Northwoods Blue Ox: January 2007 – January 2018

For the past 11 years, there’s been an orange and white setter in our kennel full of tricolors. But not anymore.

Last week, Betsy and I made the painful but merciful decision for our beloved Northwoods Blue Ox, whom we affectionately called Oscar. What began as a seemingly innocuous skin condition quickly spread and became ferocious and incurable. Even the region’s best specialists in canine pathology and dermatology couldn’t help.

In every sense of the word, Betsy and I are bereft.

Oscar was whelped in the middle of the winter by Blue Silk, the spitting image of her famous dam, 4X CH/4X RU-CH Blue Streak. On the top side was another champion, Peace Dale Duke.

Northwoods Blue Ox (CH Peace Dale Duke x Blue Silk, 2007) Photo by Chris Mathan

Oscar was handsome with an evenly masked, blocky head. As a young dog, his coloration was deep orange that slowly faded. He was powerfully built and always ran with a happy tail.

Even though Oscar was known mainly for his prowess in the woods, we loved him for his temperament and personality. He did everything with gusto but had an extremely calm center and a head full of sense. Oscar was sweet natured and had an incredible desire to please.

As a young dog
Oscar was a precocious pup. He hunted hard and pointed many grouse his first fall. One memorable grouse he pointed—and I flushed—five different times. I finally connected on the last try and he naturally retrieved the bird.

Oscar’s first grouse trial was the West Branch Puppy Stake held near State College, PA. In a field of about 40 starters, he won third. He also placed in several derbies. In one Oklahoma derby stake, he convincingly won with five stone-cold-broke finds in the 30 minutes.

With his verve, speed, flash and bird-finding, Oscar would have been an outstanding field trial dog but the timing was off. Betsy and I didn’t compete at the championship level anymore as our business turned to training and breeding.

While grouse hunting in November, I braced Oscar with his son Northwoods Rob Roy (by Northwoods Chablis, 2012) owned by Chris Bye. We didn’t know at the time how bittersweet that hunt would be. It was Oscar’s last.

As a bird dog
Oscar always hunted hard and fast but adapted to the cover. He was accurate and intense on point and was a strong bird finder with an exceptional nose. It didn’t matter the state or terrain, Oscar found and pointed, sharp-tailed grouse, pheasants, Mearns quail and bobwhite quail, in addition to ruffed grouse and woodcock.

Oscar probably ranged farther than most grouse hunters would like but you couldn’t lose him. If he didn’t check in after a cast, I better start looking because he was on point. And when he was on point, he had the grouse pinned. With no training or expectations from me, Oscar naturally, and softly, retrieved birds to hand — no matter where they fell.

Oscar was a Houdini. He climbed out of exercise pens, our kennel perimeter fence and the kennels at Bowen Lodge… where he also liked to sit on top his dog house. Others in our guiding string are, from left, Vixen, Chardonnay and Shaquille.

As a guide dog
I started guiding grouse hunts over Oscar when he was two and for the next eight seasons he was one of our best and most reliable. Day after day, year after year, hot or cold, wet or dry, he could be counted on to produce grouse for clients at Bowen Lodge. Oscar was strong and durable, too. Most of the grouse hunts were all morning or all afternoon affairs—which he easily managed.

My guiding clients and I have some great memories of Oscar’s finds and some spectacular retrieves from impenetrable thickets.

A real nick for Betsy and me was pairing Oscar and Northwoods Chablis—a breeding we repeated four times. In the summer of 2011, we had six puppies with us for our foundation program: Tia, Grits, Biscuit, Beasley, Tesla and Ice.

As a sire
As good as Oscar was at bird finding, he was even better as a producer. And it didn’t matter which dam—grouse champion Houston’s Belle, her daughter Choice or Chardonnay. But it was a fortuitous match to Northwoods Chablis that was so successful that Betsy and I repeated it four times.

Some of his offspring had opportunities in field trials. Northwoods Highclass Kate (Barry Frieler) was named MN/WI Derby of the Year. Northwoods Axel (Ryan Flair) and Northwoods Rob Roy (Chris Bye) placed in several grouse derby stakes. Northwoods Parmigiano (Paul Hauge) and Northwoods Grits (Bob Senkler) competed and placed in both walking and horseback trials. Beasley (Mike Donovan) and Tesla (Tim and Monica Cunningham) won puppy stakes for their owners who had never even been to a field trial.

Other dogs, including Northwoods Camembert and Northwoods Brie, have been used by professional guides Bill Heig and Scott Berry, respectively. But most of his pups are owned by serious hunters—Knickerbocker (Bart Salisbury), Biscuit (Ryan Gould), Sweet Tea (Ken Balfanz) and Tana (Brad Gudenkauf) to name a few. Merimac’s Blu Monday (Ben McKean) was a stellar south Georgia quail dog.

What Oscar really cared about
While Oscar excelled at whatever he did, he never really cared about all that. What Oscar cared about was Betsy and me—especially when we called his name and he spent Sundays in the house with us. He looked right at us with those warm brown eyes and it was clear what he was telling us: “Pet me. Just keep petting me.”

At the time he died last week, we heard an evocative song on the radio.

You’re in the arms of the angel.
~ Sarah McLachlan

RIP, sweet Oscar.

Photo by Chris Mathan

Blue Blossom: July 2002 – November 2016

If only all of our dogs’ lives were as long and happy as Blossom’s.

Blue Blossom, call name Tina, was out of our best field trial setter, 4X CH/4X RU-CH Blue Streak, and another grouse champion, Grouse Hollow Gus. She lived with Jerry and me for about six years but for the majority of her life, Tina was the treasured hunting partner of Tim Esse.

Tina was trained as all our other dogs are—on wild bobwhites in Texas, native prairie birds of North Dakota and on ruffed grouse and woodcock in northern Minnesota. She was perhaps best-suited to the latter and gained quite a reputation as a star member of Jerry’s grouse guiding string.

Because Jerry and I are also breeders, our hunting females get bred. With a bit of kismet, we chose Blue Chief for Tina in 2006 and that cross became our first nick.

We repeated Chief x Tina for three consecutive years. Her famous puppies are legion—Cooper and Cammie, Elle and Daisy, Ollie and Peanut, Bee and Banshee —and they are scattered across the country. Tina’s legacy will continue because we continue to breed one of her special sons, Blue Riptide.

Jerry and I retired Tina in 2008 after her last litter. We sold her to Tim, a passionate grouse hunter from the Twin Cities who schedules the rest of his life around the fall season. For one thing, his job enables him to work remotely. For another, he has family living in northern Minnesota and can easily slip back and forth.

Throughout these eight years, we’ve stayed in touch with Tim and were always so happy to see Tina. As late as this fall when Tina was 14 years old, Tim took her hunting 15 times.

We were deeply saddened to receive an email from him in late November. “Tina is in hunting heaven,” he wrote.

RIP, dear Blue Blossom.

Northwoods Chardonnay: January 2009 – July 2016

Photo by Chris Mathan

Photo by Chris Mathan

I knew when she was a pup that she was special. One of the best and nicest bird dogs I ever owned.
~ Paul Hauge

Even though Paul Hauge and Jerry conceived the idea together, Paul deserves all the credit. He bred Houston’s Belle’s Choice, daughter of his multiple grouse champion Houston’s Belle, to Blue Shaquille. Paul then hand-picked four—two males and two females—for us to buy, raise and train.

One of those puppies was a female we named Northwoods Chardonnay, call name Lucy.

Lucy was a tremendous bird finder whether in the grouse woods, the Georgia piney woods or on the prairies—but that wasn’t her greatest gift. Lucy’s gift was her style. She had unusual loftiness both in motion and on point. And her composure on point with nose pointed toward the sky made her look like she weighed 100 pounds. When I approached her points, she would always roll a sparkling eye at me that seemed to say, “Look at me and see what I found. Again. Pretty good, huh?”

Yeah, pretty damn good.
~ Jerry

Photo by Chris Mathan

Photo by Chris Mathan

Jerry and I often commented that Lucy was the prettiest setter female we’ve ever owned.

She was tricolor with distinctive markings. The mask on her left side was a perfect oval encompassing head, cheek and ear and, of course, a brown molly spot was just above the eye. On the right side, her ear was black but the mask was reduced to a small circle of color around the eye.

But Lucy was more than a pretty face. Her 40-lb.-body was perfectly proportioned and she had a long neck and high tail set. Her gait was spectacular—strong, fluid and graceful—and her front legs reached far forward on each stride. Lucy always seemed to be having fun for she bounded about with energy and enthusiasm.

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Lucy was bred to some of the best setter males in the country including CH Shadow Oak Bo, CH Houston’s Blackjack, CH Ridge Creek Cody, RU-CH Erin’s Hidden Shamrock and our own Northwoods Blue Ox. No matter the sire, outstanding dogs were produced.

Here’s a short list:
Northwoods Nirvana, owned by Frank and Jean LaNasa, Minnesota
Northwoods Fuzzy Navel, owned by Don Freeman, North Carolina
Houston’s Bold N Fresh, owned by Jim Depolo, Pennsylvania
Northwoods Charles, owned by Bill Owen, California
Ridge Creek Piper, owned by Chuck Brandes, Minnesota
Northwoods Nickel, owned by Jerry and me

Lucy was one of those rare dogs that could consistently, with little experience, pin ruffed grouse. When she was only one-and-a-half years old, I took her hunting in northern Wisconsin with another guide. It was late season and the grouse were hard to find and even harder to shoot. Right in front of us, Lucy worked a running grouse and made that bird stop and hide behind a big log in wide open pole timber. We walked right in, the grouse flushed at our feet and we both missed!

That was one of the best pieces of work on grouse I’ve ever seen.
~ Jerry

Jerry and I kept Lucy until she was five years old when Paul bought her back.

Early in 2016, Paul repeated an earlier breeding to Erin’s Hidden Shamrock. When he got Lucy back from Illinois, home of Shamrock, something was clearly wrong. She was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma. She was also pregnant.

Torn between concern for the dam and concern for the fetuses, Paul consulted with his vet and long-time friend Dr. Mark Nelson of Interstate Veterinary Hospital in Centauria, Wisconsin. They chose a course of action that focused on Lucy but with minimal harm to fetuses.

By late in her pregnancy, Lucy was gravely ill and Jerry and I desperately wanted to see her. We had planned to visit on a Sunday in early July. But on that Saturday, Lucy was failing and Paul brought her back to Mark.

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Lucy must have given the entire strength of her weakened body to her puppies for as she died, three live puppies were delivered.

And today, Lucy’s litter of two females and one male is seven weeks old and thriving. Amanda and Joyce, two amazing women who work for Dr. Nelson, dedicated their days and nights to feeding and caring for the puppies. Due to their loving ministration, Lucy’s gifts will live on.

Lucy was a great bird dog on all species of game birds and produced outstanding pups in every litter. She was very sweet and lovable. She is missed.
~ Paul Hauge

Northwoods Prancer: March 2008 – June 2016

Photo by Chris Mathan

Photo by Chris Mathan

Prancer was a Cadillac.
~ Mark Fouts

With heavy hearts, Jerry and I share the almost unbearably sad new that Northwoods Prancer has died.

Prancer was whelped out of Fallset Fate, owned by Mark and Janie Fouts, by our male Dasher in 2008. In lieu of a stud fee, we wanted a female puppy and as Prancer was the only female in the litter, Mark honored the deal.

Prancer lived in the house with us when she was young. There is almost nothing more heartwarming than holding a sleeping puppy.

Prancer lived in the house with us when she was young. There is almost nothing more heartwarming than holding a sleeping puppy.

Prancer was a star in our kennel—whether in the woods guiding grouse hunters or as a dam. Prancer was also smart and a beautiful dog with a strong physique. We adored Prancer but when she turned six, we gave her back to Mark and Janie in a totally fitting, happy turn of events.

Mark wrote this moving tribute to Prancer.

“With all great dogs they have to start from somewhere. I was fortunate to have a female pointer named Fallset Fate. She was white and orange. She was everything you would want in a hunting dog. Worked to the front, pointed, backed and a strong retriever. She even retrieved from water. She was a joy to handle and had an easy loving personality. A very good family dog, or as I say, a “good citizen.”

“I was thinking if I was fortunate to have another dog like her I would be blessed. I had heard of Jerry and Betsy at Northwoods Bird Dogs and their breeding program. I was told about Dasher and thought this would be a good fit. We decided on the breeding and waited for the results. Fate had only four puppies, three males and one female. The little orange and white female looked like her mother. She was chosen to join the Northwoods kennel.

“When Jerry and Betsy retired Prancer from their breeding program Janie and I were fortunate and gifted to get her back to our family. When she arrived it was like looking at her mother Fate. The look in her eyes, same personality. I always wonder if dogs know that they used to be at a home or kennel in their earlier lives. She adjusted well. She was instantly part of our family. I can’t recall how many times I called her “Fate” while I was hunting with her.

“I have had other breeds of dogs and had some very good ones, but you know when a breed and style suits you. I like to put it in simple laymen terms. Everyone drives different vehicles. They all get you to the same location. But I have settled on driving a Cadillac. They are smooth, easy to look at, and with a little polish they hold their value. Prancer was a Cadillac.

After a day in the woods, Mark Fouts proudly shows off his trio of female pointers: Prancer, on left, with her daughters Jordy and Timber.

After a day in the woods, Mark Fouts proudly shows off his trio of female pointers: Prancer, on left, with her daughters Jordy and Timber.

“In the field she was a truly honest dog. If she had a point there was a bird somewhere, trust her. Jerry and Betsy brought out the best in her and she was able to pass those traits on to her offspring. Right now I have two dogs from Prancer, Northwoods Fallset Timber and Northwoods Fallset Jordy. The fleet of Cadillacs is still going strong.

“When you lose a dog like Prancer I think you miss a little heartbeat. Sometimes it is hard to get your breath back when it happens. With wet eyes you have to remember the good times and the love that they give back unconditionally, no strings attached.

“Thank you to Northwoods Bird Dogs for letting your family be a part of ours.”

~ Mark Fouts

Prancer could do everything--hunt with fire, handle kindly, find birds and retrieve softly to hand--all with style and a happy tail.

Merimac’s Blu Monday: 2010 – 2016

Ben is primarily a grouse and woodcock hunter so he and Franny spent their memorable days in aspen cuts and alder thickets.

Ben is primarily a grouse and woodcock hunter so he and Franny spent their memorable days in aspen cuts and alder thickets.

Franny taught me more about dogs than I care to admit. She was a thinker. She was different. This is what made her special.
~ Ben McKean

It’s always heartbreaking when a treasured dog dies. But especially awful is when a bird dog dies terribly in the prime of her life.

On what started out as another beautiful Saturday morning in Georgia, I left the house early and headed to the kennel to do my morning chores. Immediately, I noticed Franny, a normally lively five-year-old setter female, in an odd hunched position in her run. Her body was bloated, too, and fearing a twisted stomach, Betsy and I rushed her to our vet. Despite an heroic, two-hour emergency surgery, Franny died.

Franny was owned by Ben and Maureen McKean, long-time clients and friends, of Minnesota. Franny was whelped in March 2010, the last litter from Paul Hauge’s multiple grouse champion Houston’s Belle by Northwoods Blue Ox. Franny was a big, powerful female like her blue-ribbon dam; she inherited the grit and endurance of Ox.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember when a robust bird dog was a cuddly puppy…but not Maureen.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember when a robust bird dog was a cuddly puppy…but not Maureen.

Ben and Maureen entrusted Franny to us for her training and Franny, in turn, excelled. She achieved the highest level of training for a pointing dog—steady to wing, shot and fall. Franny also spent every winter with us, gaining invaluable experience with hours on bobwhite quail. She became the star on our Georgia quail guiding string. The weather didn’t deter and it didn’t matter whether we hunted from foot, jeep or horseback or if we were out one or three hours, Franny loved to hunt and always found birds. And when she pointed, the birds were precisely where she indicated.

The shadows were long when I found Franny on point—strong, staunch and stylish on a large covey of quail—at the end of what was to be her last hunt.

The shadows were long when I found Franny on point—strong, staunch and stylish on a large covey of quail—at the end of what was to be her last hunt.

Ben hunted Franny extensively on grouse and woodcock and her last fall had been her best.

“Last year, Franny and I had better numbers together than any of my other dogs. She handled at a more manageable range in the thick cover and provided better opportunities than the others. I know she had her strongest talent in the south on quail. I am glad that she was able to put grins on the faces people that she was able to hunt with, including mine.  She was an entertainer, a true bird dog and a great friend.  She will be missed.”
~ Ben McKean

Betsy and I agree. Franny was a special dog and we were very proud of her. And yes, she put a smile on my face, too, every time I hunted her.

RIP, Franny.

May, beloved Labrador retriever: May 2003 – January 2016

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What can one say when a beloved dog has died? Sometimes, bereft and numb, there is nothing at all to say. At other times, words tumble out as memories of a long, happy life together are recalled.

For what strikes me most is, simply and utterly, that May and I shared our lives. We spent every day together. My career allowed me to work at home and home is where May always lived. She was never a kennel dog.

May and I had much in common. We both loved the water and swimming. Both of us loved our ritual of daily walks and we loved to eat. And we both loved our work as part of Northwoods Bird Dogs.

May loved the grouse woods of northern Minnesota and occasionally out-birded our bird dogs.

May loved the grouse woods of northern Minnesota and occasionally out-birded our bird dogs.

May was a black Labrador retriever Jerry and I bought from Dennis and Janice Anderson, owners of BritishLabradors in Houlton, Wisconsin. We had been on their reservation list for a couple years, waiting for a female out of their premier sire, Conneywarren Jason. Jason had a classic blocky head, bright brown eyes, thick glossy coat and the temperament Anderson’s dogs are known for.

It was worth the wait. On that summer afternoon when we picked up our eight-week-old-puppy, it was love at first sight for me.

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May was athletic and always seemed to be in shape no matter the season. She was a strong runner with a long, smooth stride and could outpace—at least for a short distance—all our pointers and setters.

She was easily trained and in no time had the basic obedience commands down. She was an excellent retriever, too, although in a very ladylike manner. May never charged into the water, splashing anything within reach. Rather she gently waded in and then swam calmly to the dummy.

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May loved chew toys and the bigger the better. She snuffled in the pot where I stored the dog toys and proudly came up with one or even two rawhides or Nylabones. Her teeth were always shiny white.

No matter the age or breed, May got along with every dog.

May got along with all dogs—whether our dogs or dogs in for training and no matter the age, ability or sex. She lived in the house with many of our best including setters Blue Streak, Blue Silk and Blue Shaquille and pointers Dasher, Prancer and Vixen.

May traveled everywhere with Jerry and me. Whether it was vacations in southern Arizona or guiding responsibilities in northern Minnesota, May was with us. When we moved south during the winter months first to Oklahoma and Tennessee and now in Georgia, May always made the cut.

The best brace of the day is always the last one. On a Georgia quail plantation, Jerry and I ran May with a favorite pointer Basil (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013).

The best brace of the day is always the last one. On a Georgia quail plantation, Jerry and I ran May with a favorite pointer Basil (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013).

Because of our business, May spent her field time with bird dogs. Jerry and I braced her with all ages and abilities. A very proud day for me occurred during one of those training runs on a good trail in northern Minnesota. May out-birded 2X CH/4X RU-CH Houston’s Belle.

On a "gang run," May leads puppies Snickers, Grits and Axel (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012) into a pond.

On a “gang run,” May leads puppies Roy, Snickers and Axel (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012) into a pond.

May also had an important responsibility in “gang runs” of puppies when she and I headed into the pasture with a group of puppies for a training walk. The puppies followed May like she was the Pied Piper. When I sang to turn May, all puppies turned. When May stopped at ponds to drink and swim, all puppies stopped, too. The puppies easily learned running to the font, handling to voice commands, dealing with heat and thirst and navigating terrain of woods and fields.

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May had an extraordinary debut as a retriever on a duck hunt in 2014. Jerry took photos and wrote about it for a blog post on January 8, 2014.

May died on January 12. She suffered one seizure in October and then a series of them just before Christmas due, most likely, to a brain tumor. Our vet put prescribed Phenobarbital and we had some rough days carrying her in and out. She had slowly regained her former strength and personality as her body adjusted to the drug. But early on that Tuesday she had several small seizures in a row that more medications couldn’t help. Even though she could recognize her name and me, she wasn’t there and clearly it was time to let her go.

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I know May had a long, happy life but I miss her every single second. I just can’t shake the feeling that I should see her first thing every morning and last thing at night. And the world’s just not right without her.

CH Ridge Creek Cody: RIP

Ridge Creek Cody (CH Can’t Go Wrong x CH Houston’s Belle, 2008)

CH Ridge Creek Cody (CH Can’t Go Wrong x CH Houston’s Belle, 2008)

Jerry and I received horrific, heart-breaking news from North Dakota. During the morning of Saturday, August 9, Ridge Creek Cody and several other dogs drowned while on a conditioning run from a four-wheeler. Cody was owned by Larry Brutger of St. Cloud, Minnesota, and trained and handled by Shawn Kinkelaar on the horseback shooting dog circuit.

Nine other dogs perished including 6X CH/7X RU-CH Hot Topic, 2X CH Royal Rocks Mr. Thumper and Handsome Harry Hardcash.

Ridge Creek Cody was whelped in 2008 out of two grouse champions, Can’t Go Wrong x Houston’s Belle. Paul Hauge, Belle’s owner, and Jerry were the brains behind the breeding. Jerry had competed against Can’t Go Wrong on the grouse trial circuit and was extremely impressed with his fluid gait and extraordinary ability to find and point ruffed grouse. Too, Jerry campaigned Belle to all of her championships and knew her strengths.

We both remember the day Larry picked up Cody as an eight-week-old puppy. As little Cody romped around the kennel office, Larry talked of his plans for training and competition. That first year, Jerry took Cody to our camp in North Dakota and worked him on the vast prairies. Matt Eder further developed Cody but it was Shawn Kinkelaar who took on Cody and fully realized the dog’s potential.

Cody was a 3X champion and one-time runner-up champion.
2014:  Midwest Open Shooting Dog Championship
2012:  National Amateur Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship
2011:  Idaho Open Shooting Dog Championship
2011:  All American Open Shooting Dog Championship (Runner-up)

In addition, Cody was the Bill Conlin Setter Shooting Dog Derby Award Winner (2009-2010) and placed third in the United States Quail Shooting Dog Futurity, a rare accomplishment for a setter.

Among trainers, handlers, judges and fellow competitors, all agreed that Cody had supreme athleticism—a skill level on par with Michael Jordan or LeBron James.

Cody had become an extremely popular sire and his progeny were just starting to be recognized. Jerry and I bred Northwoods Chardonnay (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2009) to Cody in 2013. We’ve stayed in contact with most of the puppy buyers and trained five, even though the clients are near and far. It was a stellar litter.
•    Piper:  owned by Larry’s friend Chuck Brandes, St. Cloud
•    Willow:  Gregg Knapp, Wisconsin
•    Charlie:  Bill Owen, California
•    Zada:  Tom Condon, Montana
•    Stoeger :  Drew Milles, Minnesota
•    Mazie:  Scott Harness, Minnesota
•    Rae:  David Larson, Minnesota

That Cody was a rare champion with desire and ability is obvious but when he stayed with Larry, he was a cool, calm house dog.

What a tragic loss—not only to the Brutger’s and not only to the field trial world where a valiant competitor is respected but to the English setter world at large.

Our sympathies to Larry and his family. RIP Cody.

Blue Silk: 1999 – 2013

Blue Silk at 12 years of age. Photo by Chris Mathan.

If you had glimpsed Silk a month or so ago as she eagerly ran up the driveway from the kennel to the house, you would never have guessed she was 14 years old. Upon closer inspection, it still might not have occurred to you for little of her jet black fur had faded to gray. Only if you had looked into her eyes would you have noticed her years. They were full of wisdom, but also faded and opaque with age.

Jerry and I thought this might be a tough winter for Silk so we brought her along on our training trip to Georgia. Wouldn’t the warmth feel good on her old bones? And wouldn’t she love lounging on soft green grass?

Silk adapted well to our routine here and seemed healthy. So we weren’t at all prepared for her sudden illness and end.

One morning last week when we went to the kennel, Silk appeared dazed and disoriented—perhaps, we guessed, like she had just had a seizure of some kind. She recovered and seemed fine all day—even napped in the warm sunshine—until early evening when she had another. She recovered again but by the next morning, she had worsened with numerous, severe seizures. Jerry and I bathed her, wrapped her in a soft blanket and brought her to the vet.

Even though simple blood work and a physical exam ruled out many diseases, our experienced vet explained the most likely cause of Silk’s condition was a tumor of some kind that was growing quickly and pressing on her brain. It was clear that Silk’s long, happy, productive life was at an end. Jerry and I tearfully made the heart-breaking but humane decision for her.

Blue Silk and her sons, Northwoods Blue Ox, left, and Blue Shaquille.

Silk:  the extraordinary dog.
Throughout her life, Jerry and I co-owned Silk with Paul Hauge. Even though she lived at our kennel, Paul was always proud of her. Silk was out of our 4XCH/4XRU-CH Blue Streak and CH First Rate, a multiple champion in horseback field trials. From both she inherited uncommon stamina and a tenacious application but had her own sweet disposition and even temperament. Similar to her uncle, CH Blue Smoke, Silk had a very accurate nose which allowed her to pin birds with precision. She placed in several field trials, one time even besting her famous dam. In 2001, Silk won the Minnesota/Wisconsin Derby of the Year. For several years, she was a first-string member of our grouse-guiding team.

At just a few weeks of age, a female puppy from the CH Peace Dale Duke x Blue Silk litter already shows the sweet temperament of her dam.

Silk:  the dam.
Jerry and I bred Silk just three times. Her first litter was by Paul’s great dog, Houston, using frozen semen. We next chose a talented son of Houston, I’m Houston’s Image, and for her last litter, we went to the East Coast for CH Peace Dale Duke.

As evidenced by this list, Silk was an exceptional producer of both grouse dogs and field trial champions.

2004/Houston x Blue Silk
•    Blue Shaquille, one of our best grouse dogs ever
•    Sweet Dakota Blue, owned by Doug Wenell
•    Kobe, owned by Sam Gary, Sr.

2006/I’m Houston’s Image x Blue Silk
•    2XCH/RU-CH I’m Blue Gert, owned by Dave and Rochel Moore
•    CH Satin From Silk, owned by Greg and Diane Gress
•    Beloved Blue Ghost, owned by Randy and Mo O’Brien
•    Casey, owned by Jim DePolo
•    Blue Spirit & Boomer

2007/CH Peace Dale Duke x Blue Silk
•    Northwoods Blue Ox, our Oscar
•    Northwoods Blue Babe, formerly owned by Paul Hauge
•    Blue Peace Belle, owned by Steve Snyder
•    Zeke The Streak

Silk:  the pack leader.
Silk was our eldest dog and definitely the leader of the pack. No matter which dog was in the house with us—the Labrador May, strong Shaq, macho Oscar, Vixen the whippersnapper or even puppies in for rehab like Carly and Roy—Silk ruled. They shrank away from the water bucket if Silk wanted to drink. And with one significant look, all dogs would scatter so she could claim the big dog bed all to herself.

On Christmas morning 2012, Silk and May begin working on their huge chew toys from Santa.

Silk:  forever.
Blue Silk is gone but she will never be forgotten. Of the 19 English setters we have with us here for training, all but three are out of Silk. Her sweet disposition, spirit and talent live on through all her famous sons and daughters and their offspring, here and elsewhere.

CH Westfall’s Black Ice (2003 – 2012)

Jerry and I are heartbroken to pass along the news that 5XCH/7X RU-CH Westfall’s Black Ice died in December. Even though Ice was healthy when I saw him in June, he had recurring cancerous growths that finally overtook him.

Ice was always impressive in the field and racked up championship win after championship win. But we liked Ice perhaps even more because of his temperament. His beautiful brown eyes were intelligent and displayed a calmness and good disposition. Ice was handsome, too.  He was black-and-white with an evenly marked head. He was lightly ticked and had no body spots.

Ice was owned by Bill and Ryan Westfall of Liberty, Missouri. Jerry and I got to know Ice when we trained on their farm in Tennessee.

Ice is a multiple shooting dog champion with a pedigree to back it up. He is out of the very successful nick of Rock Acre Blackhawk x Elhew Katie Lee whose progeny included many field trial winners and even more outstanding wild bird dogs.

Even though Ice himself was bred sparingly during his lifetime, he had the pre-potency of his sire and produced an impressive list of field trial winners. His numbers are 34-24-213.

When we bred him to Northwoods Prancer in 2011, the entire litter of eight females was outstanding grouse dogs—natural, keen, easy to train, loved to retrieve and even liked the water. Plus, most importantly, all were well-adjusted with happy personalities.

Thankfully, we can carry on with some of Ice’s talented daughters, including our own Northwoods Vixen.

Northwoods Zeus (2010 – 2012)

Some dogs are special. Whatever it is about them—a look in their eyes, a personality trait, their talent in the field—they call us to them like a siren. And some dogs are even more rare; some become soul mates.

Zeus was that sort of dog for Joe.

Jerry and I first met Joe in November 2011. Even though Joe already owned a German short-haired pointer, he was in the market for a second bird dog and Frank LaNasa recommended us to him. It was a long visit. Jerry showed Zeus in the field and we all petted and played with Zeus in the kennel office.

Joe bought Zeus and immediately started calling him “Super Dog.” We began frequent and spirited communications. Here are the highlights.

December 27, 2011:  first email
Zeus settled in right away eating dinner last night. My wife gave him a blanket to lay on. I had visions of him eating it but he didn’t ruffle it at all when I checked on him this morning. She told me I could get rid of the German dog and get another pointer if they are all as nice as Zeus.

February 5, 2012:  first photo

September 23, 2012:  mid-season email
Hunted around projects this weekend. I had to pull him off the wood cock and switch to grouse. He did a water retrieve on a woodcock. I had more birds per hour than when I had a seasoned short hair running the same ground in good years. Heading to Montana for 10 days on October 6.

October 14, 2012:  Zeus in boots
Zeus ran well in Montana. Check out the very short clip of the best dog in the world. Looking for a second dog. I had to put down the shorthair late spring. Sad day.

(I love this video. It shows a very tentative Zeus in his new boots. In the background, Joe says, “Zeus, show us your boots!”)

October 24, 2012:  last email
I lost the dog of a lifetime on 10-23-12. He was the most special dog to me as if we were matched by God.

The rancher that watches the land for my friend came driving down to see who was parked at the end. He was looking out the window to see me walking down the field and the birds flushing by the passing truck. This caused him to veer to the left side of the road edge where Zeus was on point. The rancher did not notice my dog.

I placed my best dog, and a big chunk of my heart, on the high hill on the ranch. A cross made of barbed wire marks the spot. He was my 16th bird dog and he took my heart with him. Not sure if I can lend my heart to another bird dog again.

* * * * * * *

Joe, Jerry and I know you’ll never forget Zeus but, hopefully, the raw anguish and pain will eventually subside. And if it does, we hope you’ll remember another of your emails:

The problem with a good dog is you will want another one.


…Grieve not,
nor speak of me with tears,
but laugh and talk of me
as if I were beside you…
I loved you so —
‘twas Heaven here with you.

~ Isla Paschal Richardson



Northwoods Zeus photo at right above by Chris Mathan, The Sportsman’s Cabinet.


Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
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