Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hunting dog retires after winning spree

By TOMIE V. PARKS
Special to the Taylor Press
Reed is the dog's name, but everyone calls him Hard Nock.
"Poor guy's earned it," said Ryan Grace of Taylor, the dog's owner. "He's had his rear ACL's go out and he suffered through a territorial attack by another dog, but he still managed to win at nationals despite being one of the oldest dogs there."
Grace smiled proudly as he talked about his black Lab's recent accomplishments.
Reed competed in the American Kennel Club's Master Nationals this October in Corning, California. And he won, having successfully completed six series of tests over two weeks.
"It's his third consecutive year to qualify at nationals, which earned him a spot in the Master Nationals Hall of Fame," Grace said. "What a way to go out."
Reed, at the age of 8, is officially retired.
"Nothing for him now except living the good life," Grace said. "Hunting with the family, relaxing on the couch and, of course, serving as a stud."
The Lab has already sired his first litter. He partnered with Daisy, a female Lab owned by Toby Locke of Taylor, in July and Flash was a result of that union. He's the pup Grace hopes will follow in Reed's footsteps err, paw prints.
"He'll be off to basic training in January once he reaches the age of 6 months," Grace said.
For now Flash and Reed are spending the holidays at home with Grace, his wife and children.
They eat, and they play, Grace said. Because when it comes down to it, they're our family dogs, they just have some pretty impressive skills.

Reed the competitor
The hunting dog began basic training when he was 6 months old at the Best Retrievers training facility in Paige, Texas.
"They focused on basic obedience and the single retrieve," Grace said, explaining that a single retrieve is a glorified game of fetch. "You shoot or toss a single mark, whether it's a ball or mock hunting target and the dog is given a series of commands to focus, wait and retrieve."
Some of the skills, such as the hand and whistle signals, Grace taught Reed himself when he had spare time between running his home-based firearms dealership and working as a principal software engineer at Dell in Round Rock.
"I did a lot of research and with the help of two books (Retriever Trouble-Shooting and The Ten-Minute Retriever by John and Amy Dahl), I managed to get Reed off to a good start," Grace said.
The more advanced training, which included the mastering of the blind retrieve and the multiple retrieve, took place at Best Retrievers. A blind retrieve is a hunting situation where the dog does not see the target drop; he must be led by his trainer and follow the scent. A multiple retrieve is the scenario when there are two or more hunting targets to locate and retrieve.
"Memory is key in the multiple retrieve," Grace said. "The dog has to watch where the targets fall and retrieve them in the order they were dropped. It is a test of patience too."
Rody Best of Best Retrievers said Reed was the best dog he ever trained.
"His natural talent, combined with his dedication, made us into one of the best teams in the country," Best said, citing the dozens of competitions Reed has won.
Best was Reed's handler for most of the competitions. Grace could serve as handler at competition only when time off of work and money would allow.
"Despite two reconstructive knee surgeries, Reed would never quit," Best said. "He always gave 110 percent. He had plenty of energy, drive and determination to perform in the field."
Reed's first knee surgery took place when he was 2 years old not long after qualifying in the American Kennel Club's Senior tests.
Reed went on to compete in the Master tests at age 3 but was back in his recovery crate by age 4 due to his other rear ACL tearing.
"For a while, Reed just couldn't catch a break," Grace said. "It was in that time too when he was attacked by a pack of other dogs, and that was just a horrible mess. But Reed persevered. He really did. The dogs that make the Hall of Fame are usually around the age of 6, but Reed made it at 8 despite having to take so much time out to recover."

Reed the family member
At home, Reed is one of the kids.
He's a son according to Hope, Grace's wife, and a brother according to the children, Madison (7) and Jake (15).
"He's got a baby book," Hope said. "And he'll be in the family's Christmas picture."
When relaxing at home, Reed is not the hyper focused dominant male he is at competition.
"He's a photo bomber and expects the best seat on the couch," Hope said. "Which is usually in my lap while we watch TV."
Most of the time Hope forgets she's living with a Master Hunter.
"He's a buddy," Hope said. "Not a competition die-hard. He's a friend, and I wouldn't want to spend my evenings without him."
Throughout the years, Best has also grown to consider Reed a pal.
"I always feel relaxed around him," Best said. "My favorite memory of Reed is stopping and having a cheeseburger on the road home after competitions. It was always tradition for us to do that. Reed was always funny to watch because he hated the pickles. He would pick them out as he ate the cheeseburger and make funny faces while doing it."

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