Sportsmen's show

Toronto Sportsmen's Show indoor trials 2002

On 7 October 2001, Castor picked up his CKC retriever Senior Hunter title -- the first Standard Poodle to do so. And...on 27 December 2001, this achievement was rewarded with an invitation to enter the Annual Invitational Retriever Trials at the 2002 Toronto Sportsmen's Show which ran Saturday, March 9 to Sunday the 17th in the Arena of the Coliseum in the International Trade Centre at Exhibition Place. On 28 January 2002, Castor's entry was accepted; his date/time was set: Sunday, 10 March at 1 p.m.

The Annual Indoor Retriever Trials at the Toronto Sportsmen's Show are held in the Arena of the Coliseum in the International Trade Centre at Toronto's Exhibition Place (in 2002, from Saturday, 9 March until Sunday, 17 March). Here's a diagram of the 2002 Sportsmen's Show; the red "x" marks the arena. Six retrievers are invited to run each day, and of these, one winner is chosen. All the winners compete on the last day, for the "Gold Whistle" (a plaque). These invitational trials have a long history, and many very distinguished and mega-titled retrievers have competed in these trials along with their deeply-experienced and highly-successful handlers. The purpose is to present field-trialing (and, these days, hunt-testing) to the general public. The Gold Whistle trials represent very generous contributions of time and ergs and expertise--by judges, organizers, equipment donors/loaners, gunners/throwers, can-do-anything volunteers, and, of course, handlers and their dogs--on behalf of conservation principles and the general public (including many pet-retriever owners). In fact, many of these pet-owners are introduced to retriever-work at the Sportsmen's Show, and are inspired to commence training and to run their dogs in the various retriever events, usually starting with the Canadian Kennel Club's entry-level WC/I/X series. This year, the Gold Whistle trials were sponsored by Tri-Tronics and Dokken Dead Fowl Trainers and organized, master-minded and MC-ed by John Sinclair, Chairman, 2002 Indoor Retriever Trials, Toronto Sportsmen's Show, of Sydenham, Ontario, a Tri-Tronics representative.

Before the tests, competitors were allowed to familiarize their dogs with the trial-area. However, many handlers had already seen the set-up--in fact, we'd created it! On Friday evening, 8 March, competitors were asked to come along and help set up. We lined the arena boards with Christmas trees, put a large styrofoam "mountain/rock" in the centre, and scattered smaller Christmas trees and straw bales over the surface, along with a group of corn-feeding Mallard decoys. Rob Sampson's Zinger-Winger, Co. ("Taking Retriever Training to New Heights") remote-launchers were hidden behind the rock. After setting up, Chairman John described the tests: three series; and we watched a test dog who had previously won the Gold Whistle and was now retired. The first test was run from the SW corner of the arena: two poison birds -- left and right -- and a blind run diagonally the length of the space. The angles were, by necessity, tight, and approximately the southern half of the arena was "poisoned" by the marks. The second series was a double and a blind, run from the SE corner of the arena; the memory bird fell a few feet west of the blind in the first series, and the blind was in the NW corner. The third series was a delayed quad with an honour, run from the SW corner. Afterwards, workers were served a delicious supper of lasagna and salad in the Exhibitors' Lounge; as an additional reward for helping, we were each given three free passes to the Sportsmen's Show. Previously, when our entries were accepted, we'd been given a wrist-band good for all ten days of the Show, two free passes, and a one-day exhibitor's parking pass. Castor's free passes were given to Poodle field-trainers.

A bad storm hit Southern Ontario on Saturday, 9 March. Sunday morning dawned clear, but many were without telephone or hydro power, and areas north of Toronto were iced over and undriveable. Nevertheless, six dogs ran in Castor's series on Sunday, 10 March: three Labs, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, an English Springer Spaniel, and a Standard Poodle -- Castor -- who ran third dog. Here, Judge Moffatt, from Eastern Ontario, watches in the first series, as Castor is "no-ed" off his poison birds. Handlers were encouraged to take their time sending their dogs in this unfamiliar -- extraordinary -- venue, with so many new sounds -- for example, the mighty public-address system -- and lack of scent (dry, and no wind). A fast, straight Sit (at left) is a big benefit in handling retrievers--indoors or outdoors--poison birds or no!

Three dogs, a Lab, the Springer, and Castor, were called back to run the second series. (Three dogs had succumbed to the temptations of the poisoned birds.) Here, Castor zooms in to return the last-down bird in his double. Alas, setting him up for his memory bird, his handler fumbled the send, and to avoid the blind, he was handled to the memory bird, the fall of which was against the arena boards behind the rock/mountain. He ran his blind in the second series very successfully. He was not called back for the third series, because of having been handled to the mark. (Stitchery is popular on handlers' jackets, usually a Lab or Golden holding a Mallard drake. Please note the cross-stitched Poodle and flying ducks -- hen Mallard, hen Green-Winged Teal, and drake Canvasback -- on the back of the handler's white jacket.)

After the rosettes were awarded (the called-back Lab won first; the Springer, second), the audience was invited onto the arena floor to meet the dogs. School holidays -- March Break -- began on Friday afternoon; in Toronto, going to the Sportsmen's Show to admire the dogs and the raptors, the fishing rods/lures, casting competitions, tents, sleeping bags, camping gear, campers, trailers, canoes and boats, outboards, and so on, is a very popular way for families to start the March Break holidays, to let off steam built up during the long winter, and dream of summer days. Castor enjoyed the attention from all the people, many of whom -- from his perspective -- were just the right age! Here, David Collins (13 years old and soon to be a Standard Poodle owner), who acted as Castor's body-guard in the crowds, is helping Castor demo one of his favorite tricks: High Five!

Soon the retrievers and the audience were encouraged to give way for another event, and handlers and their dogs retired to the "retriever room" under the arena seats, where we were stoked up with delicious sandwiches and given a long-sleeved t-shirt with a Gold Whistle 2002 emblem. We went on our ways much refreshed.

Castor (of Tudorose) is the second Standard Poodle ever to run in these popular trials. The first was his cousin, (Tudorose) Shadow WCX (CKC retriever Working Certificate Excellent), run by John Hamilton, of Puslinch, Ontario on 7 March 1997. Shadow was CKC's second SP WCX; Castor is the third WCX, and first SH (CKC retriever Senior Hunter); his great-grandfather (Tudorose) Kane, was the first SP WCX. Tudorose is the kennel name of Jac Harbour, of St. Helen's, Oregon, formerly of Ancaster, Ontario. Castor will run CKC Master Hunter during the upcoming 2002 season, and we hope he'll be invited back to the Indoor Gold Whistle Retriever Trials in March 2003 to demonstrate with additional polish and fluency. Or, perhaps another Poodle will be ready by that time -- Poodles have benefited greatly from the new opportunities opened by the hunt test movement! Many thanks to John Sinclair -- and everyone who helped with the Gold Whistle trials -- for a wonderful 10 March 2002!

The headpiece photo is by Susan Pearce; other photos by Steven Collins. Thank you to both Standard Poodle enthusiasts!

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