Thank you everyone who wrote to say how much you’ve enjoyed The Turquoise Treasure. Your enthusiasm means more to me than you can imagine.
Many of you expressed particular interest in the scenes held at a poodle hunting test. These were based on what I witnessed at an actual hunting test. Below are some photos and videos from that test — including a video of Dash, the current model for Kimberley West’s Rory — performing a very unconventional method of demonstrating his, er, hunting instinct.
First, let’s start with that hunting aptitude test. Here’s how Rory performed it in “The Turquoise Treasure” (book excerpts in bold face):
Ted [the tester] held out the duck dummy for Rory to sniff. Rory took one whiff, then dropped into a play bow.
Ted wiggled the dummy, teasing, then tossed it. Rory bounded across the field.
Unlike the other poodles, who’d raced full out, Rory ran for a few feet, then leaped high into the air. Run, leap, run. Kim recognized the behavior as his “I’m having a great time” move.
Beside her, Ted chuckled.
Rory paused by the dummy, sniffed, dropped into a play bow, smelled the bird again.
Ted picked up the duck.
“Do you have a retrieve cue?” he said.
“Good. After I throw the bird, give Rory your retrieve cue.”
Once more he jiggled the duck and tossed it.
“Rory, get it,” Kim said.
More run, run, leap, run, run, leap. When he reached the bird this time, he opened his mouth.
“That’s right, Rory, get it,” Kim said.
Rory touched a feather, shuffled back and dropped into a play bow.
Kim cued him again to get it. Rory barked and ran a circle around them. Ted laughed.
“Don’t worry; he’s got a good retrieve instinct. He’s just never encountered a bird before.”
“Actually, he’s picked up injured live birds and brought them to me.” She smiled, remembering how she’d take the bird from Rory and hold the stunned animal, keeping it warm until it recovered enough to fly away.
“So he has a soft mouth,” Ted said.
Though Kim had never hunted, she recognized the term used to describe a dog who picked up and carried things gently.
How about that; the tester had just complimented Rory.
She preened for a moment, then watched Ted toss the “bird” while cuing Rory to “get it.” Rory loped to the bird. Using his front teeth, he grabbed a feather and carried the heavy duck a few feet back toward Kim before dropping it.
Kim and Rory’s cheering squad applauded. Ted praised Rory and bent over to pick up the duck. Rory beat him to it, snagging the dummy and trotting a few feet away. He deposited the duck dummy onto the ground and dropped into a play bow.
Oh, great. Now he wanted to play “keep away.”
Now watch Dash at his hunting aptitude test:
Moving right along, in The Turquoise Treasure, Al, the dachshund gets a chance to chase the duck. He did so well that Ted, the tester, pronounces him a natural hunter and proceeds to help by handing Mary a small piece of duck for Al to practice with:
Mary grasped the fake duck wing with two fingers and her thumb. Holding it away from her body, she forced a smile that had no chance of reaching her eyes.
Al leaped onto Mary’s leg, barking up at the wing. Before Kim could react, Rory circled behind Mary and strained to reach the wing.
The man who’d tested Rory and Al continued babbling instructions for training a hunt puppy, completely oblivious to Mary’s discomfort and the two dogs wrapping their leashes around Mary’s legs.
The expression on Mary’s face, the “ewww” way she held the wing, the wrapped leashes and Ted’s boundless enthusiasm . . . Kim pressed her lips together, trying to suppress the laugh that threatened to erupt.
Yep, that happened in real life, too.
The victim in this image is Joan Rose, a gentle soul who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Literally. When she discovers insects in her home, she traps them under a paper cup and waits for her husband, sons or friend (me) to arrive and figure out a way to cart the critters outside. She’ll spend hours chasing a fly to a window or door, then another half hour trying to convince the thing to leave the premises.
She wasn’t terribly impressed by the tester hacking off a wing to take home to practice with Bogie, the current model for Al.
In The Turquoise Treasure, Kim and Scott — minus the two dogs — attend the actual hunting test. To help you visualize the scenes, here are book excerpts along with photos and videos of a real poodle hunt test. Again, the excerpts are in bold face.
Kim followed [the judge’s] line of sight and spotted two women directly below the hill. They scurried around a large, wooden frame hung with bungee cords. At the very center of the top bar hung a rectangular piece of canvas that had been attached to two bungies. The thing looked like a very short swing. Some kind of a clip dangled from the seat.
She watched in fascination as the women snagged loose bungies and secured them to various parts of the frame. Once all of the frame’s bungies had been attached somewhere, the taller woman reached into a box and removed one of the fancy new duck dummies.
With one hand, the tall woman held the “duck” against the canvas swing. She reached for the side of the swing with the free hand. The second woman quickly snagged the other side of the swing. Together, they pulled the swing away from the frame.
The frame’s bungees tightened, tightened, tightened. When it seemed as if the bungees might snap, the shorter woman snagged the clip still dangling from the seat and secured it to a second clip attached to the back of the frame.
Kim suddenly realized what she was seeing: a catapult.
They were going to catapult the fake duck into the field.
Below Kim, one of the women released the catapult. The duck flew maybe fifty feet and landed in a dense patch of tall grass. In the catapult, the women prepared a second duck.
The woman with the silver poodle raised the gun and fired a second time. The second duck flew into the air, landing far to the right of the first.
All eyes now focused on the poodle and his hunter. Together they pivoted to face the location of where the first duck had landed.
The woman said something to her dog, who bolted away and raced across the field toward the first duck.
If you haven’t read The Turquoise Treasure, you can learn why I set several scenes at a poodle hunting test by clicking here.