Today, in interminttent rain and with temps dropping from the forties into the thirties, Laddie earned his seventh Judges Award of Merit (JAM), a green ribbon that means the dog finished the trial rather than being dropped along the way, but without a score high enough to earn one of the top four placements.
To briefly express my feelings: Of course I'm proud of this achievement in the light of the fact that no other positive-trained dog has ever won even one ribbon in a field trial as far as I know. On the other hand, I am disappointed that we still have not taken a placement in a field trial.
Now I would just like to describe the test and how Laddie did running it.
Series A. Land double with flyer as the go-bird. Memory bird was thrown to the back of a small pond. Then a land blind.
Laddie nailed the flyer. For the memory bird, he ran directly to it without a hunt, but he skirted the water, running between water's edge and the gunner. He ran the blind with a good initial line, three whistles, no refusals, and good carries on every cast.
Series B. Water blind, consisting of a sliver of water, a dike crossing, and a channel swim with land on the left and a flooded corn field on the right. In the last twenty yards or so, the dog needed to cut across the corner of the corn field and then run over a short stretch of lunging-depth water to reach the bird on the far shore. Laddie required a fair number of casts, and vocalized on the first two casts after crossing the dike, but aside from that, his performance appeared to me to be unremarkable.
Series C. Water single. The dog needed to enter the water and drive thru a section of flooded corn, then cross the dike on a sharp angle, reenter the water into another section of flooded corn, and finally come out of the water and run a hundred yards to the bird at the tree line. Laddie ran this like almost every other dog, lunging through the first section of water, then cheating around the second section of water by running on the dike before turning the corner and running straight to the bird. Some of the dogs did require a hunt at the back of the field but Laddie did not. The two exceptions were the test dog who did enter the second section of water on the way to the bird -- she was a retired FC/AFC -- and a different dog who entered the second section of water in order to hunt for some time in the corn there, finally making his way to the back of the field and the bird after much hunting short, a pop, and a considerable time later.
For the day, on the negative side, Laddie dropped a bird at the line once and took several seconds before he picked it back up again, and he vocalized on his first two casts in water. He also cheated water on two of his marks, an unsurprising weakness given our lack of water work since last fall, but a key training goal in the days to come.
On the positive side, Laddie had no hunts, no cast refusals, no pops, never dawdled on a pick up or return, aired/marked on a return only once, never came close to breaking, never went out of control at the line or in the field, and with the one exception mentioned above, had good deliveries. Of course he ran with with his usual great enthusiasm and athleticism throughout the trial.
I don't know what it will take for us to raise our game high enough for a placement in a stake someday, but we'll get two more tries next weekend.