by Michael Aldrich, AKC Executive Field Representative
While attending a triple-header Spaniel Hunting Test weekend in California January, I had the pleasure of seeing my first Boykin Spaniels in action. The American Kennel Club accepted Boykins into the Hunting Test program on Jan. 1, 2006. The two dogs entered belonged to Paul and Anita Pennell from North Carolina. The Pennells were anxious to get started in the AKC program in their quest to attain the Hunting Test titles and had flown to California as these were the first tests they could enter. Their dogs, Deke and Gypsy, easily earned three qualifications each for the weekend, and the title quest was on. In March, the Pennells informed me each had received their fourth qualification and had titled.
As I watched the Boykin Spaniels that first weekend, I could see their natural abilities had been honed in their training and hunting experience, and there was more than a Junior Hunting Test title in their future. During the spring and summer I received e-mails from the Pennels telling me of their continued success and accomplishments. In late July I received word that Deke received his final qualification and was now a Master Hunter. He is the first of what is bound to be many Boykins achieving Master Hunting Test titles. These little dogs have strong instincts to accomplish what they were bred to do. If one were considering a spaniel as a hunting companion, the Boykin deserves a look.
When asked how he got started with Boykins, Paul Pennell said, "I had always had Labs�that I used for upland bird hunting and waterfowling but didn't want to deal with a big dog any more. The Boykin's size, temperment and birdiness seemed to fit the bill."
"The way we got started in hunting tests was more or less by accident," he added. "I had a friend who ran his Lab in NAHRA (North American Hunting Retriever Association) and HRC (Hunting Retriever Club), and he convinced me that it would be a great way to keep Deke tuned up during the off season. We had a lot of fun in both events, but there weren't any venues to work on Deke's upland skills."
"The same friend introduced us to the Bird Dog Challenge and Upland Classic. Deke was a natural at this and had a blast at these events. Needless to say we were hooked," Pennell said. "When the Boykin was eligible to participate in AKC Spaniel Hunting Tests, we couldn't wait to get started. (We were the ones who petitioned the AKC for eligibility as an FSS breed). Deke flew through the JH (junior hunter) and SH (senior hunter), but we never imagined he would earn the MH (master hunter), let alone become the first MH in the history of the breed."
For newcomers to spaniels and the Hunting Test program, it is important to note that hunting played such an important part in the success of the Pennells and their dogs. If you should see them at a hunting test, be sure to congratulate them for their accomplishments. But don't expect to see them much this fall, as their passion is hunting their talented Boykins.
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