thoughts After the Chukar Classic

It would be easier to break off the climb and travel sideways or down the mountain. Near the top there is little soil to cushion the jagged stone especially in the tails where the rim rock standing like castle walls break the grade. Far below a handler sings, it just a familiar voice to connect with. What does it take to keep pressing on? Where the air thins, the lungs and the heart are taxed; they justify the mind’s desire for an easier route. It takes physical strength, mental fortitude and emotional balance to press on; this is an all-age dog.

It’s a myth and misconception that an all-age dog is purely a run-off, too often propagated through a closed mind and steeped in ignorance. It is true and not entirely uncommon to witness a dog that lucks into a win based on run and a happenstance find. The perennial champions; those who stand the test of time, bring the country to their handler, they seek game in whatever geography is necessary, never forsaking the partnership they have helped shape.

There are attributes in people and animals that can only be measured in results. Too many of us see beings in the limitations of three dimensions, and or, the filter of our own private emotional lenses. The covenant of companionship is personal, these things are for the individual to measure, and how that fits an all age dog is as unique as any other. It cannot by definition be better or worse.

An all age dog requires your commitment in return for theirs. Their development requires recognition of their independence, the degree that this is palatable varies widely by circumstance. Not everyone wants such independence, not everyone can match the requirements of the dog. We should individually and collectively remember this, as it is a reflection of the dog, not a metric of the person. I believe the rarity of the animal and the art of its development stand as its own check and balance.

I covet this dog based on purpose. I want a dog to run the big country, to point and hold wild birds while I test my own heart and mind. It is true that they may find a covey, where you would not voluntarily climb, in my sporting world that is their function. To the extent that humans relate to this, so will go the breeding of all-age dogs; are we in a culture that can still recognize the exceptional? Can we still appreciate what is beyond the limits of our own ability or commitment?

Civilization should be consumed in moderation; it appears too much civilization may be a threat to civility. Dogs are blind to the accolades of their efforts, so it would seem that the effort in itself is enough reward. All-age dogs teach us what it means to be exceptional, to keep success in context, to love the game more than the fame. Nature doesn’t handicap, she is undefeated and I suspect she always will be.

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Nature’s Intolerance

Our failures are the denial of nature. It is described as cruel, vilified in vocabulary; intolerant, insensitive, inhumane. Canines, like all beings have biological failures and handicaps, physically and mentally. Environment and development mitigate some undesirable issues, handled poorly they are enhanced. They cannot be eliminated, they must be controlled, failure to do so would be a disaster for any breed and eventually the species.

Without restrictions, a dog in humanity is a danger to itself and humans. I would suggest imagining a dog without fences, leashes, appropriate nutritional standards, and environmental assimilation in the form of restrictions to sharing a human environment; however, imagining that isn’t necessary, it isn’t difficult to find an example to witness. There seems to be particular tolerance in smaller and weaker dogs.

I regularly witness the difficulty in a canine educator’s task in drawing the best natural performance out of a dog raised with behavioral justifications, poor discipline, a lack of proper physical exercise and nutrition, rationalized in the ignorance of human’s perceived enlightenment. Nature will not allow us to eliminate her rules, a prolonged attempt to do so makes the correction incrementally worse. My thoughts manifest themselves in a dog’s world; but draw what conclusions you may on your own.

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When Symbolism Replaces Substance

Are we to believe that the United States invented slavery, oppression, racism or intolerance for those who may differ in their views? The answer is, of course not. The argument is how productive it may be to continue prioritizing transgressions that are not driven by our government policies, but by the tendencies of the species itself. The rules of this republic, implicit in the constitution, specifically call for recognition of equality in all men. To denounce patriotism in this country weakens and potentially aborts the positive development of society in the United States and possibly around the world.

As we all choose sides about the symbolic gestures of athletes and other compensated entertainers any number of human rights atrocities are committed around the globe in both civilized and un-civilized societies that eclipse the boundaries of our written civil and criminal laws; and are unspeakable to anyone born and raised with a semblance of good-will to another. Many instances occur daily in the U.S. as well that would fit said description. The distinction is that here these are largely the acts of individuals shunned by those who would share the core values of the Constitution. In many places, these are the acts and planned orchestration of a government, religious or other repressive central control.

This is why patriotism matters. History is chock full of documented failures in societies that enjoyed lengthy runs only to collapse under their own success. Nature does not recognize equality in any model I can conceive, any rigid demand that we immediately alter human behavior in order to achieve fairness for all; will be as successful as a proclamation that every region of the country is to receive the San Diego weather immediately by government dictate. It won’t work.

As a result, we are left to manage one of the most distinctive differences between us and animals; advanced and universal imagination. The beauty and burden of imagination is that we may believe the context within our very core. When others can’t conceive, don’t believe and would serve to repress our epiphanies through conflicting beliefs of their own; another unique characteristic; hyper emotion is often the result. The journey from this emotional state back to the brutal laws of nature is often brief and ruled by the willful use of force.

Self loathing is usually self destructive. In the political process the balance is often swayed by inspiring a voice that does not feel as though it has been heard. Inspiration spurs action, action is usually change and it begets hope for some and despair for others. Yin and Yang, Dualism and countless other cultural distinctions recognize the potentially mutual benefit of conflicting forces. Let’s not loathe our mistakes, we must see them for what they are and celebrate the system of values defined in the Constitution that helps us balance out these mistakes.

Enlightenment is not the imagination or subsequent belief that all things can or even should be equal. Our ability to imagine cannot replace the physiological need to take responsibility for survival. The culture that succumbs to such is historically overcome by another with a singular purpose of such great priority that physically weaker societies are consumed with justification for their cause. We should use caution when we speak ill of a country that protects our right to do so. Our nation has maintained global stability in the last century, not without mistakes or setbacks, but what does the world look like without our strength? Debate ideas and ideals; use our imaginations to improve what we can as quickly as we can but do not abdicate power to a greater extent than you can enforce accountability.

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Abraham Maslow and Field Trials

On a warm spring morning in Idaho, I rode talking with two good friends. We were looking for my missing-in-action dog late in the running of an open all-age brace. The course was dusty, framed in black rim-rock, and nestled between the Snake River and the Owyhee mountains. I had a Garmin in my hand that had my charge Patch located some distance to the front. Behind me my two friends, both professional handlers, chided me regarding the handling of the dog.

I refused to look back or acknowledge them, I found it easy to be the better man, Patch’s Dad; sometimes known as Sonny, had set a bar I knew would be difficult to reach in an earlier brace. They knew it too. Patch’s ground application prior to being lost had been the closest thing we had seen to Sonny. The younger of the two asked as best he could, with his tongue in his cheek, “What’s your secret?” Without thought, I simply replied, “Lots of love.”

As I reminisce about what will be an unremarkable trial and win in the footnote of field trials I get a bittersweet feeling about the future. There is inevitable change in every culture and microcosm thereof. Field trials and sporting dog activities are not above such laws. My love for dogs will forever be tied to the hunt, and an ancient base need to procure food. An activity that was once necessary for survival has been replaced by more efficient needs to feed humans and their domestics. The physiological impact, I will leave for the reader to judge. The sociological impact is on my mind today.

Nature has laws that I believe cannot be redefined. “Only the strong survive,” is a moving target, altered by technology, advances in medicine, and strength in humanity willing to bend in order to keep both peace and acceptance for the masses. I suppose, like most, I believe in all of the above; in moderation of course, until my personal situation may call for a new standard based on my circumstances. This is my admission of hypocrisy, provided as a disclaimer as I launch into judgment on the fringes of modern culture and targeting dog clubs and dog competition, specifically. However, without apology I do believe and proclaim that nature will prevail in her laws.

In a lifetime of hunting and in my seventh year of pointing dog competition I have seen a great deal of change. Many will argue and make my point for me, that the dogs have changed based on their view of a standard. It will be a straw argument. The change that threatens the lifestyle that celebrates our predatory partnership with canines is the people. In an activity meant to measure and define the best traits of a hunting dog the needs and narcissism of humans has stolen the spotlight and threatens to extinguish the purpose.

Rules and regulations strike a difficult balance with freedom, creativity and fairness. The more of them humans conceive in order to control the outcome of a dog’s performance the more difficult it becomes to judge the natural ability and flow of an extreme specimen. A complete lack of guidelines is ground too fertile for the dark side of competition. To maintain such a delicate balance we must remember that we are judging a performance in traditional field trials rather than scoring it. The “evidence” is observed by a judge and compared to a standard and a curve of performance based on the other dogs in a stake. The opinions and perceptions of humans will vary both in the application of rule and judging of performance. I believe that those who fixate on rules or their difference in opinion with another relative to performance, will never see the greatness of a special animal. This is a threat to the activity.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory of psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in a 1943 paper. The theory describes stages of human development often portrayed in a pyramid, with the base being Physiological Needs, then Safety, the need for Belonging and Love, Esteem and finally Self-Actualization. His theory is based on the need to achieve and master each level before the next becomes possible or relevant. Hunting began as an activity to fill a physiological need; field trials began as a way of measuring the effectiveness of our hunting partners and coupled Belonging, Esteem and perhaps Self – Actualization. I don’t yet feel qualified to confidently express the latter. The imbalance in competition comes when humans need extrinsic validation to achieve esteem. Maslow and his studies, would describe this as an inferiority complex.
There is a point of diminishing return with ribbons and rewards. Unless a person accepts who they are internally, the theory would point out that these awards and recognition cannot provide esteem. More importantly, dogs have no concept of it. The pursuit of this recognition can and will dilute what we expect from the dogs to serve the needs of people. It creates conflict with judges, rules, and the purpose of the organizations. This conflict puts pressure on those who volunteer, and the more such a culture shapes the sporting dog activity and measurements to meet the needs of people, the more imminent the threat to the dogs.

As an outgoing director in the final year of my three year term with the American Brittany Club I have fears that the club will succumb to the changing culture. It isn’t my intention to pass judgment on what others get validation or esteem from, except as it relates to the future of a hunting dog and the culture they survive in. The natural progression of a club will be to follow the weight and trajectory of the culture around it. It is an unintended consequence of those who champion something other than the physiological function of a sporting dog, but I believe purpose weighted in popular culture is a threat to the breed and solidarity of owners.

As we got closer to Patch and the gallery moved toward camp, my Garmin gave me a more constant reading with notation that Patch was pointing atop a bluff where the course turned. Anxious to see what he was up to I asked my horse to pick up his pace. My detractors still in tow demanded that I wait for them to arrive before engaging Patch and flushing. It was a clear assault on my honesty and character. Finding Patch standing and staunch after such time, I did wait for them, not for my self-esteem and pride but to teach them a lesson and to hope it would deter them from casting such dispersions on another competitor.

When I flushed the Chukar that Patch had pointed and stood so beautifully for an extended time the tone and banter changed. Three men who understood what they were seeing enjoyed a quiet moment in appreciation of the dog. There would be no ribbon for Patch. We hadn’t seen him for some time, or found him on point without help. It really wasn’t his fault; he had taken a ravine to the front, out of our sight, stayed forward and found a bird that he stood dutifully, until we got to him. He did exactly what he was bred and trained to do. I hope that is always good enough for me.

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I Like Dogs Because They Are Not Human

I like dogs because they are not human. They appear to lack the faculties necessary to foul their own species and culture with any alacrity, and perhaps left to their own, not at all. This morning, entrenched in the routine of my commute, I was listening to a popular AM talk radio program. The format is generally based on politics, national and world issues. Today was a moratorium on discussion of the U.S. presidential circus as an attempt to maintain the hosts’ sanity, that of the listeners and perhaps bring to light issues that may be of greater depth and require more thought than the reality TV format the election has become. Staying within the established restrictions of the days’ discussion, a book called Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids was reviewed and discussed. Interesting enough of its own for me to order it, but striking to me when one of the hosts used a metaphor about the raising of puppies v. raising children.

The premise of the book (that I have not yet read in its entirety) seems to follow the dissertations of Aldus Huxley and Neil Postman as they discuss their theories on the condition of humans that are inundated with information and entertainment. The expense is self-generated creativity and localized engagement that is actionable as opposed to a global view of issues where we can only wring our hands and worry because our recourse appears to be hope that everyone will be nice. Joe Getty, one of the hosts, asked; “What would happen if, if, I don’t know, instead of wrestling, rolling and biting each other, puppies were required to sit and look at a screen?” They laughed and dismissed the silliness of the comparison but somewhere between here and there lives a level of assault on nature in a gradating scale for puppies and human children. I will try to steer my opinions to my theories on dogs, but the readers should know that in the recesses of my mind, the impact on the species that rules the earth should be the real concern.

I watch performance bird dogs, mesmerized by their athleticism and desire, with apologies for my hypocrisy as I acknowledge our toying with nature through selective breeding. The dogs know nothing of awards, fortune, and glory and most importantly, they never ask for condition changes because their competitive situation isn’t “fair.” They hunt as unabashed predators in act of necessity for raw survival, and while they are entertaining us, their motivation remains pure. Why do we attempt to refine nature under the guise of improvement with signals all around that nature will only tolerate X amount of digression from her laws? Learning to survive has a process that all living beings are designed to go through. What is the condition on these beings when that process is altered because we perceive the necessity of these skills to be antiquated and distasteful?

My thoughts wander, but my point is to let dogs be dogs. Puppies need to learn consequences. They need to learn that not every action begets a positive or neutral outcome. If you get too far outside the greater good of the pack, there is pain. If you do not put in an effort to eat, to stay warm, to drink; you die. You learn what is worth fighting for, your place in the pack, and in this manner, the pack remains strong.

They aren’t fur babies born to wear costumes, and we must stop justifying our desire to dress them up and parade them around in social gatherings as something they enjoy. How is that measured? Do they enjoy it more than chasing a cat, digging a hole, eating something they killed or lying in a shady den? Of course they don’t, those things are natural and of purpose in their nature, we create games and social gatherings, not the dogs, and the further they get from what is natural, the greater the detriment. Perspective and reason have to regulate the raising and breeding of dogs, especially those with practical application. Without it, the practical application is at risk, and by association, the activity that was the root of its inception. My point is, of course that the animals, and in veiled association, humanity itself, would benefit from acknowledging the practicality of nature and not trying to alter it to fit a prettier vision. I get the sense we are pissing Mother Nature off.

Nature has left nothing to the mercy of man- Henry David Thoreau.
Joe Gower

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Mars Optimal Selection Information


I was asked to submit some blood from Sonny (NAFC FC Spanish Corral’s Sundance Kid) to the MARS Company as a participant in their Optimal Selection ™ testing. The objective of this particular testing was to identify the homozygosity of Sonny’s DNA to a potential mate, with hopes; albeit they experimental for us, of determining if there were any apparent genetic health risks by identifying matches in “at risk” chromosomes…(I think)

 I offer this information as an opinion only, and entirely from my point of view, with no reflection on MARS or any others with interest in this particular test. The test appears to be designed primarily for comparative purposes and measuring homozygosity. The pattern that the sum of these markers creates appears to be a by-product that can determine how closely a dog’s genetic make-up appears to be to another; or ideally, how closely it fits into a pool of many different dogs of the same breed. The following image shows how Sonny’s markers fit into the existing Brittany pool as of the date 12/2/2011 when I received the report. The cross represents Sonny’s position to the other Brittany’s in the data base represented by the dots. It appears via link is the only way to show the document.


In my opinion, DNA testing and micro-chipping is a solid first step for the ABC. Awareness is a deterrent to bad behavior. It is true that the simplicity of the science and the regulations on the table are fallible, and it’s further true that every day science will bring us closer to inescapable truths. I am a believer in the steps currently presented for vote to the ABC board. I would suggest that in the future a committee should be formed and maintained by members with veterinary or DNA credentials that can help employ the discoveries of the future as they become reasonable and accepted. Genetic identity as it exists today is too confusing to those of us who are lay-people.  Again, I speak here in my opinion only.

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Chukars, the Last Bastion of Sanity, or the Delusion of the Insane?



After hours on the long straight highways that dissect the great basin, most describe it as barren, and press the accelerator that much harder. Until you are among them, the gray sagebrush mountains appear nondescript; but in them the Chukars of Nevada are an intoxicating pursuit plentiful enough in number to spur an addiction, an itch if you will, that only they can scratch. Of course, one cannot expect a tweed covered, well oiled leather stroll in the autumn leaves leisurely enough to still enjoy the aroma of fine pipe tobacco. No, this is a pursuit of trail dust, scarred and scratched leather boots, wind burnt skin and the comfort of sleep that comes from fresh air and physical exhaustion. For those who are inclined, the west will seduce you with the freedom of the open country and you may not return home the same.

The morning sun was too warm for winter gear but nearing the ridge crest there was relief provided by the desert wind blowing in from the west as it cleared the rim rock. Squinted eyes scanned the jagged, rocky horizon looking for glimpses of an orange and white Brittany in the thigh high sage brush; the glimpses were few and far between as she climbed the ridges much quicker on four, than I on two. She wore a tracking collar; it was a modern convenience of stark contrast to the raw earth, but it was a fair trade; it eased the worry of keeping a dog in sight. The lack of contact was common place in the vast, broken landscape, but at ten years old, Scarlet was a chukar country veteran, if she was out of sight too long it was most assuredly on a point and she would be there when she was found. At the rim, the breeze coming over the top was strong enough to swirl inside my shirt collar cooling my flushed skin; and a faint electronic beep signaled a motionless dog.

Just below the rim rock in a small natural depression that through the years had gathered enough top soil to hold moisture and provide a small patch of green desert grass, Scarlet held point with her stub tail stiff and graying muzzle held high. Picking a way carefully down the steep slope in the loose soil and shale, a moment’s pause snapped an ageless picture for the mind, and allowed time to plan for the shot. There were no visibly running birds and her intensity was a promise that they were sitting solid and close. Each step was an exercise in balance and discipline to watch the air where the birds would be and not the ground where they were expected to be sitting. In one of the inopportune moments that most of the steps consisted of; two grey and tan bursts of feather exploded left and below, a hasty swing produced a clean miss on the first shot, though the muzzle blast was a sedative and on the second, a bird tumbled and bounced in the rock before settling on the steep desert slope. It turned out as it often does; these two birds were merely a diversion, sacrificial decoys if you will; and in a myopic focus on the mark of their downed comrade, a covey of twenty or more birds made a strategic escape directly behind the gun, and directly in front of the pointing dog, hence the moniker a safe supposition.

She left for the retrieve on her own, a meat dog unencumbered by rules bounding down the slope and weaving back up to return the bird to hand. A chukar feels full and warm in a man’s hand, not so gray in color as to appear white like the old Brittany’s muzzle, but more of the weathered gray of the lumber in the mining structures in the desert with enough black, white and tan to be exotic. It goes in the game bag hesitantly however, too fresh a prize to give up too soon. Scarlet gently stands on her back feet to smell the bird in the pouch, her final check to make sure that the game is secure before moving on; her parting look seems hyper critical of my part in the point and bird management; but like most dogs she forgives easily and moves up the ridgeline.

The day moves on with little structure or schedule. Even with well known and traveled trails and haunts; hunts from years past do not duplicate themselves. Each ridge spawns fingers dotted with rock piles and springs with over grown cheat grass and time stops when a pointing dog moves from objective to objective, committed to all the plowing and planting and without reserve willing to share the harvest. The climb has a point of no return, each step is one closer and one further, and though the air gets thinner, and the muscles burn, there are infinite destinations in every step. Almost incessantly the birds are calling, sometimes muted and distant enough not to be of annoyance or concern, and at other times seemingly too close creating urgency where one almost hopes it doesn’t really exist. Excitement, or is it anxiety? Something begins to build inside as the dog takes a line up the ridge her ears are up and alert and her nose is high when she crests the top.

Once again, a faint electronic beep reports a motionless dog. In the first hurried step toward the ridge top, the eyes catch a covey of chukar bailing off a precipice like a pack skiers from a mountain, in short order they catch themselves and are no longer skiers but more like the fighter planes forever flying over the desert gaining altitude sailing down the ridge, their wings leaving the sound of a wind burst overhead. They land almost out of sight on an unremarkable slope covered with sage far below. The transmitter shows a still motionless dog and the climb continues with less anxiety and urgency than before. The standing Scarlet shows no passion for her work, it is clear that things have gone awry and she cannot lie. A cursory look produces no flush and a soft head tap sends her looking again.

From the top of the ridge an end to an endless day is in sight. There are birds on the hidden fingers and rock piles between the top and bottom. A covey point produces a double in three shots, and halfway down the ridge a pointed single drops just moments later. The dry early season ground is tough to track on and Scarlet circles for several moments, hunting dead, and doing it earnestly. When her efforts do not produce she begins to cast and many times she is called back to the task. After some time the search becomes a joint effort and my focus is on the ground near a blaze orange hat atop the sage to mark the spot where the bird went down, the dog slips off on her own. The light is beginning to fade along with the hope of finding a downed bird and a perfect day is at ever so minor a risk in the twilight when I notice a gray faced dog with soft knowing eyes holding a crippled bird beside me. She is thanked with a pat to her soft head.

When the sun begins to set the Great Basin changes, the hard earthy colors of the day turn pastel and shadowed in the sunset, the temperature drops quickly; man and dog long for fire and food. Both are plentiful back in the ranch house, where a good friend who has spent the day guiding and his clients wait. They are an indiscernible lot, sharing the duties of the evening as the night chill sets in. A woodstove warms the living room and kitchen; dogs are fed before dinner and then stretch out and sleep comfortably in a pack, at peace, living in the day they were bred for. Tacos cook for dinner; shells are flipped in skillet, popping in hot oil, while lean elk burger simmers in a pan beside them, piles of fresh cut tomato, onions and avocado wait to be spread generously over the meal. It is easy to eat until you are satisfied; it is assuredly a day that you have earned your calories.

The after dinner libations aren’t hard to keep in moderation, you are too tired to howl at the moon. Bring the good stuff and savor it as you have the desert, the dogs and the day. Soon enough the ducks and the geese sing a song from their roost on the stock pond convincing enough to entice you to a chilly room and a warm bed roll. Take a dog or two with you, and know that you will sleep peacefully because as Benjamin Franklin once remarked, “Fatigue is the best pillow.”

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SB 1221 A Ban On Hunting Bobcats and Bears with Dogs

California continues to lead the country in proposing and passing laws based on emotional rhetoric. This latest bill is headed to the senate and in my opinion will be a gateway to further restrictions regarding the use of sporting dogs in the state and ultimately in the country. I suggest we let our voices be heard, the following is a copy of my letter to the commission.

Ms. Kehoe and Members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee,

As a lifelong resident in Placer County please note my objection to Senate Bill 1221. I come from a heritage that cherishes the outdoors and it is clear to me that those who understand and respect the “circle of life” are a diminishing force that brings much needed balance to a culture that is faltering. Leaders are ill-advised to use emotional rhetoric in forcing an agenda that lacks scientific basis and does little more than add to the suffocating fat of bureaucracy. This agenda is anything but enlightened, those who stand with it cannot, or refuse to, acknowledge the inarguable natural instinct of humans as predators and the equally natural and functional partnership with canines in the pursuit of food; one of the essential and basic functions of both species.

I do hope we understand the importance of applying civilization in moderation. The categorical repression of hunting, fishing, farming and countless other activities that collide in the relationship between the raw human and his or her planet and resources is one of the cornerstones in the palace of bureaucracy that is hated by the constituents standing outside its walls and looking in. Our leaders must stop fooling themselves by presenting one piece of their conglomeration at a time, and in this case eliciting emotion by presenting the distasteful extremes to those who have as much right to not participate and view the activity; as those who choose to engage: If this is added to the pile of other useless laws it will all have the same numbing effect on the populace and the cause will be forgotten or indiscernible as it was baseless clear back at conception. It will only be further wasted time and money and those who voted for will be looked upon the same as those who voted against.

The quest for Utopia and pandering to special interests and their shameless use of this emotional rhetoric cheapens our culture and the country it was founded in daily. Those in government see their participation as service while those outside the process lash out and frame it, and those within it, as something far less flattering. The reason for that is that the long term prospects for success in our government strategy for several decades has been largely seen as unsuccessful, no matter how your politics flow. This bill is useless, it regulates a tiny portion of the populace but has a basis for huge impact on a much larger portion later – every working dog owner I know is concerned. This is an opportunity to base a decision on common sense and reverse the trend of toxic bureaucracy that makes our people, society and culture weaker.

I am a tax paying citizen and I oppose this bill based on common sense, the Constitution, and a plausible theory on how the repression of this lifestyle is degrading the social structure rapidly. Should none of that resonate, I urge the committee and the Senate to see that they are attempting to alter the fulfillment of a number of the basic human needs by passing more laws, and eventually that will serve to create irreversible conflict that will be our collective undoing.

Respectfully submitted,

Joe Gower

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An Open Letter to the California Fish and Game Commission Regarding Regulations Changes

Dear Blog Readers: Below you will find my response to Mr Fisher and the Commission regarding recently proposed changes. Should you agree please forward your support to them at the following e-mail address …

The changes can be viewed here …


To: Jon K. Fisher

Executive Director, Fish and Game Commission

Dated: 11/4/2011

Mr. Fisher,

I have read in its entirety the published proposal of changes to TITLE 14 of the fish and game commission regulations. The stated objective of consolidated and clarifying is a sound principle in most cases and carries some merit as written. However, it is my opinion that in many ways it endangers hampers or restricts the existing uses; especially those related to hunting and sporting dog related activities.

The language of the regulations intended for land to be managed as an ecological reserve is extremely limiting for practical land use and should be employed ever so sparingly and only in case of the utmost need for a particular plant or animal species. As written this opens that to far too much autonomy with the regional managers. This includes but will probably not be limited to Liberty Island and San Antonio Valley.

Perhaps more notably I voice my objection to veiled tax increases for usage of land that belongs to the collective populace already. I am unashamed in saying that as an active and extensive taxpayer in the state for more than thirty years I take particular offense at the notion that my chosen activities for the land require me to pay “more.” Would a reasonable person not agree that an activity involving the pursuit of fish and or game is a more natural land use activity than a wedding or bicycle race? Do wedding licenses and or bicycle organizations contribute heavily to conservation efforts privately as various sportsperson’s organizations do? We both or all know that they do not.

I strongly urge the commission to use caution when restricting our resources these actions are difficult to reverse when they don’t go as planned. The consideration of further cost for those who have already paid is something that should be removed from the equation entirely. I strongly believe that all parts of government must shrink their cost structure and abandon their constant call for revenue and budget growth from the pockets of its productive citizens. I send this note with due respect and apologize for the informality of the e-mail. In addition I will make this publically available should others care to forward it to you as a show of their agreement with one point of view or another.


Joe Gower

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The Politics of Seatbelts, Smoking and Gun Dogs

The Politics of Seatbelts, Smoking and Gun Dogs

Almost every Monday and Wednesday morning in the summers of my youth my mother would load three of us into a 1971 Buick Skylark, a metallic blue with a white vinyl top, and make a trek to the bowling alley, to attend the housewives league, an activity in the 70’s that was a sanity break from laundry and of greater social interaction than a day of soap operas. My sisters and I enjoyed it; we ran like heathens to and fro in a pack with the other bowling youth, jacked up on sugary cereal or the occasional treat of a Hostess Cupcakes and chocolate milk from a small store mid-route from our home.

There are a number of memories in recall of those times but perhaps most vivid are those of the air, and the car rides. The air was remarkable because you could nearly always see it painted with a haze of cigarette smoke when you were indoors. It just sort of hung around, up near the ceiling more or less out of the way, or so we assumed. The car was a far less oppressive mode of transportation back in the day, seats were couch like, mostly of the bench variety in the family car and quite roomy. In fact they allowed for decent foot travel in the three to seven year old demographic, with plenty of passing room as you walked from side to side attending to whatever business you may have in a moving car. The only cause to sit down was when the aforementioned smoke got too heavy up near the headliner, then you had a couple of choices; you could either hand crank the window down an inch or two, or flop down in the seat, as I mentioned it was similar to a couch as the seatbelts were tucked in out of the way and did not encumber the sitting or lying surface.

Now, before anyone calls for the immediate incarceration of my parents the statute of limitations is long gone, 1972 was 39 years ago, I was 7 and mom was 26. Mom quit smoking the very day my wife announced her pregnancy in 1988, her motivation being healthy air and a good example for her grand baby. People gain knowledge and maturity, and times do change.

I have read with considerable interest (and at the expense of a lack of productivity in my day job) a series of threads regarding the perceived or real lack of interest in traditional horseback field trials. As with most crises, manufactured or otherwise, the solution is probably more complex than we want it to be. Quite possibly, because we are so worn out from arguing the points of view that got us where we are to begin with. The logistics of making field trials a spectator sport on a national basis will forever be a challenge. Varying geography inhibits modes of transportation including safe horseback riding and with increasing degrees of difficulty, motorized travel and or walking. Where it’s possible and in large enough events I believe dog wagons for spectators and their libation of choice have proven to be of great value.

Mentorship is a tried and true methodology to engage a neophyte in any activity. However, it does require individual commitment and though impossible to regulate or legislate in a club, the body of the American Brittany Club would certainly benefit based on the free will and motivation of the experienced members. As we read, and take the time to make our opinions known it is appropriate to ask ourselves whether or not our actions are reflective of this solution; should it be one we believe in.

The barrier to entry in horse back field trials is very real. I must reach into conjecture here but I suspect the actual body of the participants in horse back field trials isn’t aging, it has always been old. More than likely, time, money and appreciation for something that is arguably an art form in its judgment rather than something scored, takes maturation to appreciate; I offer wine and Scotch as examples for those of you inclined. I acknowledge that there are old souls in young bodies out there, they say Sir and Ma’am, let us give them their due, but recognize that we still must deal with the kid in the baggy britches with the ball cap on backwards. They are formidable in numbers and short of genocide, which has been frowned on historically, we will be forced to deal with their existence.

 A number of venues have sprung up in the shooting sports world that recognize and embrace the changes in modern times. Fewer wild birds, restricted access and competing entertainment options are only a representative few obstacles, but these and others steer the generations before us. I suspect that embracing what I would call the gateway venues is the critical component. NSTRA, NAVHDA, BDC and others offer formats that have fewer barriers to entry, simpler feedback and offer quantifiable rules for those that believe in these metrics. The survival of what we hold dear requires the attention of the impassioned. No society, business or even a room with more than two people in it has ever sustained harmony and advanced without acknowledging the ideas and needs of both the past and the future. Like it or not, we must play the game on the field provided and popular culture is larger than the ABC or field trials in general.

This diatribe is one of ideology and strategy and it is starving for tactics. My own inexperience and point of view may present mountains of ignorance that render my thoughts or solutions impotent, but I suspect not or I would not present them. Those in other venues are open about wanting recognition in their breed, why is that in conflict with the ABC mission or initiatives? It may not be and if it isn’t, what is to stop us from recognizing the titles and accomplishments from the other venues collectively? Mergers are done successfully when the value of the collective organizations are greater than the parts and pieces, and I suspect that is the case in the sporting dog world today.

My momma doesn’t smoke today because she gained wisdom, not because of the law. I suspect that the written law holds little fascination for Mom, the golden rule and common sense have kept both of my parents on the path they have chosen to walk. As they learned and matured I watched their decisions change, and watching that process and my parents’ willingness, nay… demand that I take responsibility for my decisions helped me make better choices earlier in my life. What does not kill us makes us stronger they say; I believe that a top performance in a horseback field trial will capture the heart of someone truly dedicated to the breed and sport if they have a foundation afforded them early on that they can build from. It’s hard for people to learn and enjoy the game if we build too solid a wall around the ball field.

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