Today was the big day! Finally, we would put Cheeky’s natural abilities to the test. First up was the field, and Cheeky just totally turned on. Last time we trained, Cheeky wasn’t exactly holding point for very long — kinda flash pointing and then pouncing. So, expectations weren’t exactly high for the field portion. It really helped take the pressure off, and Jenny just focused on having fun with Cheeky.
Well, Cheeky blasted off the line. The way the field was set up, you walked straight down the field with the wind at your back. Then once you got to the end of the field, you could work back into the wind and into the scent. Cheeky actually was headed straight down the line, when she caught a scent, made a sharp turn back into the wind, and kicked up a bird. As it flushed, she did a natural stop to flush and watched it fly away. Something absolutely clicked. Jenny called her back around and she came barreling around to the front and again worked her way back into the wind as she caught a scent. This time though, she stopped short of bird. Jenny moved in to flush and the bird kicked up. We did it! And it didn’t stop there…Cheeky had 3 more points before our time was up. So 5 birds and 4 points, no gun shyness, and a bonus stop to flush. It was a spectacular feeling as we walked out of the bird field!
Next up was tracking. This we had only tried twice. Once in March at the first training day, and a second track 2 weeks ago at the Rocky Mountain Chapter’s training day. For both of these tracks, Cheeky was on a check cord and Jenny walked along a few feet behind. Today was a true test of her tracking capabilities. All the advice we received was to – NO MATTER WHAT – keeping facing the line. If your dog runs off the track, to the side, behind, whatever, if you rotate towards them, they will cue off your body language and keep searching along that line. With that sage advice in hand we walked up to the line. Jenny pointed out the pile of feathers, told Cheeky to find it, and then stood up and faced straight ahead. Cheeky put her nose to the ground, tracked straight ahead for about 4 feet, made a 90 degree turn to the left and looped right around back behind Jenny. Jenny just kept facing straight ahead (not breathing!) and tried do stay calm. After what must have only been 15 seconds (but felt like 15 minutes!!) Cheeky suddenly reappeared in front of Jenny’s feet. She put her nose in the pile of feathers, and ran straight ahead for 20 feet with her nose to the ground and her tail flagging! She totally nailed it! With a “leash up that red dawg!” Jenny proudly walked Cheeky back to the tent with a huge smile on her face.
Last up was swimming, and after our brush up in Vail this week, Jenny was actually most nervous about this part; something about not wanting to be over-confident. There was nothing to worry about! Cheeky boldly bounded into the water and retrieved the bumper! That retrieve is actually a bonus skill, in Natural Ability they just have to show twice that they will confidently enter the water. After she brought back the bumper, Jenny tossed it again, and Cheeky happily jumped back in to retrieve!
The last part of the day, all the competitors sit around and the judges give you their comments from the day and read out the scores for each dog. A perfect score for a section is a 4. If you get all 4s, your score is a 112, which earns you a Prize 1. There is applause at the end of each reading and congratulations. It’s a pretty amazing sense of camaraderie! When they got to Cheeky, we heard:
“Next we have Cheeky, a 12 month old Vizsla, handled by Jennifer Follett. Cheeky’s scores are: use of nose 4, search 4, water 4, pointing 4, tracking 4, desire to work 4, cooperation 4; for a Prize I, Perfect Score!”Cheeky’s Natural Ability Results!
It was completely emotionally overwhelming! Jenny was SO proud of her little bird dog. When we planned Halo’s breeding we hoped to produce beautiful versatile dogs. With Cheeky’s Prize 1, she is our second puppy to garner herself a field title. We are just beaming with pride tonight!