In memorium


The Professional Hunter


Photo Torsti Mäkinen

Our dear Briz passed very unexpectedly away at the end of October.
She had an udder tumour removed in the early summer but as it was analysed as a benign tumour we were far from prepared for the worst scenario.

However, at the beginning of October we started to suspect that she was not really well. She did not eat much and lost weight. Later we also noticed that her breathing had become short and faster.

X-rays at the Uppsala veterinary hospital did not give a really clear view of the situation, although lung cancer could not be excluded. As a last catch at a straw she was treated at home for pneumonia for a week. For a day or two she got a little better and ate some and a spark of hope was lit within us. However, a new check-up at the hospital extinguished all hope and she was put to sleep to relieve her from her pain. Briz came to be 9,5 years old. She is sadly missed.

Briz came from our own breeding, our late Foxy's second litter. We had mated Foxy with a Norwegian Sir, a very successful field trial dog, but in mentality a lot softer than Foxy. This combination of entirely opposite characters created the puppy that came to be a very interesting, more than 9 years long experience for us. The reason why we chose her from the litter, was that in appearance she was most like Foxy of all the bitch puppies.

Most of the other puppies in the litter did rather well from the start and we had no big practical problems with Briz either, but we noticed that she did not really think and act as you may expect from the average English setter puppy. One of the first things we noticed was that she was notorious in neglecting the food we offered her but she wanted to steal the food from Foxy's and Springer's food bowls. In those days we fed the dogs in the basement of the house. We took the dogs down there, gave them their private food bowls and had trained them to eat only from their own bowl. The process of feeding them was hence fast and controlled and only took a few minutes. I thought that it would be easy to train Briz to do this also but she could not concentrate on her own bowl. She kept on circling around Springer and her mother. Springer gave her a credible growl but her mother Foxy was too kind to do it and here I took Briz by the neck and lifted her back to her own bowl. I did not really at this point in time realise how very soft Briz was in some situations. So already here I established her into a strained relation to food, which came to follow her during all her life.


Briz was also pretty teasing to Springer and neglected the warnings she was given. As Springer finally lost her patience she corrected Briz in a rather severe way and a kind of distrust built up between them. It did not show that much in everyday life, except in the car when they had to be close together and tension between them was created and felt, even though they never fought in the car. Briz started to suffer from a light version of a rather rare psychological disease that I call "Spaniel phobia". Keep in mind the explosive spontaneous activity a working springer spaniel can start. It can indeed easily frighten man, horses and of course other dogs with more dignity than spaniels possesses.

I started to understand that if there was one thing that Briz hated and wanted to avoid by all means it was social confrontation. She liked dogs that did not challenge or test her in any way, dogs with a low social competition drive like other setters and pointers of normal working stock. Miss Sophie, the spaniel puppy that replaced Springer, boosted this phobia. This was one of many reasons why I had to give Sophie a new home when she was 1 year old in 2005.

The phobia had become so strong that even all the way to her last days she hesitated to jump into my car, where the entire inescapable close up contact with spaniels had taken place. Once in the car she however saw that there were no more spaniels and relaxed.

When she was around 2 years old we had her mentality tested the normal Swedish way for duty dogs. The test leaders had to discuss "the Briz case" for nearly an hour after the test was completed. With most normal dogs they build the conception of the dog already during the test and can give a comprehensive judgement as soon the test is finished. In Briz case the test leaders finally agreed that it must have been courage that powered Briz to stand the strain of the test without breaking down mentally and without becoming more than slightly nervous. She just sat down in the different situations and expected Maud, who went with her, to take care of the "bull-shit" (Briz own apprehension!) that the test leaders presented to her. You could say that the stimuli that normally will in one way or another, ignite 99,9% of the dogs to be tested, did not awaken any particular reaction in Briz.


Despite of being a "small" dog in mentality Briz courage made her into a bold and precise flusher of the birds and it was easy to shoot over her. Even if it took a long time for her to understand and accept the rules of the game, it was worth waiting for. As a meat producer she was better than her mother Foxy, who on the other hand had other, for a British birddog more noble qualities.

However, this test finally confirmed that she was a pretty "different kettle of fish", as they say in Scotland, and gave an explanation to why she did not respond to normal training methods. For example she is our first dog that we have failed to train to any small award in obedience competitions. She found obedience training as well as any other social interaction with demands utterly boring. You could for ex. after training her to fetch, throw one or two dummies or cold birds for her at any given instance and that was as much of play with demands she could enjoy. The third dummy was just trivial to her. When doing the real thing later in life, retrieving during actual shooting and hunting she was very keen to fetch and did even fetch ducks from water, at least if the water was not too cold.

So all in all, with the rather poor accuracy Briz complicated mentality allows us to describe her in a summary; Briz was a dog with a reasonable amount of courage on one hand - splendid! On the other hand she for some reason avoided using it in social and competitive situations. This made her both complicated and interesting. Finally; she was also splendid as a family member although it took a long time for her to become house clean and she did challenge a few forbidden things in the house, like stealing food in the kitchen, for an unusually long time. For many years she kind of kept a distinct distance to us and the other dogs and she did not become really deeply affectionate to us until later when her mother Foxy died and she came to be the only dog in the house.


Now, from my initial description you may think that Briz was an unhappy and reserved dog - she was not! I found this old New Years greeting card that I made many years ago and it shows perfectly well how Briz was when she had no social duties. Also check out the slide show in "The cool day" in my corner. And such was her situation most days since we live on the countryside with the freedom it gives us to run the dogs on the fields around the year. Her secret might have been the fact that she was a gundog only and nothing else. She had most likely inherited most of her mentality from her father that was an outstanding gundog that had won almost every field trial award that can be won in Norway, but that gave us the impression of being socially very soft and even a bit timid, when we visited him a couple of times with Briz mother Foxy. Mix that mentality with Foxy's bold and courageous and straightforward mentality and there you have a combination that can give "interesting" progeny, indeed. Today we understand that it had been better to combine tough with tough but it is too late to regret any such mistakes now.

One of Briz peculiarities was that she was very communicative; she talked a lot and had opinions about most things, at home as well as on the field. When she was rather young, maybe around 12 months old, her tendency to try to have an influence on us started to attract me a lot and made me curious about how far she would go. I had already learned to "listen" to both Springer's and Briz mother Foxy's rather modest wishes and to obey them to my and their delight. The difference here was that Springer's and Foxy's communication most of the time had a practical purpose, like "lets play or work" or "lets go down to the sea to watch the ducks and the swallows that hunt insects over the surface of the sea". This could be Briz purpose also but quite often it was obvious that she communicated just to check that she was seen, appreciated and loved.

Briz also awoke some kind of nursing instinct in me, she was deep inside socially a very small and poor dog but tried hard her best to make a decent life of ease despite of that disablement.

I let her more or less wrap me around her little finger and she responded by learning to communicate even more vividly. My new attitude led me to new discoveries about her. I learned that she needed confirmation of her capability all the time and I started to give it to her all the time. I learned that many of her actions, like barking at "ghosts" (sometimes "real ghosts" like foxes and badgers) at night around our house was mostly a behaviour with the purpose of strengthening her self-confidence and self-esteem. She had no genetically inherited aggressivity but had learned to cure here psychological problems that way, not very unusual for "small" dogs. When she came back from her "ghost-busting" raids she looked very determined and successful.

2 ökl mountaintrial, august 2008. Judge Peter Bahlke. Foto Tommy Atterbrand

When Briz finally began to function as a gundog she became highly appreciated, even by field trial judges from down in Europe; like this gentleman from Holland. This happened late in her life and some folks were surprised that such an old dog can maintain her speed and style. The endurance of hers was inherited from her mothers breeding lines; it was a hallmark of the Skedoms setters.

At some point in time, Briz could have been 3 - 4 years old, she broke a leg. We did not see it happen but it was clearly a result of her violent ravaging in forest terrain. Fortunately it was a rather clean cut and even though the healing took a long time there were no complications. Another good thing was that I did not work that winter but was able to be home nursing Briz. I really enjoyed that almost 6 months long period. Briz showed a new side of unexpected sagacity and patience. I guess she also enjoyed having me with her all the time, and our relation deepened as I started to respect and admire her courage and gentleness. I had her with me almost everywhere and we travelled to many places in my old pick-up truck, where she had her bed behind the drivers seat. When I look back to that period I consider it to be an era of learning humbleness and respect. Her involuntary immobility must have been painstaking at times but she handled it in a splendid way. I cannot say that I had the same patience after my own heart operation.


After Briz had been shown and approved at field trials the invitations to commercial shoots started to drop in. First to small shoots and later, when the rumour spread, into the more expensive estates. She developed into a very efficient and reliable game finder and when the guns happened to equal her high standard, clouds of feathers like here were far from uncommon.

Earlier I mentioned that Briz did not respond to ordinary field training methods. Maud worked very hard with her, attended many field-training classes of different types but with little progress. Briz could not hold a point in a reliable way even though the ranging, speed and style and nose were there. I do not bother to bore you by telling about all the methods we tried to steady her on point, the list telling what we did not try would be much shorter. Later, when we had the answer book in our hands we were able to conclude that she simply had to do her thing until she considered it done and that took the first 5 - 6 years of her life. Had we let her do her thing without disrupting her all the time she might have been finished much earlier.

So when Briz was done with her thing she started to handle and hold the birds in a productive way. Her hunting skill then developed all the way to the last weeks of her life. At some point I saw that she was worthy the title PH = Professional Hunter. Find, point and if needed work with the birds to hold them, flush, be steady to fall and then fetch and forget that bird and find the next one. She was now clean and efficient, a no-fuss gundog.

The most important lesson we learned from Briz was this: Do not try to build the reality out of your expectations. It is much better to wait and find out thoroughly about the reality and then base your expectations on the actual facts that time and experience has in due time presented to you.

october 2009

Briz was also a good blood-tracker. Even after a good heart shot a deer can run some distance at full speed and most often they run into dense cover. Particularly in the evening darkness they can be very difficult or impossible to find without a tracking dog. Briz found many deer and even a couple of foxes. This deer was at the end of her last blood track, only little more than a month ago. At this point we had started to suspect that there was something wrong with her, but little did we understand about the graveness.

october 2009

Only a few weeks before she died we had the last outing with her. As with Foxy Maud had the honour to shoot Briz last birds. I had chosen a camera and now we are happy to have all the pictures I took from the last hunting day with the one and only true PH we have had.

It is with tears in my eyes that I insert this picture I took in 2006 a beautiful summer day. Now they are together again. The cool, calm mother Foxy and the spontaneous and always alert daughter Briz. This picture really emphasizes the difference in their true nature. We miss them immensely and we are so happy to have had the honour to live with them and learn from them. Thank you girls, we love you!

© Text Torsti Mäkinen & photo Maud Matsson & Torsti Mäkinen