In memorium

Dame Foxy!

June 5 2008 Foxy was taken to the Uppsala University animal hospital for a check of an old tumour that had started to grow again. She was 13 years and 10 months old, a very mature Dame, indeed! As we sadly knew in beforehand the vet's could not recommend any other action to help her than to put her to sleep right there, before the tumour would start to cause her considerable pain. They gave the last favour they were able to give the old Dame, in a very professional and respectful way. Should they read this we would like to thank them for their friendly considerateness!

5 june 2008
The last photo of Foxy, taken during the morning walk the last day of her life.
Still straight in the back and bright in the head and eye she evaluates her territory as usual. She even took the opportunity to find, point and flush her last woodcock this morning. We miss you so very much, dear Foxy!

1991 Birdie was one year old and already we understood that he was "something special", we just did not yet suspect how bad things could turn a few years later.
Now, many weeks later, when we have to a degree recovered from the sorrow of loosing her, we have started to think of the influence that our dogs have had on our life. Not only some limited influence, but how they have come to rule what we do and think and plan and spend money on, at times on almost daily bases.

Two dogs were particularly influential, Springer (Jaktfalkens Yen), born 1993 and Dame Foxy (Skedoms Foxy), born 1994.

Springer came into our house as a substitute for our first dog, a Kleiner Munsterlander that we named Birdie. He had a less favourable mentality and we had to put him away at an age of only 4 years (he did bite a child - twice).

Springer, a Working Springer Spaniel, proved to be the perfect replacement for the unfortunate Birdie. Springer came to us as an 8-week-old puppy and from that day there was no rest in the house.

There has not been another period in my life that has been as demanding as the year or two to follow.

The Kleiner Munsterlander Birdie in 1992 and the kitten Bagheera. Birdie was a cute dog at home, as long as he felt completely safe and secure. However a poor nerve stability ruined his life outside our home and he was not good for much else than as a study in dog mentality. There he gave us a very valuable lesson.
Being from pure-bred working lines Springer kept us busy day and night by constantly doing some work on her own account.

After a while we had learned to direct her work more and more to fulfil our own requirements, that is to get her to quest and find game on the field, among some other things.

Whatever we taught her she never looked back and one skill was added to another. When she was 6 months old she partici-pated in her first obedience competition and missed a third prize with one single point, if my memory do not fail me.

 sept. 1994
Springer in 1994. This was probably the first time, but not the last, she won a field trial. Here she was only 17 months old. Springer would have been the perfect medicine for me today. She never said No to work or play and kept a slow man like me in motion and physically fit, day by day.
The rest is history as far as her merits are concerned.

She won obedience competitions and field trials by turns. She was even shown in a dog show and got a second price, something that is almost unheard of for a Working Springer Spaniel (the show judge was later skinned alive by the KC and the show folks, for giving a working dog a show merit, but that's another story).

The rumour about her great performance was spread around the country.

In the delirious flush of Springer's never-ending success Foxy came into our life. She was another kettle of fish, so to say. Her first 10 days in our house consisted of a continuous protest about her separation from her litter. At one occasion we were prepared to put her on an airplane and send her back to the breeder. Well, after all we didn't and as days passed she settled more and more into our house and our pack.

When she was about 7 months old we participated in this meeting with her littermates. We met south of Stockholm on some huge grain fields together with a professional birddog trainer. He was there to give us an estimation of the capability of the litter and some advice for their future field training.
Springer in a pose for the camera 1998. She doesn't even remotely resemble a show spaniel but still she got a 2:nd prize in a dog show for show dogs. She never managed to get the needed 3 1:st prize in winners stake field trials needed to become a FTCH but she got a couple of field trial wins and I am pleased with that. Speaking for her, a working class hero, I am tempted to say that she could not have cared less :-))
When we had gathered at one end of a field he told us to let the pack loose for a while, in order to exhaust them of some of the surplus energy such youngsters use to have.

We did so and then we just stood there with our mouths open, speech-lessly watching the litter race to one side of the field, some 800 meters away, then turn up towards the wind and race over to the other side, equally far away but now also several hundred meters in front of us.

I do not know what the other folks thought but to me the sight of the racing youngsters gave me a new under-standing of the conception, "wide"-ranging!

Foxy was as best in the mountains. There her stubborn stamina helped her to find birds, even if she had to dig them up from below the ground. In a downwind search she had found these 3 grouse. Turning to point them placed the birds between her and me.
My auto was loaded with 3 shells and I managed to pick a bird with each one of them as Foxy flushed the birds towards me. So far my only triple, with most credit to Foxy, as it were.
None of the youngsters could be blamed for being "boot-lickers" and the following training during the years to come proved to be very tiresome and testing.

Still old and experienced and a bit macho-minded bird-doggers admired our Foxy a lot for stamina, speed, style and game finding ability and boldness in the vicinity of game.

That boldness and her hot temper was also a major hindrance for her to come into the order and relative calmness required to get a field trial reward, she always messed things up a bit, just enough to be disqualified in the trial.

However the judges who disqualified her also almost without exception expressed their admiration for such a full-blooded gundog, which was able to without any sign of fatigue, work one run after another and physically outperform partner after partner.

Finally, after some years she got everything right from the start to the delivery of the bird to hand and got a first prize in open stake. Hence, according to our rules, she was kicked up to the winners stake and her field trial career should actually have ended here.

The winners stake is about rough competition between dogs that has got a lot of experience from hunting and trialing. That was something we could not afford to give Foxy, even if she desperately needed it. However Maud continued to trial her now and then, mostly to give herself experience.

Foxy's breeder then gave us the hint to try to make Foxy into a show champion. To become a SCH in Sweden the dog must not only be good looking but must also have a 1:st prize in Open stake in field trials. That merit Foxy had already got. It took some shows for Maud to find out which judges like the working models of English setters and once that hindrance was cleared Foxy got the needed 3 certificates in a row, a Cacit and also different other show merits. She was now a Swedish SCH and it is forever, together with her field trial merit, written into the history books of the Swedish KC.

Foxy was good looking to the end. She was 13 years old when shown the last time, read more about it at another place on Torsti's corner here!

okt. 2007

The autumn 2007 was Foxy's last one in the mountains. Here, on the Norwegian side of the border, she is very happy when she proudly carries the last grouse that was shot for her point, rightfully by Maud. She was 13 years old and did not work full days anymore but still the mental drive to find birds was as strong as ever. Later that winter she had a final show on the huge partridge fields on the Gotland island. She ripped of a such a large piece of land so both 10 years younger dogs as well as hardened bird doggers turned pale. And she did this without being the least sore in her old body the next morning. Such a character was this invincible warrior!

Personally I will remember her wonderful strong mentality first of all. The same independence, boldness and courage that made her so testing to train for the field, also made her into a very pleasing, calm and secure dog socially. When she came into another pack of dogs she took the charge and was gently dominating, a peacekeeper indeed.

Foxy & Hugo
Among people, young or old, used to dogs or not used to dogs, she knew how to approach them so that they immediately felt secure and became more or less totally charmed by her.

Springer and Foxy had two things in common: They may not have been the most disciplined gundogs ever bred or trained but they were formidable hunters, second to none. Setting their own standards, and hence admired by those who really understand the sport of shooting over good dogs that never ever give up finding game. Springer and Foxy also had the same social ability that made them so popular outside the hunting grounds.

The rumour about these two positive characters spread among those who arrange commercial shoots and soon both of them could call themselves for a "Professional Gundog", if there ever was such a title. In these circles you will meet new kind of people with another style of living, thinking, dressing, shooting and acting and speaking. One key to this different and to a large degree, particularly for the common man, totally unknown world, could be a good dog like Springer or Foxy.

You may or may not like this "hidden" world but one thing you can not deny - working there will give your dog very valuable experience in abundance and that is worth a fortune for many less wealthy gundoggers, lacking own good hunting grounds in Sweden.

To summarize our life with dogs, and the direction our dogs gave to it, I could express it like this:
Our first dog Birdie and his hilarious mental characteristics, bordering to insanity, awakened our curiosity for dog mentality and the training of gundogs and hence prepared us unusually well for the following dogs to come.

Springer and Foxy demonstrated the highest standard of breeding and gundog work and lifted us to the next level in knowledge about gundogs: The Gundog instructors. All this was not done overnight but it took years and money to achieve this. Actually we have sacrificed nothing due to the dogs and the work with them. Everything we have got back from them has been value for money and then some more. Often a lot more, in the form of something that can't be valued in money...

Right now only Foxy's daughter Briz, also a "professional gundog", is keeping up our mood. This is the first time in her life when she has the full responsibility for the watch keeping of the house and she found her way to do it pretty soon. In time she will have company from a puppy but we don't know what kind of or when. Time will tell.

So Thank You Birdie, Thank You Springer and Thank You Foxy for enriching our lives to such a great degree!

Thank You for all the memories you created and the different views of life, as well as humbleness, you taught us.

Thank You for all new friends and "hidden worlds" you found for us and all the doors you opened!

And last but not least, Thank you for all the love you gave us!

15/6 2008
I took this photo of Fifty-Fifty when she visited us a few weeks after Foxy passed away. Now this great hunter is also history. We can have our dogs only a limited time and do the best we can out of it. Then only memories will remain. By time the memories will become brighter or fade away, depending of our relation to the dog. There has never been such a thing as a perfect dog in real life. However no one can deny us the right to secretly let the star in our memory shine brighter and brighter
as time passes by.

As I was writing this story the phone rang and to our sadness Foxy's sister Fifty-Fifty's mistress told us that Fifty also had passed away, precisely one month after Foxy.

She too had a tumour that had grown to the limit of being painful. Most likely Fifty was the last one of the Skedoms F-litters mentally very strong bitches to pass away.

It is very easy to describe Fifty. Whatever Foxy had Fifty had it too - plus approximately 10%. She was in other words even more testing to "tame" for the field work but of course it did not make her less pleasant socially. This mental strength, inherited from their mother Can-Can, of the F-litter bitches was rarely passed on to the next generation.

As far as I know only Foxy's daughter Aqui has got it. The reason could be that we did not select the Sir's very wisely. We had an inclination to try to soften the progeny a bit by using soft Sir's but today I am very hesitant to that strategy. Today we would breed strong to strong. Most likely it would not create even wilder progeny but more uniform and also a bit softer than their parents. Today we know the geneticist use to say that nature strives towards the average.

Well, it is too late to find out now. We can only be grateful that we learned to know this rather rare line of setters and had the opportunity to live with them and to love them.


© Text Torsti Mäkinen & photo Maud Matsson