"Captured by the Griff"
I was lucky enough to easily phase into retirement, having sold our company in mid-1998, with a requirement to stay until the year 2000. During the phase-out period, I actually wrote “goals for my retirement.” One of these goals was to get a hunting dog. Little did I know how much that random thought, “get a hunting dog,” would change our lives.
Normally, I hunt upland game on foot or a rare duck hunt. I had always hunted with other folk’s dogs or rented dogs. In my limited experience, German Shorthair Pointers seemed like the best breed I’d worked with (Labs, Springer's, Britt's), but the Shorthairs I’d been around were too hyper or too intense for my tastes. While vaguely looking for The Dog, we saw this cool-looking shaggy guy in Breckenridge, Colorado. I looked the breed up in a dog book and then researched the hell out of it on the internet--the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.
What I liked from the research was that Griffs are a people oriented breed of medium size (medium to big, but not large), healthy, with few genetic problems. They have outgoing personalities; are loyal and trustworthy, with stable temperaments and are good with children. Griffs are usually easygoing with other dogs. They shed very little, are anxious to please
and are responsive and affectionate.
From a hunting standpoint, I liked that Griffons have better than average noses (as compared with other fine hunting breeds), and are intense pointers. In the field they are a close to moderate range hunter, meticulous with cover and love water.
What I didn’t really get or understand before I owned a Griff was how in-tuned they become with their owners-- developing a permanent bond; how powerful they are and how much substance they have; that they need / must have a lot of exercise. I didn’t appreciate what versatility means to these dogs, fulfilling their genetic imperative -- they love water and love to hunt above anything else. I really didn’t comprehend how funny, sometimes goofy and how almost all have clownish personalities. They stay pup-like until they are three or four
and some never grow up. I didn’t understand how much they need to please, to have a job to do and how easily they get bored if they don’t. And, I would have never imagined how sloppy they are when they drink water!
After deciding on a Griff as “THE DOG,” I looked up the Griffon club, the American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association. From there I was led to breeders. I preferred to find one close (California) to minimize the hassle and hopefully get to see a few more dogs. I only found two breeders in California (there were more) and one had moved to Oregon and the other didn’t have any dogs. At about that time, I was going to New York City for a business trip when I was browsing the Internet I came upon a respected Griff breeder in New Jersey. The kennel was Flatbrook’s Sporting Dogs, owned by Rob and Wendy Gerity.
I finished up with a client meeting early and called the Gerity’s to arrange a visit. They had three dogs there that day and I was taken by their bearing, they seemed almost noble. While as playful as could be, they were affectionate and obedient. I was sold, and asked Rob if they were planning on breeding the females. They were both to be bred in the coming season, so I gave Rob a deposit on a female pup.
Being a total novice, I didn’t care which female or who was to be the sire. I did, however, do several things correctly. First, I selected a quality breeder and second, I was patient. The first breeding didn’t work out, and while I was disappointed, it wasn’t a big deal, and as it turned out, it was fortuitous.
The next breeding was with their bitch, CH Flatbrook’s Too Hot to Handle JH - Brooke.*
Rob decided on a sire,
CH Kyjo’s Reeses Pieces of A Dream JH -
Reese, owned by their friends Joe and Kyle Miller of Kyjo’s kennel (the Miller’s also owned Sport- see below). The puppies were whelped in August of 2001, and guess what, NO FEMALES! The moment of truth, “take a male or wait until next season.” I took a male and never looked back. The dog, Flatbrook’s Burn Baby Byrne arrived in October, 2001. He was strikingly handsome and since I’d never seen Griff pups before, except in pictures, (they are almost to a one, beautiful) I was sure he was special. And, he was. He bonded with us Day 1, housebreaking only took several days (and I haven’t been that lucky since). We ran on the beach, hiked in the mountains, played in the streams and generally, had a dog-gone good time.
*Brooke is a litter mate to BISS CH Flatbrook Kyjo’s What A Sport JH -
2004 AWPGA National Specialty BOB, multiple BOB winner at Westminster Kennel Club, Pedigree’s #1 Dog and one of the top Griffon show dogs of the 2000’s
At three and one-half months, I took Byrnie to the shooting range and he sat on my lap and listened to the shotguns; the next week we returned and we walked around while people shot. The guns and noise seemed to be a non-event so I took him along on a day hunt to socialize with the big dogs, smell some birds and generally, just get into the field.
Before the season had ended, he had joined me on several hunts, but as a tag along observer.
The next spring, I located a trainer, Tracy Jensen of High on Kennels in Mesa Grande, CA, about ninety minutes east of our home. Byrnie spent four months with Tracy and was basically finished, but still young and inexperienced. Toward the end of his initial training, Tracy suggested I have Byrnie take a North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) Natural Ability test. We didn’t get the dog to do hunt tests, I just wanted to hang out and hunt with him, so I passed (in retrospect a mistake)
Several months later, I was hunting with an acquaintance, “a dog guy,” I told him I was thinking about neutering Byrnie. He said, “He’s a pretty good young hunting dog and good looking. Did you ever think of showing him and maybe even using him as a stud dog?” Those thoughts had never crossed my mind. I’d never been to a dog show. When I got home I told Laurie what this fellow said. She said, “Check it out--you’re retired, it might be fun.” I went back to the Gerity’s for suggestions Through their contacts, I was led to a professional handler, Cheryl Cates of Encore Kennels, who had handled Griffs and knew the breed. I asked if she would evaluate Byrnie to see if we should get him fixed. So we went to our first dog show with Byrnie in tow. Sparing the details, Cheryl also thought he was special and said, “Under no circumstances should you neuter him.”
After the 2002-2003 hunting season, we had Cheryl show Byrnie a couple of times. Griffs are a rare breed and not many are shown, and particularly in California. We eventually had to go to Oregon for competition. At his first big show, Byrnie won a
major (dog show speak for four or more Griffons), beating his aunt, Ch. Kyjo’s Summer Kiss, the then number two Griffon and top female in the country (and Reese’s litter-mate). We took him to a couple of other shows and another Oregon trip and Byrnie earned his AKC bench Championship.
At these shows, we met other Griff people, dedicated people, and we started to develop a deeper appreciation for Wirehaired Pointing Griffons. Quickly we understood that with Griffs being a rare breed, and therefore a small gene pool, the importance of selective breeding cannot be overstated.
Over the next year and one-half, Laurie and I considered getting another Griffon. The male Griffs seemed to have very different personalities compared to the females, and the girls interested us. We had originally wanted a female, so the gender choice appeared easy.
At the 2004 AWPGA National Specialty, we were approached by several western breeders interested in using Byrnie for stud. Our decision to breed Griffons came naturally, but it made selecting our second Griffon more complicated, since we were now look for our brood bitch. Our first attempt was not successful, but in the end we were very pleased with the two females we acquired to begin our breeding program.
We will, however, continue evaluating all the dogs to ensure the proper choice of sire's and dam's with the goal of continually improving the Flatbrook line as well as the general Griff gene pool.
It is clear from our research , readings and discussions that testing the sire & dam before breeding is the only effective way to maintain and improve a breed, particularly a rare breed. Health testing, temperament evaluation, testing hunting ability, and conformation evaluation. Moving from getting a dog to hang out with and hunt with to breeding dogs was a big step that required commitment.
We look forward to developing our dogs, helping them reach their potential, and when appropriate, breeding that potential.