Saturday, May 30, 2009
Irish setters are a beautiful animal. I was 14 and visiting my grandparents in Winnipeg when my mother phoned me,crying, from our home in Saskatchewan to tell me that my Irish Setter had been poisoned and died of strychnine seizures. He was a gift from my Aunt and was one of a number of dogs poisoned in the area. My family made it up to me by purchasing an Irish Setter puppy from Harry Dean in Dalmeny, Saskatchewan, a well known hunter breeder. My new Irish Setter , Rusty, I was convinced was a winner. He had a beautiful, darker red coat. When he was 9 months old I entered him in the Ladies Kennel Club dog show in Saskatoon. We had practised standing and heeling for months. We were bonded. I had fancied I would be one day become a professional dog handler. I had a subscription to the Canadian Kennel Club Magazine and read what I could about dog handling. We lived about 200 miles from Saskatoon on the main CNR line. The "Flyer" came through the town about 4 am every morning. The day before the show I washed my dog thoroughly. The "Flyer" stopped for us, this time, at 4 am the day of the show and Rusty and I both travelled to Saskatoon in the baggage car. He slept on one side all the way in to Saskatoon. Unfortunately he was still slightly damp from my doggy bath and sleeping on one side for that many hours was a disaster in the making. We got off the train at 8 am and walked to the arena. He was curly on the damp side and fuzzy on the other side. His glistening coat was dull and free of natural oils. He was too young to have good feathers. My debut in the doggy world was a disaster. At 15 years of age, the humiliation was intense and I was alone. I believe that seminal moment led to a change of vocation. Despite that, I dreamt of revenge on the Ladies Kennel Club. Don't ask why revenge! They didn't do anything wrong except, in the doggy world competition ,there is no charity good enough to assuage that kind of felt disaster. I consoled myself, on the long road back, that I would become rich, buy the best dog in the world, and win Best in Show at the Ladies Kennel Club of Saskatoon. I never did. I hugged my dog and he licked my face!