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Freddie was having a nice trial as well but, the opportunities to show his stuff hadnít occurred for him in the big ways they did for Merlin. Freddie had plenty of success during his trial season; competing in five trials, winning four and taking a 2nd - thus making him tied for the "High Point Dog Award".

The handlers and dogs finished the Water Series under the evaluating eyes of Judge Jason Givens and Judge Ian Openshaw, then called it a day! They all completed nice "water retrieving" work.

"By being consistent in your training, you gain their respect."

4th Series: Tracking runners! Theyíre back!

Itís Sunday and the remaining Cockers will compete for the 2002 National Field Trial Champion Title! The level of competition is intense. Fred told me that he never goes to the "line" or "is on the ready" without being somewhat nervous. The gallery seems most impressed by the spaniel field work of Merlin and Warrenerís Yellow-hammer. His call name is Sidney and he is handled by Paul McGagh.

On the third day of competition, Merlin is performing beautifully with his ground work and finds; heís a very confident three year old dog. His first contact is a nice flush and it is shot. Fred sent him to retrieve. Merlin goes straight to the fall and back. This is what Fred is hoping for; good clean work. Merlin doesnít need much more excitement to keep his advantage over the other dogs. Fred gives Merlin his cast, his hand down lower to the ground and in closer to his side, not over-exciting the dog.

Merlin loyally quests the game for Fred. His second contact is a "running bird". (There are some dogs that donít do well with runners and if you fail to produce the pheasant, youíre out.) But, this is also a moment to truly shine and rise above - trial winning stuff, if handled the proper way. Fred went with his dog and they trailed the bird. Merlin was totally under control - not causing the Gunners to have to run, or flush the pheasant out of gun range. They got their bird! They were heroes!

5th Series: Iím a Super Star and a Show Off

The Judges have "call backs" for the final series; there are ten Cocker Spaniels who will compete for the 2002 National Cocker Championship Title. Both Merlin and Freddie have remained in the running! Paul McGagh, the professional from North Dakota has several of his dogs back including Sidney, Merlinís toughest opponent! Dominique Savoieís Morgan has been called back, along with Mike Delaneyís Deanbank Maggie Kate. Fred has finished his trial with Freddie, who has kept clean through out the entire trail and could possibly place.

All he needed now was a nice clean, quick series with Merlin to grasp the win... just two more birds! The hunting partners entered the field. Fred acessed the area in which they would quest the game. To the left, itís mostly barren with a tree line. On the right, there is taller, thicker cover. His handler experience and knowledge of hunting told him to cast Merlin into the cover, the area most likely to "hold the planted pheasants". The spaniel covered the area and quickly zeroed in on his first bird - a nice flush which was shot 40yds out. With pin-point marking, plus an eagerness and desire to want to retrieve (110% plus), Merlin completed his retrieve "politely to hand".

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