What is a Title Really?
Not just a brag, not just a stepping stone to a higher Title, not just an adjunct to competitive scores.
A Title is a tribute to the dog that bears it, a way to honor the dog, an ultimate memorial. It will remain in the record and in the memory for about as long as anything in this world can remain. Few humans will do as well or better in that regard. And though the dog himself doesn't know or care that his achievements have been noted, a Title says many things in the world of humans, where such things count.
A Title says your dog was intelligent, and adaptable, and good-natured. It says that your dog loved you enough to do the things that please you, however crazy they may have sometimes seemed.
A Title says that you loved your dog that you loved to spend time with him because he was a good dog, and that you believe in him enough to give him yet another chance when he failed, and that, in the end, your faith was justified.
A Title proves that your dog inspired you to have the special relationship enjoyed by so few; that in a world of disposable creatures, this dog with a Title was greatly loved, and loved greatly in return. And when that dear short life is over, the Title remains as a memorial of the finest kind, the best you can give to a deserving friend, volumes of praise in one small set of initials before or after the name.
A Title is nothing less than love and respect, given and received permanently
I first read this a little over a year ago. It was about the same time that my good friend and Professional Dog Trainer, Dane Johnson with APEX Retrievers, was talking to me about running Bear in hunt tests. Dane was well aware of my passion for dogs and the retriever game. He also knew that I try and train every day that I can. Work, kids and Honey-do's take priority over if Bear can run a nice key hole blind. But nonetheless I still get out quite often. Let me just say that I've always called Bear a "meat dog" meaning that he can pick up the birds when hunting but he didn't need any fancy titles. I didn't care if he ran the bank or knew what a poison bird was. I wasn't thinking of Bear and the impact that he had on me. The reality of it is that Bear has caused me to meet guys that have ran in the SRS, judged the SRS, put countless HRCH and MH and GRHRCH titles on dogs, been invited on unbelievable hunts that a "good dog" was needed, go on hunts with a world renowned waterfowl photographer, and hunted places that some only dream of. The fluffy "Meat Dog" opened that door and it snowballed into great trips, unbelievable memories and new awesome friends. I decided that I was going to do it, I owed it to him.
To get my "feet wet" I decided to run Seasoned first and Bear flew through seasoned, earning his HR title. In Wyoming, Bear was in his first finished test. He had no issues with the marks on water in the morning but did have issues fighting the suction on the water blind. He had no issues as the honor dog. In the afternoon Bear was able to pick up 2 out of the 3 marks clean and had to handle on 3rd bird. His land blind went as expected... A poor initial line and was able to pick it up in a couple casts. On the way back the diversion came out and he switched. Instant fail. Although we failed that test, it made me focus more on training. I knew that I had to run more water blinds and marks. I addressed the diversion issue. Also, I knew I had to think more about the placement of my training marks. Not just going out and setting up the wingers and running dogs, just to run dogs.
As we went though hunting season and early season training, I could tell that he was thinking more. I was more confident in our team work and his natural abilities. As this hunt test season came about Bear went 2 for 2 the first weekend. The next hunt test he went 1 for 2. That weekend, I handled in the morning and rather than handling in the afternoon I recalled him. I spoke with the judges after the test and they both said that the handle in the morning was in the area. I thought it wasn't and he would have passed. I learned then that I need to finish the test and let the judges fail me, not take myself out. This past weekend Bear was running for his title. Bear had to handle on a punch bird middle mark in the am, but killed the test in the afternoon. I was still nervous, both his blinds left me wanting more. Although he got the birds, both started out with a poor initial line and more casts that what I wanted. That night at the social, Bear earned his HRCH title. I was more than excited! Countless hours of training had paid off. On Sunday Bear went out crushed it. Not handling on a bird when majority of the field did.
On the drive home I thought about it and had to laugh. Bear is no longer just a "meat dog" his ribbons will be on the walls of my house for as long as I live. I will be able to look at them and think of the hunts and hunt tests that we had together; brown ducks in early season in the prairie potholes, warm water slough mallards, late season corn field honkers, milo pintails in Texas and him not back-siding the gun on the Sunday middle punch bird.
I'm so glad I did it. If I own a dog, it will try to earn titles. I owe it to them!
Thanks T for letting me go train dogs.
Thank You Dane for talking me into it. You were right Bear is not just a "meat dog!"