Annual Meeting 2019

Each year, the Rocky Mountain Chapter of NAVHDA holds an annual meeting to select its board, establish test dates, set chapter dues and identify special training clinics for the coming year.
This year, we are holding our meeting at the Johnstown Scheels on Sunday Jan. 13 from 1:30 to 3:30 pm. After, we’ll gather at a nearby restaurant (TBD- suggestions welcome) for a social hour. Please save the date and look for a Signup Genius link shortly.

Each annual meeting is important for the Chapter, but this year more so than most because there will be significant turnover on the board of directors. While all positions are elected every year, the chapter needs to select a new slate of these key positions: president, vice president, training director, test secretary and treasurer

We are fortunate to have had core chapter members step forward to put their names up for nomination for three of these roles: president, vice president and training director. We are reaching out to you to help us fill two others: treasurer and test secretary. 

The chapter has never had a lot of money, so we work hard to be fiscally responsible. For treasurer, we’re looking for someone with experience managing books who will maintain a sharp eye on our accounts. The treasurer receives all incoming funds (including membership, test fees, and training clinic fees), pays all bills (our insurance, judge’s bills, permits, etc), maintains the chapter checking account and CD, and provides a treasurer’s report at all meetings. Scott Waggy has done a  superb job filling that role for us. Scott and his wife recently welcomed their first child and he is understandably looking to focus on his family this year. Scott has lined out a system for managing the accounts and said he will be happy to work with the new treasurer. This year we will be able to accept membership and clinic fees through our website, which will reduce the workload somewhat.

Sara Heesacker has been tremendous as our Test Secretary this year, taking over for Phil Goodwin seamlessly as we expanded to two three-day tests. With Craig McLaughlin stepping back after many years as Training Director, Sara has expressed interest in running for that role. Test Secretary is a critical and essential role for the chapter. It entails a fairly clear-cut set of pre-test prep and post-test reporting responsibilities and requires a detail-oriented person who hits deadlines. Sara has created a Test Secretary manual that lines out all responsibilities and timelines for this important position and has said she’s happy to work with a new secretary to make sure there’s a smooth transition.   

The strength of any organization is in the next generation, and we are very fortunate to have a deep pool to draw from. It has been a great privilege to lead the chapter this past four years, to watch it grow and see a new core of experienced handlers and leaders emerge. 

In addition to the board roles, the chapter is always in need of volunteers to help staff tests, training clinics and especially training days. 

If you and your dog have benefited from our chapter programs and would like to give back to the community which has helped you progress in your training program, please consider volunteering this year in preparation for stepping into a leadership role in 2020.Hope you’re still out there enjoying your hunting season, and we look forward to seeing you on Jan 13. 


Theo Stein 

Upcoming NAVHDA International and RMC Meetings

Hello fellow RMCers!

I hope you’re having an active hunting season. This is what we train for all year. Rocco and Isa got some excellent ground time up in North Dakota with Craig’s Scarecrow pack and his friend Keith. Birds were pretty thin and thanks to some horrible shooting, my dogs probably got more work than they could have…

Believe it or not, it’s time to start thinking about 2019 – so I’m sharing this set of Chapter motions, which will be discussed and voted on at the NAVHDA 50th Annual Meeting Jan 24-27 in Minneapolis. Each chapter has the opportunity to appoint a delegate and record our vote; Craig has graciously volunteered. (If you’re planning to go, please let me know.)

The board will be voting on these at our annual meeting ( TBD in Jan), and we’d really like to hear your thoughts on these motions.

Following is a summary of the motions, read the full text on the Resources tab:

Proposed changes to Testing rules

  1. Require a 4 in search for a Utility Prize 1. Field search would be weighted the same as duck search. Submitted by Potomac, Keystone, Missouri & Oklahoma chapters
  2. Hold a public drawing/lottery the evening before the Invitational for field brace mate selection. The technology or software of choice for this drawing can be that of the NAVHDA office. Invitational handlers and the public shall be allowed to attend. An evening drawing will eliminate the perceived notion of handlers training together prior to the event. (It is unclear from the language whether the draw would precede each day, or be conducted the night prior to the first run day.)
    Submitted by Potomac, Missouri & Chesapeake chapters


  1. NAVHDA should commission new training book of current and best training practices, inclusive of the use of new training tools and techniques, authored by NAVHDA member subject matter experts. (Potomac chapter)
  2. 4. NAVHDA should disclose a copy of the new insurance policy. Additionally, NAVHDA will put together a plan to allow chapters to opt out of NAVHDA’s policy or being required to pay premium, provided proof of insurance listing NAVHDA International as an additional insured is provided annually. (Wisconsin chapter)
  3. 5. Every NAVHDA member should receive a free NAVHDA decal each year on renewal. (Northern Michigan chapter)

Also – stay tuned for news about RMC’s annual meeting. We’re expecting a pretty major turnover on the board, so we really want to see you there so you can vote on your new Chapter leadership. Please think about whether you ( or someone you know) would make a good candidate for one of the board positions.

To learn more about board positions, please visit our website at

Thanks and safe hunting!

Theo Stein

2018 Fall Test Results

Hello Rocky Mountain NAVHDA,

I would like to thank everyone who helped make the 2018 Fall Test an incredible success. It was wonderful to see so many new members (and prospective members) coming out to learn about the inner workings of a NAVHDA test. I also want to extend a huge thank you to all the members who were at each and every day of the test making sure the weekend went off without a hitch. The judges complemented daily that we run our tests like a well oiled machine and it took the whole team to make such a statement possible.

Thank you to Allen Kidd, Andrew Leslie, David Shickle, Dustyn Turk, Jake Heesacker, Jimmy Warren, Joe Moles, Jon Roberts, John Harris, Kaytlyn and Makenzie Heesacker, Mark Lance, Mark Sheedlo, Mike Autrey, Mike Weinberg, Pete Palmer, Scott Waggy, Seth Gallagher, Sheryl Thies Dierenfield, Steve Roberts, Suzanne Flachier, Theo Stein, Tim Griffin, William Tierney.

Also thank you to our judges Robert T. Swezey, Brian Thoman, Jim Carpenter, Mark Whalen and our apprentice Charles Coulter for their time and expertise evaluating the dogs that were run over the three day weekend.

I would also like to congratulate all the chapter members who ran dogs in the test. It was nice to see so many handlers taking their dogs out to be evaluated.

Here are the results:

2018 Fall Test Results

Here are photos from the 3 test days:

Day 1 Natural Ability Test

Day 2 Natural Ability Test

Day 3 Utility Test

To order prints or framed prints of the NAVHDA Fall Test photos, contact photographer Mark Lance at or 720.258.5820. Prints are archival quality. Prints ship to your home in 3 days. There is a wide selection of frame styles and colors available. Framed prints include print, foam board backing, white matting, and non-glare glass. A nominal shipping charge is added to your total.

Mark is donating all proceeds from the sale of prints back to the chapter to help fund training and testing equipment.

Print Price List

4×6 $4.00
5×7 $6.00
8×10 $8.00
11×14 $20.00
16×20 $35.00
16×24 $35.00
20×24 $40.00
20×30 $55.00

Framed Prints

4×6 $52.00
5×7 $57.00
8×10 $69.00
11×14 $94.00
16×20 $187.00
16×24 $187.00
20×24 $205.00
20×30 $233.00

Brody on retrieve

Delle on point

Thank you!

Sara Heesacker

RMC NAVHDA Director of Testing

August 11 Training Day

RMC NAVHDA August 11th Training Day


Cobb Lake State Wildlife Area – Wellington, Colorado

Email contact:

Agenda: 7:30 – 12:00: ALL DOGS AND HANDLERS! (with afternoon for individual training)

Lulu and Brian working on steady at blind.

The day’s events will focus on obedience and skills to prepare for the winter waterfowl season – be prepared to get wet with your dog and to have fun! Most of the training exercises are going to be designed around developing your dogs into reliable water-fowling partners.

For the August training day, any bird work in the field or Utility duck searches will be conducted as independent training by individual members. These exercises will not be incorporated into the exercises that are set up in the formal training regimen for the day. There will be chukar and ducks available for purchase for individual work. There will be designated areas where handlers can work on these other areas. Please plan on talking with other handlers in attendance at the training day to find help planting birds, gunners for Utility field work, plant ducks from the kayak and work together as you set up your training plan for these exercises.

Natural Ability Dogs:

We will set up pheasant tracks for dogs to track the scent of a pheasant with a dead pheasant at the end of the track for the puppy to retrieve and deliver to the handler. Natural Ability Handlers can also work in the field with chukar in preparation for the Fall test and the chapter bumper bucket will be available to get puppies excited about going into the water.

STATIONS (work at will in small groups):

  1. Pheasant Tracks
  2. Chukar Field Work
  3. Bumpers at the Water

Utility Preparatory and Utility Dogs:

Older dogs and their owners will begin practicing more advanced and precision based water work. We will introduce heeling, remaining by the blind, steady by the blind and water retrieve drills. The group will begin with drills that help build desire and promote the confidence needed to initiate drive for pursing waterfowl. Along the way we will discuss the advantages of training for a reliable retrieve on land and water, ensuring steadiness under the distraction of gunfire, and reliable recall.

STATIONS (work at will in small groups):

  1. Heeling, Remain by Blind and Steady by Blind Sequences
  2. Duck Search
  3. Chukar Field Work

Preparing for the Day:

The weather in August will likely be very warm and brutally sunny! Be prepared with sun guard, bug spray, lunch etc. A source of shade for you and your dog, and folding chairs will help make the day comfortable. Don’t forget snacks and plenty of water for both of you!

Bring plenty of water for your dog, along with whatever training gear you use. You’ll need a leash, check cord, e-collar, and whistle. The Chapter has some equipment available like retrieving bumpers, training table, blinds and decoys, heeling stakes, duck wingers, and bird launchers and bird bags. A crate or stake-out is recommended to keep your dog quiet and comfortable while waiting its turn in the field.

If you are planning on shooting in the field remember a 2018-2019 small game license is required!!!

Please comment with your bird order. Include quantity of Chukar, Ducks and any desire of Use of Pheasant.  You must RSVP and order birds (ducks, chukar or pheasant) you will need by Thurday, August 9th! 

We have a limited number of ducks available so priority will go to those testing Utility in the August test. After that we will prioritize off of who signs up for ducks first on the signup.

Also, all of the pheasants we currently have we are holding for the test in August. If we can find a few live pheasants for pheasant tracks we will do the $5 pheasant tracks. If we cannot acquire live pheasants for the track we will have a few dead pheasants for drags available and there will be no charge for use of pheasant. 

Prices are as follows (Check payable to Black Hollow Gamebirds or Cash):

  • Chukar: $12
  • Use of Pheasant for Track: $5
  • Duck: $16

If you plan to purchase birds at the training day, PLEASE REMEMBER A BIRD BAG OR CRATE to store your birds! We will be handing out birds at check in before the training day starts. From that point on, the birds are your responsibility! Use of Pheasant will be shared amongst all members paying for the pheasant track on the training day.

If you have questions regarding the training day, please contact one of the following:

  • General Questions to
  • Training Director, Craig McLaughlin
  • Bird Steward, Jake Heesacker

Date: 08/11/2018 (Sat.)Time: 7:30am – 3:00pm MDTLocation: COBB LAKE UNIT: From I-25 and HWY 14 exit, go 5 miles north on east service road to CR56- then 1.4 miles east.


June 2018 Tests

Three days of tests, 20 NA dogs and 6 UT dogs were tested, thanks to Sara Heesacker for her organizational genius, Theo Stein for managing the weekend, Tracey Nelson, Brian Thoman, and Craig McLaughlin for giving their weekend to judge the tests, and all of the other volunteers for making this test so smooth.

The results of the test are here:

2018 Spring Test Results

A fantastic set of photos by Mark Lance are here:


Sarah Anderson took beautiful photos on Sunday, and shares them below:

“First of all, it was an absolute pleasure being able to come shoot these photos with everyone! You all were so great to work with, and I learned so much more about these awesome hunting dogs. I hope to see you all again next time!

Now, here are some instructions that will help you navigate my site and download the photos.They are sized for internet use, so if you would like a high resolution copy of any of them for printing purposes, please email me directly and I can absolutely get those to you! Also, anyone can view, download, and share these to their heart’s content; I just ask that when you post them, you credit Sarah Grace Imagery by name or by linking my social media, and refrain from editing or altering the photos. The gallery will also expire on July 31st, 2018, so be sure to download your favorites right way! Finally, if you have any questions, please let me know!

Sarah Grace Imagery

To help keep these photos and my site safe and secure for you, in order to view and download the photos, you’ll be asked to put in an email address and the PIN below.


Thanks again!”

In the meantime, check out the photos of the May training day in Our Dogs.

February 3 News!


Hard to believe we’re about to kick off our 2018 training season, but our first training day is just 3 weeks away.  There have been several developments since our annual meeting Jan. 6, including new Spring Test dates, new information on our Feb training day and info about a training clinic run by a nationally renowned trainer. So please read all the way through this email and let me know if you have any questions.

  • Membership dues are now due. We held the line at $40 for an individual or family – please remit your dues prior to March 31. Due to insurance requirements, you need to be paid up before you participate in the Feb or March training days. The membership form is here. Note that Scott Waggy is our new treasurer. His address is on the form and he’s waiting to hear from you!
  • Due to a scheduling conflict, our Spring Test dates have been changed to June 1, 2 and 3. Another group beat us to CPW for a permit for our traditional dates. Testing Director Sara Heesacker reports the Spring Test is already almost full, so if you plan on testing in June, get your application in ASAP.
  • As a result, our June training day will be pushed 2 weeks to June 16.
  • Our first training day is Feb. 24, indoors at the Spicer Arena in Eaton. The cost will be $20, and the focus will be on obedience – which is the foundation of any good hunting dog. Look for a Signup Genius invite in your email inbox soon. We will start early, work through the morning, break for lunch, and then have time for you to continue training in the afternoon. The Board will also be discussing several items during lunch.
  • At the Feb. training day, Alan Davison, the owner of Dogs Unlimited, veteran bird hunter, field trialer, and champion gun dog owner, will be coming by before lunch with a selection of gear that you may need to buy if you don’t have it already. If you’re not familiar with Dogs Unlimited, they are a major national gun dog supply online retailer located right here in Hudson. Alan is great – he’s happy to give advice about different brands of gear he carries and you can even pop in and shop if you call ahead. It’s a great resource.
  • For those of you who attended our annual meeting, don’t forget to use the $15 gift certificate in your Dogs Unlimited catalog before Feb 15. If you want to save on shipping costs, you can place an order online, then email Alan with your order number and he will bring your goods to Spicer Arena on Feb 24. You must email him though.
  • Exciting news: Testing Director Brian Thoman is in contact with Clyde Vetter, the top NAVHDA GSP breeder and trainer, about coming to Colorado to host a training clinic sometime this spring. If you follow NAVHDA, you probably have heard about Clyde or Sharp Shooter’s Kennel. Clyde is not cheap – and so the fee will likely be around $200, with a max of 30 participants. But everyone who has been to one of Clyde’s clinics says they’re worth every penny. UT handlers especially – if your goal is a Prize I, you want to be there. Look for a Signup Genius invite soon.
  • We may also offer a one-day force-fetch clinic again with Tom Swezey of Indian Brook Kennel in Wellington. Tom is a top-flight trainer and a tremendous friend of the chapter. The dozen folks who participated last year found it to be super helpful. Email me here if you’re interested.

    Housekeeping items:

  • Our insurance is provided through NAVHDA International, and that means that we need you to be members in good standing of NAVHDA as well. Please update your NAVHDA membership, if you haven’t already. You can complete a quick online transaction here. (This is a longstanding requirement, but we’re going to enforce it this year.)
  • On a related note, from now on you will need to sign a waiver each and every time you train with us. I know, it’s going to be a pain at first, but NAVHDA requires it this year. So plan on checking in at the table by the trailer right away when you show up for training. And don’t forget to slap on a name tag too!
  • If you’re going to be shooting birds on Cobb Lake or Banner Lake SWA this year, remember you need a valid CPW small game hunting license. They go on sale for the coming year in March on-line or at any number of retailers.
  • New handlers: Please make sure you have the following gear: check cord, leash, your own bird bag, a crate or stake to secure your dog in the parking lot. It’s also important to have a first aid kit for your dog.

That’s a long list, so I’ll tie it off here.

As always, we thank you for your membership in RMC NAVHDA. Your participation in our community of handlers makes us strong.


Theo Stein
Dogs with Altitude


2018 NAVHDA International Meeting Update

Hello RMC members

Hunting season is now in full swing and I hope you and your hunting partner are out there working on the skills we practiced during our training days.

I wanted to make sure you were aware of two petitions that have been accepted for discussion and a vote at the NAVHDA International annual meeting, Jan 18-21 in Las Vegas.

The first calls for the recognition of the French Brittany ( or Epagnuel Francais) as a registered NAVHDA breed separate and distinct from the American Brittany. This petition has been advanced by the Minnesota Chapter – a lengthy powerpoint and a written rationale explaining the petition are posted here. There’s some fascinating historical information in these documents – I encourage you to read them.

The second calls for the establishment of a “Far West Invitational“, to be held in addition to the annual Invitational in the Midwest. Advanced by the Central Oregon Chapter, this would be a smaller event than the big show.

Your board will be voting on these petitions and authorizing our delegate to the meeting, Brian Thoman, to register the vote on behalf of the chapter. But we want to hear from you first.

Please submit your comments here by Thanksgiving so the Board has time to convene and vote.

And speaking of the Board convening, we’re currently looking to build a program for the RMC annual meeting that will include a presentation by a veterinarian about caring for your hunting dog and common injuries you may see in the field, and a social ( not sure if it will be catered or pot luck).

If you’d like to help organize, please contact our vice president Dan Sprague.


Theo Stein
RMC President

RMC Spring Test – Call for Volunteers

The Rocky Mountain Chapter is known around NAVHDA for putting on smooth tests. For me, one of the really gratifying things about helping to run our chapter is watching how our members turn out in force and put on a great test for handlers.

Well, it’s that time again. Our Spring Test is next weekend, May 20 and 21and we’re sending out the call for test volunteers.

Why volunteer?

  • If you’ve tested with us, you’ll be paying it forward for folks who ran your test day.
  • If you’re a new handler, watching a test from close up is a great opportunity to watch other dogs and other handlers, and to pick up tips and tactics for your own test day.
  • And you will develop relationships with other chapter members who can help you progress in your own training program.

We will be needing volunteers to help us set up test stations, prepare and ferry birds, make sure handlers are ready to go and generally keep one step ahead of the judges so the day progresses smoothly. We also need folks to help us unload the trailer in the AM, police the parking lot, field questions from handlers and help us pack up at days’ end.

If you can help next weekend, please send me an email here. Let me know if you’ve helped with tests before and what you’ve got experience doing. If this is your first time – don’t worry! The tasks are fairly simple and many hands make light work!

Thanks in advance for helping us run another great test!

Theo Stein

2015 Fun hunt

Save the date!

Join us on April 18, when we head to Colorado Clays in Brighton for a fun afternoon of wing shooting. If you’ve never been to Colorado Clays, you owe it to yourself to come test your skills on their gorgeous course, which is located in a mature cottonwood grove along a prairie creek. Crossing shots, tower shots, shots from a platform – and those dastardly rabbits!

Take the Bromley Lane exit from I-76 and go 6 miles east to Lanewood Street.
Brats, Burgers and prizes after the shoot!
Win Cabela’s gift cards and Rounds of clays!

Where: Colorado Clays (13600 Lanewood St, Brighton Colorado 80603)
When: Saturday April 18th at 1:30pm to 5:00pm
Cost: $60.00 per shooter

For more information please check out the Clinics/Seminars/Fun Hunts page.

Sadie’s Story

9 - Nap Time Before the Blind RetrieveBy Dave Shickle, RMC NAVHDA Vice President

My journey with VC Amber Vom Felsigen-Berg began a little over eight and a half years ago when I fell in love with a shaggy, little, bright-eyed pup I later named Sadie. She was the last pup to be taken in her litter, she was my first hunting dog, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Yet, despite all my training and handling mistakes, she became a fantastic hunting dog with incredible drive and desire. But, more importantly, a bond developed between the two of us that is like nothing I have ever known. She is truly my canine soul mate. But, how I ended up with this particular dog and all the wonderful experiences we’ve shared and frustrations we have endured over the years are stories for another day.

This story begins the summer of 2012, when Sadie and I managed to get enough things right to earn a NAVHDA UT Prize I and a trip to the 2013 NAVHDA Invitational. Unfortunately, the trip to the Invitational was jeopardized when I noticed that Sadie was increasingly sore (and sometimes limping) at the end of the day during the following hunting season.

I took her to my vet and his diagnosis was arthritis. He prescribed pain and anti-inflammatory meds, but the problems persisted. I took her to a canine chiropractor in the hope that he could help. His diagnosis was also arthritis. Two more months of acupuncture, injections, and supplements passed with no significant improvement. Members of my NAVHDA Chapter kept asking me if I was going to take her to the Invitational. I figured that this would probably be her one and only chance because of her age, and I wanted to take her. But, I wasn’t sure she could complete the necessary training or the test. I finally signed her up, mostly as a contingency, figuring I could always withdraw if it looked like she would not up to it physically.

I had her hips x-rayed and those compared to ones that were taken when she was two years old. There was very little change and nothing to indicate that significant arthritic issues were causing her symptoms. My vet referred me to a colleague whose diagnosis was a possible chronic muscle tear. He put her on a continuous regime of medications that finally seemed to help. The limping stopped, and we were able to train hard throughout the summer with no apparent after affects. (She even earned another UT Prize I, this time with a perfect score of 204.)

Our training for the Invitational went well throughout most of the summer, and I was optimistic. But, right before the test, her performance became inconsistent. I feared we had peaked too early or over-trained, and my optimism gradually turned to skepticism.  When we left for the Invitational, I suspected our chances of passing were probably 50/50 at best.

At the Invitational, we drew the very first brace in the field work. I was prepared for the worse but, while her performance was not perfect, it was not bad either. As we left the field, one of the gunners commented that it had been a pleasure to work behind my dog.  I was cautiously optimistic that we had gotten through the first major hurdle and might still have a chance depending upon what the judges saw. I put Sadie in her kennel in the back of my truck and drove to the location for the Heeling and Double Mark tests.

When we arrived, there was a queue and a wait. After a while, I got Sadie out of her kennel for a potty break. To my alarm, she was limping and would not put weight on her right rear leg. Our nemesis from the spring was back with a vengeance and my heart sunk. Still thinking that the problem was arthritis, I decided to walk her to see if she would loosen up. After about twenty minutes (or so) of slow walking, she started putting weight on her leg again. By the time we were called, the limp was barely noticeable and she went on to complete both the Heeling and Double Mark tests. Again, while she was not perfect, I thought she did okay. Once more, I felt like we might still have a chance. I put her back into her kennel and proceeded to the location for the Blind Retrieve and Honoring at the Blind.

When we arrived at the last location, there was yet another queue and another wait. My first thought was to use the same tactic and keep her loose by slowly walking her. But, we kept getting pushed further and further down in the running order. It became apparent that we could not keep walking, so we just sat down on the tail gate of my truck and waited – and waited.  Sadie decided to take a nap in my arms (apparently, she wasn’t feeling the same pucker factor that I was).

When we were finally called for the tests, we had been waiting for nearly four hours. Sadie had been in the first brace of the morning in the field test, and now she one of the last dogs to do the Honoring at the Blind and the Blind Retrieve.  She was cold, stiff, and sore as she limped up the hill from the truck; I really did not know if she would be able to swim across the lake and back again. To my surprise, there were three dogs and their handlers waiting at stations ahead of us at the top of the hill not counting the one testing, which meant still more waiting. As we progressed through these last wait stations, I could tell that it bothered Sadie to sit. So, whenever we stopped walking, we just stood.

At the final station before proceeding down the hill to commence the tests, I knelt down and told her that if she got into the water and it hurt too much, she could just come on back and I would not send her again. And, I meant it. I was fully prepared to pull her from the test even though she had come so far. I know that dogs cannot talk, but they do communicate (or at least mine does), and I’m pretty sure that she understood me. She went on to complete those final two tests flawlessly (though I think the judges were somewhat surprised by her signature barking all the way across the lake on the blind retrieve).

Sadie was the oldest dog at the 2013 Invitational, and I knew then that she would not be coming back regardless of the outcome even though she had already re-qualified. Regardless of whether she passed or failed, I was proud of her. Though in obviously pain, she had obeyed my every command and completed all the NAVHDA Invitational tests. I was anticipating the Judge to step though her scores in each of the tests but, to my surprise, he simply said her score was “200 and a pass.” It was a good thing that I was holding on to a chair because my knees nearly buckled, and it was all I could do not to cry. I was so very proud of her. While she may not have been perfect, she was good enough to earn a perfect score on that day, and she did it on heart and guts.

As Paul Harvey used to say: “And now for the rest of the story.”  When we returned home, Sadie continued to limp and favor her right rear leg. An increase in her meds dosage didn’t help. Then, about a week or so after we returned home, I was reading an article in Versatile Hunting Dog magazine on ACL (CCL) injuries. The symptoms were exactly the same as Sadie’s. I immediately called my vet and told him I need to know for sure whether this was arthritis or some kind of soft tissue injury. He examined her again and took more x-rays of her hips and back. Both looked great for a dog of her age. He could not figure it out, so he referred me to an orthopedic specialist and surgeon. The surgeon’s diagnosis was a partially torn ACL.

The months since then have been an emotional roller coaster with two second opinions, scheduled then canceled surgical appointments, weeks of physical therapy, and a whole lot of soul searching. During this time, I reached out to the NAVHDA family for advice and for their experiences with this type of injury and surgery. I received many responses, some from individuals that I have never actually met other than electronically. I cannot describe how heartwarming it was to have people who I have never laid eyes on express a genuine concern about the well-being of member of my family – in this case, my canine soul mate. This was when I came to realize what the term “NAVHDA family” really means; it’s not just a cliché.

While I believe that surgery is inevitable, I have decided to delay it until Sadie either completely tears her ACL or this hunting season ends, whichever comes first. There are a couple of reasons for that decision that I won’t go into except to say that, after weighing all the factors, I firmly believe that this is what Sadie wants. We’ll continue to hunt together this season as long as she is able. If we can make it to February, she will hopefully have nine months to recuperate before the next hunting season without having to worry about any training. After all, she has proven her mettle; she is a VERSATILE CHAMPION!