Sage Monkey

Sage Monkey

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Pigeon Burglar

There have been half a dozen situations in my life since I became involved with bird dogs that left me having come to Jesus speeches with myself. Mutterings under my breath along the lines of, "look at your life.....look at your choices". One such moment was a few years back while dragging a duck behind me in a kayak for a duck search for either Cleo or Luna when its tether broke loose and it made a rather half assed and spastic attempt at freedom. I think I cursed a bunch, pond water got in my mouth and I may or may not have thrown an oar at it before I finally scooped it up and there it sat on my lap soaking me through my underwear hissing in my face. I stuffed its crappy prisoner ass back into a bird bag and thought to myself WHAT. THE. FUCK. am I doing?

Flash forward to this past weekend when my frustration level with getting birds in Montana hit an all time high. I need pigeons for Figs. Her determined little soul has been no match for these pen raised quail and I know it. I searched everywhere, called what little bird connections I have here, scoured Craigslist and realized it would be a 6 1/2 hour round trip drive for seven dollars a pigeon. My insides basically hiss like a cantankerous serpent every time I think of making that journey and shedding that kind of dough for flying rats. So after much frustration I sent a text message to a buddy from the local MMA school where I teach who is a flusher guy and I remembered that a season or two ago he had his hands on some pigeons.

Lucky for me he answered right back. He could get us access to an abandoned and dilapidated building a few towns over and we could catch them ourselves.  I immediately signed up. We set a date to infiltrate the building with fishing nets under the cover of darkness of course. This screen shot should sum up our planned outing:

I made sure of course to let at least two people know where I'd be in case the pigeon Chupacabra got us or we fell through a sketchy rotted floor like any good after school special warns you about. I told my husband Wyatt and my sister in-law Becker. Her response was legit although not as supportive as one would have liked:

Off we set with fishing nets in tow, a ladder, a sixer of beer and flash lights. We rolled into the sleepy little western town just as the sun finished setting and waited with beer in hand until darkness over took the area. My comrade clearly had this down to a science.

We spilled out of his truck into the depths of a sincerely occult scene. Close your eyes and imagine an abandoned structure straight out of a horror movie, coupled with the distinct choking smell of the most heinous bird pen times a million. The floors were a few inches deep in pigeon shit. Hard and piled high in some areas and squishy and fresh in others. It was completely dark minus our flashlights streaming around like a sad Pink Floyd laser light show. We got to business right away. Using our nets to grab flying pigeons in mid flight. Capturing ones stunned by our lights on rafters like low hanging fruit. We made quick work of the lower levels, braved the birds shitting from above and used his ladder to ascend to the upper level.


The upper level was as sketchy as he warned me it would be. Holes in the flooring peeked down to the lower levels below. The flooring was sloped in some areas and collapsing in others. The pigeons exploded into an uproar showering us upon our arrival and filling the air with a fine mist of pigeon shit. I stopped licking my lips and cursed my self for the fresh application of lip balm I applied before entering the building. I started to randomly spit as a way to purge the nefariousness of the experience. Yet I was running and often fumbling through the treacherous space trying to snag as many flying rats as I could. My pigeon catching skills were no match for the expertise of my partner and the extra height of his net. But we nabbed about 50 pigeons in total. A good bounty and more than enough for what I need.

After an hour plus we made our way out of the thick and cloudy stench and spilled into the fresh Montana air. The clean air reminded me of how gross we had become while entrenched in the building. I wanted to strip naked on the sidewalk, throw my clothes and boots in a bucket, douse them in lighter fluid and run away in the darkness while it burned behind me.

We packed the rats up and cracked open a well earned beer. The second my IPA hit my mouth it fuzzed up out of control, clearly some depraved reaction to the pigeon shit dust still in my mouth and whirling around my body like pig pen from peanuts. My mouth tasted like poor decisions but the beer helped. Beer always helps in situations like this. The things bird hunters do for their dogs. 

Follow our adventures on Facebook at Adventures of a German Shorthaired Pointer. If you liked this post you might like these ones too:

Sage Bears All - Adventures with Bear Spray 

The Unseen Dangers of Duck Work - Whoopsies

Bird Hunter Problems - Another Pigeon conundrum

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Figs The Destroyer: 12 Weeks and Counting

Right now I'm sitting on the couch with Sage on my lap, Figs has positioned herself across from us at the furthest end. She's flopping her entire 18 pound body around like a mental patient in the midst of uncontrollable fits. She's making mouth noise at Sage and also invisible objects around the room, the ceiling and perhaps even on her own back. She rolls her eyes all wonky as she postures up and makes contorted faces. I can't help but laugh out loud. The second she settles down Sage sticks out a paw and pokes her and the puppy wackiness starts over in full swing. This my friends is Figs the Destroyer.

Volume Required

Not every puppy gets an ancient conqueror's name but quite frankly this little beast has earned it. It's been 5 weeks since we picked our little bundle of spots up in Wisconsin and Figs has since made herself well at home. She's recruited Sage as her BEST friend, she's stolen our hearts along with the toilet plunger and she has managed to bind this little family together with spotted love cement.

Toilet Plunger? I'll be taking that.....

Pita Prison Break

Figs beats to her own drum. After chewing an escape hatch out the back of Sage's dog cave she insists on using this as her personal entrance and exit. She likes to find any squeaker toy Sage hasn't yet obliterated and runs barely controllable laps around the kitchen and living room at full speed. I've considered buying her a T-shirt that says ride it like you stole it. She has a little motor in her that's always full tilt with puppy rips. Sage Monkey is going to have her paws full once this beast gets full grown. But as hard as she plays she crashes and snugs just as hard. At nap time she bebops over, stumpy tail at full swing and sits like she's saying, "Ok! You can hold me now please!"

Figgy's prey drive is off the scale and I have been dying to get her out on birds. We allocated some chukar this past weekend but the temperatures were down in the double digit negatives and the snow is still too high to properly give her an introduction. At this point our hotel chukar guests are sitting pretty until January Montana weather decides to get on board or at least give us a tiny window of opportunity. Until that occurs we'll keep working on her basic commands and housebreaking which is going incredibly well. She's smart (and cute) as a whip. We also managed to get a pretty nice whoa table from a local source so when the time comes we finally have everything we need.

12 week old Lex Luther

As Fig's prey drive is so high she has a sincere obsession with the cats. I went through this with Cleo, Luna and Sage and managed to get all three to have a happy and healthy relationship with them. With that said there are always bizarre bumps along the way with each dog. In the photo above the baby gate blocks entrance to our laundry room where we keep the cat food and litter boxes. Figs WAS sitting right on the other side of the gate but quickly learned the cats won't keep regularly scheduled movement through cat central station when she stands there. So she's learned if she sits on the bottom step of the stairs and waits until they jump over she can make her move on them when they least suspect it. It's all very clever and rather Lex Lutherish for a 12 week old puppy. Lots of work on the leave it command in our future.

Hopefully the next update comes with some pics and videos of intro bird work. Until then I leave with you a video of Sage playing possum. Be sure to find us and follow us on Facebook at: Adventures of a GSP.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Road Trip: Bringing Home our New Puppy

Last year I had contacted Sharp Shooter's Kennel in New Richmond, Wisconsin and went through the screening process to procure another GSP puppy. Sage's father is a Sharp Shooters's NAVHDA Versatile Champion and her mother has some SS bloodlines. I've seen my fair share of SS dogs in the field and knew that if I ever added to my pack that I would hope it would be with a pup from their kennel. A litter had been born on October 8th and lucky for us a female from the litter would be ours and would be available to be picked-up Thanksgiving weekend. Wyatt and I decided it would be the perfect time for a road trip.

We set out on Black Friday with Sage in tow as she was just coming out of heat. We spent Friday in Glendive, MT and then on Saturday commandoed across North Dakota, and Minnesota arriving to the quaint town of New Richmond, Wisconsin (we've dubbed it the round-about capital of the midwest) on Saturday evening.

Jessica Lieffort from Sharp Shooters was kind enough to let us come over Saturday night and visit our pup. We spent a couple of hours getting our fill of puppy breath (like there is such a thing), watching spastic puppy play and chatting with the breeders Clyde and Marilyn Vetter and Jessica. They couldn't have been more kind and professional. It really was such a lovely experience and we were very appreciative of their time and company, it alone was worth the 2,200 mile journey.

We chose not to take our new puppy home that night upon the very wise suggestion of Jessica. Instead we headed back to the hotel and toasted our new spotted dog child with a wonderful bottle of wine (thank you Marilyn and Jess), we held Sage a little extra tight and got a darn good nights sleep. Jessica gave us the opportunity to swing by in the morning and intro Sage to the pup and then we would head out for the 1,100 mile trip home.

Sage sucking up as much sleepy love as she can. It's borderline rude.  

We showed up to Jessica's at 8am sharp on Sunday chock full of excitement. We came in and snuggled our pup and her last litter mate. Then we brought Sage in to meet our pup. It's a super common question about the proper way to introduce an older dog to a puppy. I've done it before and I have to say that no matter how crafty you get there is always some ill feeling on the older dogs part. Once they realize what is happening they are a little less then pleased to varying degrees. So here is how our intro went:

Sage came down to the whelping room which is immaculate by the way. With that said it is full of lots of other dog smells and of course an adorable and perfect pup. Sage did the normal unsure growling and hopping about. Nothing out of normal in my humble opinion. It's a big event with a relative amount of pressure and after 2 days in car and a modified schedule it's a lot for anyone or any dog to take in. With that said I could tell Sage needed to use the bathroom and maybe get some space. I asked Jessica if it was OK to let her into her backyard to do her business. Part of the yard had been fenced off with puppy fencing to keep the small hooligans in.

I let Sage out and could immediately tell she was being pissy and she began to run and sniff the perimeter of the fenced area. As soon as she hopped the fence I knew that I was in trouble. She knew exactly what was occurring and like a toddler in the middle of temper tantrum she planned to drag me into deep water before she would submit. I winced and began what felt like a thousand yard walk over to the fence in pursuit. Sage was legitimately pissed about all this puppy business and was opting the route of giving me the paw. I called her around and she defiantly ran a lap by me before taking up residence in the nearby woods and proceeded to take a shit. But unlike any other poop she's had in the past she locked eyes with me the entire time making it as uncomfortable as possible as if she was was trying to tell me how much she hated me. I mumbled under my breath God help me and as she patched out backwards (not breaking eye contact of course) and I watched in horror as she transformed from my sweet beloved Sage into her insanely sassy and mouthy mother Cleo. It was one of those moments so many of us experience looking in the mirror or hearing our own parents rhetoric escape our lips. What the fuck was happening.

She proceeded to take off with the type of attitude only seen in hormonally charged and angry teenage girls as they scream at you, I HATE YOU, YOU RUINED MY LIFE, before stomping down the hallway and slamming their bedroom door with Emmy winning dramatic flair. She tore around Jessica's backyard before I could half tackle and drag her back to the house. Well this is going well I thought and as we re-entered the Leiffort residence I asked Wyatt if he would be kind enough to take our spotted time bomb out to the car.

We said our goodbyes and collected our fur baby and headed out to begin the long journey home. We named our puppy Sharp Shooters Sweet Mission and we shall call her Figs.

The trip home was long but not nearly as bad as we had thought it might be. Both dogs were very well behaved and slept most of the journey. We made it to Miles City, MT our first night together as a family and took up temporary residence in a pet friendly Best Western. It was the first opportunity we got to see Fig's personality as well as the first real opportunity to see Sage and Figs interact.

Sage was clearly wounded about the new family addition but still made small efforts. She would take a toy and poke it into Fig's head trying to get her play while growling awkwardly the entire time. Clearly conflicted play but positive nonetheless. It took Cleo almost 6 days to get to that point when Luna was introduced into the pack so realistically I was thrilled. We had a great first night and since we were on the road she got to sleep on my face while Sage took residence beneath the covers.

Hotel Ice Breaking Shenanigans

Wyatt decided to be the paparazzi when I passed out. Not sure if you 
can see that pup hogging my pillow.

We've been home in Bozeman since Monday afternoon. I took sometime off of work to spend with the girls to help get them transitioned and get on a schedule. It's been a real hoot. Figs has so much moxy and plays with spirited gusto. She loves to retrieve any toy to hand and she has been such a quick learn. I have been incredibly impressed with her intelligence and she is extremely cooperative and sweet. We already LOVE having her around. Sage is doing much better with her and they spent hours chasing each other around the kitchen and living room today and bebopping though fields. Things are going to be great and I can't wait to intro her to birds. There is so much to look forward to over the next several months.

Be sure to find us on Facebook and show us some love at: Adventures of German Shorthaired Pointer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Art of Sharing Your Bed with a GSP

Not everyone believes in sharing their bed with their dogs and I can respect that. I sure didn't take stock in it in the beginning but soon the cuteness and love from my first GSP Cleo wore me down like a river rock. Before I knew it she had wormed her way into my sheets and now I couldn't fathom not sharing my space with a big warm sack of spots. However all those warm snuggles come at a cost and here are few that plague our sleeping arrangements with Sage Monkey.

Uninvited Friends

The thing pictured above was once a plush and vibrant moose, stuffed like a sausage with fluffy white material, squeekers and rattles in its feet. After its initial partial destuffing and slightly violent removal of squeekers it has since metamorphosed into a crusty, spit soaked, dirty shell of dog love. We call this crusted mess "wooby" and it goes everywhere Sage goes. She does laps around the tent with it hanging from her mouth while camping. She balls it up every night and nurses it until she passes out with it in her mouth. She leaves it sleeping on my pillow like it pays the electric bill.

It's pretty gross to wake up and find Wooby lounging in your personal area but nothing compares to the rare but provocative occasion she drags it through her water dish and bring hims to the party. She soaks him to bring out the flavor of course like glazing a fine Easter ham. We've gotten proactive with Wooby that we try to keep him exclusively in the bedroom to avoid this specific scenario. But alas....she always finds a way to get it more gross which of course in the dog world equates to more loved.

Thats ok. I wasn't in the middle of an ab workout or anything. 

Limited Personal Space

GSP's are appropriately known as velcro dogs. I prefer to refer to them as space hoarders. Never heard of a Space hoarder before? "Space Hoarding" is the craft of excessively collecting all the available area not only from your personal surroundings but all others around you as well. Space Hoarding is also known as Space Hogging, Compulisive Space Taker Upper Disorder and or otherwise more commonly known as Get-out-of-my-three-foot-bubble-you-jerk (Thats GOOMTFBYJ for short). Sage excels at this and works in it like some artists work in watercolor. And like most afflicted dogs she doesn't see it as a problem...AT ALL. Bed time often consists of her laying only in the space my physical being occupies. Or Sage will stand vigil over our heads waiting for the blankets to be lifted before burrowing down to our feet to settle in for the night. She leaves no room for compromise.

Our joke is that Sage wishes I was her Tauntaun. You know that funky reptomammal that is indigenous to that frozen wasteland planet known as Hoth from The Empire Strikes back?  Sitting on my lap simply won't suffice....she needs to climb inside my soul.

Rough Snuggles

Rough Snuggles start innocent enough usually by Sage arming crawling around the bed as if she's being propelled by that little stub of a tail. She lays all over your face, groaning and sniffing in glee, angling herself into positions to lick whatever she can; your face your arms. Sadly this phase is unsustainable and it eventually evolves in what we refer to as "rough snuggles". Rough Snuggles are snuggles that spiral out of control and consist of excited paw prodding, point blank face sneezes, the occasional fang nip and in human screams and laughs. They carefully dance that line of fun and painful.

For instance have you ever seen an animal documentary where foxes in winter will leap into the air to break below the surface to get critters for a meal? The worst mistake to be made during rough snuggles is retreating to the presumed safety of under covers. Sage takes your retreating as a challenge and follows the example of the fox except in the morning when sleep is still tight in your eyes she feels more like a polar bear breaking through ice in a search of baby seals.

Bed time is never a dull time with a shorthair. Especially a 52 pound one that can magically metamorphis to such a size she can take up an entire king size bed. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic shifts and changes in the next few weeks as we bring home the new puppy. Who knows.....Maybe we will have two rough snugglers who want to make me their Tauntaun. Lucky me!

Be sure to follow our shenanigans on Facebook at Adventures of a German Shorthaired Pointer.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hunting Dog Photography Tips - Part 1

5 month old Phoenix on point

Photographing hunting dogs whether they are training, trialing, testing or hunting is a passion of mine. There is something majestic and soul soothing about watching a gun dog work a field. I find solemn beauty in being outside, watching the hunter and the hunted and I appreciate and welcome the challenge of capturing it in a photograph. Lucky for me I get more opportunities than most through my hunting dog specific photography business Byrd Dog Photography. After seeing countless inquiries on hunting forums and Facebook as well as being asked quite often about how I take photographs I decided over the next few months during the hunting off season of Spring and Summer I would publish a series of blog posts making a few humble suggestions to help the average weekend warrior. By starting now your skills, like your dogs, will be honed by next autumn.

Before I cover the photography tips for this post I want to make two quick points. The first is hunting dog photography can offer some challenges not found in normal pet portrait or pet photography. For starters there are usually guns and live rounds getting fired when your in the field. Aside from having proper blaze orange clothing you need to make sure that the gunners know where you are at all times and that you are communicating with them if you decide to step in to get a shot (so you don't get shot numbnuts). Nothing ruins a good hunt like getting blasted with some buckshot. You also need to be cognisant of what the dog(s) are doing. Your there to shoot them in their element not get in their way. You need to be aware of accidentally flushing birds, ruining a good honor by standing directly in the way of a backing dog or putting to much pressure on a dog trying to get that infamous shot when running birds are in the equation. In addition if your the weekend warrior your probably trying to carry your own gun, flush your own birds, shoot AND take photos. This is incredibly difficult....I know I like to hunt over my dog too. If your one of these people take a look at some hands free camera straps they may make your life much easier if you have a DSLR and a decent size lens.

The second and final point I will bring up (then I will get off my soapbox I promise. This was starting to feel like a filibuster huh?) is any aspiring photographer should do their best to get familiar and comfortable with their camera, regardless if its a point and shoot or a DSLR. If your not comfortable shooting in manual and your camera has scene modes utilize some of the options. For instance if you want pics of your dogs in motion (retrieving a bird or coming out of the water) use the sports mode or if they are sitting in the blind try portrait mode. If you've never done it or are feeling hesitant don't be afraid, get out of Auto. You have nothing to lose by trying.

Puppies in low cover

This puppy was in higher cover. So I opted to shoot just his face with a touch of shoulder. 

Know your subject: Having a good understanding of the dog you are shooting and it's abilities will help you out immensely. Puppies and smaller dogs like Brittany Spaniels can be challenging if your shooting in high grass and thick cover. If you have the ability, try and keep these dogs in lower cover when getting photos of them on point or retrieving. If you can't don't be afraid to fill the frame. There is no rule saying that you have to try and cram the entire dog in the photo.  Having a clear, smaller sampling of the pup will have more impact.

Obviously the more finished a dog is the more time and opportunity you will have to shoot solid points and retrieves. When shooting puppies and unsteady dogs you need to have patience. Put yourself in situations that you know you will be successful. Control the things you can like where you position yourself and your shutter speed.

Getting the point: Everyone loves a striking picture of a hunting dog on point. In most instances what your aspiring for is to capture that intensity your dog has when he or she locks up. Their tail is up high, foot bent hard, eyes locked into position and sometimes their body is quivering. Fill the frame. Isolate your subject and eliminate the distractions in the background. Try to focus on the eyes....there's a reason why they are called the window to the soul. Also drop down to their level instead of shooting down on them. I am almost always shooting from my knee and have at times depending on the height of the dog sunk back to be sitting on my butt.

If your shooting a finished or steady dog on point you can choose to run them without a collar or you can remove the collar while they are on point. It really cleans up the photo. Take a look at Wyatt the white and liver shorthair shown above.

Keep in mind the cover you are hunting in or training could be high and may hide the feet. That's OK but if they are visible try not to crop them out. If a large portion of the dog is hidden crop the photograph at a natural body line like the knees, shoulder or chest area.

Lastly, don't run up behind a dog on point. Make sure you walk in at an angle or loop around so that the dog can see you moving in. If your moving in from the front be sure your not putting yourself in a situation where your going to flush a bird.

It's a bird, it's a plane it's Sizzle!

Action Shots: Hunting dogs are athletes and they spend most of their time in motion whether its working a hedgerow, launching themselves into a lake or retrieving that freshly shot pheasant. Some of these pictures end up being the most fun. Don't get sucked into waiting for the dog to get the exact place you want the photo to be taken. To be successful at this you have to be very precise. Instead try following the dog. Synchronize your speed of the camera with them and if your camera allows it set it to continuous so you are capable of taking more pictures.

Backing Dogs: When shooting one or more dogs backing each other I always refer to some basic composition rules. Now don't go rolling your eyes and slamming your laptops shut because I used that boring text book word composition. It's not as awful as you think. Look at it this way anyone can take pictures, what you want to do is tell a story. That is the difference between aimlessly snapping away and creating a photograph. Shooting honoring dogs is a great opportunity to use a spin off to leading lines. In other words use the objects your shooting i.e. the dogs to draw your viewers eye through the photograph. This creates depth and perspective.

Most of the time when I'm shooting dogs in the field I am using a 70-200mm lens BUT occasionally I like to use a wide angle zoom lens. One of my favorite times to do this is when photographing dogs that are honoring. When I do I push the lens all the way out and get as close as I can to my subject. Two things have to occur to get this shot and be successful you need to have dogs that are very steady because you are going to get extremely close to them while on point which equates to pressure. And you have to have a dog owner that is comfortable with you getting that close and getting the shots you want in the midst of a hunt. The dog above in the forefront wearing the blue collar is a NAVHDA versatile champion VC Rahway River's Prince of Darkness call name Ozzie who is owned by Geof Ferrer. Both of which who allowed me to sneak in and get this shot while on a hunt. 

Things to Remember: I'm going to refer to Malcom Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule in which he says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery. Not all of you are gunning to be masters so you won't need a complete 10,000 hours or 10,000 photos to be content with your improved skills but the only way to get good at something is to practice. Take pics of your dog(s) all the time even when they are not hunting. Take photos of them in the backyard, lounging in there dog bed or on a typical run in the field. Be willing to try things, be willing to get out of auto, be willing to ask other dog owners if you can photograph their dogs. Don't take 1 photo in a situation take 10 purposeful photos. Think about leading lines, shoot from your knee, pay attention to where the dogs feet are and how high the cover is. Implementing these few tips on your next training session and each one after will start you on your way to taking better photos of your best dog friend.

Hunting Dog Photography Tips Part 2 will cover shooting the sequences of retrieves, water work, natural framing, including the handler in shots, puppies and more so check back in the next few weeks. In the meantime follow us on Facebook and show us some love at: Adventures of a German Shorthaired Pointer and Byrd Dog Photography.