- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
An unusual event occurred at a place with an unlikely name in upstate New York last Saturday. The event was a trial of the American Working Terrier Association; the place, Toad Farm in Germantown, the country residence of Hal Davis, commercial photographer, classic car collector and terrier enthusiast.
The trial was open to all terrier breeds and dachshunds small enough to enter a nine-inch drain constructed of plywood and pine planks and buried in a field. Having entered the drain, or "gone to earth" in terrier terminology, a dog was then expected to show his (or her) mettle by barking, growling, digging, whining or biting at the cage protecting the live quarry, a pair of hooded rats, a black-and-white laboratory strain selected because of its superior squeaking, hyperactive scuttling and compelling aroma—at least to terriers.
Given the chilling winds that swept down from the Catskills across the Hudson after two days of soaking rain, the crowd was understandably small, perhaps a couple of dozen handlers and spectators at best, but all were keen to applaud the muffled barks, yelps, howls and other atavistic sounds that emanated from beneath the turf. They looked like a scrambled computer listing of subscribers to Vogue, The Journal of Wildlife Management and Partisan Review, and their dialogue might have come from a script written by Lyndon Johnson and Evelyn Waugh.
One owner was Garth Gillan, a longhaired, bearded associate professor of philosophy from Southern Illinois University and breeder of hunting Norwich terriers, and there was at least one other professor on hand, John Jeanneney, a historian at Long Island's Hofstra University, who ran, with some success, wire-haired dachshunds of German stock that are used to hunt wild boar in the old country.
Presiding over the trial was Patricia Adams Lent of Penn Yan, N.Y., a private-school English teacher, breeder of milking shorthorn cattle and lakeland and cairn terriers and prime mover in the American Working Terrier Association, which she helped found in 1971. She is also the author of Sport with Terriers, not simply the standard reference but the only book on the subject. A sensible-boots sort, Mrs. Lent wore jeans, a blue windbreaker and a brooch with the AWTA crest (crossed pick and shovel surmounted by a quartered shield with three rats passant, a fox and woodchuck couchant and a muskrat, t�te � bas), and she addressed one and all in suitably down-to-earth fashion. Ecologically, poisons for vermin were "no good short range or long range," Mrs. Lent said, but for a farmer, terriers were ideal for killing rats, opossum, skunks and other marauders of henhouse and barn.
The first class to be run at Toad Farm was the novice, group A for puppies, group B for dogs older than a year. The drain or artificial earth for this test was only 10 feet long, and the handler was to carry the entry to a blue flag set eight paces from the opening. Upon a signal from the judge, the handler was to set the dog down. "Start using a command," Mrs. Lent advised newcomers. "It can be, 'Go get 'em.' We had a woman who came to a trial, and she said, 'Kill!' " There was laughter. Mrs. Lent continued. "A man who came to the trial at Woodstock, Vt. last year said, 'Get the Germans!' " More laughter. At another trial a man with a cairn terrier that wasn't doing well said to Mrs. Lent, "Gee, he does so much better when he is out hunting." Mrs. Lent asked, "What do you do then?" With that, the man flopped on the ground, stuck his head in the drain and started barking.
To lure the dogs into the earth, the den master at the trial, Mrs. Teddy Moritz, a New Jersey game biologist, dipped a long stick in a bucket containing mink scent and swabbed the earth as if it were some giant sore throat. "We were unable to get muskrat scent today," Mrs. Lent announced. "If the dog smells mink, goes in and says, 'Hmm, rat,' it really doesn't make any difference." Each novice dog was given a minute by stopwatch to reach the caged quarry, for a maximum of 50 points; then another 50 points for working the caged rats for a minimum of 30 seconds. Points were deducted for verbal encouragement, but some handlers urged their dogs on anyway so they would get the idea of going to ground. The first novice puppy, Drossel von Mossbach, an 11-month-old dachshund bitch handled by Professor Jeanneney, immediately went to ground upon release, popped out, went back in, popped out again and then returned to reach the cage within the required minute. She then barked for 30 seconds, winning a first-place trophy with 100 points.
Outstanding in the Novice B was a 6-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Hamilton Kipper, owned and handled by Mrs. H. L. Crawford III of Gladstone, N.J. Kipper was typical of this very aggressive breed which has extraordinary In status in both the U.S., where it is relatively unknown, and the British Isles, where it is very popular.
Looking somewhat like a stumpy-legged fox terrier, the Jack Russell is named after a 19th-century sporting parson who originated the breed, and it has become a dog of legend, supposedly able to leap a six-foot fence at a single bound and fearlessly pursue fox or badger in the depths of a lair. Mrs. Crawford cautioned onlookers not to touch Kipper should he stray their way, but the temptation (or threat) never arose as he speedily went to ground.
Whatever breed worked, Jack Russell, cairn, Bedlington or Border, Mrs. Lent was ready at the wooden lift-up lid at the end of the earth to offer either cooing words to a pup—"What's in there? Oh, rats! Look at those rats! Nice girl!"—or up-to-the-second commentary to onlookers on the status of the rats—"They're moving around. They're swell!" Howard Cosell should do so well.