Bronte was born on Wednesday 27th November 2002; she was one of a litter of five. She was the last one to be born at 3.47am and weighed in at 500g. How do I know this? Because the breeders are fantastic. They allowed me and Wayne to be a huge part of the puppies’ life, even before they were born. We were invited around for an “interview” as we now joke to make sure we were good enough for a Desjiem puppy. Luckily we passed our interview and are now very good friends. I owe them everything allowing me to have this very special silver grey Weimaraner. Bronte is a spayed bitch.

It’s hard to remember Bronte as a pup; she has always been very sensible and genteel. Yes she is a Weimaraner so very intelligent and very, very full of life, but never manic. She is my special girl and my best friend. When she arrived home she instantly fitted in. Kira loved her and they get on great. They played constantly, if one of them was up to something you could guarantee that the other wouldn’t be far behind. And obliviously Bronte never got the blame for starting it as she wouldn’t do that! OK I have to admit that sometimes my rose coloured glasses do drop off and I know Bronte is not that perfect but, to me she is.

Again like Kira, we had big plans for her so we joined the puppy class. Bronte loved it, she wasn’t worried at all about new places, people, dogs, smells anything really she just takes it all in her stride. Her Brother Marley and her sister Layna both came to the class. Between them, I’m not sure the instructors or the other dogs knew what hit them. Bronte has also progressed through the club to the highest class. She gained her silver good citizen and we are waiting to do her gold. Bronte is the dog that I always use for demos; she attends the club on chat night with the other instructor’s dogs to show people what can happen if you train your dog. She no longer goes to the club in the evenings, as I haven’t got a spare minute but when she does go she always works well and enjoys it. Her heal work is to die for.

Through working at the vets I have met a lot of interesting people. One person who I would now class as one of my best friends is Ingrid. One Saturday morning she came in with Bosco a male Italian Spinone. We got talking and arranged to walk the dogs together that afternoon. I thank her so much for that walk because one thing led to another and gundog work was introduced to me and Bronte. Ingrid talked about how much the dogs loved it, and it was a great way to meet interesting people who where likeminded in their dog interests. I’m still not sure how she did it but within months I was on a HPR training course with the Weimaraner association under the close instruction of Jackie Doyle (www.weimaraner-association.org.uk). Jackie had entered me into our first gundog working test (to which, again I didn’t even know I was entering as she just told me to fill a form out and the rest just happened). I was hooked!

Bronte was fantastic at the point, she was even better at the retrieve as this was her forte. She loves nothing more than running as fast as she can to fetch something and bring it back to me with an expression of pure delight on her face. But she never really took to the hunting, she was brilliant if the rain was thrashing down or there was lots of game under her nose, but she never really got the go and hunt an empty field to see if you can find anything! But we entered competitions and did ok in most of them, we never got placed as the hunting let us down, but we enjoyed it. Ingrid then told me about a training group run by Penny Simpson. It was on a Thursday evening in Coventry. Yes it was a rush finishing work at 4.30pm in Nottingham and trying to beat rush hour to get to Coventry for 6.00pm but it was worth it. The instructors helped me to train Bronte in a working test environment with other dogs at her level in a group situation. Penny took me under her wing as she could see I was a total novice and really helped me. Bronte won a trophy for the best improved dog the first year she went. HPRBA (hunt, point, retrieve breed association) still run the groups in the summer months. I have met lots of interesting people some I can now call friends on my journey in the gundog work, this was made easier having Bronte by my side as everybody who meets her falls in love with her genteel and calming nature. One person who has been my rock is Peter Everitt-Stewart. Again Ingrid told me about this gentleman, who does one to one training. So I was enrolled in a lesson and off I went. Peter helps you by working with just you and your dog. There is no harsh training methods and somehow he gets into the way you and your dog works, and helps sort out the bits that need sorting. Bronte doesn’t need go that often now but I take Moss and we still all love it.

Both myself and Ingrid soon realised that to do this gundog work involved a lot of travel and most of the training was done in summer as the field trail season and shooting season was in the winter months, which meant there was little opportunity to train through the whole of the year. Together, we gathered some friends we made along the way, and sought out land and now we run our own little training group once a month. Read all about the group at http://www.italianspinone.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=280&Itemid=31 Bronte loves the ground and through the land owner, both myself and Bronte got invited to pick up for the shoot. I was petrified the first time I went as I had no idea what was happening. Ingrid explained where I needed to be and what I needed to do. Bronte just sat back and waited for her moment to shine. I had held her off collecting any birds the first week as I was unsure what to do but Ingrid stamped her feet and made me send Bronte for a shot cock pheasant. My heart was in my mouth; Bronte was born to do this. It was a moment of pure joy to see my dog run out after the guns had finished the drive and pick up this huge bird in a clean swoop, and bring it over for me. She placed it into my hand and looked at me as if to say, I know what I’m doing, pull yourself together and let me do my job. Bronte had a lot to prove on the shoot. One gun commented “why didn’t you get a proper dog like a Labrador or Springer? What is that breed and what can it do?” I explained that you only get a “proper dog” if you’re not able to train a HPR. We soon learnt that you have to give as good as you get on a shoot; a sense of humour is a must! Later that day I was asked to stand and cover that guns peg with him. He wasn’t too happy working with this grey dog but the proper labs where busy. I told him the birds was coming as Bronte lowers her head and steers at the sky, even if I haven’t heard the beaters and as indicated the birds flew towards us. The gun looked at Bronte and smiled. Bronte watched the gun rise and then followed the bird in sight. She kept following it as it went over our heads and off into the distance. Even though the gun had taken a couple of shots the bird kept flying. The gun lowered and Bronte looked at the gentleman from toe to head and back down again, then back over her shoulder in the direction the bird had flown…… “These grey dogs are very critical too” he said, as we all started to laugh. Later that day a Springer was looking for a runner the same gun had shot but was unable to find it, I sent Bronte in after the Springer had given up and out she came with a partridge in her mouth. The gun loves to work with Bronte now.

Life can be cruel

When Bronte was very little she suffered from a skin rash that got worse and worse. We took bloods and samples and discovered it was a food allergy to fish and oats. She wasn’t being fed fish at the time as the diet was chicken and rise based so I didn’t change her diet, the rash got worse. We eventually discovered that fish oils where used in the cooking process and the food company hadn’t marketed this so a change of diet sorted the rash. I was always worried about what I fed my dogs and this was the final push I needed to feed them on a natural diet so I knew what was going into my dogs. Coat and body condition has never been better. Unfortunately the period that Bronte was suffering with her skin was a developmental time in her life. She had a small lump develop at the age of two and as she kept catching it and making it bleed I decided to have it removed. The results from the mass was one of the most heart sinking moments of my life. Bronte had been diagnosed as having mast cell cancer. This lump was a grade two (they are graded between one and three, three being bad) I was beside myself. Weeks of crying and pandering to her every need, stopping her picking up on the shoot and stopping all training so she didn’t hurt herself. Bronte had now become depressed. I was worried that I was going to lose my little girl to cancer. One morning I came down and started to cry again, and went to hug her as I had been doing. Bronte walked away then turned and looked into me, not at me she looked right into my soul and I realised that yes she will die, but so will we all and at the moment she was living and that was what is important. I grabbed her lead and we went for a walk. The walk lasted about three hours but we played and she retrieved and we trained and we did all the things she enjoyed. I didn’t worry about anything but having fun. Her life was back on track. I promised her that I would do everything to keep her healthy and happy as long as I could. I had already put her onto a natural food, so I researched and added some herbal tablets to her diet which helps protect and fight cancer. She has a few lumps some up which normally start from an insect bite that never goes down which I have removed. But as time passes the lumps are becoming fewer and the grades of the lumps are now normally a one not a two and we have had no threes. I’m not a person who really believes in homeopathy but if its helping then great as its not doing her any harm so I might as well. I plan to do a page on mast cell cancer later in Bronte’s blog for others faced with this horrible condition.

Yes she has cancer but she also has years of living to do so moving on. Through the dog training club we arranged for a trainers meeting with John Rogerson. I had been to a seminar of his in the past and loved it. He trains the same way I want to. I follow his techniques so when we had the opportunity to work our dogs under his instruction I jumped at the chance. Bronte and I went for four days and just played, fun games and methods to help improve our training of others. It was a great bonding time for me and Bronte so when we discovered he was holding a crime scene investigation weekend later in the year I came home and printed off the form and posted it off that night. This October a friend from the club Bev and her Weimaraner Lani and myself was all booked onto the course. It was four days of working with our dogs in small groups to find clues using the dogs tracking ability and our crime solving skills (and a little bit of cheating of course!) Our group consisted of me and Bronte, Bev and Lani, Adrian and Floyd another Weimie, Karen and her border collie Gizmo, Sharon and her GSD Teegan and Jill with Walter the Springer spaniel. We was known as the Weimaraner team and of course we won. Bronte was packed into the car with Lani and spent a weekend in a bed and breakfast with a dog she’s not used to living with. We spent four days out and about in a strange environment with people she had never met and took it all in her stride. No moans or grumbles from any of them. This is what it should be like to have a dog. Get out and about in public and show them that dogs are not the bad thing that the press wants to make them out to be. If we stopped segregating dogs and people and used the energy to train and socialised more people would benefit from the joy you get from a dog. Yes I know not all dogs are nice and friendly but surely as an owner if we try to educate others will follow? I would recommend anybody, if they get an opportunity to go on a john Rogerson course to take it as it was fantastic. www.johnrogerson.com

So now what? We live and enjoy it.

Bronte doesn’t attend working tests anymore as I have retired her from competition. She does attend training groups but she is my out and about dog. You can read all about the stuff we get up to in her blog and I hope to post any new advances in the cancer field for information so watch this space.