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Darlinhart Englishman (Barly) - Best mate of Jon from Sydney

"Barly's Story" generously written by Jon

After many months researching for a proven working background GSP pup, my wife and I decided to put a deposit down for a male through Darlinhart German Shorthaired Pointers at Toowoomba. A strong influence to our decision making process was the many emails and phone calls with Matt and Tanya, their obvious genuine love of the breed and satisfaction from results through show and in the field along with the many photos we received really clinched it for us.

Eventually the day arrived when the litter was born and the very difficult selection begun through viewing photos of the litter, this was our only option as we live in NSW. With Tanya’s invaluable help, we decided on a brown headed lively little chap of about 6 inches long-later to be known as Barly.

What seemed like months passed by with continued regular phone calls and more photos via email of the little chaps progress while we waited for him to reach 8 weeks old. Then Tanya arranged to have him couriered to Sydney where a very nervous ‘dad to be’ was pacing around the airport with a pocket full of healthy treats and a car parked in the shade.

A lot of attention and reassurance in those first few days helped Barly adapt to our home life with ease. My wife, constantly amazed by the amount of water he’d drink each time he went near the water bowl and how his long ears dangled in the water as he seemingly gulped as if his life depended on it. The weeks passed by very quickly and with each new week I was always hopeful of him showing his natural instinct by pointing at a butterfly or a bird in our yard but that actually never happened. We had rescued a 10 week old Springer Spaniel cross GSP and bought him home three weeks before Barly, and pointing had come very natural to him. Surely Barly would start to show some sign soon or Heaven forbid, had I got a dud? No perish the thought and give him time, I didn’t say anything to my wife about my concerns. I had gained some encouragement when my wife and I were out walking with the dogs one afternoon. As shot gunners sometimes do, I swung my arms in practice on a low pigeon that crossed over the front of us, my wife exclaimed ‘oh look at that!’ I turned to see Barly running along looking at the pigeon then looking back at me in slight confusion, had he thought I was going to shoot it? How could he when he’s never seen a gun? I did this again later at home on the deck with the local cockatoos and sure enough, he was excited about something I was doing or something beginning to stir in him perhaps.

Through the following weeks after their jabs both dogs got daily exercise together with a good run for about an hour each night with me, at weekends, we’d go to the beach or have an early walk in a nearby park as well, both dogs were looking great and developing well. House training had come and gone without much trouble and the rescued dog ‘Cocoa’ was now retrieving as well as pointing to birds, lizards and people walking past our house. Still nothing from Barly and I became hesitant to mention this to Tanya during our weekly phone calls. Partly due to her infectious perky and optimistic nature, and also because of her incredible ‘after sales service’, perhaps I just didn’t want to bring her down.

Both dogs were true characters, with Barly growing lankier and starting to develop some beautiful ticking, just the look I had hoped for. At 5 months he had got the hang of retrieving to hand promptly with a little help from our sessions alone at the cricket nets in the nearby oval. I had chosen a pup with a strong hunting heritage as I fully intended to use him for duck and quail when the seasons permitted but now at 6 months, he still hadn’t raised a paw on anything while bloody Cocoa seemed to be permanently on three legs! Barly did however appear to have a very good nose and would bump my pocket when he smelled treats I was carrying so that and his general very good temperament, high enthusiasm for life and of course the GSP gait he carried so well gave me a sense of satisfaction, but I would liked to have seen him point by now. By the 7th month, I hadn’t been able to hold back my concerns from Tanya and she happily told me not to worry and to give him time. Not the answer I wanted to hear but with my limited GSP experience I thought afterwards ‘fair enough, but how long does it usually take?’ I remember saying goodbye to Tanya and hanging up the phone one evening only to turn and see Cocoa pointing rigidly at a cockroach creeping along the skirting board, as for Barly, well he was bent double inspecting a couple of lumps that seemed to be growing bigger each day under his tail!

I had worked for years with my own Springer Spaniels in southern England many years before and I knew that those dogs mostly learned everything for the field within their first 6 to 18 months, Barly was now pushing 7 months and retrieving seemed to encompass his entire repertoire. Maybe I should have bought a Labrador, at least a Labrador wouldn’t spend most evenings doing multiple high speed laps of our Ľ block after an hours run in the park?

I had been visiting a friend’s farm in Mudgee NSW and helping out with general feral control there for around 12 years, rabbits, foxes and crows mainly. The weather was starting to cool down a bit and I made a call to see if we could go up there for the weekend. It would be good for my wife and I to get out of the smoke for a short break and interesting to see how the dogs react to different scents and the report from a gun. When we arrived I was surprised to hear that there had been quail spotted a few weeks before close to the chicken coop. It’s a super fine wool farm of about 1100 head and I had heard somewhere previously that quail and sheep don’t mix well and besides, I’d never seen any quail there in all the time I’d been wandering about on the property over the years.

Barly and I went out the next morning, shotgun in hand (I had fired off some .22 magnum shots the evening before and he seemed strangely enthusiastic about running towards the direction I fired. Cocoa on the other hand proven to be very ‘gun shy’ and took off to my car on the first shot. This was a shame as I had quietly considered him to be a possible fall back if Barly turned out to be the dud I was dreading). We got Barly steady to shot very quickly by sitting him down and telling him to stay then firing off a shot, when he stayed he got a tasty treat, if he stood up, he got a gentle telling off, but nothing for him to associate gun shots with fear, pain or any type of bad experience. It went well and he was happy to stay seated for 20 shots, after that, I’d send him ‘in’ to where we’d shot being an empty VB slab so he could investigate. Then after some time, I’d call him back and wave the gun, he’d fly back to us and sit down in his position waiting for the good noises and treats to start again. All very exciting and rewarding for a permanently hungry dog!

As Barly and I walked out into still air and knee high grass just before dawn, I wondered again why he walked so close to me and with so much eye contact now that I had a gun in my hand, this shot gun hadn’t been fired for months and would only smell of light grease and WD40 so how would he know? 10 yards inside the gate, I sat him down, pointed him uphill and gave him his ‘where is it’ command, he took off quite cautiously, got 20 yards ahead, (there was no wind at all) and began quartering. I was 15 yards in from the fence line when 3 quail got up from my feet, curled left and disappeared out of sight in the neighbors’ paddock. I was amazed at these little birds being there at all, Barly was ahead by 30 yards now and I realized that I’d sent him in a direction whereby he would have skirted them completely-at least I knew there were birds here today.

Barly quartered backwards and forwards in the knee high grasses always about 40 yards in front of me, turning on the whistle sharply and thundering along, not too fast but not sluggish either. We covered the entire 6 acre paddock this way but to no avail. Maybe he was just enjoying the run as there were birds there somewhere after all? We got to the bottom gate and started back towards the house, the quail I’d seen earlier had flown into land that I didn’t have permission to cross into so I thought it best just to make our way back to the farm house and give the boy a drink and a rest. The sun was above the Great Dividing Range now and started to warm my back again as I thought of my first coffee of the day, it had been a nice run. Barly now working well in the field heading uphill slightly and due west, I wasn’t turning him now, just letting him enjoy the last of the run, maybe he’d put up a rabbit for me? We were about 150 yards from the house when Barly’s body language changed dramatically. He’d slowed right down and seemed no longer out of breath, 20 yards in front of me he began to take air scent and slowed to a stop to stand still in his tracks. A moment later he half crouched and ‘slid’ forward gently, then changed direction slightly, moved another three yards stuck his head out flat, with a level back but bent sideways in a slight arc, his tail looped upwards as he froze stock still. I moved slightly to his rear right and slowly forward enjoying his style but not for the life of me did I know what was going on. That’s when I first saw that his front right knee was up pushed hard against the front of his rib cage. Bugger me, he’s hard on point! Everything I had read and all the advice I had heard just went straight out with my breath on the crisp air. I was truly dumbfounded and this was the last thing I was prepared for. From somewhere in my confused state I closed the gun and pointed the barrels upwards, checked the safety catch was on (reassuring habits), again moved forward and stretched out to reach Barlys neck, gave him some quiet encouraging words and stroked him from neck to tip of his tail twice. Just as I took a final pace forward to get better balance, a single quail burst from the grass 4 foot in front of the boy’s nose, I turned my back on Barly, the safety was off and the gun was up on the trail of the bird as it scorched down hill and away. I noticed the gun go off just after the barrels had passed his beak and he was down. Barly had only moved enough to watch the bird’s flight and fall. Two or three feathers hung in the air as the lack of breeze reminded me that I needed to take a breath.

Matt again, sorry for calling you so early that morning mate!

From that point on (no pun intended!) Barly has been first rate in just about everyway I could hope for, his obedience is tremendous but never abused, hand signals with or without the whistle are always obeyed, retrieving to hand from water or land is perfect and fun, if there’s a quail or rabbit about, he’ll find it and let me know, he’ll stop on the whistle if a hare or rabbit gets up in front of him which is fine with me and he teaches me more than I could get out of a book.

I have no reservations to recommend Matt and Tanya’s pups to any potential ‘parent’ so please feel welcome to get hold of me through Darlinhart German Shorthaired Pointers. Yours in the sport, Jonathan Lloyd