By Emery Mersich

In 2020 the field committee was newly formed with several enthusiastic and experienced dog handlers, including Denise Doll-Kiefer, Char Traub, Roland Blanding III, Kata Miller-Massányi, Belinda DeLaby, and me. Our goal had been to hold at least one such training day in 2020 and then yearly to hold a few training opportunities in different areas of the country each year. We hadn’t expected Covid-19 to have different plans for all of us.

Nevertheless the field committee set it’s collective mind to somehow hold a field training day in 2020. Several club members had received Prize 1’s with their dogs during 2019 in the NAVHDA Utility Test, which meant they qualified for the 2020 NAVHDA Invitational to be held in Iowa. NAVHDA decided to postpone their Invitational until 2021 due to Covid, and those of us on the field committee who had qualified realized this provided us a wonderful opportunity to visit the location of the Invitational and introduce our dogs to the various testing areas. Normally handlers and dogs are not permitted to train at the Invitational test location in the few months before the test. Not only did we get this opportunity, but we were also able to rent the location of the field test for the day, since NAVHDA had canceled their own use of the private hunting preserve. The decision was made, the planning went into motion, which is when we made the announcement on the club Facebook group.

Attendance wasn’t astounding, since the decision to hold the training day came late and several members couldn’t attend due to Covid. Iowa was one of the states with a high percentage of infected residents, but it was great practice for organizing similar events in the future. Denise drove to Iowa from Minnesota, Cindy Emmett drove up from Mississippi, Alyssa Jade Perkins came from Illinois and I drove from New Jersey. We connected with fellow Wirehaired Vizsla owner, Conny Hansen, who lives nearby in Iowa and is a member of the NAVHDA chapter that is sponsoring the Invitational, to help with guiding us to the test areas.

One noticeable aspect of that section of Iowa is the endlessly rolling landscape with hardly any water in sight. As we drove in search of the blind water retrieve lake, I started to doubt whether we were in the right place. We drove together in a convoy, driving over one hill after another. Rounding the top of one hill I saw a group of trees in the dip ahead just before the road turned up again towards the next hill. As we neared them another small road entering the area of trees cropped up and we turned in. It led us down to an impossible oasis of green grass and trees, and at the bottom suddenly a huge lake appeared. None of this had been visible, or imaginable, from the road on which we’d been driving.

In all we spent two days together working our dogs, a mixture of seasoned, versatile field veterans, to younger, less experienced learners. The mornings were chilly, so we first spent them working on basic skills: obedience, denials, walking in heal with and without a lead, whoa training, recall, whistle commands, hand signals, hold conditioning, retrieve work on land, etc. All important skills in the repertoire of a NAVHDA versatile hunting dog.