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Coming back from a run in the sandhills.

That year we were only shooting with formal shooting parties about three days a week. Often on the other days, Talbot and I would go rough shooting with the dogs. I remember Talbot working Spitfire a few times before the shooting season ended. I was envious.

A few weeks after the shooting season ended, I made a trip to the States with a few dogs - and to take in some west coast trials. I returned at about the beginning of April. Soon thereafter, I decided to take some of the dogs to the coast for a change of scenery and for some relaxation. I saw Spitfire sitting in the kennels with nothing to do - so I decided to take her along for some exercise. I always felt it was important not to just take a dog out for serious high-pressure training. It was important to let dogs have some more relaxed fun where training wasn't too serious and they could blow off steam. I expect I enjoyed these outings as much as the dogs.

I had been shown an area near the local Air Force base that was ideal for this purpose. It was an area of small sand hills covered with coarse seashore grass and the odd bit of gorse. Sometimes, a pheasant, hare, or a few partridge may be found. I didn't let the dogs run wild, but did let them quarter freely as a group. Occasionally I would blow the hup whistle, expecting all of the dogs to respond immediately. As long as they did that - and stayed with me in a general sense - they could enjoy themselves running up and down the sand hills. The sea was nearby so they could also have some fun in the water.

John training Saighton spaniels in the summer of 1976,
the hottest, driest summer on record.

On that particular day, Spitfire once again caught my eye - just as she did the first time I saw her. I cannot tell you exactly what it was about her that caught my eye, but she seemed to have a general manner that was very pleasing, besides having an attractive style. She found a few partridge that day. It was there and then that I decided I was not going to leave her sitting in a kennel. It was the beginning of a relationship between Spitfire and myself that was to last about fourteen years. I started taking her out hunting in the covers near the kennels for flushes. She showed the wonderful innate steadiness that I first saw in her brother Stylo. She could literally pull the tail off a hare and watch it run across an open field while automatically hupping as soon as the hare was off. Although she always had tremendous enthusiasm and drive to find game, she always hunted game in a most remarkably level-headed manner.
The Lodge

The first summer that I spent in Wales was the hottest, driest summer on record in Great Britain (250 years of records). Having lived in New Jersey and Ohio all of my life, it was the coolest most temperate summer I ever remembered. In the U.K. if it gets above 75 degrees F. it is considered a heat wave. That summer it got to the high 80's and even 90 from time to time. The gamekeepers were suffering from heat stroke periodically and the dogs could only lie in their kennels during midday. It was the only time I have seen the pastures totally brown. The "Lodge", where I lived, was great that summer. Its thick, damp stone walls made it feel like it was air-conditioned.

What I have always enjoyed about British summers is the amount of daylight. During June dawn would start to break well before 5:00am and daylight would last until 10:30 or 11:00pm.

To keep the dogs fit, a few times a week, I would load the dogs into the car at about 4:30am and take them to the beach near Valley Royal Air Force Base. There was a mile long, sandy beach that led to some other big sand hills.

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