A RENAISSANCE IN OREGON - Page 2
"This year we have two
regional specialties planned, one in Pennsylvania and another
in Montana.In 1993 we're planning a national specialty where
we will be filming a breed video." She is currently a provisional
judge in the German Shorthair, another breed she has been involved
with for many years, with plans for certification in that and
other sporting breeds. And, oh yes, she's working on a book chronicling
the last 100 years of the breed, roughly the period of time griff
breed clubs have been around.
Another challenge facing
her is the fate of the breed. In her mind, the current battle
is just for survival here in the States. "Right now there are
perhaps only five or six major breeders in the United States with
active programs." On the good side, it means that every
puppy has a home. "They are so rare and sought after by hunters
that even those dogs that may not have the excellent conformation
still have a place next to a hunter in the field."
On the downside though,
finding good breeding stock takes a lot of effort and a through
knowledge of genetics. "Until the last few years there's been
no breeder information exchange," explains Barbara. "Our clubs
started that." So, to keep a viable breeding program going, she
must do a lot of in-breeding and line breeding. As reflection
of her interest in the subject, the newsletter she publishes,
The Griffonnier, often contains reprints of articles discussing
the technical aspects of genetics.
For Barbara Young-Smith,
conformation and hunting skills are inextricably linked. She
cites what she calls the "European method of breeding, where
conformation is just as important to the dog working in the field
as their hunting ability. In Germany, dogs must pass a conformation
rating before they're able to go into the field. In order for
the dog to move correctly and last all day in the field, they
have to be built correctly." As she notes, "this tradition serves
us very well in the show ring."
She recommends the griff
for just about any test, trial or show. Schutzhund? "Sure.
They're very protective of their family. They're natural trackers,
they have exceptional noses. However, I wouldn't recommend them
for field trials where the large running dogs compete. They're
a close working dog."
In fact, Barbara cites the emergence of the field trials in
the early part of this century as one reason the wire-haired
pointing griffon and other close working dogs never caught on. "When
they were first introduced into the United States from France
and Germany, they enjoyed quick recognition as an outstanding
dog. But then, shortly after, the American Field Trials began,
that was the downfall for the griffon." As she reasons, back
then hunting grounds were more plentiful and spacious, more suited
to the larger, farther ranging breeds.
The same logic, though,
bodes well for the future of the WPG. "Hunting grounds are shrinking
every year," she notes, "so the demand for this style of dog
continues to rise."
"There's an upswing in
breeding," Barbara points out, "the challenges ahead is to grow
the breed without sacrificing its distinctive characteristics." She
points to the German Wirehaired Pointer, a dog linked somewhere
in the murky past with the WPG, as a good example of a versatile
dog that has maintained it's popularity in the ring without sacrificing
its desirable field traits.
What keeps a breed healthy?
People like Barbara Young-Smith. As she tells it, you need several
things: "A strong parent club with a well rounded administration
for show and field; open communications and exchange of information
to help breeders make sound breeding decisions; and knowledgeable
people to turn to for help."
challenge ahead is to grow the breed
without sacrificing its distinctive characteristics"
We were in the grooming room, surrounded
by ribbons and trophies. The photographer was up to leave as
Barbara's husband Denny came home from work. Immediately you
sensed another reason the breed has survived and why it's future
looked bright. These people. As good natured as their dogs. As
attached to each other as they are to the breed.
They joked about who
was the better handler in the ring. Denny talked about the time
Ch Duke Von Herrenhausen lost a tooth and how their veterinarian
left a softball game with the second baseman (a dentist) to put
it back in. "Duke's still got that tooth" said Denny. The photographer
took his equipment back out to get some shots of Denny.
"Our greatest pride isn't
in the ribbons and trophies, it's in the good dogs and good puppies
we're producing. You'll see it tomorrow, "said Denny referring
to the training session we'd watch the next day. "Watching the
lights come on these young dogs, seeing the wheels turning. "Oh,
Okay! I know what to do here." The instincts kick in. Even if
they mess up a little, they go home and think about it during
the week. Then they come back and pow! They've got it."
Twenty years from now? They'll
have a lot more stories to tell. They'll have a lot more names
with perfect test scores in the stud book. They will, no doubt,
have some Best in Show. A Group Best or B.I.S. at Westminster,
perhaps? Hey, why not. They've come this far.