The Long Road to the Kleemann
by Steve Kosmicki
It has been a long road since we first brought Nora home from King Kennels. We received her from Willie Engelking; he had just gotten her back from a family that owned her. They felt she was too much dog; boy, was that an understatement. From the minute she stepped foot in our home, she has been a challenge. Nora’s personality is a fine line between good and evil, usually a little bit of both. My wife has tried to give her back to Willie on several occasions, usually following Nora eating the family room chair or learning how to open the pantry door. Willie would always say, "Give her time. The good ones are always like that".
|VC Nora KS vom Riverwoods MH|
I have had the pleasure of having Nora run me through just about every test situation there is. I had no reason to think our trip to Germany would be any different or less exciting. We were coming off a good year. Nora had passed her Btr. and gained the coveted VC (NAVHDA Versatile Champion) title, so my hopes were high that she would pass the KS.
We made the trip to Germany with Willie and Rob Engelking and Rich Dobey, all who were invited to judge. We arrived in Amsterdam, Tuesday morning, where fellow NADKC members Hermann Josef Schomakers, Gines Gangelhof and Josef Shulte-Wülfer greeted us. It was about a two-hour drive to Hermann’s home in Serwold, Germany, where we spent the day seeing old friends, eating and drinking (always drinking). On Wednesday, Nora and I took a few romps in the field and did some water work at the Hitler canal. Thursday morning was spent driving to Essens to check in and run in the Zuchtschau (conformation show).
There are some awesome looking dogs in Germany. Nora made it through the Zuchtschau with a solid SG, so it was one down and two to go. Friday morning came, and we left to meet with our respective groups and drive to the test sites. I was in the same group with Hermann who was running Basko von der Jydebek. Hermann’s broken English was comforting, but most of the day he was busy doing his own thing with Basko. When we were ready to leave for the water site, the judges realized that we didn’t have any ducks; boy, does that sound familiar. It ends up that the duck trailer had broken down, so we had to wait two hours for it to show (I thought stuff like this only happens back home.).
The trip to the water took a little over one hour. When I got out of the van and saw the water, I thought I was going to be sick. It was the biggest, toughest duck search water I had ever seen. The temperature was about 40 degrees, and the wind was blowing in at 30-40 mph. As luck would have it, Nora would be the last dog in our group to run, so once again it was hurry up and wait. I got to see some great water work with Basko receiving a 4h in "Search without a duck". When Nora’s turn finally came, the shock of the cold water had her starting out slowly, but she quickly kicked into gear and made me proud searching the reeds out to about 150 meters. Next came "Search with a duck". She was sent about 50 meters crosswind from where the duck was released and went right into the reeds finding the duck in less than a minute. The duck was shot, and she made a good retrieve. Our stressful day was over. As is the tradition, the scores were read followed by the sharing of food, wine and talk of good and bad dog work.
Saturday morning came, and it was hard to tell if I was hung over or just nervous–probably both. The field sites were only a few minutes away, and the games were about to begin again. All the dogs in our group were allowed a run to take the edge off. I felt like I needed a good run, too. Now, for the field searches, let me explain a few things. Most will think it is just like a Solms test. How hard could it be? Well, how about a Solms test using all wild game including pheasants, huns, hare and deer? When was the last time a 10 lb. rabbit or three 50 lb. deers jumped 3 meters in front of your dog? Oh, and I forgot to mention that you have to be able to stop your dog when this happens.
Nora’s first search began, and she was quartering nicely across a winter wheat field. When she was about 75 meters away, she encountered her first hare, and let me tell you it wasn’t pretty. I blew my whistle as hard as I could and nothing happened. Fuzz from my pocket had gotten stuck in the hole blocking the pea. I turned the whistle around to call her back, but by this time, she had already chased about 50 meters. After that little incident, the judges had Hermann tell me that if she chased again, I was out. (Nothing like a little pressure first thing in the morning.) She searched one more time without producing game, but during her next search, she pointed and produced several pheasants. Things were looking better. We took a short break and Hermann told me that the judges wanted to find her another rabbit. There goes that pressure again. As the day progressed, she had two more searches and still no rabbits. (Where are they when you need one?) We drove to another location where the judges walked me about 400 meters to a waist high field. They then instructed me to walk to the far end of the field and work back towards them into the wind. When we reached the end of the field, I released her to my right. She had gone about 25 meters when three deer jumped up right in front of her. Not trusting my whistle, I yelled "WHOA". She stopped dead in her tracks and watched the deer run away. When I looked to the judges, they nodded their heads with approval and said on-line. Our day was over.
It seemed like forever waiting while the judges talked among themselves. When the scores were read, dogs 1, 3 and 4 had passed, dog 2 had failed, and then there was me, dog 5. I didn’t know what they were saying so I listened nervously to my scores. Category after category, I heard them say (sehr gut, 4) all but one, the one lonely (gut, 3). I thought I was going to die. Then one of the judges who had been silent all day began to speak in broken English. "So, I guess you just passed the KS. How do you feel about that?" Well, I felt pretty damn good; that’s how I felt. I guess he could have spoken English all day but that somehow would have taken away from the whole experience.