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Nov 1, 2018
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Aye Mates,
As a two time survivor of cancer, I tell folks all the time that every day is a gift, a fact that many o' us seemingly overlook. Unfortunately, it often takes something significantly life changing for us to realize the blessings we are bestowed with in the simplicity o' each good day we are granted. now mind ye some days are much better than others, and there are those that burn themselves into our memories and etch themselves upon our hearts, this past weekend being such times I will treasure to me last breath taken.

The lads (MAC and TRAD), me cherished companion gun dogs and meself, headed o'er to Long Island to partake in an AKC Licensed Hunt Test hosted by the Long Island Retriever Field Trial Club. The LIRFTC is the oldest such club in the country and is that which is responsible for the origination of the retriever field sports that are carried on as a proud tradition to this very day. The club is one o' me favorite such organizations and their membership includes some o' the nicest folks ye may find to be had anywhere. The AKC Hunt Test event was held o'er two days and included Junior Hunter, Senior Hunter, and Master Hunter stakes at which handlers and their retrievers were tested under judgement for the specific standards expected at each o' those prescribed skill levels.

A hunt test event requires the coordinated effort o' many volunteers, organizers, lots o' specialized equipment, and qualified judges to assess each dog / handler team. The event also requires the support o' many handler / retriever teams from across the region to make the event economically feasible for the club to host. The event held this past weekend was graced by incredibly cooperative and comfortable weather, that adding to the pleasure o' the experience for all involved. For meself personally, I am most gratified when surrounded by folks from the retriever community and the wonderful dogs they live, train, and hunt with.

T'was seven years ago this past week that I lost me beloved retriever AKC WILDROSE CAYDEN SH suddenly and without warning, his absence cuts me to this very day and likely always will. His death left me in a state o' deep depression and that only worsened when I was informed that I had a recurrence o' cancer that had struck me nearly five years previously, that bout having been addressed surgically. This time around, t'was to be targeted high dose radiation and concurrent chemotherapy utilized to fight the beast. I had procured me gun dog puppy TRAD out o' some truly select British and Irish fieldworker performance bloodlines just about a month and one half after having lost CAYDEN and set about training him to meet the high bar that his Labrador Retriever predecessors had set for him, a tall order most assuredly. TRAD demonstrated grand promise right out o' the gate and we were on a good path in his development as a gun dog, in fact, I was guiding a bird hunt o'er him when me doctor called me and broke the news that I had cancer once again.

I'm not the type to scare easily, but I'll be the first to admit that the treatments involving concurrent radiation and chemotherapy the doctors described to me scared the hell out o' me. That said, they were spot on in their explanation o' the process and its associated side effects. Long and grueling days o' physically draining fatigue, associated site pain, side effects related to medications, endless lack o' sleep, weight loss at near critical levels, etc., all were taking their toll. I knew I was in a battle for me life and so did me companion retriever gun dog TRAD. Throughout me illness, TRAD hovered about me like an ever present shadow and would not leave me side unguarded. He was there for me to reach out to and touch when times were really darkened by me physical ailments and the associated depression that came with them. TRAD brought me a level o' comfort that me many years o' owning, living, training, and hunting with retrievers had always brought me. That which he brought to at this most abnormal time in me life was some semblance of normalcy. All said, me connection to TRAD transcends the more common relationship that folks form with their retrievers and I don't mean to negate the importance o' those bonds. But in all reality, TRAD and me wife Lisa, along with some incredibly skilled doctors guided by the will o' God, are the only reasonable accounting for me still to be this side o' the turf.

When I relate that TRAD and I have been through some mighty rough seas as a team, t'is the spoken truth. A very talented retriever with grand potential demonstrated early on, he would most surely progressed much sooner to advanced level work, had I as his only trainer, not been in the fight for me life and dealing with the horrid after effects o' me treatments, those throwing any semblance o' consistently scheduled training off kilter with an ironic regularity.

As I slowly recovered and gained some strength back, so too did I focus in providing TRAD with the training and regular work expected and desired by any dog worthy o' being considered a finely trained retriever. We took up our continuation o' the hunt test games and o' course, the love we share for the chase o' both upland birds and waterfowl, to the level that they were previous to me second diagnosis. During that span o' time I have seen TRAD sire two great litters o' pups and have kept one, that being a yellow male named MAC a precocious retriever right out o' the gate, MAC has now qualified in all 11 of 11 hunt tests that he has been entered in, a testimony to the incredible genetic traits passed on to him by TRAD X AUTUMN (his dam).

Yesterday, I handled TRAD to his AKC Master Hunter title at his age o' seven, an event that I was not certain I would be around to do. I also handled his offspring MAC to his 11th straight qualifying score in all hunt tests entered. MAC currently has earned an HRC Started Hunting Retriever title and an AKC Junior Hunter title. Yesterday, I handled MAC in the Senior Hunter stakes in which earned his third of four qualifying scores needed to earn an AKC Senior Hunter title. MAC is emerging from TRAD'S shadow as a quite impressive hunt test athlete in his own right. I am so very proud o' these two wonderful retrievers and I love the bond we share as a team. Indeed, every day is a gift and some days are more so than others. Yesterday was one o' those more special days.

Mike ☘️
Well done dogs.

You are correct, as also myself a twice survivor of a life threatening condition, that every day is precious. Life's too short to have regrets, make the best of it. You clearly do and respect to that.

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