Sunday, October 12, 2008


It’s time to brag. I’ve made comments about the quality of both Comet’s and Gus’s breeding, especially back when we were looking at Comet as prospective dog, but now it’s time to show off.

Comet’s mom, Sunfire Windrush’s Mrs Peele (Emma), took third place in her division at the Golden Retriever Club of America’s National Specialty in September. Her win was for conformation (how closely a dog adheres to the breed standard), but she also has working dog and hunting titles. You can definitely see her influence on Comet.

(This photo comes to me from Emma’s owner, Lisa Weinberg.)

That same week, Gus’s dad, Sand Dancer’s Super Nova (Rodin), passed the highest level of hunting trials at the national competition. He too holds hunting, working, and conformation titles.

(This photo comes to me from Rodin’s owner, Rhonda Mulholland)

Their sons are every bit as good looking and could almost certainly hold their own at the national level (with a little competition-specific training, of course), except for the fact that we don’t have the time, experience, and skill.

I also have no interest in either shooting birds or in throwing dead birds, so training them for hunting competitions is kind of out, and conformation showing isn't really for us right now either.

I’m pretty sure, though, that a dog can’t tell the difference between a national competition and a romp through the woods, and that ultimately titles are about human, not canine, vanity. I know there’s no way Gus could feel fetching is any more important than he already does, and I can’t imagine more joy and intensity in Comet than when he hears that whistle that asks him to come sprinting through the high grass.

Hunting and field trials are really cool, and I agree with both Gus’s and Comet’s breeders that what’s special about the breed comes directly from their history as working dogs. Their instinct to retrieve is matched with a desire to please, substantial intelligence, and versatile athleticism, and those qualities, just like the beauty of the dog, are preserved by breeders who value the hunting and conformation tradition.

Gus, Comet, Andy, and I get the best of both worlds: we don’t have to do the work of proving the bloodlines are the best of the best, and we don’t have to schlep ourselves around to competitions or attend rigorous training...and we don’t have to shoot anything. I do take the boys to dog class now and then to help them learn to be better canine citizens or to teach them new games to pour their energy into. Mostly, though, we can just stroll around the woods and take it all in.