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Dear Manny,

You are so much better than I let you be at your first NAVHDA Natural Ability test. So many distractions that you hadn’t been prepared for, a driving, drenching, bone-chilling rain, and  stressed owner who let it show. I’m sorry.

We'll do better next time, Manny

You did your best, when you could figure out what I wanted from you. But when your pent-up energy and my tension met, they created a perfect storm on the field. Judges called it “willful mutilation of a game bird as to be unfit for the table” and we were out. They judges did their best to help you – and me – do things right after that, but we weren’t in the running for any kind of prize after you reduced that chukar to its component parts.

Yes, it is a test of your genetics, designed to find out if your family tree is fruitful. But more training from me would have helped bring out your instincts, or at least insulate you from the distractions. You shone in so many areas: searched in that high-energy balls-out way that shows so much joy, pointed like a champ in that downpour, tracked a pheasant 50 yards then pointed it. But one slip and we were off the “A” list – for that day.

I could have been a better cheerleader when you hesitated at water’s edge, maybe focused you more when that woman came along the dike, and when the gallery looked so inviting. But you eventually swam the requisite two times. Again, the judges did their best to help you succeed, and to relax when they checked your eyes, teeth, and coat. Even when one judge had to jog back to the gallery to catch us and count your testes, you were calm.

If it’s any consolation, you weren’t alone that stormy day. Your packmates were also troubled by the pelting rain, cold, and crowd. Commiseration was thick as we shivered under the tents, dogs and humans alike wishing we could have a mulligan on this dreary day.

It’s true that on any given day any dog can pass – or fail – this test. And I know you will pass next time. I’ve learned what needs work (obedience, especially to “here”) and promise I will help you become a great versatile dog with the test scores to prove it. Thanks for trying so hard.

Your hunting partner,

Scott

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