When I looked up the word bliss via the little dictionary icon that came with my Mac, this is what it said, “perfect happiness; great joy” and that is just what I witnessed over and over again yesterday at the WC/WCX Hunt Test hosted by the Columbia Poodle Club at Sauvie Island in Oregon. Over the years I’ve observed poodles doing many different sports: agility, herding, tracking, dock diving, and obedience, and during my observations I’ve been looking for that blissful expression that I’ve seen multiple times on Border Collies during herding trials and I finally saw it on a poodle.
Now, we know that our poodles will do anything FOR us and share in the happy moments of joy as they play the “games” WITH us, pleased with their successful accomplishments as they anticipate their celebratory tug or treats and our hugs and happy voices. But yesterday at the hunt test I saw relaxed and natural athleticism. I heard the whining of standard poodles, both adult and puppy, pleading to be released to retrieve that bumper or bird from water or field. I witnessed first hand and close up during the practice rounds, (I was in charge of the “slinger”*- our club’s way of breaking in the newbie,) poodle after poodle unleashing their instinctual drive and exercising their sensory and motor systems with gusto.
Miniature poodle owners were well represented by a little silver girl, owned by Jane (sorry Jane, I never got your last name) named Star (a Kallista mini) as she carried a duck at least her size across field and stream. As one handler from British Columbia said “it was well worth the test fee just to watch that little silver girl work”.
I enjoyed everything about yesterday. The peaceful pastoral setting, the quiet, the fresh air, the silliness of Mother Nature as she teased us with her weather samplings, and most of all I appreciated a sport where the dog’s essence is protected. The judge in her opening instructions to the handlers emphasized this by stressing the role of the handler as the support system. This is a sport where the team is disqualified if the handler is heard saying the word “NO” at any time during the test and that includes the honor portion of the WCX. I think I’m hooked. To my partner’s dismay, I now have a legitimate reason to purchase camouflage.
* A “slinger” is a small catapult-like contraption that is used via remote control to fling a bumper or duck into the air for the dog to retrieve. My job was to load the “slinger” without severing a limb, blow the duck call, and then release the bumper or duck into the air while hiding behind a blind. As I write this it sounds a little like hazing. My partner reported today that my duck calls sounded like my duck was drunk. Yup, definitely hazing!